AT the age of 63 not many people would be thinking of taking an exam and certainly not one in dry stone walling.

But for Enid Borthwick, of Threshfield, the lure of learning new skills proved too much and she's just qualified at craftsman level one in her dry stone walling examinations.

It took seven hours of hard work lugging millstone grit stones about on Otley's Chevin for Mrs Borthwick to qualify.

"We had a section of wall which we had to take apart right down to the foundations and then we had to dig out those and rebuild the wall from the foundations up.

"We were marked on each section and we had to get more than 50 per cent on each section to be able to carry on," she said.

The only thing that really worried her was being able to finish in time because the millstone grit is a lot heavier and tends to be bigger than the limestone Mrs Borthwick usually uses when working in the Yorkshire Dales.

Fortunately she finished with 10 minutes to spare and an overall mark of 63.5 per cent.

Mrs Borthwick, who was a nurse until she married and had children, took up dry stone walling for a number of reasons.

She is a volunteer at Grass Wood, in Grassington, which is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and had been helping repair some of the dry stone walls which run around the wood boundaries.

She had also rebuilt the wall at the bottom of her garden, which she described as looking "rather sad" when she and her husband, Mike, moved into the village 16 years ago.

"We built a rockery to help keep the wall up," she said.

"Because I'd been doing all this work up in the woods, I decided to go on a training weekend at Yockenthwaite.

"It was January and was blowing horizontal snow so they knew we were really keen to learn," she added.

Mrs Borthwick helps out on training sessions with the Otley and Yorkshire Dales Branch of the Dry Stone Wall Association and she said she wanted to have a bit of paper that said she knew what she was doing.

"When I finished building my wall and the instructor came along, I thought oh well, I haven't passed, but he came up and said well done, now you can be bossy to people and gave me a hug," she said.

"I just like doing it, it's fun and the other people who do it are fun too. We have a wide range of people who are members of the branch right through from solicitors and doctors to my walling partner Steph Burton, who's a lot younger than I am," she added.

Of course, one of her first tasks while learning how to construct dry stone walls was the repair of the one at the bottom of the garden.

"I did that last October and about a third of the wall in the neighbouring garden too. I prefer to work with limestone, I think it looks more natural when it's finished," she said.

"It's nice to think that something that was built 250 years ago has now been repaired and will stand for another 250 years. It's leaving something behind for future generations."