The Eden Benchmarks

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The Eden Benchmarks


SD7898 : The "Water Cut" sculpture by Michael Earnshaw
Going downstream, as is natural, this is the first of ten sculptures on or overlooking the River Eden which formed the Eden Benchmarks project. We are looking just west of north down the Mallerstang valley.

For more information about the project, see Link .
by Michael Earnshaw

The Eden Benchmarks form a set of ten sculptures, by ten different artists, close to (or in two cases overlooking) the River Eden in Cumbria. They were commissioned and installed by the East Cumbria Countryside Project (ECCP) to mark the millennium. Working downstream, as seems natural, the first is high above Mallerstang near the source of the river, and the last is at Rockcliffe, north-west of Carlisle, just before the river flows into the Solway Firth. (Note that the contributors of some of the photos below have numbered the sculptures differently.)

The primary source is LinkExternal link where there is more information. More specifically, go to LinkExternal link . That source gives details about the individual sculptors, and also suggests parking places and walking routes to each of them. Another source which might be of interest is Archive LinkExternal link

In this article I have given grid references and OS map sheet numbers for the sculptures themselves, but only a summary of parking and route data as most Geograph-ers will be able to work these out for themselves! (Grid references are to eight digits if known, but usually only to six digits.) If you are using Landranger maps, you will need sheets LR 85, 86, 90 and 91, and perhaps 98 as well for the first one. If, like me, you prefer Explorer maps, then you need OL 5, OL 19 and Expl. 315.

There is much symbolism in these sculptures. I confess that I do not always understand it. I have made brief reference below, but for more detail please go to the second link above.

Sadly, the ECCP was closed in 2009 thanks to the withdrawal of funding by the relevant local authorities. One consequence is that some of the sculptures (especially nos. 2 and 6) are in need of a bit of TLC, though no doubt some would argue that this is just natural change and, as such, should be welcomed.

I was surprised to find, 20 years later, that there were no photos on Geograph of four of these sculptures. I have added three (nos. 2, 5 and 6 below), and will be happy to add the other (no. 4) if you can submit them. I would also welcome additional photos of the sculptures, especially if seen from a different perspective. [Note added later: nearly two years after publication of this article, Michael Earnshaw has sent me photos of no. 4 which I have added to the article.]

Closely related, but I think not actually connected, is the Eden Millennium Monument in Eamont Bridge (just outside Penrith) and so I have included some photos of this too.

1 ‘Water Cut’ in Mallerstang, by Mary Bourne

Location: SD 7855 9850 LR 98, OL 19

SD7898 : 'Water Cut' and Mallerstang Edge by Karl and Ali SD7898 : Water Cut by John H Darch

This is the only sculpture which is not close to a road. It is not exactly a difficult hill-walk (it follows the Pennine Bridleway) but it is about 2km each way with a climb of about 150m. And just to be slightly more awkward, your walk starts and ends on Landranger 91, but the actual sculpture is on sheet 98. (The part of the route on sheet 98 is a clear bridleway, so you hardly need that map.)

The space carved between the two vertical pillars is intended to create the shape of a river meandering in the sky. And the outer curve is based on the viaducts of the nearby Settle to Carlisle railway line.

Note that the link above is slightly misleading regarding the route. There is no difficulty starting from Thrang: a recognised bridleway starts at NY784004. What you should not do is try to make a direct approach to the sculpture from the west.

2 ‘Passage’ near Kirkby Stephen, by Laura White

Location: NY 7737 0746 LR 91, OL 19

NY7707 : 'Passage' - the second Eden Benchmarks sculpture by Michael Earnshaw NY7707 : The Stenkrith Bridges by Michael Earnshaw

A short walk south from Kirkby Stephen, with parking (if you want it) in Stenkrith Park, even closer, beside the B6259.

This is intended to symbolise the passage of the river here through a narrow gorge beneath the Stenkrith Bridges. I have included a photo of the bridges: the lower one is a footbridge which was erected to mark the Millennium.

3 ‘The Primrose Stone’ in Appleby, by Joss Smith

Location: NY 687 199 LR 91, OL 19

NY6819 : Primrose Stone, Appleby by Humphrey Bolton

Very easy access. I believe that the best view may be from the other (west) side of the Eden. Most visitors will approach from the east, seeing just a rough erratic boulder, and the sight of the front of the sculpture may well come as a surprise.

All the sculptures are intended to be available as seats, but this is one of the best.

4 ‘Red River’ at Temple Sowerby, by Victoria Brailsford

Location: NY 6061 2758 LR 91, OL 19

NY6027 : Red River - Eden Benchmark no. 4 by Michael Earnshaw NY6027 : Red River - Eden Benchmark no. 4 by Michael Earnshaw NY6027 : Red River - plaque for Eden Benchmark no. 4 by Michael Earnshaw NY6027 : Red River - Eden Benchmark no. 4 by Michael Earnshaw

I can't really throw much light on the symbolism here! But 'Red' may relate to the Lazonby sandstone used for the sculpture - it was quite red originally, but has weathered to a more typical grey. The stones are intended to indicate the rolling of the river downstream, although to me they just look as though they want to roll from the sculpture into the river.

Park in the village, now that the A66 does not come thundering through. At the west end, take the path (almost due west) past the cricket field. When you reach the corner and can see the river, turn right (keeping the fence on your right) and you will find the sculpture within a short distance.

5 ‘South Rising’ at Edenhall, by Vivien Mousdell

Location: NY 5696 3261 LR 90, OL 5

NY5632 : The "South Rising" sculpture by Michael Earnshaw NY5632 : The "South Rising" sculpture by Michael Earnshaw

Park in the village (NY 565324) and walk down the minor road towards the church. Half way along, a public footpath on the left leads to the river, from where you double back (north) to the sculpture.

This is situated on Ladies Walk, and is intended to symbolise the river’s perpetual journey and the annually recurring movements of migrating fish and birds. The two stones are near each other, but the lighting at the time made it difficult to include both in one shot. The vertical stone leans towards the south and the river's distant source, which presumably explains the title.

6 ‘Cypher Piece’ at Lazonby, by Frances Pelly

Location: NY 5497 4017 LR 86, OL 5

NY5440 : The "Cypher Piece" sculpture by David Purchase NY5440 : The "Cypher Piece" sculpture by Michael Earnshaw NY5540 : Eden Bridge, Lazonby by Michael Earnshaw

There is a large parking area by Eden Bridge, just north of Lazonby, and the sculpture is only about 50 metres away.

"The sculptor presented us with a series of puzzles to be decoded" according to the second link in the introduction. Unfortunately her creation is now so moss-covered that the puzzle is to find them!

7 ‘Vista’ near Armathwaite, by Graeme Mitcheson

Location: NY 507 451 LR 86, OL 5

NY5045 : Vista by John Illingworth

Park in Armathwaite (NY 5046) and follow the path south, on the east side of the river. The sculpture is in Coombs Wood, and is just over 1km outside the village. However, reaching this sculpture does involve a bit of easy hill-walking.

The visitor is supposed to be a lone walker who, on a hot day, strips and goes for a swim. I must say that if I had been going to do this, I would have started rather closer to the river! At the top of the sculpture are various items of clothing, and a map, likely to belong to such a walker. There is apparently also a sundial, though I doubt that it is very effective in the trees.

8 ‘Flight of Fancy’ at Wetheral, by Tim Shutter

Location: NY 4693 5435 LR 86, Expl. 315

NY4654 : The "Flight of Fancy" sculpture by David Purchase NY4654 : These cushions don't cushion ! by Jonathan Thacker NY4654 : "Flights of Fancy" stone seat by Rose and Trev Clough

The impetus here came from the steep slopes enclosing the river, and the arches of the viaduct, which gave the impression of an outdoor cathedral. I can quite follow this. The angels' wings fit the symbolism: so do the prayer cushions, though they are not that comfortable in practice! Still, one of the best seats of the lot.

Park in Wetheral village near the green at NY465544, walk down the hill past the church, and when you reach the river 'Flight of Fancy' is on your right.

Sculptor "Tim Shutter". What a splendid name that would be for a Geograph-er!

9 ‘Toward the Sea’ in Bitts Park at Carlisle, by Hideo Furuta

Location: NY 397 566 LR 85, Expl. 315

NY3956 : Eden Benchmarks, Bitts Park, Carlisle by John Gibson

Symbolism which I do not understand. Surprisingly, there is only one photo of this Benchmark on site, despite there being over 500 in the square. (This photo dates from the early days of Geograph.) But I wish that I had known about the Eden Benchmarks when I passed through Bitts Park on the Hadrian's Wall Path in 2013, as I might have obtained another photo.

I am told that there is a Pay and Display (but not expensive) car park just west of Carlisle Castle, which is very convenient for Bitts Park.

10 ‘Global Warming’ at Rockcliffe, by Anthony Turner

Location: NY 3564 6174 LR 85, Expl. 315

NY3561 : The "Global Warming" sculpture, Rockcliffe by David Purchase NY3561 : Answers on a postcard please by Ian S

Another one with difficult symbolism. "It resembles planet earth held carefully in a hand." Yes, I can see that. But the connection to Global Warming escapes me.

Rockliffe is in NY3561. It is best to park in the village: it is only a short walk. It is possible to drive closer, but down a very narrow road (fold in your wing mirrors) when you would not want to meet anything coming the other way.

The Eden Millennium Monument

Location: NY 5208 2832 LR 90, OL 5

NY5228 : The Eden Millennium Monument, Yanwath and Eamont Bridge by Humphrey Bolton NY5228 : Eden Millennium Stone by Oliver Dixon NY5228 : The Eden Millennium Stone by Oliver Dixon NY5228 : The Eden Millennium Monument plaque by David Purchase

The stone has a cross, and the year 2000, on its south face. On the west face is a Greek letter Alpha, and on the east face is an Omega. It is located near Mayburgh Henge at Eamont Bridge, just south of Penrith. As such it is close to the River Eamont (which flows through Pooley Bridge) and is 7km from the River Eden. I might have thought a site closer to the Eden would have been more suitable, and I think those who comment that "Eden Millennium Stone" would be a better name have got it right.

However, this site has several historical references. As well as Mayburgh Henge, it contains King Arthur's Round Table (another henge), although I question whether King Arthur (if he existed) got as far north as this. It is also considered to be the place where AEthelstan was accepted as the first "King of England" in 927 AD. AEthelstan (grandson of Alfred the Great) was already King of Wessex and Mercia, and it was at Eamont in 927 that other leaders from Wales and the north accepted his rule over them, leading to the meeting marking the beginning of England as a single Kingdom. AEthelstan is commemorated at Malmesbury Abbey, where he was buried. Anyone interested should start with Wikipedia (the article has clearly been written by an academic historian). The following two books may be of interest:

Stenton, Frank - "Anglo-Saxon England", 1985.
Foot, Sarah - "AEthelstan - the First King of England", 2012.

Finally ...

You will all have realised by now, if you did not know already, that I am a scientist (more strictly, a mathematician), not an artist. But it has been fascinating to follow and get to know these benchmarks.

As with some of my other articles, once again I would like to thank Michael Earnshaw for taking some suitable photos and allowing me to submit them to Geograph.
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