Cairnhead Community Forest Trust and Striding Arches
Cairnhead Community Forest Trust is a Scottish charity formed in 1998 to encourage and enable community participation in Cairnhead Forest through a working partnership with its owner Forestry Commission Scotland. The Concordat between the two (drawn up in 1999 and the first of its kind in Scotland) expresses their shared long-term aims: to allow local people to become involved in protecting and managing part of their own environment and an important local resource. By influencing the way in which the forest is used, the Trust hopes that in time the whole community will draw economic and cultural benefits from it.
The Striding Arches project, conceived by Andy Goldsworthy, a sculptor of international renown, has been enthusiastically adopted by the Trust, which has worked closely with the artist, the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association and Forestry Commission Scotland over a period of some seven years. This relatively gradual development, involving negotiation with many parties along the way, has provided an opportunity for a powerful group of sculptures, intimately related to the landscape in which they have found their footing, to become embedded both in the landscape and in the consciousness of local people.
Goldsworthy himself has appreciated this approach: ‘It’s one of the benefits of making things in my home place. There’s only Digne in France and the Sheepfolds Project where I’ve been able to have that kind of very, very long term [approach]. And then the process becomes much more organic and grows and adapts and changes. And that’s why I don’t see it really as completed with the three, you know. Even if the other two are never made, I like that sense that it’s still…hasn’t quite finished…’ If it becomes possible to install two further arches on the hills, they will be at Mullwhanny and Martour.
There are now three grand self-supporting sandstone arches placed on summits around the glen – on Bail Hill, Benbrack and Colt Hill. In Goldsworthy’s words, theyare ‘intended to walk the hills alongside the people’. At Cairnhead, the site of an old steading, a disused farm building (now referred to as the Byre) and the drystone walls (‘drystane dykes’) around it have been painstakingly renovated. From a window opening in the Byre springs another Goldsworthy arch, poised as though taking its first step into the landscape.
Aims of Cairnhead Community Forest Trust and Work Already Completed
In consultation with the local community, Forestry Commission Scotland, Solway Heritage, Scottish Natural Heritage and Nith District Salmon Fisheries Board, the Trust works to add value to the forest and to derive economic, environmental and social benefit for the wider community in Glencairn and beyond. A lochan and a picnic area have already been created. Local schools use the area for tree planting and nature walks, fish-releasing and den-building. The subtle, yet impressive, intervention of art in the landscape here will draw many who might not otherwise have come to investigate and enjoy everything Cairnhead has to offer.
The aims of Cairnhead Community Forest Trust are to combine economic development sensitively with conservation, thereby preserving the distinct identity of the landscape at Cairnhead To this end, and building on the success of the first major Andy Goldsworthy installation in a publicly accessible landscape space in Scotland, there is an ongoing commitment to:
- enhance and develop a sense of place in Cairnhead Forest
- encourage informed access to the countryside and a heightened understanding of the landscape
- ensure that any additions to the forest environment such as buildings and signage are in keeping
- contribute to the development of cultural tourism in Dumfries & Galloway