|Stubob emailed me to ask if he could use one of my paintings as the cover for a book he's preparing. Flattered, I said of course he could if he sought the owner's permission. I happened to mention to stubob that I'd be 'oop narrth' visiting Moth in mid-November and wouldn't it be fun to get together and go stomping on the Derbyshire moors together? He agreed and finally the party consisted of Moth, IronMan, Holy's bride Abbie, Holy McGrail, stubob and me.
All rugged up, we set out on an unassuming little path on the edge of Eyam Moor (pronounced 'eeeem') enroute for our first stop, the notoriously-difficult-to-find Wet Withens. Almost immediately, stubob turned confidently off the marked path and led us wading through knee-high heather in an apparently random direction. The heather, the colours of bracken dying back and the rolling contours of the moor produced some yummy textures in the weak winter sunlight. Parties of grouse kept exploding from the undergrowth.
Finally after about half a mile of heather-wading and with no warning stubob announced: '"Wet Withens", and lit up a smoke.
Even once actually inside the circle, it doesn't become apparent until pointed out. The low stones, the high heather, deep bracken and the broken outline of the circle all conspire to camoflague the place almost entirely. I was glad I didn't attempt this one without a stubob! I think even a GPS would find this tough to locate. The views over the surround country are quite lovely. But it was freezing and not entirely conducive to painting, so I made my way the 10ms beyond the circle to the badly trashed Eyam Moor barrow.
Access: Impossible except by the hardy and able-bodied!
We sat, smoked, pondered, wondered.... in my case, not least, about stubob's enigmatic human GPS qualities. Indeed, his astonishing expertise of Eyam Moor next lead us through the heather once more towards the tiny Eyam Moor II Stone Circle just about a kilometre away.
Now reduced to little more than a big pile of scraggy rocks with a dip in the middle, the only clue to what-it-once-was is the big fuck-off Ministry of Works (who are they exactly?) rusty sign, erected rudely at its periphery. Despite its appalling condition, the cairn is impressive right on the edge of a ridge and with Wet Withens
just metres away.
Almost unrecognisable to the untrained eye but nevertheless thrilling to find when one is into this stuff, it lies just off the main path. Now just a low ring of overgrown bank, you have to inspect pretty closely to find the stones. But they're there! You'd be forgiven for thinking it looked more like a ring cairn.And just 250ms or so from Eyam Moor II lies Eyam Moor III.
A very curious affair this! I counted six obvious low stones making a reasonably easy to spot construction. But the thing about this one is in the middle of the circle is a large grassy mound - a collapsed cairn with a whopping great deep chamber into which you can walk. It goes pretty deep, maybe 5 feet? I likes this one hugely. It was quirky.To get to our fifth site of the day, we needed to go back to the cars and drive out to the other side of the valley to reach Stoke Flat stone circle up on Froggatt Edge. Equipped with a convenient parking space nearby and the luxury of a real flat path on which to walk about one kilometre, this is easy to reach compared to the stuff on Eyam Moor. Massive outcrops of boulder loomed dramatically along Froggatt Edge.
Just as I was considering what kind of curry I might dine upon later, I felt something snap in my knee. Blessed with a really high pain tolerance, I simply ignored it, said nothing and walked on. It wasn't far now to Stoke Flat.
Probably missed by the copious numbers of ramblers passing this way, this unobtrusive stone circle lies about 10 metres from the main drag along the ridge. Surrounded by silver birches, in the most wonderful setting, the largest of the stones, standing about four feet tall at the southern edge of the ring had a huge weathered dip in the top, which today was full of water and reflected the blue sky. The colours here were wonderful: emerald green grass, silver grey stones, russet bracken, white birch trunks, blue sky. But it was too cold to paint and I didn't want to hold up the party, as by this time a visit to a nearby pub had been mooted. Returning to the car, I revealed to Moth that my knee felt a 'bit sore'. I began to wonder if I would get back without resorting to hopping in a rather silly way, disappointed in the piss-poor performance of my knee. 'Jane's own-brand Stubborn Determination' kicked-in and we reached The Grouse Inn at Nether Padley, where chip butties and real ale were consumed.
A clear circle, well defined and peaceful, certainly worth a look and reasonably accessible for those who don't like or can't walk too far.
Pain stopped play
Big Moor was next; a wild, wonderful landscape of real height and width to blow the cobwebs away. Holy and Abbie suggested Barbrook I, their 'local', be our first stop. It was to be my last of the day, for when I got out of the car I was crippled with the pain of what was subsequently revealed to a sprained lateral ligament. But I'd got this far and I was buggered if I was going to miss out on Barbrook I. The little circle came into view as we rounded a gentle bend - so pretty!
What a fantastic place! Pretty and with small stones, of immense charm in this enormous landscape, the circle looks skyward. It is of a very human scale somehow. We mused as to the weathering patterns on the stones and wondered if what looked like a recumbent had actually been upright once, but our ponderings were conclusion-less and Barbrook I kept her secrets.The rest of the party planned to go on to Barbrook II and III and various yummy cairns but by now I was beginning to wonder how I'd get off Big Moor without an airlift, so Moth and me said our goodbyes and thanks to stu for being such a corking guide, with hopes of returning to this splendid place very soon. I would dearly LOVE to sit and paint at Barbrook I. No doubt I will.
Nice one, centurion.
Posted by Jane
19th November 2003ce
Edited 25th November 2005ce
Jane's TMA Blog
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