Solstice Wanderings in Cumbria – Tuff

Great Langdale Cup Marked Stone – Dungeon Ghyll – Harrison Stickle – Loft Crag – Pike of Stickle – Martcrag Moor – Stake Pass – Mickleden – Old Dungeon Ghyll – Copt Howe – Mayburgh Henge 21.06.2019

A cup-marked boulder at the foot of the Side Pike pass to Little Langdale.

I don’t have a great head for heights, the narrow scramble between Harrison Stickle and Dungeon Ghyll makes me question my choice of route, to withdraw would be to fail.

There are two genii, which nature gave us as companions throughout life. The one, sociable and lovely, shortens the laborious journey for us through its lively play, makes the fetters of necessity light for us, and leads us amidst joy and jest up to the dangerous places, where we must act as pure spirits and lay aside everything bodily, as to cognition of truth and performance of duty. Here it abandons us, for only the world of sense is its province, beyond this its earthly wings can not carry it. But now the other one steps up, earnest and silent, and with stout arm it carries us over the dizzying depth. On the sublime by Friedrich Schiller. 1801

 Staring down the gulley to the valley below, then scrambling to the summit of the Pike of Stickle, terrifying and exhilarating.

Chasing clouds across the fells

Tracking  Prehistoric Cairns along Mickleden

Flakes of Tuff carried down the scree from the Neolithic quarries on the Pike of Stickle

On leaving, I visit the prehistoric carved boulders of Copt Howe

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Mayburgh Henge, generally my starting and finishing point when visiting Cumbria.

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Solstice Wanderings in Cumbria – Slate

Little Langdale -Tilberthwaite – Cathedral Quarry 20.06.2019

.. Here a slate as hard as steel,

Tubular moulding around the keel

Of plated rock, and here a shale

That flakes and peels to finger nail.

The stream divides, the waves obey,

Now charitable in decay;

And children lie in sighing beds –

A river floor above their heads;

From The Seven Rocks by Norman Nicholson

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A walk to the Source of the Ure

I wrote this account of a walk I took to the source of the River Ure in 2005. It was first posted on Julian Cope’s The Modern Antiquarian website.

The River Ure rises in the Pennines and then heads east into Wensleydale, it then flows out of Wensleydale into the Vale of York. South of York the Ure is joined by the much smaller Ouse Gill Beck and the river’s name becomes the River Ouse, I’ve never figured that one out. The river then flows south east and merges with the Trent to form the River Humber, which then flows out into the North Sea. What is significant about the Ure is its association with a number of nationally important prehistoric sites.

The Ure flows through Wensleydale, a Yorkshire Dale that has been occupied since at least the Late Upper Palaeolithic period. As the Ure flows through Yorkshire it is associated with at least 2 cursus, 7 henges, a stone row, numerous cairns, barrows, rock art sites, burned mounds and an assortment other prehistoric sites.

It is quite possible that during the Neolithic period, the River Ure was one of the ‘lines of communication’ between the Wolds culture of East Yorkshire and the Neolithic peoples of Cumbria. Evidence for this communication can be seen in the large numbers of Group VI stone axe blades found in East Yorkshire. The greatest concentration of Group VI axe blades occurs around the Humber estuary.

group vi

These axe blades all originated from the Great Langdale Axe production areas in Cumbria. Reciprocally there has been a significant amount of flint from the East Yorkshire coast found on a number of Cumbrian sites. There are also various other correlations between the prehistoric monument types and pottery found in both East Yorkshire and Cumbria but I’ll not detail them here in this brief summary.

Neolithic_stone_axe_with_handle_ehenside_tarn_british_museumLangdale Axe Image Credit

Archaeologist Jan Harding speculates that the name ‘Ure’ derives from the Celtic word Isura, meaning ‘Holy One’. The source of the Ure captured my imagination mainly because of its location and proximity to the source of another great river that features in the prehistory of the North of England, the River Eden.

The Ure and the Eden rise within two kilometers of each other on the western edge of the Pennines. At their closest point, the two rivers pass within less than four hundred metres of each other. This means that it is theoretically possible to travel from the North Sea to the Irish Sea only walking on dry land for less than four hundred paces. I’m not suggesting that this was actually the case, where the rivers are at their closest they are merely becks. All I’m saying is that it is theoretically possible that our ancestors may have used the course of these two great rivers as a guide, a navigable route, between the east and west coasts of Britain.

Ure Head 3

Field notes

“In November days,
When vapours rolling down the valleys made
A lonely scene more lonesome”

Influence of Natural Objects by William Wordsworth

I drove down to the site via Brough and Kirby Stephen and then along the Mallerstang Valley. I parked the car in a convenient lay-by and took the footpath to How Beck Bridge and then on up to Green Bridge.

With the Howgill Fells forming one side of Mallerstang and the Pennines forming the other it is easy to see why Mallerstang probably receives more than its fair share of rain. On the day I went it was raining on and off all day, the becks were full to the brim, almost every rocky ledge on the fell had been transformed into a beautiful waterfall with the ground completely saturated. In other words, a typical upland Pennine scene.  They say that the sheep around these parts have webbed feet.

Ure Head 2
I left the path at How Bridge and followed the beck upstream. Its rough walking on the fells and involves a fair bit of bog-trotting and beck jumping, the peat on the moor side had been cut at regular intervals, presumably to aid drainage, so it was possible to follow the tracks of the vehicle that performed the peat cutting for much of the journey.
There is very little wildlife to be seen on these upland fells, a few ravens and the odd small bird, I guess the ground is too waterlogged for rabbits, but it is far from a silent wilderness, there is the sound of running water everywhere. The hike to the summit is one of those frustrating walks that presents you with two false summits to breach before you reach the fell top.
The Ure finally disappears into a flat bog on the summit of Lunds Fell. I was hoping that the source of the river would be a discernible feature such as spring but this wasn’t the case, the beck just petered out into a featureless boggy plain.

Ure Head
I sat and had a cup of coffee at the modern cairn on top of the fell, to the north I could see the Pillar marking the source of the Eden . I was just about to set off walking to the pillar when a storm blew across from Wild Boar Fell and I found myself in cloud. Not being familiar with the area, and not wanting to blunder into a bog I decided that I would call it a day and return home. I would leave the Eden for another day. As I’ve said before, it’s always nice to have something to come back for.
All in all I guess the source of the Ure is definitely ‘one for the enthusiast’ but if you want to get the general feel of the place you can drive along the Mallerstang valley and stop somewhere around SD778963. At this point, you’ll be straddling the county border, east meets west, watching the Eden flowing north into Cumbria and the Ure flowing south into Yorkshire.

Monument Podcast

Screen ShotMonument 2017-10-01 at 10.33.53 copy

David Parker contacted me a few months ago and asked if we could meet up and have a chat about the Devil’s Arrows for a podcast he was putting together. I met up with David who is a lovely bloke, full of knowledge and enthusiasm. David has now released his podcast, the second in a series.

David’s website is here 

During our chat I said a couple of things that weren’t 100% accurate so here’s a few corrections

  • The paper on the alignment of Henges is by Roy, not Ron, Loveday
  • I was way out on the height of the bank at Mayburgh Henge, 15 feet is probably a more accurate estimate.
  • The Bronze Age monument at Street House was a round barrow not a long cairn. The long cairn was part of the final stage of the Neolithic monument.

Wilderness Way pt.1

I went to see the Wilderness Way exhibition at MIMA today.

This exhibition treats Margaret Thatcher’s visit to Teesside in 1987 as a starting point to reflect on the 1980’s, a decade that shaped the way we live now. Art, film, music and archival materials examine themes of class struggle, agency, racial division, and protest.

Mima Users Guide.

I left my teens behind in 1981, along with many of my family and friends I experienced the raw edge of the decade through redundancy, unemployment and hardship. I was keen to see how MIMA’s curators would explore these troubled times.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The themes in this exhibition leave a huge area to cover, any one of them could have been the subject of a large exhibition, so I was expecting something a little larger with more material. Despite this, the exhibition is worth visiting, it contains some thought-provoking pieces.

I found the piece on the Cumbrian Iron Ore Miners to be extremely powerful and disturbing. Using official documents, claim forms, Doctor’s letters and a death certificate, it documents industrial disease and the struggle for compensation from a system that has little regard for the hardships being endured by disabled ex-miners and their families. Even when a miner prematurely dies of lung disease, his widow is denied compensation. The narrative seemed to belong in the black days of the 1930’s rather than the 1980’s.

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Mike Figgis’s film of the The Battle of Orgreave is equally powerful. Footage of  the re-enactment of the battle is cut with interviews and commentary which caused me to reflect on the continued struggle of people who are still being treated with little or no regard by an ideologically-driven conservative government.

The Loki Stone – Kirkby Stephen Parish Church

Loki

This beautiful stone is thought to date from the Tenth century, it was found in 1847 during a restoration of the chancel.  The local tradition is that the stone depicts the Norse god Loki. The Norse sagas tell of Loki being bound with the entrails of his son and tormented by a serpent which dripped venom onto his face.

Hound Man

This wonderful carving is probably Norman in origin. It is depicts two hounds and a human figure. No-one really knows what it is supposed to symbolise.

Hound Man i

Knotwork

A Tenth Century cross shaft

animals

A Tenth to Eleventh century shaft fragment depicting three crudely drawn animals.

Long Meg & Her Daughters

 

Long Meg Tree

THE MONUMENT COMMONLY CALLED LONG MEG AND HER DAUGHTERS, NEAR THE RIVER EDEN

A WEIGHT of awe, not easy to be borne,
Fell suddenly upon my Spirit–cast
From the dread bosom of the unknown past,
When first I saw that family forlorn.
Speak Thou, whose massy strength and stature scorn
The power of years–pre-eminent, and placed
Apart, to overlook the circle vast–
Speak, Giant-mother! tell it to the Morn
While she dispels the cumbrous shades of Night;
Let the Moon hear, emerging from a cloud;
At whose behest uprose on British ground
That Sisterhood, in hieroglyphic round
Forth-shadowing, some have deemed, the infinite
The inviolable God, that tames the proud!

William Wordsworth 1833