In the past, Midsummer was celebrated the lighting of bonfires on the 23rd of June, St John’s Eve. The following Sunday, Head Sunday, was a popular day for visiting healing wells.
…midsummer fires, with their numerous ceremonies, the rubbing the sacred flame, the running through the glowing embers, the throwing of flowers on the fire, the baking in it and distributing large loaves and cakes, with the dance about it, remained village customs.Forty Years in a Moorland Parish. J.C. Atkinson .1908
Image – Northumberland Baal Fire, St John’s Eve, Whalton, July 4 1903 The Benjamin Stone Collection.
Thunderheads over Saltburn
Graham Vasey & I travelled across the fertile rolling ridges of the Howardian Hills to meet up with Graeme Chappell at the Dalby Turf Maze, the smallest turf maze in Europe. A passing cyclist smiled and shouted “crop circle” at us.
We left the maze and drove north to have a look around an earthwork enclosure on the edge of Ampleforth Moor known as Studfold Ring.Very little is known about the earthwork, this is from Historic England’s PastScape database
Small earthwork enclosure consisting of an inner ditch and outer bank with a single east-facing entrance. Possibly a hengiform monument or Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age stock enclosure. The freshness of the earthworks indicate it has been restored in the Medieval period, probably as a horse coraal as suggested by the name Studfold. Scheduled.
The earthwork is set in a landscape that shows evidence of occupation from at least the late Neolithic period. The map above is an extract from the 1889 OS map showing the location of the earthworks, a number of late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age barrow groups and the large linear earthwork known as Double Dykes. The two mile long linear earthwork can be traced running over two ridges and could be classed a large cross ridge dyke enclosing an area of prehistoric activity.
A footpath runs beside the earthwork, we crossed the field and entered the large grassy enclosure. There are no traces of the barrows that were recorded in the area.The bank and internal ditch remain intact on all four sides and the bank is lined with trees on three sidesSmall erosion patches on the banks show that they are constructed of earth and stones.This is a strange place and it is quite difficult to know what to make of it. It has been a few years since I was last here, it seems smaller that I remember it. Graeme, who had not seen the site before, remarked that it was larger than he thought it would be.
In the late 1970s Tinkler and Spratt excavated an Iron Age enclosure on Great Ayton Moor. This enclosure was a similar size to Studfold and also had a bank with an internal ditch. In their discussion they cited Studfold as a similar earthwork. I guess no one will know the true nature of this lovely site until a formal excavation is undertaken.
A History of Helmsley Rievaulx and District by the Helmsley and Area Group of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. 1968
An Iron Age Enclosure on Great Ayton Moor by B N Tinkler & D A Spratt The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol.50 1978
Map and Aerial View 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.
Putting the Solstice sun to work
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.