Ireland is known for its luscious greenery throughout the country. From farmlands to forests, grasses to shrubbery and trees, the flat bogs of the Midlands, to the counties of Galway and Shannon, changes within the landscape are greatly apparent. However, changes over the years have been minimal, with the country maintaining its historic countryside. Stone walls separate various pastures and fields in rural Ireland in what has become a timeless scene. Winding their way from property to property, they not only define space but illustrate a key ornamental characteristic of the country itself. These stone walls, found throughout the country, have been standing for hundreds of years and have played witness to centuries of Irish history.
Dry stone building is a building method by which structures are constructed from stones without any mortar to bind them together. This method is a characteristic of upland areas of Britain and Ireland where large rock outcrops natural exist in quantity within the soil. There are three main types of walls that are present across the countryside: single walls, double walls and combination walls. Single walls are unstable in appearance and therefore often repel livestock from trying to escape over them. Double walls are much sturdier and provide for additional shelter and fortification around a property. Lastly, combination walls perform a little bit of both the aforementioned typologies, and allow for movement within the design.
L.P. Hartley stated, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” While this quote may be true about a majority of cultures, it does not however, include the traditions of the people of Ireland. In Ireland, the past is incorporated within the present and is preserved for the Future. They do not remove the past, they visually preserve it; not just in books and photographs, but in real life. Laws within the country prevent individuals from knocking down historic buildings or landmarks: they must fall by natural causes. A drive across the countryside will lead the eye to numerous sites of individual walls standing high above the landscapes, providing a lasting glimpse of what once was. It is both art, history, and a landscape that has remained true to its past.
J.B. Jackson sums it up perfectly by saying, “Landscape is history made visible.” In Ireland however, the landscape is history made visible in the present, but also made livable in the present. The intricacies of the wall designs, the movement of the natural stones placed in their dry stone building process, and the patterns of property divides made possible by these walls, combine to create a visually stirring landscape all throughout the country. To get an idea of what the landscape currently looks like, take a few seconds to browse the photos accompanying this post.
These photos are from my last visit to Ireland and a few from the web! Feel free to comment or ask questions!
Mooney, Peter. “Inside Ireland.” INSIDE IRELAND. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://insideireland.com/sample15.htm>.