|Our friends in the North
Staying the weekend in the polite, geraniumed city of Harrogate with an old mate gave me the opportunity to have a look at some big old Yorkshire rocks. My chauffeur and guide for the day... our very own Moth.
So off we sped, me delighted at not having to drive for a change, allowing me the opportunity to look out of the window and admire the landscape, which as we set off was lit by overcast skies, but promised great things... I had a list of about half a million sites I wanted to visit in the seven and a half hours we had rock hunting, clearly we had to focus our minds and step on the gas.
Crop circles and skyscrapers
For an early, easy-win we settled on the Devil's Arrows, dead easy to find just off the A1(M) and today standing in a bright yellow field enhanced with a massive and apparently quite complex crop circle.
There can't be a more impressive sight at nine o'clock in the morning as these massive erections! We stopped to admire the sheer unimaginable bulk of the single obelisk next to the road, rudely caged up behind a fence doing it's damnest to out-tall the trees surrounding it. It must've been 25 feet tall - a real neolithic skyscraper. We wondered how deep the root of the stone was and settled on between six and 10 feet UNDER ground. This is one big mother! And if that is not enough, cross the lane and you see two more! The sun broke through as these two of the three magnificent menhirs of an alignment of perhaps five stones jutted out of a field of bright yellow corn, today with added interest as somebody/rutting deer/aliens/weird vortex/UFO/drunken pranksters (delete as applicable) had created a wonderful corn circle. I couldn't make out the pattern precisely as I had no vantage point from which to gain height.
As the traffic swishes past on the A1(M), just 50 metres away, it's great metal gantries and signs looming over the scene, you realise that the route of the A1(M) is probably as old as these stones themselves and it's precisely why they were placed here.
Just a short drive away to the north east lie the three gigantic Thornborough Henges in varying states of disrepair but no less impressive for that! We started at the overgrown and be-tree-ed Thornborough Henge North,
With no clear entry point to this enormous site, now thickly wooded, we parked up and clambered through a bit of broken fence on the western side where the lane skirts it. It takes an enormous amount of imagination to work this one out just because its a bit like hacking your way through some subtropical jungle. The bunnies scampered out of our way, the deer bolted, a family of tapir cantered away and I half expected to see a monumental python drop hideously from a branch...If you have a wild imagination come here! (I lied about the tapir). But despite the verdant undergrowth and dense woodland you can still make out the banks and ditches and the vast internal space. It's very moving, actually.moved on to Thornborough Henge Central - WOW!
After the jungly rainforest of the North henge, this one is a delight! Suddenly you can understand what the builders were on about! With massive earth ramparts, the hint of a ditch, and a distinct raised central platform, this has an everyone's-welcome, inclusive market-place-type feel to it. Surely not a burial place, to me this feels like a place for the living: for singing, dancing, meeting, trading, playing and ceremony. Moth and me sat for sometime on the top of the bank at the southern end trying to make sense of it, looking to the wooded Northern henge just 500 metres or so away and down to the southern henge, it's soft contour just rising out of the field 500 metres in a straight line to the south.and then walked down to Thornborough Henge South
Gently ruined and flattened and not half as impressive as the central circle, time has softened this henge, though you can still gain height by perching on its flattened banks in order to see it's saucery interior. It's big, it's wide and open and you shouldn't miss it.
Big rocks and elusive stones
Enroute from Thornborough to hunt for the elusive Appletreewick stone circle, I spotted a sign to Brimham Rocks. Knowing time was tight, but desperate to maximise rock viewing, I suggested to Moth that we just take a wee glimpsette at Brimham Rocks... seemed silly not to, as they were only a mile off course. Just a quickie at Brimham, Moth? He smiled. Oooh, go on then... -s w i r v e !-
This vast site consists of an area of craggy outcrops, now run by NT. As we approached from a back lane we could see pillars and tors and chimneys of rock rising impressively out of a heather and willowherb purple hillside. Magic! We parked next to a sign saying 'No parking', knowing we weren't going to stay long and headed off up a track to get a closer view. If only, if only we'd had more time here - this is a HUMUNGEOUS site, certainly worthy of a whole day's exploration. There's a neat expensive car park further up the road from which NT will extract your money. The promise of refreshment at a kiosk lured me in, but we left caffeineless. I can't wait to return here. But I'll bring my own coffee.So, continuing on through beautiful cutesy Yorkshire dales countryside, picture postcard stuff, we entered the wilder more open landscape beyond Ripon to search for Moth's bete noir, Appletreewick stone circle. He'd got the print outs, he'd got the map, he'd got the fieldnotes, he'd even got me (and I can usually smell these places, like a swine snuffling for truffles), but try as we might, stomping through thistles, heading for ridges, using logic and experience, we UTTERLY FAILED in our quest. My megalithic homing instinct had temporarily gone AWOL. We had reached Frustration City. It got to a stage where every rock became a tempting possibility... But not wanting to waste valuable time, and with half the day already gone, we gave up and moved on. Someone, somewhere.... please take Moth by the wing and show him how to find it?!
Since writing this, one week later, I can report that Moth has found Appletreewick SC!
I was gagging for a drink by this time - a pot of Yorkshire tea would've slipped down a treat. Like an arse, I'd not brought my trusty flask. I expected to be further tempted by sweeping views of the Great Yorkshire Tea plantations: Tamil women (from Bradford perhaps?) dressed in colourful saris gaily plucking at the tips of tea bushes as they shuffled through the tea gardens on the moors. I was definitely suffering from severe symptoms of hot beverage withdrawal.
Driving further northwest, I believe, through rocky white limestone scenery, our next date was with the Druid's Altar, more of a stone square than a stone circle.
A tortuous lane through bleak rolling moors pitted with white limestone scattered here and there lead us as close as we could drive (I'm not a walker) to this curious little stone .... circle? To call it a stone circle is stretching ths imagination, but it's not a cairn, as suggested by the map, but a four poster, of a type more commonly viewed in Scotland. One of the uprights has cracked off and fallen inwards. You can see that it was originally built on a little mound. I had been warned that is was mightily underwhelming, but the peace and clarity of the atmosphere here, coupled with completely silent solitude and tear-jerking views makes up for it's damaged state. This is a corker.I sat in the sunshine and sketched, aware that time was ticking away as I did so, but reluctant to leave the crystal clear purity of this marvellous spot. God damnit! The last thing I needed was another bleedin' deadline. This was supposed to be a Sunday! Grrrrrrrr....
Could we now fit in both the Doubler stones AND the Twelve Apostles of Ilkley Moor? No. The Twelve Apostles are a goodly 30 minute hike from the nearest parking place and we just didn't have time. The realisation was about as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool. I'll have to come to Yorkshire again then to see them. So the decision was made - it was time to tear round to the Doublers.
Hearts a-flutter at the Doublers!
After what I considered to be a triumph of navigation (after last week's debacle on my own home turf in Uffington) we found the concrete farm track to take us to the Doubler stones. We parked virtually beneath them by the farmhouse (after asking the farmer's permission) in order to prevent timewasting by walking and scrambled up the hillside. Phwoar! It's nice here! I instantly fell in love with it. I couldn't find the cup marks I had read about, so I clambered about the cliff edge, hugging the rocks to prevent myself falling to my death, took some pics and lay in the grass enjoying the breeze in my hair, the purple and yellow striped hillsides, the kiss of the sunlight on my skin and the deep crazy shadows cast by the stones. You've just got to see this.
Weird and wild, these natural outcrops of rock are *absolutely breathtaking*, their crazy eroded shapes mushrooming up like giant mad cowpats from their cliff overlooking glorious dales scenery. Try as I might, I couldn't find the cup marks I had read about. Anyway, go there - I challenge any one not to be mind-blown.
Thanks for a great day, Yorkshire.
Thanks for a great day, Moth.
Posted by Jane
4th August 2003ce
Edited 10th November 2003ce
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