a VirtualTourist member
I have a quick question. Why do the farmer's separate the fields with stone walls? Is there some reason for it or is it just another form of fencing?
The native soil of Ireland is full of stones. The large stones needed to be removed in order for the farmers to grow crops. Making movable fences out of these stones was the easiest and most practical means of doing the job. The stone fences that you see have probably been there for a minimum of 400 years. You are definately viewing history when you see them.
It is entirely usual for farm walls to be built with stone when stone is more easily available than wood.
You will see many, many such walls in the UK (particularly on higher ground, and on moorland) and Ireland.
One does not 'waste' what wood is available on walling when the fields are full of lying stone of convenient walling-size (as they were, and many still are).
Constructing a dry stone wall is an extremely skilful job, and one which very nearly died out in many parts of the UK (not sure about Ireland). Fortunately, there was a revival of interest and ancient walls are now kept in good repair.
Thank you for answering that for me. My mother told me it was a way to separate land boundries between farmers and different crops. This is very helpful.
Walls do perform those functions, of course.
In other parts of the UK (and in Ireland) you may see hedges doing the same job. These are often very ancient as well (espcially in the UK, where the number of species in a hedge gives a rough guide to its age.......1 species = 100 years).
But hedges require suitable soil (and time) to grow. If one's fields are covered in stones which must be cleared anyway before crops will grow then walling is a much more sensible option.
Sometimes you can find drystone walls so ancient that hedges and trees have grown through and on top of them. I have a photo of such a wall (in Devon) here:
[original VT link] (second photo, click to enlarge).
Your mother was correct. They were/are also used to contain sheep and other livestock. The stones served a function while being a practical place to put the stones cleared from the soil.
If you really want to see Irish wall making in the extreme, check out the Aran Islands. I think there is more wall than pasture :)