Striding Arches

Click on the above image to watch a timelapse movie of the first arch being constructed at the byre.

International Work Camp

In 2004, an international work camp was organised by Cairnhead Community Forest Trust and Solway Heritage as a way of testing the viability of involving young people in the development of the community forest at Cairnhead. Dumfries & Galloway Council liaised with a French voluntary organisation called the Mediterranean Centre of the Environment. A second volunteer camp was organised in 2006 to complete the work.

For two weeks at the beginning of August 2004, twelve participants, among them French, German and American students from a wide range of backgrounds, were selected to prepare the byre and the area around it for the arrival of Andy Goldsworthy's first arch. During their stay, they cleared out the byre to reveal the cobble floor, cleared the site of an old haybarn, removed a collapsed culvert which had channelled water from a spring and reinstated a water course. They also repaired and rebuilt drystone dykes and prepared an area in front of the byre for stone seating, selecting the stones to add to an existing, but collapsing dyke.

Cairnhead Community Forest Trust organised accommodation, cooking facilities and transport, all of which inevitably involved much of the local community, especially in Moniaive. A community picnic at Cairnhead to which 100 people came, and a leaving party with local musicians taking a leading role were testimony to how far the arrival of a group of twelve young foreign workers in the midst of this small rural community had raised awareness of the project.

The volunteers themselves successfully enhanced the setting of the byre, while also experiencing the best (friendly people, 'damn beautiful' landscape and abundant wildlife) and the worst (wet weather and midges) of Dumfries and Galloway. The Forest Trust commissioned Pip Hall to celebrate their contribution by carving their names on a piece of slate now placed on the ground near the Byre. 

The Byre

‘I don’t like to see stone as something static’, states Andy Goldsworthy, ‘the arch seems a way of expressing that. I’ve always like the idea of the free-roaming arch, released from the quarry, unconfined by a building.’ As if to underline this, the arch at Cairnhead leaps out of the gable end of the Byre, a disused farm building at the abandoned steading here.

A combination of sculpture and shelter, the Byre provides a meeting point for visitors to the Striding Arches, as well as an easily accessible introduction to its partners on the hilltops. Stone seating in the area outside it (topped with a stone slab inscribed by letter carver Pip Hall) allows those who come here to pause and contemplate this beautiful landscape from the heart of the glen. Other work by Pip Hall can also be found here.

When Andy Goldsworthy first saw the building, it was a weatherproof shell, probably around 100 years old, with openings where windows and doors had once been. Before the installation of the arch, the gable end walls were rebuilt to allow the arch to emerge through a window opening. Traces of whitewash showed that at some point both the interior and exterior had been painted. But Goldsworthy opted to keep the stone raw and undecorated, leaving it as close as possible to the building he had first chosen for this sculpture.

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