|The region between the convergence of the A68 and A696 main roads on their way to Scotland is not known for its rock art and the cluster of 13 panels at Ray-Sunniside in the Beckensall Archive stands out. It is lovely walking country of rolling heather moorland and recent forestry blocks dotted on the map with cairns and ancient settlements of all kinds.
Although only 4km south of the impressive multiple cup and ring carvings of Tod Crag, all 13 rocks at Ray-Sunniside were described as having just single or multiple cup-marks, most were portable but probably associated with cairns. It's often hard to prove cup-marked rocks as being artificial and not natural features so I visited with an open and largely sceptical mind.
The site is approached from the minor road which runs between Ridsdale on the A68 and Knowesgate, just north of Kirkwhelpington on the A696. The main ridge is about 260m above sea-level and runs SW to NE on a slope south of Ray Fell.
There proved to be a large number of cairns, old boundaries and enclosures with a few remains of round-houses.
Of the Beckensall panels, I failed to find two (b and m) and six (d, e, g, h, k and l) were unconvincing as definite rock art as the cups were shallow. h is a strangely grooved rock but may be the result of natural erosion along the bedding planes. The others though have deep cups and several are located close-to or were closely-ssociated with the cairn-field.
Although many of the cairns may have been for field clearance, a few may have been used for burials and the incorporation of portable cup-marked rocks in such Bronze Age cairns is a well known phenomenon. Rock i, for example, which has a single cup-mark about 8cm diameter and 4cm deep, lies close to a prominent cairn. The Archive entry quotes Phil Deakin that the stone was used as the end stone of a burial cist, facing inward. The cup-marks on a, c, f, and j, and also b and m on Archive evidence, are similar in size and form and I reckon are convincingly genuine rock art, albeit of the not very exciting kind!
A search of the area on Keys to the Past showed two records under Canny Cleugh (the name of a small stream to the north). One is for an enclosure, field system, cairns and hollow ways of unknown date and the other for a field system, clearance cairns and the ring banks of round houses (seen on aerial photos) and assigned to the later prehistoric period. At the west end of the ridge is a very prominent rectangular-banked enclosure with the remains of round houses and a field system (given the name 'Sunnyside near Ferneyrigg') which links to a similar site to the SE ('Ray Burn') by a hollow way. These are both described as Roman-period native farmsteads.
Posted by rockandy
17th April 2007ce
Edited 18th April 2007ce