The Lakeland made walking sticks fit for royalty
- Credit: Archant
Prince Charles sent a personal letter of thanks to an Ulverston couple for the walking sticks they made for him and Camilla
Prince Charles knows a thing or two about the finer things in life and he declared himself thrilled with the sticks made for him by a husband and wife from Ulverston.
The sticks were made by Dennis and Linda Wall in the workshop they have created in the garage of their home. Dennis has been making sticks and crooks since he took early retirement from South Lakes District Council 20 years ago. ‘Linda’s father was a practicing shepherd at the time and he asked me to make him a stick using a book he’d bought for 50p and three tup horns,’ Dennis said. ‘I didn’t know much about stick making but I gave it a go and made a rudimentary type of crook which he still uses.
‘I liked working with horn and making something practical and beautiful out of something that was a by-product and from that day I’ve never stopped.’
He and Linda now have their own business, making sticks which are carried by walkers, shepherds and field sports enthusiasts all over the world. And royalty, of course.
A photograph of Dennis and Linda appeared in Ian Lawson’s book about Herdwicks for which Prince Charles wrote the preface. When the exhibition opened at the Rheged exhibition and heritage centre near Penrith, Charles visited and was subsequently sent a pair of sticks made by Dennis and Linda.
‘When Ian called to ask us to make the sticks I’d just had a hip replacement so I left it a couple of weeks, then hobbled round supervising Linda as she made Camilla’s stick. After that was made I took it cautiously and I did Charles’s.
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‘He sent an enamelled pill box with one of his watercolours on it as a thank you when he received the sticks and a few days later we received a very personal letter from him saying how pleased they were with the sticks and that they were planning to use them on the hills later that day. We were very touched that he had taken the time to write to us.’
The distinctive sticks are made by heating and squeezing the horn before designs are carved onto it.
‘We have brought techniques on a lot in recent years,’ added Dennis, who is one of the few members of the British Stick Makers Guild to use rams’ horn.
‘I take raw horn from a tup or ram and season it for twelve months somewhere dry and warm then select a horn that looks free from faults, measure about 16 or 17 inches and saw that off with a hacksaw and boil it for up to half an hour.
‘Then I flatten it to take out the curl and heat the horn and compress it, squeezing out any hollows or air pockets, down to the size I need.’
Dennis and Linda demonstrate their skills at the Lowther Show they organise each year, and showcase their wares at competitions across the country.
‘We hold part of the national competition at Lowther too and this year there were 25 entrants and more than 320 sticks, so it was very busy,’ Dennis said. ‘We also compete in shows all over the country and we’re called on to judge competitions across the UK as well.
‘Chatsworth is the main event for all the top stick makers in the country. At a competition we might have two or three hundreds sticks on show and that’s a shop window, that’s where a lot of our work and commissions come from.
‘Everyone at field sports usually has a stick by their side, it’s as much a part of their equipment as a bat is to a cricketer.’
Linda started making sticks in 2004 and now mainly works in wood, antler and buffalo horn. The couple regularly compete against each other and Linda said: ‘He won the fancy antler category at the Chatsworth Country Fair last year,’ she said. ‘I’d won it for three or four years before that and I got it back again this year.’ w
To see more of Dennis and Linda’s sticks, go online to www.facebook.com/Traditional-Stickmakers-Dennis-and-Linda-Wall-328619327235786