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Such a nice Shap!

I can resist anything but temptation
I rang the dreaded Ginger John on Saturday afternoon to see if he fancied a quick jaunt up to Thornborough Henges. Felt I ought to as 'A Friend of…'

That afternoon was 'out' for John, but to cut a long story short for once, he came over for beer & planning on Saturday evening, stopping over for a trip on Sunday.

John pointed out that as we would have all day, maybe we should go further afield. I suggested an 'unfinished business' (for me) trip to Derbyshire, but I could tell John wasn't enthusiastic. Think he gave it away when he said 'Not Derbyshire'.

Possibly inspired by the mentions of Mayburgh Henge and Gunnerkeld Stone Circle in the first part of my Callanish & Perthshire weblog, John suggested a look at some of the Westmoreland or Cumbrian sites.

Having visited it and at least one other near the M6, he particularly wanted to revisit Gunnerkeld, which pleased me as I've not been before.

In fact, having done very little stomping up in that area around Shap and the M6, I was very keen generally – a day of all-new sites for me (other than Mayburgh)!! Hoorah, Moth ignores his principles and his good intentions in favour of SHINY NEW STONES!!!

So, drawing a veil over quantities and varieties imbibed during and after the planning meeting, we managed a 10am departure from Leeds.

I'm not small, you're tall….
We decided the A65 through the Dales would probably be a nightmare on a Sunday, so headed for the M62 west from Leeds M61 towards Preston and onto the M6.

First stop was Gamelands Stone Circle. John had not been here and I had only had one very cursory half-attempt to find it.

We parked by the side of the lane leading towards Knott Hill – a fine 'mother hill' if ever I saw one! (Shut up John, I know you don't like the mother hill stuff – I reckon he must have been savaged by a mammary at an early age….)

As we walked down the track I was scanning the surrounding fields for a clue with no luck. After about 200 yards, John said 'There it is then…' and I looked expectantly to the right (where I knew it should be. Nothing.

'Jump!' said John looking at me with a not altogether pleasant smirk spreading across his face. 'How hi…' I started to say (no, not really). 'Shortarse!' grinned the Ginger one.

So I jumped. And there, for a moment, was the elusive Gamelands circle.

The unpalatable truth was that when visiting on my own before, I'd missed it – not for the lack of looking, but for the stupid yet almost unavoidable reason that I couldn't see over the bloody wall!!!

Well, it was worth the wait. This must once have been one SERIOUS circle. Still is if you look.

I won't say much about it, but although many, many stones are missing and all (as far as I could see) that remain are fallen, it seems clear to me that the circle certainly has much in common with the beautiful Castlerigg and Sunkenkirk (or Swinside) circles.

It's dimensions, proportions and the (short) distances between many of the stones speak immediately of those 2 much better known and, admittedly, better preserved circles.

Even its setting reminded me of Castlerigg or Swinside (Sunkenkirk) though possibly less overtly dramatic than both of those places can be in more forbidding weather conditions!

Just before we left, to my surprise, John suggested this might be a site that would be interesting to see 'restored'. Unusually as far as my feelings about restoration are concerned, I thought for a moment he might just be right.

But then I though 'it's not gonna happen though is it!' and was quietly glad. If it was restored anyone could see it! I want to keep it for them what can reallysee!

What motorway?
OK. Next on the itinerary was a trip to Gunnerkeld stone circle. We decided to go via Shap town itself, to get (in my case) and renew (in John's case) our 'bearings' for the local sites.

We made our way to the public road past Gunnerwell farm, parking on a bit of gravel and verge. I guess you could drive down to the farm, but that always seems a bit intrusive to me, especially if you end up parking actually in the farmyard or whatever. I prefer to arrive on foot, it seems less presumptuous somehow.

Anyway, we were greeted cheerily ('Stone circle I assume…!') by a lass of around 16 or 17 (my guess) who had been mowing the lawn at the back of the farmhouse as we approached.

She told us to follow the path we were on, past the house and diagonally down through the trees. Get to 'an old red gate' and the circle was straight up the slope. And guess what? She was blummin' right. And what a groovy thang 'the circle' is!!

I'm ashamed (not a new feeling!) to say that I didn't notice the 'standing stone in front of the house' noted by broen, but I'm preeeety sure that nothing else on the short route described above is of any particular significance.

So, the circle? Circle's' actually. 'Tis certainly an interesting site. Vaguely reminded me & John of Croft Moraig in Perthshire, in as much as it's a circle within a circle. I notice though that Burl seems to say that (unlike Croft Moraig) it was all built at the same time.

He also draws dimensional parallels to Castlerigg and 'stylistic' parallels to Oddendale (see below).

Go there. I for one found it more pleasing and more interesting than I expected from reading about it and looking at pictures.

Oh yeah, nearly forgot, it's got this liiiiiitle road by it calld the M6. It's quite weird but JUUUUST far enough away!

Moving in strange circles
Back to the car and south towards Oddendale. On the way stopped at Castlehowe Scar Stone Circle. Strange (to us) little circle this one.

There are about 9 or 10 fairly large low 'boulder' type stones that make up the 'circle'. It certainly is quite like Iron Hill and Little Meg (though I've personally yet to go to L'il M).

Given that, it's no surprise that it seemed to us more like a ruined cairn 'kerb' circle. Nice on a sunny day though! Shame the locked gate suggests people aren't very welcome. Didn't notice the alleged row though. Bugger, I'll have to go back now.

Moth Posted by Moth
2nd July 2003ce
Edited 17th June 2004ce

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