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Visiting Kirkcarrion

After the rock art of Barningham Moor, I decided to continue with the historic theme and visit the tumulus of Kirk Carrion (marked as Kirkcarrion on the OS map) above Lunedale. This ancient Bronze Age mound is thought to have been the burial place of Prince Caryn. In the book "England's Last Wilderness" (1989) by David Bellamy and Brendan Quayle they suggest that Kirk Carrion means Caryn's Castle, however the word "Kirk" is usually accepted as meaning Church, therefore Caryn's Church may be another interpretation.

Kirkcarrion from the south (also called Kirk Arran on the 1856 OS maps). Copyright David Forster

Prince Caryn's spirit is said to wander the local fells having been disturbed in 1804 when a local labourer found the Cist while removing stones from the mound to build enclosure walls on Crossthwaite Common. Inside he found an urn containing the earthly remains of the prince which were subsequently removed by the local landowner to Streatlam Castle. Later the mound itself was enclosed by a wall and a number of Scots Pine trees were planted to mark the spot. Now mature the outline of these trees is a familiar sight from many viewpoints across the dale. This includes the Pennine Way footpath which passes close by.

04D-1715 The View from the Ancient Hilltop Tumulus of Kirkcarrion North East Across the Farmland of the Tees Valley Towards Stobgreen Plantation Teesdale County Durham UK
The View from Kirkcarrion North East towards Stobgreen Plantation. Copyright David Forster

While it is only a short walk up to the mound the view over the valley and the farmland below is wonderful. As I stood there photography temporarily forgotten, listening to the wind sighing through the pines, it was easy to appreciate why this place was chosen as a burial site. Located as it is high above the confluence of the Tees and Lune Rivers, ready to greet the warmth of the rising sun, it must already have been a special place for these people. Indeed it would also appear that this place still holds a special significance today because someone had placed a small wreath and a few flowers close to the small cairn that marks the top.

Back to the photography - while the sun was shining, a bitterly cold north westerly wind stole away what little warmth there was and to warm up a little I had a quick stomp along the boundary wall to a point just short of where the Pennine Way crosses it. From here it is possible to get a slightly elevated view of the mound, but unfortunately today the extra height and more open aspect of the moor meant the wind continually buffeted the camera and tripod.

As I needed to use a graduated filter to balance the sky and foreground, yet at the same time needed to ensure I had an adequate depth of field I was forced to use a longer shutter speed. This coupled with the strong wind made it difficult to achieve a sharp image at first. This problem was eventually overcome by using my body to shield the camera from the wind and with a little perseverance I managed to obtain a few sharp images before the sun began to drop behind the hills to the southwest. The fact the sun drops below these hills an hour or so before sunset at this time of year means the sun does not actually illuminate the trees with the best light, so instead of hanging around I slowly made my way down, making a mental note of possible viewpoints for future visits on the way.

04D-1868 The Ancient Hilltop Tumulus of Kirkcarrion in Lunedale and the View North East Across the Tees Valley Teesdale County Durham UK
Final image just before the sun disappeared. Copyright David Forster


Text and images copyright David Forster