French volunteers assist with the Cally Walls Project

For two weeks of July 2010 a group of French volunteers have been helping out with the Cally Walls Project at Gatehouse of Fleet. The project, funded by Leader and the Heritage Lottery Fund, is working to renovate some of the drystone walls at Cally with the help of local volunteers and professional dykers.
Nic Coombey of Solway Heritage, who has arranged a number of placements of foreign volunteers with projects in Dumfries and Galloway, organised this group through the French organisation APARE, which specialises in international volunteer work camps.

The 6 men and 2 women volunteers came from different parts of France - the Pas de Calais region, Paris, Lyons, Marseilles and the Auvergne. They had no previous experience of drystone walling but received on-site training by local dyker Jimmy Scott from Ae who praised their enthusiasm, hard work and keenness to learn the techniques involved.

Local resident and French speaker Cecilia Franklin helped to look after the group during their stay in Gatehouse and, as well as rebuilding a substantial section of deer dyke at Cally, the volunteers have visited a number of historic sites in the area such as Threave Castle and Sweetheart Abbey. They have also taken part in local activities such as the weekly quiz night at the Masonic and enjoyed an evening with the Gatehouse bowlers.

The volunteers were really touched by the friendship of the people of Gatehouse and had enjoyed their stay but they could have done without the large numbers of cleg flies where they were working.

Nic Coombey of Solway Heritage who organised the visit:
“It’s brilliant to see volunteers from France coming here to restore our drystane heritage”

Cecilia Franklin who helped host the stay:
“It’s been a great pleasure to work with local people to make the group welcome in this region. To all those who helped many many thanks.”

The group of 8 took full advantage of spending two weeks in the region. They ate haggis, drank whisky, and enjoyed vegetables grown in Gatehouse, wild fish from Wigtown Bay, locally made sausages and locally baked bread. It did not take long for them to develop a taste for porridge for breakfast.

On their days off they visited Sweetheart Abbey, the Wickerman site, Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas including Threave Castle. They also went to the Mull and Port Logan Gardens and another day to Wigtown and Whithorn.
On Wednesday 14th July after much practicing around the breakfast table on how exactly royalty should be addressed some of the group were delighted to see the queen at Kirkcudbright Harbour Square on her recent visit.

There were tears when they left.