On a beautiful clear day, Graham and I took a wander up to the Stone Circle on Barningham Moor. We stopped at the Frankinshaw How cairn to drink in the views to the distant Cleveland Hills and Teesside. The cairn, with its cup-marked kerb stones, doesn’t appear to have any statutory protection, this is a worry as it is close to an estate road that has recently been used by heavy vehicles and not too far from a road stone quarry. There are also signs that turf has been stripped close to the cairn, presumably to top the nearby shooting butts.
We moved on to the slowly-sinking, messy Stone Circle at the head of Osmonds Gill, the viewshed here is to the north across the upper Tees valley towards the Durham plain.
Walking over to Eel Hill, we cross a low, dry valley and encounter the best fairy ring that I have ever seen.
Eel Hill, I have visited this beautiful carved stone many times and have never once been able to walk straight to it. I’m convinced that it moves around the hilltop.
We head off to explore Holgate passing these lovely shooting butts. I’m no fan of driven grouse shooting and wouldn’t care if another butt was ever built, but I do love these earth and stone built structures. With their construction and alignments, they have a prehistoric soul. These butts won’t be seeing much service this year. Later we hear a different sort of gunfire, the pom pom of artillery from the nearby military ranges.
At Holgate, we search for carved rocks amongst the boulders that litter the terraces below Holgate Howe. After four thousand years of upland Yorkshire weather and the acid rains of the industrial era, it amazes me how any of these carvings have survived, I also wonder about what has been lost.
Some of the boulders, including some with carvings on them, have been quarried by local stonemasons. The method of removing a stone, suitable for use as a gatepost or lintel, is to cut a series of linear holes across the stone, it is then left to allow nature to assist with the work. The process of freeze/frost will eventually weaken and fracture the stone along the line, the stone can then be more easily cut. There are a number of quarried stones laying around that have not been used.
This large flat boulder has been quarried along one edge. The stone has a number of weathered cups on its surface. The cups have been joined up with a thin, sharp, incised line. Perhaps this was the work of a bored stonemason who noticed the ancient cups and spent his tea break trying to make some sense of them.
We finish the day at this lovely earth-fast boulder which was thankfully spared from the attention of the stonecutter.
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
Mayburgh Henge, generally my starting and finishing point when visiting Cumbria.
Heading west into Baysdale, the track helps keep the bracken at bay.
A large slab of rock sits buried in the bracken below the track. I have stopped here many times, it is a perfect place to sit and gaze across to the hidden valley of the Great Hograh Beck.
The slab has a single cup mark at its centre, it is difficult to say whether or not it is prehistoric in origin, there are also carved initials on the stone. In the 1960s Rowland Close reported a prehistoric carved stone at the head of the Great Hograh Beck valley on Holiday Hill.
On returning to the path I find a single grey flint.
The repairs of the field walls echo the prehistoric walling of the surrounding moor tops.
The fields have been abandoned, the farmhouse and barn derelict.
Baysdale YN [Basdale c 1200 YCh 564]. ‘Valley with a Cow-shed’ (ON bass).
The hillside sheep scrapes are filled with tiny yellow flowers, my friend Barry has identified them as climbing corydalis (Ceratocapnos clavicular).
On the moor top I stop for a chat with the keeper. He tells me that he has just returned from a week in Ibiza with the lads.
Roadside litter – a short memory
Ekwall does not mention Hograh, perhaps his definition below gives a clue to the etymology.
OE hoh ‘heel; projecting ridge of land’, dial. hoe, heugh ‘crag, cliff, precipice, a height ending abruptly’. In pl. ns. the meaning varies from ‘steep ridge’ to ‘slight rise’. The OE inflexion was hoh, gen. hos, dat. ho plur. hos, gen. ho, dat. hom. Later were formed gen. hoges, dat. hoge, plur. hoas, hogas &c.
An alternative etymology by Margaret Gelling
hangra OE ‘sloping wood’. This term is well evidenced in the boundary surveys of charters but is not otherwise recorded in OE. It is usually translated ‘wood on a steep slope’, which is the sense in which hanger is recorded in the 18th century..
Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors. Paul M Brown & Graeme Chappell. 2005
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1959
Place-Names in the Landscape. Margaret Gelling. 1984
William Hornsby and Richard Stanton excavated a large mound on Kilton Lane known as Howe Hill. The lane runs through the east side of the mound and Hornsby records that material had previously been removed from the summit of the mound to facilitate ploughing. The pair discovered a couple of graves, one of which contained unburned bones and the remains of a hollowed-out tree trunk. A number of cup marked cobbles and a large cup and ring marked stone were also found. It is not unusual to find cup marked stones in coastal barrows, however prehistoric log burials are quite rare, only about 60 have been recorded in the UK.
Source: The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. XXIV. 1918
A while ago I came across a reference to a couple of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age barrows on the southern bank of the Tees close to Piercebridge. Lowland barrows are rare in the Tees valley so I was keen to find out more about this pair. On further investigation I noticed that there were three barrows, one north of the river and two south. Looking on the map I noticed that the three barrows formed an alignment that crossed the Tees at the point where the Romans had built a bridge. Projecting the alignment south leads to the Iron Age Oppidium of Stanwick.
According to Ray Seton’s Astronomical Significance chart, the barrows are also roughly aligned to the rising sun at the summer solstice 2000 BCE.
This map shows that the ancient crossing point was still being used as a ford in the nineteenth century
I checked through all of the sources but could not find a reference to this barrow alignment, so on a misty morning my friend Martyn and I set out to give the place a looking at.
The two barrows on Betty Watson’s Hill and a cup marked cobble stone with two possibly three cups. In North Yorkshire there is a definite association between cup marked stones and prehistoric funerary monuments.
I suggest that the barrows were not actually aligned on the river crossing but were aligned on a trackway or road that crossed the river at this point. The trackway and crossing point, if regularly used, would probably have been quite visible. There is plenty of evidence in the archaeological record to demonstrate a relationship between prehistoric monuments and trackways.
The Tees at Piercebridge and the remains of the Roman bridge. The bridge is built on a gravel bed which is rich in flint pebbles. Perhaps in prehistory this place was not only significant as a river crossing point but also as a source of raw materials.
This part of the River Tees also had a special significance to the Romans. A substantial amount of votive offerings have been recovered from this small section of the river, leading to the suggestion that there was some form of shrine here during the Roman period. The barrow alignment may suggest that this part of the river also carried a spiritual significance to the people who populated this area long before the arrival of the Romans.