SHEEPFOLDS is Cumbria County Council’s major county-wide sculpture, landscape and environment project by the internationally renowned artist ANDY GOLDSWORTHY. The project started in January 1996 for the ‘U.K. Year of Visual Arts’ in what was then the Northern Arts Board region. Beginning as part of this programme Andy Goldsworthy has created a body of environmentally responsive sculptural works across Cumbria using existing sheepfolds, washfolds and pinfolds.
Although each fold is an individual piece, the project should be seen as a single work of art .
The one at Raisbeck is one of the artist’s cone pinfold’s. Pinfold appears to be a northern term for a pound, where stray animals were kept until claimed by their owners who would have to pay a release fee. If unclaimed, the animals would be sold.
In each of his cone pinfolds, Goldsworthy has built a conical stone structure – hence their name. On the project website he explains how the shape of these structures was inspired by the Nine Standards, stone cairns on Hartley Fell near Kirkby Stephen, and describes how they were constructed. He tells us that
The form is full and ripe – an optimistic expression of the power of growth and that even out of stone comes life. They are strong yet the form appears precarious – not unlike the nature of growth itself.’
Their are nine cone pinfold cones around Kirkby Stephen, reflecting the Nine Standards
The Raisbeck cone features in a book about the sheepfold project. In it we learn that it was an existing, ruined structure that Goldsworthy rebuilt over a period of two weeks in May 1996 using stone from a redundant wall from a nearby farm. The cone took three days to construct, using limestone and sandstone from local sources.
In the 20 years since it was built a number of trees have started to grow around the structure. So, although it is located very close to the narrow road, we managed to drive right past. But we realised pretty quickly so stopped, parked up on the verge and walked back to take a look
A short distance down the road, next to a disused quarry, there’s another interesting stone structure – an old lime kiln – a fairly intact relic of a bygone age.
This leaflet about the limestone landscape on the Orton fells tells us that
There are 23 small quarries and 20 lime kilns recorded in the local area. Most of these were used over the course of the last 500 years for processing lime for agricultural and domestic use.
The limestone, calcium carbonate, was “burnt” in the kilns to form “quick lime” (calcium oxide) which was then used in mortar, to render stonework and decorate walls (“whitewash”), to improve the fertility of acidic soils and to improve land drainage.
Looking at the project website, there’s a number of other Goldsworthy sheepfolds in the area around Tebay and Kirkby Stephen. Another reason to revisit the area.