Other proposals from Pip Hall included finding a use for the names (gleaned from a local farmer) by which strips and grazing sites at Cairnhead were known: Dibben, Snab, Ewe Hill, Wedder Hill, Meikle Dibbin, Blairoch, Breil, Martour; also carving on river stones Scots words that would have been used by the inhabitants and incorporating them into some of the stone dykes there: bucht (sheep pen), coupie (sheep on its back), cruive (pigsty), cuddy (donkey), fanks (sheepfold), jibbins (last drops of milk when milking), yett (gate), parrack (small carved shelter for ewes and lambs), hurly (wheelbarrow).
For more information about Pip Hall and her work please visit www.piphall.co.uk
Pip Hall and the people of Cairnhead
Pip Hall runs a lettercarving studio in Cumbria, where she carries out commissions for many kinds of inscription in stone, including work for urban and landscape art projects. Recent landscape interpretation projects include Poetry Path at Kirkby Stephen, and illustrative bronze panels for Discover Eden, a series of walking routes in the Eden Valley (both in Cumbria).
When Pip Hall came to visit Cairnhead, she immediately began to delve into the human history of the place. After copious research and many conversations with local people, a picture began to emerge of the generations of landlords and farming people who once owned and worked the land here. Gradually fewer and fewer people farmed around Cairnhead; the last shepherd to live here left in the 1970s.
Records going back 500 years show that at least six farming settlements once stood in the area now mainly covered by trees. Impressed by the sense of a long line of changing lives taking their course in a relatively unchanging landscape, and by the sheer tenacity required to carve out an existence in this remote and sometimes inhospitable place, Pip Hall set about devising inscriptions to celebrate the people who have lived here.
Incorporated into the gateway leading to the Byre, greeting the visitor, are four sandstone slabs (the stone chosen to echo Andy Goldsworthy’s sandstone arch leaping out of the Byre) on which Pip Hall has cut a selection from the dozen or so names by which Cairnhead has been known over the last 500 years: Conraicht (1547), Konrick (1600), Conrig (1804) and Cairnhead (since 1911), styling the lettering partly to reflect the era in which each name was used.
Close to the Byre were the remains of a small wall. Keen to give visitors the opportunity to pause and contemplate this place, Pip Hall proposed that the wall should become a bench, topped with slabs of Caithness stone (selected for its durability and for the way that its colour combines with the existing stone structures in the landscape). Into this stone, she has carved the names of a selection of the many inhabitants of Cairnhead over the centuries, accompanied by motifs depicting objects that would have been part of everyday life here: a sickle, a scythe, a crook, a cornstook, a turnip, a chicken, a spade.
On a piece of slate placed on the ground near the Byre, Pip Hall has commemorated the contribution of a group of international volunteers by carving their names all over the stone, the gently curved lines formed by the letters echoing the rounded tops of the hills that surround Cairnhead (see The Byre section of this website for more information on the work camp attended by these volunteers).
Another fragment of slate, let into the wall on the left as you approach the Byre, bears enlarged representations of graptolites – fossils that appear in some of the sedimentary rock in the area.