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A number of GEM individuals have recently been able to experience a dry-stone walling taster day on Leckhampton Hill as part of their personalised GEM journey.

Each individual who took part was able to gain practical experience of the traditional skill of dry stone walling; learning how to select, dress and shape the stone, along with the technique needed to lay stone into the wall.

Not only this, it enabled a contribution to be made towards repairing an existing dry-stone wall in the Cotswolds, supporting the work carried out by the Cotswold Conservation Board.

The Cotswold Conservation Board is the organisation which exists to enhance and conserve the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and provided an experienced instructor as well as all the tools and equipment needed for the day.

Sam Henson, Navigator Developer for CCP and the leader behind this event, incorporated this taster experience into GEM activities, after being approached by Wayne Sedgwick, Cheltenham Borough Councils Senior Community Ranger with a proposed idea. He was interested in restoring a wall on the Cotswold Way, whilst creating an opportunity for the long term unemployed.

Sam comments: “The GEM project is always looking for unique opportunities that help break down the barriers to employment. For most of the GEM individuals interested in this taster day, it would be the first time they have even considered the trade and its potential in terms of employment and self-employment. However, thanks to the Cotswold Conservation Board, Cheltenham Borough Council, The Cotswold Voluntary Wardens and the GEM Project; these individuals were able to try their hand at highly demanded trade and indulge in the life of a drystone waller”.

Following on from this taster day, the individuals have all shown a strong interest to complete their Level 1 qualification in this trade, which is already in discussion with the tutor and Conservation Board.

GEM’s become a “stone throw” closer towards finding work whilst supporting the local countryside

by Nikki Davies