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

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Thank you, Derbyshire

Back in August 2001 I went on a four day trip to Derbyshire with my mate Les, with whom I like to go out riding. The main reason for our trip was a stables we'd discovered at West Haddon, just outside Bakewell, who would school us on the same horses for three days in a row and take us riding out into the landscape.

Strangely, the ancient landscape was incidental to me at that time. Nevertheless, the then still-in-the-bud passion I feel towards big, old rocks was undoubtedly there, waiting to blossom, because the night before as I was packing my jodhphurs, crash hat, leather half -chaps and longest, flickiest whip, I did a quick search of the internet to see what ancient sites might be thereabouts. I made a couple of mental notes that Stanton Moor might be a possibility, logged out and continued packing.

The riding was fantastic...

...we cantered for miles through the wooded trails behind Bakewell, brought the traffic to a standstill as we trotted through the bank holiday traffic in the town centre and my mount, "Warrior", a very large gelding with a huge stride, behaved impeccibly as we waded through the cool, clear waters of the river Derwent.

But three long days in the saddle takes its toll on one's arse. Fortunately, there was plenty of time for relaxation, too and the people i went with were up for a bit of light megalithing.

With my vague knowledge of what was available to see (I hadn't yet discovered this website) we drove up to Stanton Moor to find the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor. I had no map (other than the road altas) and no sense of what we were about to find.

There was nothing for it other than to park and walk. Some kind soul had erected a very roughly painted wooden sign by a very clear track. We chanced it. A longish walk through the woods somehow lead me and Kath to this charming stone circle. There were a couple of people camping in the woods about 30ms off, but other than that we had the place to ourselves. After the 12 mile ride earlier that day, Kath did nothing but lie in the dappled sun and drifted off.....I got out my paintbox and sketchbook and all was peaceful.... I have only since found out about the painful struggle fought by the eco-warriors to defend its very existance. Good on 'em. This delightful place exudes fairy charm, certainly a place where the little people live and dance and sparkle. We sat and lost ourselves here for 2 hours or more.

Ah! Road altases. How marvellous that the cartographers still mark places like Nine Stones Close. Without an O/S this could be harder to find, but my vague hunch as to its whereabouts and some chaps with a tractor pointed the way and although it's on private land and we had to wade through a sloppy, well-manured field of friendly cattle to reach it, it was truly worth it. Each of the four remaining stones stand tall, proud and each is uniquely individual. The view they enjoy is quite superb - one way looking out over gentle dales and the other way back towards Robin Hood's stride. You get a very clear sense of there being something much, MUCH larger here at one time. Though precisely what is a secret it retains. We noticed some large stones in the walls of the field - perhaps these were once part of it?

A gentle stroll of no more than half a mile from Nine Stones Close takes you to the magnificent natural outcrop of Robin Hood's Stride, where some attractive, muscly-legged young bucks were busy roping themselves to it and scaling it's faces. We sat admiring the great trees growing out of it's crevasses and massive boulders hanging on the grassy slopes. Now THIS is a place to sit and contemplate your life. Les sat quietly with her husband, and I sat with my paintbox and considered my status as a single woman struggling to make a living at a company who's new director - a bullying, misogynistic, unyielding character - I loathed with untold passion. My mind cleared and I felt better able to see a way forward.

After a charming ride through the dales around Birchover, the next day we decided to dine at the Druid's Arms and take a short detour up towards the quarry at the back of the village to try to find Doll Tor and the Andle Stone.

The Andle Stone is a naturally occuring rock - truly massive! there was no mistaking it standing in the field before the land fell down sharply towards the dale bottom. Some footholds had been cut into it so that the brave and the foolhardy may climb to the top. Being fearful of heights and of falling (weird, that, coz I have fallen off horses a lot and it hurts!) I didn't climb it. Les did - rather bravely, I thought. She said there were some marks on the top, but my phobia was stronger than my curiosity.

Only a few metres from the Andle stone is Doll Tor. It was a miracle we found it really, not having any maps or anything. But I was beginning to develop a 'sense' for these places by now. Nestled at the edge of a wood this teeny weeny little circle of six standing stones and a couple of fallen ones reeks of skipping elves, dancing pixies and kindly woodland folk, a place where the magic of childhood storybooks comes alive. The dappled light falling through the leaves, the pink wild flowers, late foxgloves and unfurled bracken fronds seemed to echo with little whispered voices of long dead spirits, urging you to 'keep it a secret!' I wanted to. I wanted it all for myself!

Badly ravaged over time, Doll Tor probably survives due to it being so tucked away. And it's this 'tuckedawayness' that makes it so captivating, bewitching, charming and hopelessly appealing. The others went back to the pub for more beer, but I stayed here: I wanted to drink in the atmosphere and to think about my life with the clarity that these places offer.

Afterword: thanks to the clarity afforded to me by this trip, the following week I told my director to "keep his fucking job and shove it up the pipe of his penis". I left with no job to go to and no means of paying the mortgage, butI was SO happy. I found and started a new job seven weeks later. Thank you, Derbyshire.

Jane Posted by Jane
21st June 2003ce

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