|VVXX Phase 1 March 2006
20 years ago, (almost exactly to the day!), 2 music-obsessed, young women with a shared love of black clothing and cider met through a series of bizarre coincidences: it involved Gene Loves Jezebel, Balaam and the Angel….and an Irish dwarf named Barbara; that's all you need to know.
They shared the same first name and initials and were both spookily born on the 6th of the month (although different months, in different years, so not that spooky really). Victoria 1 (Vic/me!) lived in Lancashire and Victoria 2 (Vicky/her) lived in Glasgow and since that first meeting they have shared a wealth of passions and far too much laughter, good food and red wine.
Over the years their teenage love of dodgy music and Arthurian literature developed into a love of less dodgy music and big stones. Prehistory became a passion for them both and so, to mark the auspicious occasion of their 20 year anniversary, they planned a series of road trips together. VVXX had begun……
March 2006 was to be Phase 1 of VVXX, with trips to Ireland in August and Aberdeenshire in October planned. For the first trip, we decided to stay close to home (well, close to my home) and, after much discussion, decided upon the Shap Avenues. Having travelled around the globe and despite living in some of the rock n roll capitals of the world, we both ended up back where we started, so Cumbria is the perfect meeting point for us.
We arranged to meet at Mayburgh Henge, one of my favourite places and, essentially, right off the M6 motorway! Driving up in the campervan that morning, the sun was shining, the sky was a watery blue and there was a dusting of snow on the Howgills. Perfect stone weather. As we approached Mayburgh Henge on the M6, I noticed someone stood on the top of the henge in a bright red hoodie and knew that Vicky had arrived before me. After a quick brew with Mark (my chauffer) and a shufty round Mayburgh (we had both been before, but we felt it was good manners to visit again), we piled into Vicky's car and set off for the first site of the day.
Originally, we had planned to go to Gunnerkeld but decided to head straight into Shap. We both love planning itineraries but seldom stick to them, as the elements and the atmosphere of the day can often dictate where you end up. Today, we ended up at Goggleby Stone. I had been to the Goggleby Stone before, last summer when I set out for Oddendale and started my trip in Shap. All sites on the itinerary where to be new for Vicky though. I love the drive out to Goggleby, and always get a sense of excitement when I spot her for the first time. We parked in the little pathway close to the field and hot-footed it over to the stone.
The Goggleby Stone is a corker - I think it was JackSprat who said he was disappointed with it, the setting of cement spoiling the atmosphere for him but I love this spot. My first visit, alone on a hot summer's day, was fantastic and a kestrel hovered overhead. This time, it was in the period when winter is just turning to Spring and although the sky was blue, the surrounding hills were still sprinkled with snow. Magic. We spent a good while just looking at the stone and taking some pictures, before heading over into the next field to have a gander at the Apser's Field stone.
Vicky is that bit more interested in rock art than I am and gets excited by cup and ring marks (even when they aren't actually there!) but this stone does seem to have some pretty convincing evidence.
This is a mighty fine stone which would've commanded the skyline when standing. We had spotted another large stone, close to a wall above the Goggleby stone field and had planned to investigate but our attention was turned instead towards where we presumed the great barrow of Skellaw had been. We set off over the field and onto the road to find out if our dodgy map reading and vague understanding of the landscape was correct.
We walked along the road and I kept thinking "it should be here" – Vicky looked over the wall and said "oh, I think that's it…." and a sense of disappointment washed over me. Even though I had read about Skellaw and knew that it was much altered I still couldn't help feeling really disillusioned by the small hump in the field which was the remaining evidence of this once great barrow. I blame the name; call something Skellaw or Hill of Skulls and a girl's imagination is going to run away with her! Especially a dodgy old goth like me!
Anyway, we headed down to end of the road and entered the field by the gate, then a strange thing happened; as we got closer to the "hump" it seemed to get bigger and bigger and suddenly we were stood on top of the remains of the barrow and it felt pretty impressive. The views across the fells to the hills were staggering and I felt that my disappointment had been premature. From here, we could see the Goggleby Stone, Asper's Field and the site of the Thunder Stone and started to truly imagine what this landscape must've looked like, littered with the avenue stones.
So, newly reinvigorated, we set off back down the road to the Thunder Stone. As we approached the field, we saw the farmer and asked if it was OK to have a closer look. This seemed only polite as the stone is at the back of the farmhouse itself. He was more than happy to allow us in and we negotiated the bumpy field and scary, mewling cat, to reach the stone. This reminded me of some of the stones which surround Summerhouse Hill Cairn, glacial erratics which would've been incorporated into a site for some reason which we can only guess at now. It was HUGE and awesome and it seemed fitting that this was the (possible?) end of the avenues.
From here, we walked back to the Goggleby Stone, taking the very overgrown public footpath back. Along the way, we kept looking over the walls, only to keep spotting sizeable stones which we could only guess at – were these also part of the avenues or just coincidence?
After a break for a fantastic picnic by Shap Abbey, we returned to Shap and onto Kemp Howe. I like this site, despite the dreadful destruction which has taken place and the hideous quarry behind it. Whenever I go up to Glasgow on the train, I always look out for it and feel saddened by what has befallen this beautiful PINK place! It is lovely though, to sit on the stones and look over to Wet Sleddle and just soak up the views (if you can ignore the cars whizzing by!)
From here we set out for our last site of the day and headed to Orton (stopping off at the Chocolate Factory first for Vicky to get her fix) and over to Gamelands. As we arrived, the weather started to change and we watched the clouds skidding across the sky bringing the first rain of the day. Not bad for 5pm in March!
As lovely as Gamelands is, we didn't stay long as the sky was darkening and we both wanted to head into Lancaster for a curry! We love our stones but we love our food just that wee bit more!
VVXX …..to be continued!
Posted by Vicster
13th July 2006ce
Edited 14th July 2006ce