Seven Sisters Burial Mound
This month I’ve been so excited to release some new images. One of my favourites was inspired by the Seven Sisters trees near Houghton-le-Spring. I love visiting this ancient round barrow burial mound to watch the sunset. For me, it’s one of the best vantage points to watch the sun go down in the whole northeast. The barrow is most of the way up the west side of Copt Hill meaning it’s the perfect spot to look out over the valley to the west and the setting sun.
The sisters are actually Beech Trees. Once there were seven, hence the name, then six, and now it’s sort of five and a half. Essentially the sixth tree is dead but still standing hence the half-bit. The burial mound which they encircle was once thought to date back to the Neolithic period. It was excavated in 1877 by Canon William Greenwell who came to this conclusion. However, I have heard that a 2003 excavation revealed evidence pushing the date back to 5000 BCE placing its use in the Mesolithic. I think knowing a little of its potential 7000 years of history just makes visiting more magical.
A Magical Fairy Ring
There is also an old piece of local folklore associated with the mound. It states that the small hollow at the top of the mound is called the Fairies Cradle and was a meeting place for the Fae. They would meet at that hollow to sing and dance at night. We’re used to hearing about fairy rings in countries like Ireland but they were once common across England and Scotland as well.
From Inspiration to Finished Art
The Seven Sisters and our visits there to watch the sunset provided the inspiration for this piece. I’ve found other mentions of burial mounds while reading about northeast folklore and history, but most have been levelled or ploughed out. This one however still stands proud and people are drawn to it. When we visit I love watching how people are drawn to the mound and trees. It’s a popular spot for locals out walking and as they pass almost everyone will climb up to pass through the middle of the trees rather than taking the easier route of just walking around the mound. It’s as if the magic of the place calls to them to climb up and just stand there for a few moments. So I placed a figure into the scene. Are they watching a hidden sunset? Or waiting for us to go and join them?