The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Wet Withens

Stone Circle


Visited 30.4.14

The idea for an Easter break in Chesterfield was in order to knock several English Heritage sites off the list (I have now visited just over half of the 400 or so sites). Due to time constraints I hadn’t intended to visit the Wet Withens stone circle but each day I looked at the map the little blue square surrounding it called out to me. In the end it all became too much and I just had to somehow squeeze a visit in.

The chance came one evening as we were heading back to the Travelodge. Although it was still quite early (about 6.30pm) it was already starting to get dark. The sky was filled with black clouds and it was obvious a storm was on the way – confirmed by the weather forecast.

We parked at the point where the road out of Grindleford takes a sharp turn to the south towards Eyam. There is plenty of room to park here. The rest stayed in the car as I tried to work out the best way towards the site. There is a stone stile leading to a path which runs to the north-west and another path which leads north-east. I opted for the north-west which in hindsight was a mistake. The path runs parallel to a drystone wall and after walking for a bit it was obvious I was going way off course and I had to climb over the wall in order to head in an eastern direction towards the circle. It would have been better to have approached via the other path and have avoided the wall altogether.

Despite previous TMA site reports I could find no path which lead to the circle.
All I could see was a sea of knee-high heather. Luckily it had been dry for several days and the dry bracken crunched under my feet. In wet weather I am sure it would be quite bogy. With compass in hand I headed for where I thought the circle should be. I could see nothing but heather. I headed further east but again nothing.

All of a sudden a bolt of forked lightening made me jump as it struck the hilltop opposite. A loud rumble of thunder quickly followed. The sky was black and the storm was clearly heading my way. I looked around – it dawned on me that I was the highest point on this open moorland hilltop. Not the ideal place to be in a lightening storm! Time to get a move on.

To my relief not much later I spotted the tops of several stones sticking out just above the heather. In all honesty the circle was a disappointment. Perhaps it would have looked better had the heather been cleared away? The tops of some stones sticking out of a sea of heather did not seem much of a reward for the effort it took in getting to the circle. Although the views are pretty good to be fair.

The Cairn slightly north of the circle was easier to make out.
I could not spot any of the cairns shown on the map south of Wet Withens.

At this point large raindrops began to fall. Time to get back to the car.
I had been gone for over an hour and the gang were restless by the time I got back.
As we drove down into Eyam the heavens opened. We had to pull over as it was like driving in a power shower. The road turned into a stream and all was black. After about 10 minutes the cloudburst had run its course and things started to dry up.

I was glad I had made the effort to visit the stone circle but in all honesty I thought it was a lot of effort to see not much.
Why this circle appears on a ‘normal’ AA map when many other better (and more accessible) stone circles don’t, I don’t know.
I prefer the AA map to others produced as I find it clearer and easier to use. I do however wonder what criteria they use when deciding which standing stones / circles / hillforts etc to put on the map. You would expect to see the Stonehenge / Avebury type sites but Wet Withens? I would say your average holiday maker would have no chance of finding this site and even if they did, would be very disappointed with what they found.
Perhaps I will E-Mail the AA to ask them?
Posted by CARL
7th May 2014ce

Comments (5)

It's a shame you were disappointed, ive only found the site to be cozy, beautiful and a wonder to behold. A site shouldn't be rated on its ease of access or the size of, for me i'm still amazed that it's there at all, some shops on my local high street only last 6 months, we'll last for eighty years or maybe less, my house'll last a couple of centuries, Wet Withens has survived for thousands of years, it will only get my applause and unending admiration. postman Posted by postman
11th May 2014ce
Perhaps there's a closet stonehead working for the AA?

Sites like Wet Withens can do without the half interested average holiday maker, to be fair..... but welcome the dedicated like Carl.
11th May 2014ce
It probably didn't help that I was conscious of the approaching storm/ lightening and the fact the others had been waiting a long time for me in the car. Perhaps a solo visit in nicer weather is in order?
As with all prehistoric sites, it is quite amazing that these things have survived all these years.
Posted by CARL
12th May 2014ce
That's interesting Carl, I've found that too - that so much of an experience at a site can be related to Mr Zinberg's 'set and setting'. Oftentimes I've arrived in a fluster and it's only after a good while of calming down and drinking the place in that I see it in a different light. Having others to worry about (others that might not be enjoying themselves) always casts a visit in a weird way. I'd rather go on my own than take someone who's not very interested along. But maybe that's a luxury. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
12th May 2014ce
I love Wet Withens but weirdly always get soaked there! There is no path that I am aware of, just head over the crest from where you parked and then into the heather and hope you hit it :) juamei Posted by juamei
15th May 2014ce
You must be logged in to add a comment