Haredale

Out of lockdown I took a short trip up onto the moors.  The skies were grey and threatened a downpour but it had to be done. I chose Haredale, it’s close to home and one of those places that many people pass but few visit.

Haredale is a short valley running across the western edge of Moorsholm Moor from the top of Smeathorn Road down to the A171 Moors road. A small beck runs through the valley and crosses beneath the Moors road to become the Oven Close Beck which after a short run becomes the Swindale Beck then the Hagg Beck, which joins with the Liverton Beck to become the Kilton Beck and eventually finds the sea at Skinningrove.

I’ve been interested in this tiny dale for years as it’s on the margins of an area of quite intense prehistoric activity. Half a mile to the east of the valley there are burial mounds, enclosures and prehistoric rock art. At the head of the valley is a probable prehistoric trackway that follows a line of Bronze Age barrows across Stanghow Moor to Aysdale Gate.

Moorsholm moor

On the valley side is a glacial mound called Old Castle Hill. A row of at least 3 standing stones were erected on the low hill that juts out onto the dale and probably dates to the Bronze Age.

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Today there are only two stones left, both of which are laying flat in the heather.

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There are also a pair of small upright standing stones at the top of the valley.

tracksThe head of the valley is deeply scarred with long linear ditches, these were caused before the modern road was constructed. The ditches are multiple trackways formed by people and horses using a track until it became too deep or difficult to navigate, and then starting a new trackway parallel to the original. Over a period of a few hundred years, multiple trackways are formed. These features can be seen all over the moors.

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On arriving on the moor I walked down on the keepers track along the western edge of the valley towards the stone row. When I was last on the moors they were still in their winter coat of browns, there are now vivid green patches of bilberry spread across the valley, in a month or two the heather will begin to bloom and the bilberries will be ripe and sweet.

On the opposite side of the valley is a large erosion scar, when ever I’m around here I take a look to see what is washing out of the peat. I scrambled down to the valley floor. In my joy at being out on the moors again I neglected to pay attention to  where I was walking, what I thought was a small island in the middle of the beck was in fact a deep bog. My first leg went in to the top of my thigh, my second leg, just over the knee. A moment of panic, I’m stuck in a bog at the bottom of a valley with no one around, time to be calm, I lay across the surface and slowly levered my legs out of the mire.

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I sat on the bank for a few minutes checking that I’d not dropped anything into the bog, car keys, camera all present. I was sodden and mud-caked but happy, laughing at myself for making such a basic error.

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I had a mooch around the scar, at its head is a chalybeate (iron-rich) spring, the red waters of the spring contrast with the grey stoney clay, eroding-out from beneath the peat..

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..then the heavens opens, soaked from the feet up and now being drenched from the head down, I decided to give up and head back to the car.

This may all sound a bit grim but it isn’t. It’s days like these that make me feel truly alive and thankful to have such wonderful places to escape from the present awfulness of the world.

Postscript

On checking the North York Moors Historic Environment Record, the Stone Row and Standing Stones are listed as prehistoric but unlike nearby prehistoric monuments, show no statutory protection, which is a shame as they could so easily be lost.

Aubrey Burl

Last week I learned that Harry Aubrey Woodruff Burl had passed away at the age of 93.

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Sometime in the mid 1980’s I discovered a book in a second hand bookshop called The Stone Circles of the British Isles by Aubrey Burl. I bought it, read it and re-read it, it changed my world.

burl stone circles

Prior to finding Burl’s book, I had an interest in all things ancient and had visited quite a few prehistoric sites, my views were shaped by the writings of Janet & Colin Bord, John Michell and other writers of the alternative archaeology community. Burl’s book propelled me into the world of Prehistoric Archaeology and set me on a path that I am still happily travelling.

Burl’s field guide, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, is a must for anyone interested in the subject. My dog-eared copy has travelled the length and breadth of Britain with me. It has led me over fields, across bogs and empty moors, walking in his steps, seeking out the megalithic remains of our islands.

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Burl was my entry into the world of prehistory, once discovered my bookshelves soon started to fill not only with his works but books by Daniels, Hawkes, Bradley, Waterhouse, Thom, Barnatt and Piggott to name a few.

Daniels

Burl also taught me to look back to the work of the early antiquarians such as Aubrey, Stukeley, Camden, Ferguson and Borlase. I also sought out the work of more recent researchers, people who marked the transition from Antiquarianism into modern Archaeology such as Fred Cole, Sir James Simpson, Canon Greenwell, Collingwood Bruce and Frank Elgee.

Easter_Aquhorthies_stone_circle,_Fred._Coles_1900

When travelling to a previously unvisited area, I always consult Burl and mark my maps accordingly. I’ve explored Brittany using his Megalithic Brittany book as my guide, On my first trip to Avebury I used his itinerary to discover the stones. He has never let me down. Aubrey Burl was my teacher and my guide and I am sad that he is no longer with us.

It has been hard pleasure to see so many fine circles in Western Europe. They are one family, now dispersed, a megalithic confusion of parents, children, nieces and nephews, in-laws, second cousins, even some dubious offspring at the furthest edge of acceptability…They fascinate and perplex. Enjoy them.

A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Britanny. A Burl 1995

Gunnerkeld Stone Circle

Gunnerkeld – Sportsman’s Spring

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sources

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

The Cammon Stone

Cammon Stone

The Cammon Stone from the Celtic ‘cam’ meaning bank stone. On its leaning side is a Hebrew inscription HALLELUJAH which was one the source of much controversy as it was thought to be Phoenician but can be compared to the Hebrew lettering on the Bransdale Mill inscription. It is most likely the work of Rev. W. Strickland a 19th century vicar of Ingleby.

Source – Old Roads & Pannierways in North Yorkshire. Raymond H. Hayes. NYMNP 1988

Three stones

Blakey Ridge – The Honey Poke – Flat Howe – Esklets – Sweet Banks – South Flat Howe – Bimshaw – Blakey Gill Head

It was a fine day on the coast so I thought I’d take a walk onto the moors. As I climbed onto Castleton Rigg the wind picked-up and the skies started to darken. I decided to wander over to the head of Westerdale via Flat Howe and the remains of the Blakey colliery bell pits.

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The moorland path starts at one of the most accessible of the moorland prehistoric standing stones, Margery Bradley. The view is to the south into Rosedale.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe path is marked by small walker’s cairns and the occasional estate boundary stone. This one, marking the boundary of the Feversham Estate, has been broken for many years.

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Moorland sands wash out from the peat and collect on the trackway.

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Towards the head of the valley the remains of ancient trees are visible where the peat has eroded away.

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Sediment profiles taken at nearby Esklets also provides a vegetation record from the late Mesolithic, showing a heavily wooded landscape dominated by alder and hazel, perhaps indicating low stature woodland, rather than oak forest.

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Netting made from natural fibres has been laid on the worst of the eroded areas, presumably to give the moorland grasses a foothold and try to limit the erosion of the peat.

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The weather suddenly changes as a storm blows-in from the west. As the storm increases I decide to head back.

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The storm has passed, I arrive back on Blakey Ridge close to the old road mender’s boundary stone.

Source  North East Yorkshire Mesolithic Project Phase 2 Report by Mags Waughman

Into Eden – Dacre

Skirsgill

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

Plaque

St Andrew’s Church, Dacre. A Norman church built on a pre-conquest Christian site.

Dacre

A beautiful 9th century cross shaft.

Cross Shaft

Description

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.

Source – The Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture 

 

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.

 

Two Whitby Stones

?Whitby circa 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Battering Stone

A large mass of blue whinstone by the road side near the east end of Whitby abbey, which the boys were won’t to batter or pelt with stones on Holy Thursday, after the usual perambulation of the parochial boundaries, the fortunate breakers, it was said, being entitled to a guinea from the parish. The custom seems almost forgotten with the cessation of the perambulation, and the stone reposes from year to year in its wonted solidity, though bearing the marks on its surface, of the juvenile assaults of former days.

The Needle

Holy stones are those artificial formations connected with the oracular ceremonies of past ages; and it is recorded that one of these uprights, called the needle stood in the vicinity of the west pier at Whitby, through the eye of which rickety children were drawn in order to strengthen them; a custom practiced in some parts to this day. Lovers also pledged themselves by joining hands through the hole, especially in the case of young mariners bound on their voyage.

Sources

A Glossary of Yorkshire word and phrases: Collected in Whitby and the neighbourhood. 1885

A Glossary of words used in Swaledale, Yorkshire 1873

Image –  ?Whitby JMW Turner c,1827 Tate Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)