Chasing the Solstice Sun

Solstice sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”).

On a gloomy day I had little expectation of seeing the Solstice sun. I decided to seek out a Prehistoric Rock Art panel near Roxby. The site is located across from a narrow ridge that runs from the moorland to the coast. The ridge was formed by Roxby and Easington Becks cutting deep ravines into the glacial till as they make their way down to meet the sea at Staithes . At some points the ridge narrows to the width of the road, sloping steeply on both sides.

There are three known Prehistoric burial mounds in this valley. One in woodland 250m to the west of the carved stone and another pair 1km south where the Birch Hall and Scaling Becks merge to form the Roxby Beck.


I follow the muddy footpath from Ridge Lane down through the woods to a small gorge where a wooden bridge crosses the beck. The sound of running water is everywhere. The low solstice sun finally makes an appearance.

Roxby Beck

At the top of the bank the woods give way to fields. The field is pegged out for pheasant shooting. I spot a wooden structure on the hillside roughly where the stone should be.

Roxby stone uphillThe stone sits on swampy ground at the foot a low hill. The landowner has erected a fence around it.

Roxby stone

The stone is beautiful, it contains a number of different motifs, different sized cups, some with rings, linear motifs and a couple of faint rings that seem to ‘zone’ certain areas of the stone. Many of the cups are quite eroded, you have to move around the stone to catch the light falling across the surface, revealing the fainter carvings.

Roxby stone springQuite a lot of stone has been dumped on the boggy ground. A spring breaks through the ground beside at the stone and runs down through the field towards the Beck.

Solstice SunThe Solstice sun breaks through beside a dump of large boulders.

When showing people rock art for the first time, they invariably come up with their own definitive interpretation of the meaning, usually a map/chart related explanation. Show them a second and third panel and they begin to develop doubts.

Roxby stone ii

Over the years I have visited many rock art sites both home and abroad. I’ve concluded that we will probably never really know the true meaning of the carvings because we can never know the mindset of the people who created them. The best explanation that I can come up with is that the carvings may be an abstract representation of an invisible reality for the people who carved them and that the meaning may change depending on the locality. On the North York Moors there seems to be an association with burial monuments and routes through the landscape but this is not always the case.

Roxby stone i

A couple of years ago I attended a workshop at MIMA  They invited people to help create a timeline for local art. My suggestion was Prehistoric Rock Art along with prehistoric pottery, neither suggestions were included in the final timeline.


9 thoughts on “Chasing the Solstice Sun

  1. I’m a bit sad now 😦 – wish i could have made it
    but sometimes its better to visit these places by yourself
    Interesting if it was by the spring all along – or do you think it has been moved there?
    The Beck pic made me think of the fancy carved rocks on the slope leading down to Stoupe Beck

    Bit of a contrast to your Redcar walk

    On the coligny ‘Celtic’ calender some put the month of Cantlos at midwinter interpreting it as ‘corner’ – as in the year has turned a corner/direction.

    1. It’s not going anywhere mate, perhaps the summer solstice?
      I don’t know if it’s been moved, it’s big. There is a lot of stone laying around. I suspect the boggy area, being the least desirable part of the pasture, is the ideal place to dump stone. There are other caches of large stones laying around the field margins.

  2. What a fantastic find. So close to us, so important and so secret. Great that the landowner has decided to protect it. I wonder what lies beneath the encroaching grass

  3. That’s a lovely one. How do you find out about these? I’ve stumbled across a couple by accident but is there a more reliable way (excepting your wonderful blog of course)?

    1. Hiya, books and the internet mate.
      If you are wanting info on the North York Moors Brown & Chappell’s 2005 book Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors is the book to seek out.

  4. Another great post. I should thank you – again – for continuing to add layers of depth to my knowledge of my/our Heimat.

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