A new stone wall gives an old look to Angell Woods in Beaconsfield


It took John Bland three months to build the 32-ton wall himself, with nothing more than a hammer, chisel, ax, and sheer muscle power.

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It is seven feet tall, weighs 32 tons, and took three months to build, one stone at a time.


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John Bland, builder of an impressive new stone wall in the middle of Beaconsfield’s Angell Woods, says his goal was to create an old-looking structure that would blend into the natural surroundings.

“I wanted it to be magical and mystical, like Game of Thrones,” said Bland, a stonemason from Baie-D’Urfé tasked with building the wall after winning an art competition organized by the Association for the Angell Wood Protection (APAW).

The nonprofit group was looking for an outdoor art installation to celebrate its 20th anniversary of conserving the 85 hectares of West Island woodlands once threatened by suburban development.

APAW member Jon Williams said the group received around a dozen entries for the contest and a committee selected Bland’s design made from local fieldstones.


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“Some (artists) wanted to put paintings in the woods, some wanted to hang things on trees, some wanted to bring ironwork and concrete. The great thing about John’s work is that he uses all the local materials. It’s all picked up in the woods, ”said Williams.

“No heavy machinery was brought in or anything like that. Everything is done by manual labor. There are no drills, they are scissors and axes.

The deciding factor was that Bland’s stone wall matched the group’s vision to conserve nature.

“There’s a sense of permanence, that’s what we want to convey for this area,” said Williams.

“We have been working for 20 years to preserve these woods. Some of the old growth forest here is absolutely stunning, with trees over 100 years old. There are hickory, maple and beech groves.


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The location of the wall also had to be taken into account in a forest of winding paths.

“It was better to put him in the woods and let people find him,” said Williams. “This is an important passage. When the sun is shining through the trees, it is a beautiful place.

Made from 32 tonnes of local field stones, John Bland's wall matched the Angell Woods Conservation Association's vision to conserve nature.
Made from 32 tonnes of local field stones, John Bland’s wall matched the Angell Woods Conservation Association’s vision to conserve nature. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

It took Bland three months to build the wall on his own, with nothing more than a hammer, chisel, ax, and sheer muscle power.

“Probably half of that time was picking up rocks and dragging them. The other half were building it, ”he said.

There is no mortar to hold the stones together – just the weight of gravity and the carefully chiseled and adjusted rock. Protruding stones on either side of the wall serve as places to sit and rest under a canopy of trees.

The wall also has a portal in the middle. “It’s not about keeping things inside or keeping them outside,” said Bland, who attributes the concept to his wife Karina. “It’s also a bit old, from one world to another.”


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He said there is no big secret to the dry stone wall craft.

“There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is no building code. But the way I learned, I got an unofficial building code. I try to build things that are historically correct. These rules and guidelines are set by various dry stone wall associations across Europe and the UK. This is where all the traditional walls are.

Bland studied Heritage Masonry at Algonquin College in Ontario. “Once I obtained my diploma, I did not embark on masonry restoration, I turned directly to the construction of dry stone walls.

His first project was to build a stone arch at his parents’ home in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, across from John Abbott College. Now he is busy making artistic stone all over Montreal.


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“I try to build things that are historically correct,” stonemason John Bland says.
“I try to build things that are historically correct,” stonemason John Bland says. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

Bland loves the fact that he leaves no carbon footprint in the woods other than his own breath. “The stone is natural – I just tidy it up,” he said.

The hope is that the forest’s natural moss will eventually claim part of the wall, which has quickly become a popular spot with passing dogs raising one leg.

The wall has yet to be named, but Williams said some are already calling it Angell Wall.

“In some ways it looks like a few abandoned angel wings lying on the ground,” he said.

“Looks like he’s always been there.”

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  1. To mark the 20th anniversary of the Angell Wood Conservation Association, there is a call for artists to submit a proposal for an outdoor art installation.

    Art installation to honor Angell Woods to mark a milestone anniversary

  2. Beaconsfield's smart collection program reduced the number of garbage trucks to four in 2016, from eight in 2013.

    Beaconsfield pledges to fight climate change on the global stage



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