This week's Living National Treasure is Anthony Gorman, a man who has spent his life building beautiful walls by hand across Northumbria. He spoke to Tessa Waugh; portraits by Richard Cannon.

‘I always wanted to work in the country,’ declares Anthony Gorman, who grew up in Manchester and later moved to Northumberland to work as a salmon fisherman in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

For the past 12 years, however, he has been building dry stone walls – or dykes as they are known in that part of the world.

He started off by attending an 18-month walling course organised by Northumberland National Park and then took up the profession on a full-time basis. It sounds an idyllic lifestyle, but, as with many outdoor jobs, the reality involves hard physical work in all weathers.

 

Dry stone wall builder Anthony Gorman ©Richard Cannon / Country Life Picture Library

Dry stone wall builder Anthony Gorman ©Richard Cannon / Country Life Picture Library

‘It’s very wearing on the body,’ explains Mr Gorman. ‘Every metre of dry stone wall you build contains a ton of stone. You really feel it after a hard week.’

On a good day, he can build roughly 3m of wall—more if he’s working in a group, which is often the case.

Most of the work involves rebuilding what is already there or filling a gap and the walls vary in style across the county.

‘It can be random rubble, sandstone or whinstone, depending on what was found nearby,’ Mr Gorman says.

Dry stone wall builder Anthony Gorman ©Richard Cannon / Country Life Picture Library

Dry stone wall builder Anthony Gorman ©Richard Cannon / Country Life Picture Library

And how about the million-dollar question: what keeps him going on a cold, wet day?

‘I like being my own boss, I find the job fulfilling and I’m actually quite good at it,’ he chuckles.