Another weekend spent oop naarth gave me the opportunity to visit three sites in south Cumbria, nothing new for Moth, but all new to me. I had wanted to visit Sunkenkirk for some time, but it just seemed too damned difficult to reach, too remote: this is an area that demands commitment to get to if you come from soft suvvern parts and its still quite a drive if you're starting out from Yorkshire, too, as we were.
Driving on the winding roads through the south lakes made me feel quite vomitatious, so I was quite looking forward to the bit of a walk (and you don't hear me say that very often) from the nearest place to park to Sunkenkirk, up to the circle itself. The light was a bit flat, but it wasn't freezing, raining or windy, so I guess that constitutes fine Cumbrian weather.
The walk from the only realistic car parking space was not hard, maybe 20 minutes at most, and if you know what you're looking for you can see it as you pass over the first cattle grid, but I could not, despite Moth's insistence, "look, woman, it's there!" For me it was more of a 'slow reveal' and a thrilling one at that. As we got closer, its distinct shape came into view and I become more silent, gobsmacked by it's beauty.
Imagine the Rollrights
, and now combine that vision with Castlerigg
... yep! you have Sunkenkirk. Over fifty beautiful stones, some fallen, but predominently still standing, enclose a wonderful space somehow of a human scale. I walked round, pausing to admire the craftsmanship in each carefully dressed stone: the snooker-table flatness of the dressing, the sharp edges where the flatnesses intersected... oo-er, but this is a blinder! Something about its completeness is utterly alluring. The rise in the land just at the back of the circle affords views of its entirity, which you just don't get at other circles.
We sat opposite the portal, scoffed some cheese and carbohydrates and I sat and made a little painting aware that this was probably the last time I would be able to paint these places directly on site until the warmth returns next Spring. Moth, unaccustomed to just sitting and chilling and looking was delighted to find that just sitting and chilling and looking was a very splendid thing to do indeed. The fact that I talk to myself whilst I paint caused him some amusement. Izzi The Dog wasn't so keen on just sitting and chilling and looking, but she showed enormous patience and resisted the urge to kill any of the sheep that grazed around us.
Two hours passed in a flash.
100% Lacra, do not tumble dry
Just a 10 minute drive down the road is the complex of ruinous stone circles at Lacra. Parking at the bottom of the hill, I was quietly horrified to see that not only was it a long walk to get up there, but it was steep, too. Ah well, I'd come this far, and I was buggered if I was going to miss out now. Baza's buzzards were still there, wheeling and swooping above us as we walked up. Sooner than expected, the abandoned farmhouse which marks the entrance to the complex came into view.
Armed and extremely dangerous
I had been admiring the view over the Irish sea so hard, that it wasn't until we were virtually there that we realised that the guardians of this place were not Baza's buzzards at all, but a herd of mean-spirited, dog-hating, snorting bullocks, all dripping testosterone and up for a bit of action. Izzi was ready to 'see 'em off' for us, but Moth very wisely walked as far away from them with her as possible.
The first circle you come to is, I believe, Lacra A, which was pretty easy to make out, however it was already occupied by the Bovine Boys and they got there first. I'm not scared of cattle but I am willing to respect them and know that mostly they're just bluffing. So, determined to see these stones, I approached with a confident waggishness and most of the beasts scarpered. All except one: General Franco el Toro and he bore grudges. As I approached the circle, he approached me, snorting. Perhaps I had been a little over confident after all! Remembering Guernica, I picked up a couple of small stones lying on the ground, double-bluffed and ran at him, shouting, waving my arms and chucking one of the stones at him. Franco retreated just far enough for me to veer away from him towards another set of stones, which may have been Lacra D. Understandably, I didn't linger.
I went to catch up with Moth and try to find Lacra B. We seemed to have got away with it but from everywhere I went, I could see the looming silhouette of Franco el Toro, who never took his eyes off us.
Lacra B was thankfully just out of sight of General Franco so we sat a while to admire the view and try to make sense of this little circle, which consists of six small stones, forming a circle about 28 feet in diameter. We got out the Aubrey Burl and checked out what he had to say about Lacra, as this is such a ruinous complex you need time and expertise to make sense of it, but in truth the threat from the Bovine Boys hadn't completely cleared (I still had a large pebble in my hand) and we didn't fancy inciting their wrath any further.
Cutting our losses, we headed on down to the the Giant's grave, which Moth pointed out from our elevated viewpoint in the valley below. From the bottom of the hill, its only a 10 minute drive away.
If you happened this way and had a full day, rather than the half day we had, then you'd easily fit in the Druid's Circle of Ulverston, too. Its definitely worth seeing, but we were losing the light rapidly now and I was getting bloody cold, so we drove back to Moth's house in Yorkshire to heat up with the cheapest, tastiest take-away curry I've ever eaten whilst not in the sub-continent. Remembering General Franco, I would've ordered beef balti, but it wasn't on the menu. Bah!... so I settled for lamb instead.
We parked at the end of the lane leaving a walk on flat ground of only 200 metres or so to reach this elegant pair of beautiful standing stones. The taller one is about 10 feet high and slimline like a blade. Their shape and grace reminded me of the shape of stones I had seen pictures of on Orkney
, which I haven't (yet) experienced. Hauntingly lonely, this pair's angled tops seem to be pointing, but to what is unclear. I wished we'd had more time.
Posted by Jane
5th October 2003ce
Edited 6th October 2003ce
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