Sleights Moor

 

A friend and I took a walk around Sleights moor starting at the High Bride Stones, a group of Prehistoric Standing Stones that have been interpreted as the possible ruins of two Four-Poster Stone Circles or the remains of a number of Stone Rows.

HBS c1s

We followed the lines of stones to the edge of the moor and the descent into the Murk Esk valley.

Larsen sA Ladder trap, one of two in this small area, both thankfully empty.

Low Bridestones 7sDescending the bank to the Low Bride Stones on Sheephowe Rigg.

Like the High Bride Stones on the moor above, this is a very ruinous site. Archaeological surveys have revealed over 100 stones including a mutilated cairn.  The current best guess is that many of the stones once formed part of a prehistoric enclosure.

We moved north along the top of Lowther Crag to the disused Bolton Crag quarry, one source of the beautiful Middle Jurassic moorland sandstone. Across the Esk valley we can see the quarries at Aislaby. Stone from these quarries was used to build the 11th century Abbey at Whitby, the foundations of the old Waterloo and London Bridges and the piers at Whitby.

White Flint sWalking up onto the moor top we found small, loose boulders made of ‘white flint’. This stone was prized by the steel industry, its high silica content, up to 98%, meant that it was ideal for making refractory bricks and moulding sand.

Flat Howe s

We moved across the highest part of the moor to Black Brow and its two Bronze Age kerbed burial mounds, the Flat Howes. This is the highest section of the moor, there are uninterrupted views along the Esk Valley to the Kildale Gap, across the moors towards Fylingdales and down to the coast into Whitby, a fitting place to spend eternity.

Barningham Moor

Barningham

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

Barningham Insulator

Urban Megaliths – Middle Beck Stone Circle

Lat: 54°.3  NZ 522 184

A modern circle (2000CE) located on the east bank of the Middle Beck on the Town Farm Estate, Middlesbrough.

The circle contains examples of the three major rock types. There appears to be no obvious grading of the stones according to size. There is evidence of the re-use of stones, particularly three Shap granite boulders. There is some evidence of burning within the circle. A number of the stones have been decorated.

A potential alignment to the Winter Solstice sunrise over Godfaltar Hill.

Burl classification (1)

Thanks to Barry Jobson

Nine Stones

9 stones xvi

The Hambleton Street is an ancient ridgeway that runs along the western edge of the North York Moors escarpment. A document in the Rievaulx Chartulary refers to the road as a ‘Regalis Via’ or ‘King’s Way’. According to KJ Bonser “it is the best preserved stretch of drove road in Yorkshire, – part of a track of great antiquity, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Romano- British, from the Channel to Scotland.”

9 stones xv

The street passes along the eastern edge of Thimbleby Moor before climbing along the edge of Black Hambleton. The hill dominates the views to the east, to the west the moor looks out over the Vale of Mowbray towards the distant Pennines.

9 Stones iUntil recently a large section of the moor was covered with forestry. The trees have been harvested leaving this area of the moor covered in tree stumps and debris.

9 StonesIn the late 1970s Spratt and Brown undertook an aerial survey of the moor and reported  “an extensive system of small irregular fields with tumbled stone walls covering large parts of the northern slope of the recently burnt off heather moor.  The are also a few round cairns. To the south, on the crest of the moor, there are four standing stones and some fallen megaliths (The Nine Stones), perhaps the remains of a double alignment leading to the site.”

The Nine Stones site is bisected by a stone wall, open moorland on one side, the remains of modern forestry on the other. Old maps show the majority of the Nine Stones located on the forestry side of the wall.

Map

There are a number large stones lying prone in the tangled chaos of the forestry clearance. The weathering patterns on a few of these stones indicates that they may have once stood upright.

The moor has a number of areas that are littered with stones. It is almost impossible not to see alignments amongst these stones, most are coincidental, others may be deliberate. The alignment below terminates at a small standing stone and appears to refer to the distant barrow topped peak on Cringle Moor. This is also a very rough alignment on the summer solstice sunrise.

9 stones iiA low embankment runs across the moor from a small standing stone towards Black Hambleton. This is probably one of Spratt & Browns field walls.

9 stones xivAnother alignment of small upright stones points to where Hambleton Street traverses the shoulder of Black Hambleton. The stones are also roughly aligned to the winter solstice sunrise.

9 stones x

In common with a number of the moorland prehistoric sites the exact nature of Nine Stones is unknown, a number of people have tried to interpret the site but without  further study and excavation we will never know its true nature. The alignments I have mentioned are all my own opinion and are extremely imprecise and unproven.

Sources

Old Roads and Pannierways in North East Yorkshire. Raymond H. Hayes. 1988

The Yorkshire Archaeological Register 1976. The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 49. 1977

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

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

A Stone Circle, Hob’s Heap & the Coal Mines of Harland Moor Pt 1.

Yesterday I realised that I’d recently written a blog post about manhole covers..manhole covers! I’ve had a fairly odd few weeks which have left me unable to venture to far from home, I needed to clear my head and for me the best way to do that is a mooch across an empty moor. I sent my good friend and co-conspirator Chris Whitehead a message, an hour and a half later we met in the car park of the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge, our destination Harland Moor.

It’s a lovely drive down to Harland Moor we stopped briefly on Blakey Rigg to admire the beautifully carved handstone.

hand-stone

After dodging suicidal pheasants we arrived at the circle which is marked on the OS map as a cairn. The circle was discovered by W R Crosland in 1930 and was described as an embanked circle 70ft in diameter with upright stones set at intervals.  

It had been at least a decade since I last visited the circle and remembered it as a rather ruinous place. I was surprised to find it quite recognisable, a slightly raised bank set with stones. The circle is bisected by a hollow way with dense heather and bracken in the northern and eastern quadrant, which made spotting the stones a little difficult.

harland-circle

harland-circle1

Britain’s foremost expert on stone circles, Aubrey Burl, gives the circle a classification of 3 (Ruined but recognisable), I wouldn’t argue with that. A few metres to the west of the circle there are a number of stones that may be the remains of prehistoric walling but are so ruined that it is hard to tell. Interestingly, the three stones in the picture below are aligned 130 – 300 degrees which roughly aligns to the winter solstice sunrise and summer solstice sunset for 2000BCE.

harland-circle2

The main viewshed from the circle is to the south and west across the green tabular hills dipping down to the fertile Vale of Pickering below. The views to the north and east are of the golden brown high moors intercut with fertile green dales.

We decided to leave the circle, fortified by ripe, fat, sweet, juicy bilberries we headed north across the moor.

Sources

A History of Helmsley & Rievaulx & District. J. McDonnell 1963

Prehistoric & Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire. D A Spratt 1993

The Stone Circles of Britain Ireland and Brittany (Revised Edition). A Burl 2000

The High Bride Stones 1817-1995

Other collections of upright stones, arranged in lines, or placed without apparent order, are found in several parts. On Sleights moor there are a remarkable assemblage of this description, called the high Bride stones, forming a kind of irregular line, and perhaps originally an avenue. There were 11 upright stones in this cluster some years ago: at present there are only 6 standing, and 3 or 4 that have fallen down: none of them exceeding 7 or 8 feet high.

A History of Whitby. George Young 1817

High Bridestones

The only other stone circles known to me are the High Bride Stones, near large and small barrows, at an altitude of 900 feet on Sleights Moor. To-day six only are standing, and at least fourteen are fallen. The most conspicuous stone is 7 feet high and terribly weathered. Near it lie three others nearly as long, and another about 4 feet long, which together with the upright stone form a semi-circle. Some distance to the south stands a solitary stone about 3 feet high. Thirty yards north of the semi-circle, three upright stones from 2-3 feet high form part of another circle, the remaining stones of which to the number of at least eight have fallen over and are more or less hidden in the heather. Further north are two fallen stones and still further in the same direction is a monolith 6 feet high high and deeply rain furrowed. Thus the High Bride Stones, which from north to south extend about 150 yards, seem to have originally consisted of adjacent circles, one of large, the other of smaller stones, with outlying monoliths. Despite their deplorable state they are the most impressive standing-stones in North-east Yorkshire.

Early Man in N.E. Yorkshire. Frank Elgee. 1930

High Bridestones 1

At the northern end, on Sleights Moor, the High and Low Bridestones offer an interesting contrast; the latter are natural formations, curious weathered blocks of sandstone, some of which look like  huge toadstools, raised on narrow stems. The High Bridestones, on the other hand, though hardly so fine to look at, are human handiwork, a stone circle of the Bronze Age; the individual monoliths are many of them very large, and although today more than half have fallen, this remains easily the best sanctuary of its kind in this part of the country.

A Guide to the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments in England and Wales. Jacquetta Hawkes. 1951

Note. The natural formations referred to by Hawkes are located in the Dalby Forest. The Low Bridestones on Sleights Moor are a number of low standing stones that have been interpreted as prehistoric walling.

High Bridestones2

On a bleak, often waterlogged limestone pavement the High Bridestones have been all things to all men. Even the name is deceptive. It has nothing to do with nuptials, sex or fertility symbolism. It relates to Brigid, the goddess of the Bigantes, the Iron Age tribe that inhabited this grim, windblown region. There have been varying interpretations of the eleven stones of which six stand. They have been called the remains of two stone circles with outliers to the north and south; standing stones among natural outcrops; and a ruinous double row or avenue. They may, instead, be the wreckage of two Four-Posters.

A. At the north-west and at right-angles to the line like a terminal stone on Dartmoor there is a single stone 5ft 2ins (1.6m) high. To its south-east, 190ft (58m) away, are three stones at the corner of a rectangle 25ft by 20ft (7.6 x 6.1m) from which the north-east stone is missing. The tallest pillar, 4ft 5ins (1.3m) high is at the south-east. The setting resembles a ‘christianised’ Four-Poster.

B. A further 76ft (23.2m) south-east is a low, loose stump and 28ft (8.5m) beyond it is a very questionable Four-Poster in such a disastrous state that little can be claimed for it. The biggest stone, 7ft 6ins (2.3m) high, still stands and around it in confusion lie three slabs, 8ft 4ins, 10ft and 7ft 6ins (2.5, 3.1, 2.3m) long. If this megalithic disaster had have been a Four-Poster its rectangle would have been about 15ft by 13ft (4.6 x 4m). Like the more identifiable setting to the north-west its sides would have been roughly aligned on the cardinal points.

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