November 15, 2012
Unique dry stone event attracts world’s best to Ontario
A dry stone masterpiece now resides in Hanover, Ont.
By Paul Brydges

Now that the dust has settled from the Stonewurx International Dry Stone Walling Festival held Sept. 26 to Oct. 1 in Hanover, we can look back on the largest event of its kind.

The team that was put together with professionals from across the globe was phenomenal. From an idea and dream discussed on an empty hillside, through to concept drawings and presentations to local council, to eight months of on-site construction, the dream of building a dry stone stable became a reality.

Unites community

The most amazing side-effect of the whole event is the realization of how a dream can unite a community. Countless local businesses and service groups offered equipment, materials and time to make this event a true community festival, as well as a world class dry stone walling event. Volunteers from several local communities offered their time to assist. They continued to show up and take part throughout the entire festival.

Dean McLellan of Highland Masonry was part of our coordination team. His connections and expertise allowed us to be linked to some of the world’s best dry stone wallers.

Stephen Harrison of the Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) summed up his thoughts on the event, “A group of master craftsmen arrived on a site half-way around the world, where complete strangers came together from different continents with a single goal in mind.  When the roof was finally lowered into place on Sunday evening, many of us were lost for words.”

Brian Fairfield, an accomplished dry stone waller from Maine, said, “Last night, I left what was the absolute highlight of my walling career. You are all my family for life now.”

Thanks to Dean McLellan’s perseverance, the stable was 50 per cent complete when the team arrived on-site a week prior to the start of the festival.

In the early spring, stone was dressed and the layout of the building completed and partial wall construction was underway. Within a day of the wallers arriving, the hammers began to sing and the stable continued its transformation from a shell to having a crane place a timber frame green roof upon the shell.

Over 100 Students

The opening day of the festival saw almost 100 college and high school students from across Ontario try their hand at stone work, listen to lectures from the wallers, and walk the site with a landscape architect who explained the many aspects and uses of natural stone. Over the course of the weekend, it is estimated 2,500 spectators enjoyed the event.

Starting on the Friday, more than 60 professionals, students, contractors and designers alike from across North America continued their labourious task of building almost 180 linear feet of dry stack training walls. These walls were constructed to teach students the different purposes of walls and the techniques to build them.

Monday’s training and certification day saw 17 students successfully achieve either their level 1 or 2 certification from the DSWA.

LO members Tim and Donna Kraemer, owners of Ground Effects Landscapes, and the engines behind the festival, now have the near completed stable on the grounds in Hanover to inspire them daily on an ever-evolving site that is open the public.

Their take on the overall build, “The moment our new walling friends arrived, the stable began to take on a life of its own. The historic stable that they left behind now holds so many memories of wonderful moments, held together by hard work, a love of the craft, and teamwork among old and new friends from near and far.”

As co-coordinator of the festival, I still am humbled by the teamwork and camaraderie that came together to build a shared dream of mine. Standing alongside Tim Kraemer and Dean McLellan, as the keystone for the free-standing stone arch was put into place, was a moment in my career that will always have incredible meaning. To be able to continue to build the dream and to educate students and the public is an incredible opportunity for myself and all involved.

My sincerest thank you and heartfelt wishes to all who supported us. There can never be enough to thank all involved. Pictures and words cannot explain the complexity and artistic beauty of the site, so please visit the stable and see our small contribution to Ontario’s landscape legacy.  

The group hopes to have an event concerning dry stone next year, but nothing definite has been decided at this time.

Pictures and videos are available of the build and site at and and
Paul R. Brydges is the principal/senior landscape architect at Brydges Landscape Architecture, Guelph, and is also treasurer of Landscape Ontario.