Gunnerkeld – Sportsman’s Spring
This beautiful concentric stone circle is situated a mile and a half north of Shap in Cumbria, an area rich in prehistoric monuments.
It is thought that the outer circle was erected during the Neolithic period. The circle is the same diameter as the famous stone circle at Castlerigg. Another similarity is the two large portal stones, a feature that can also be found at the Castlerigg circle. This leads to speculation that perhaps the two circles were erected by the same prehistoric architect.
The inner circle and a central cist were added during the Bronze Age, perhaps changing the use of the site from a place of ceremony and ritual to a sepulchral function, a place of the dead.
Another remarkable aspect of this lovely stone ring is it’s proximity to the M6 southbound carriageway, which is just a stones throw away. The soundtrack here is one of speeding traffic.
Access to the site is via Gunnerwell Farm, this is private land, if you visit be sure to ask at the farmhouse, the farmer is very friendly. Also you need to cross a stream to access the field where the stones are located, wellies are advisable.
The Stone Circles of Cumbria – John Waterhouse 1985
Prehistoric Monuments of the Lake District – Tom Clare 2007
A Guide to the Stone Circles of Cumbria – Robert W.E. Farrah 2008
A lovely painting of the Old Wife’s Neck standing stones by my multi-talented friend Tony Galuidi.
Check out more of his work here
Graham and I headed over to Hamsterley to have a look at a strange site called The Castles. Graham told me that despite modern archaeological investigations, including a visit by the Time Team Archaeologists, no one has been able to fully explained this strange site.
An archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s Time Team at The Castles, a Scheduled Monument at West Shipley Farm, Hamsterley, believed to be the remains of a fortified site of Late Iron Age, Romano-British or post-Roman date. The investigation included evaluation trenching and geophysical and standing remains surveys, the results of which are briefly summarised in this article. Although clearly constructed by a substantial workforce as a defensive fortification, there is little evidence to indicate what the site was used for or its date.
Abstract from McKinley, J. I., (2014). ‘The Castles’, West Shipley Farm, Hamsterley, Co. Durham. Durham Archaeological Journal (19). Vol 19, pp. 105-106.
The monument remains enigmatic both in terms of date and function. Though clearly constructed by a substantial work force as a defensive fortification, there is little evidence to support by whom and for what it was used. It may have served as a demonstration of power, its use may have proved unnecessary by change of circumstances, or occupation may only have been temporary or seasonal. The date of the original construction seems most likely to be Late Iron Age, with possibly post-Roman reuse of parts of the structureSummary detail from ‘The Castles’, West Shipley Farm, Hamsterley, Co. DurhamArchaeological Evaluation and Assessment Results. Wessex Archaeology. Report reference: 65303.01. May 2007
We drove along the narrow lanes to the farm entrance and walked along the public footpath to the farmyard. The friendly farmer was busy unloading a feed tanker but stopped to point out the right of way across his land. We walked down the extremely sodden fields towards the copse of woods that enclosed the site.
The site is located on a hillside midway between the ridge top and the valley bottom. It has views along the valley to wards to confluence of the Harthope and Bedburn Becks and then further east to the Wear Valley.
Wessex Archaeology / Time Team report here
Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
LIDAR Image from here
I’ve been exploring this moor for many years.
The Kopstone, gatekeeper of the moor. Looking towards Shap with the Howgills in the distance. The low escarpment on the upper left of the picture is Knipe Scar with its limestone stone circle, part of a chain of at least a dozen intervisible prehistoric monuments in the Lowther valley from Oddendale in the south to the Leacet circle in the north.
There is a loose alignment of monuments running across the moor, walking between this large pair of stones leads you towards the cairn circle known as Moor Divock 4
Stan Beckensall believes that the roughly circular area, below the arrow in the picture, is an eroded cup and ring motif. I have stared at this stone many times and in many lights, the eye of faith is required.
Moving west, this embanked alignment of large upright stones has previously been interpreted as the remains of a circle.
Continuing west, an avenue of small, paired stones leads you across the moor towards the White Raise Cairn
Arriving at White Raise the western landscape opens out, the builders of the mound chose well when they selected this spot. The large white limestone block in the centre of the picture is thought to have served as a cover for the cist.
Onwards across the moor following the route of the Roman Road which deviates towards the circle indicating that this route existed long before the Romans arrived on our shores
When the Bronze Age people erected the monuments on the moor, the Cockpit may have already been regarded as an ancient monument.
The Cockpit was probably the first stone circle I ever visited.
Looking west across the moor from the Cockpit to White Raise and the Pennines beyond. Thinking about the journey home.
The Prehistoric Remains on Moordivock near Ullswater by M. Waistell Taylor. TCWAAS 001. 1886
The Stone Circles of Cumbria by John Waterhouse. Phillimore & Co. 1985
Map extract Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Heading west from Great Salkeld towartds Dacre, I called in on an old friend, the Skirsgill standing stone. Tucked away on an industrial estate, the huge stone is almost lost in foliage, not a bad thing perhaps. I took this picture of the stone in 2004
St Andrew’s Church, Dacre. A Norman church built on a pre-conquest Christian site.
A beautiful 9th century cross shaft.
The slab-like shaft is complete, as is clear from the presence of both upper and lower border mouldings to the panels on sides D and E. The edge of the head on face A and all faces of the shaft were bordered laterally by a roll moulding.
A (broad): At the top and bottom of the shaft is a border formed by a single incised line; two wavering parallel lines divide the two panels on the shaft. On the head are remains of interlace of unidentifiable type. At the top of the shaft is a backward-turning contoured quadruped with a small scooped ear; the ground around the animal has not been cut back. Below are two human figures, the larger to the right, whose hands are joined over a rectangular object with two pellet-like legs. Between their heads is a cluster of three pellets. The ground to the right of the figures has not been cleared completely but sprouts curling or circular branches.
Below the left-hand figure is an uncarved area shaped like a boat, which partially separates this scene from the one below which contains a horned quadruped on whose back is a crouching wolf/dog with curling tail. The ground in front of the horned animal and between its legs has not been cut back.
Below the incised border the lower panel contains a Fall scene. The female figure to the left is clothed in a short kirtle and reaches to pluck a fruit pellet from the tree. The right-hand figure, who is not clearly clothed, grasps a branch. A snake coils to the left of the tree. The ground around this scene has not been completely cleared.
The Dacre Bears
The bears are a genuine mystery, no one really knows their origin or meaning. This is from the St Andrew’s church website
The Dacre Bears are a special feature at St. Andrew’s. There are four stone statues located within the churchyard. A recently expressed archaeological opinion is that they are pre-Saxon and may originally have marked the boundaries of some pagan sacred site, however, the origin of the Bears is unknown and has been a puzzle for centuries.
Continuing into the Eden Valley, still trying to process what I’d seen at Long Marton, I stopped in Bolton village to visit the Church of All Saints.
Dedicating your church to All Saints seems a bit lazy to me, mind you, in Middlesbrough, the church now known as the Sacred Heart used to be called The Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Philomena. I don’t know what went on but St. Philomena was dropped from the team and the church became, The Sacred Heart. So I suppose dedicating your church to all saints is simply hedging your bets against the vagaries of church politics.
The church dates from the 12th century
This ghost-like effigy is close to the church entrance. She has her head is on a pillow indicating that she was once horizontal. Sources differ on her age between the 12th and 14th centuries.
This carving is built into the wall over the north door and depicts two knights jousting. Its origins are unknown.
Remnants from the early fabric of the church.
This well-fed local caught my eye and put me in mind of Charles Laughton
St Margaret and St James Church – Long Marton
I had been very much looking forward to visiting this beautiful church with pre-conquest origins.
The porch, I cannot find any information on this stone, it looks Roman. The sheep skull on top of the stone is an odd sight in a church. Then I looked up at the entrance door..
.. I had seen pictures of the tympanum but to see it up close, breathtakingly beautiful.
I had to sit down and drink in the beauty of the carving. If I wasn’t to seen anything else on this trip, this was worth the journey.
Christianity has an odd relationship with dragons.
A thirteenth century parish chest. Local built, the wood is three inches thick.
A cross slab put to good use as a lintel.
A lovely window by Stanley Scott of Sunderland, a memorial to a local surgeon.
I walked into the bell tower to look for the second tympanum. The light was fairly dim, the motifs barely visible, my heart sank.
Then I noticed the light switch..
..One church, two breathtaking moments.
A beautiful sneck on the church gate, I’m an ungodly person, I love this church.
Even the views are beautiful – Knock Pike
Who could resist visiting a place with such a wonderful name?
I first visited this place in 2004, at that time very little was known about this strange oval earthwork. The site, on the margins of Brackenber Moor, has since been the subject of an Archaeological investigation by the Appleby Archaeological Group and North Pennines Archaeology. They have concluded that the site, and a number of burial mounds located across the moor, are Bronze Age in date.
On the ground there is very little to see. The surrounding moorland is a mix of rough pasture and a golf course. The site occupies a spit of land overlooking the George Ghyll. The ditch and bank are visible and there are a few lumps and bumps within the enclosure. What excites me about this place is the beautiful red sandstone crag and cave located on the edge of the Ghyll.
Dropping down to the Ghyll just beyond a large standing stone
Aeolian (wind-blown) in origin, the Permian Penrith Sandstone Formation formed approximately 272 to 299 million years ago in a desert environment
The main cave could easily house two or three people comfortably. There are many birds nests in the niches in and around the main cave.
The 5th hole looks towards Roman Fell.