Taken on a rainy Cumbrian morning, a few days before withdrawing from the world.
Taken on a rainy Cumbrian morning, a few days before withdrawing from the world.
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
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.
I recently came across some images that I’d taken of the Prehistoric Rock Art at Allan Tofts on the North York Moors in 2006. Many of these stones are now overgrown and very difficult to find. As with the nearby rock art on Fylingdales Moor, many of the carved rocks appeared to be associated with low-lying cairns.
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 running in parallel towards the coast cutting deep ravines into the glacial till. At some points the ridge narrows to the width of the track with near-sheer drops on both sides.
There are three known Prehistoric burial mounds in this valley. One in the 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.
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.
The stone sits on swampy ground at the foot a low hill. The landowner has erected a fence around it to prevent damage from livestock.
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.
Quite a lot of stone has been dumped on the boggy ground. A spring breaks through at the stone and runs down through the field to the Beck.
The 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.
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 trackways but this is not always the case.
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, sadly neither suggestions were included in the final timeline.
Light constantly changes as weather moves rapidly from the west
A stoat tracks my progress across the moor
The ruins of an ancient settlement can be found in the bracken
An ancient cairn, four millennia of beaten bounds
The reliable instability of limestone – the stone circle slowly sinking, the gill slowly growing
Eel Hill – scrying stone
I recently bought a copy of a new book called The Old Stones. The Book describes itself as ‘A Field Guide to the Megalithic sites of Britain and Ireland’ and ‘the most comprehensive and democratically selected list of prehistoric sites that has ever been put in a book like this.’ The book is a collaborative work and utilises the knowledge and experience of the users of the Megalithic Portal website.
I have been visiting prehistoric sites around Britain and Europe for over 30 years but I don’t consider myself experienced enough to give a qualified opinion on the national coverage of the book so I’ll focus on the treatment of North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
The gazetteer covers the major monuments of the Yorkshire Wolds, the Ure-Swale Plateau and a couple of Pennine sites. Sadly only two North York Moors sites have made it into the book, Nab Ridge and The High and Low Bridestones. Both of these are lovely sites although it could be argued that the Low Bridestones are merely a group of fairly underwhelming low walls. There is no mention of any of the impressive moorland standing stones or burial monuments. Even the nationally important prehistoric rock art site of Fylingdales Moor with its 200+ carved rocks and monuments, fails to get a mention.
The book then travels westwards to Cumbria and manages to capture many significant Cumbrian sites. Surprisingly the Greycroft and Elva Plain circles fail to get a mention. After Cumbria the book back-tracks east to Barningham Moor, then jumps 60 miles north to Northumberland.
The book promotes itself as a field guide, this is only part true, in eastern Cumbria it would be a handy book to keep in your car but in the case of the North York Moors and the Northern Pennines it would be of little use. It is also quite a heavy book to be toting around in your rucksack. My final gripe, the regional guides section at the end of the book fails to list any guides covering Northern England, Wales, most of Scotland and all of the island of Ireland. That said, it does list many useful many online resources.
Putting together a book of this size and scope was always going to be a massive task. There are over 1000 sites listed in the book and it is admirable that such an endeavour has even been attempted. Despite my criticisms, I am enjoying reading the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Prehistoric sites of our islands. It is well laid out, easy to read and has full colour photographs and maps. There a forward by Mike Parker Pearson, an lovely piece discussing Prehistoric Landscapes by Vicci Cummins. There are a number of excellent articles scattered throughout the book on topics ranging from the Top 10 Urban Prehistory Sites to Archaeoacoustics.
This book serves to remind us of the sheer range and quantity of prehistoric monuments that exist in our islands. It is a fitting tribute to the hard work and devotion to recording these sites by Andy Burnham and the members of the Megalithic Portal website.