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Amerside Law

For a while now the missing rock art panels of Amerside Law have been a nagging away at a few members of the rock art community. A few folk have tried to search for the panels but have been put off by,
A. The difficulty in gaining permission to access the land.
B. The dense forestry that covers the hill
Fortunately for us we have Rich. Rich has the gift of the gab and is well enough connected to overcome any access difficulties, problem A sorted. Marry Rich's talents to the terrier like tenacity of Hob and Andy and item B also becomes no problem at all. So a couple of weeks ago Hob, Andy, Rich and I had planned to head up to Northumberland to search for the missing carvings.

The day before the trip the weather forecast was giving out high winds and rain for Northumberland so we decided to postpone the 300 and odd mile round trip.
The next day Hob got in touch to say that he and Andy had decided to go up to Amerside anyway and had found two out of three of the missing panels.
This was great news, a wonderful rediscovery. The four of us decided to head up to the panels the following week to assist in further cleaning and recording of the carvings, Andy and Rich are members of the Northumbrian & Durham Rock Art Project so the formal recording of the panel was quite important.

The following Friday after a few hiccups we headed up to Amerside. We were joined by a trio of local rock art and archaeology experts. Our first task was to get to the panels. Our local friends had arranged for us to drive up the forestry track and get as near as possible to the plantation, this involved Rich driving up a steep dolomite track, risking life, limb but mainly Rich's engine sump. The drive up also took us past the famous Chillingham Wild Cattle, a breed of cattle that are "the sole survivors of herds that once roamed the forests of Britain." There can't be many ancient sites around the world that you approach in full view of a herd of unique and genuinely prehistoric animals.

Once at the plantation it hit home as to how difficult it had been for Hob and Andy to locate the missing panels. The panels had last been seen 25 years ago prior to the planting of thousands of tightly packed conifers. The only map reference they had was a rough OS grid reference. To give themselves a decent target area, Hob had employed a clever combination of google earth, various coordinate manipulations, a little bit of rock art suss and a minor hunting magic ritual. All of this led to Hob identifying a couple of possible small clearings in the trees that could be the locations of the outcropping carved rocks. When they finally located the first clearing, they found it to be three feet deep in woodland detritus. Most other folk would have walked away from this but not Hob and Andy who set to work digging out 25 years worth of dead branches and pine needles to reveal the outcrop beneath and thus rediscovering the Amerside carvings.

Amerside Law — Fieldnotes

Amerside Law Panel 1
This panel is located in a small clearing within a densely packed conifer plantation. When Andy and Hob rediscovered this panel it was covered in a thick, dense mat of woodland crud which they spent a considerable amount of time clearing.

The panel is located on a rock outcrop; views from the panel are currently non-existent. If the plantation was removed, the main viewshed would be across the Till Valley to the distant Cheviot and surrounding hills.

The carvings themselves are much worn and were described by Stan Beckensall in the 1970's. It was not possible to locate all of the features included in Stan Beckensall's drawing of the panel. It appears that during the intervening years, a section of the carvings have disappeared completely, possibly due to damaged by forestry vehicles during the planting of the conifers.

Initially the carvings were quite difficult to make out, tracing their outlines with water helped bring the panel to life revealing a complex set of motifs. For me, one of the striking features of this and other panels is the asymmetrical nature of a number of the motifs. By this I mean that you have a large channel or double channel enclosing a number of cups, however, the cups are not evenly distributed but occur in one sector of the enclosed area or may even lay across the enclosing channel. This has always interested me, it is obviously a deliberate act and my personal opinion is that this strengthens the case for attaching a specific meaning to the motifs as opposed to purely an abstract design.

Amerside Law — Images

<b>Amerside Law</b>Posted by fitzcoraldo

After spending a good while at the panel we headed off in search of panel 2. Hob and Andy had been unable to locate these carvings but had discovered an unrecorded standing stone in the vicinity. To get to this area we had to walk along a wide track that had been cut through the forest, presumably to allow the heavy agri-industrial vehicles to access the forest and begin the harvesting of the timber.

Amerside Law north — Fieldnotes

This site is a lovely clearing in the forest. The site is raised and roughly circular and has signs of quarrying on its edges. To one side of the raised area is a substantial upright stone, judging from the fluting on the stone it has been stood upright for a long time. Upon lifting some of the turf I found a simple eroded cup and ring, on further investigation we also found another very weathered cup with a possible ring.
There was some debate as to whether these carvings represent the site recorded as Amerside Law 2.

From this site we then moved on through the plantation to the site of Amerside Law 3.
This site was also lost and rediscovered by Andy and Hob.

Amerside 3 — Fieldnotes

This is a lovely little outcrop, in a small clearing and beside a small pool that looks like it is regularly used by deer.

The panel consists of 2 main motifs one roughly oval and one rectangular. There is a third, small motif which we were unable to locate
The panels were uncovered, cleaned and recorded.

I was particularly struck by the rectangular panel with it's concentric grooves. Rectangular panels enclosing cups are not a common motif in British rock art. However there are three such motifs, this one, Dod Law and Chatton all within a relatively small geographical area. Not sure what it all means but they are lovely things to see and feel.

Leaving Amerside Law 3 we trudged back to the cars. After bidding farewell to our Northumbrian friends, Andy, Rich, Hob and I decided to take an early evening traipse up to the nearby Chatton carvings and then over to one of my favourite places anywhere, the wonderful beyond words Ketley Crag rockshelter.
The wind cut us to the bone on the walk up to Chatton but none of us cared, we knew what lay ahead. The ghostly carved panels of Chatton look marvellous at any time and were frame beautifully by the lovely evening glow of the slowly setting sun. From Chatton we walked onto Ketley and despite the cold and weariness of the day, I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be at that moment. A perfect end to a lovely day.
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
13th March 2008ce
Edited 13th March 2008ce

Comments (1)

Nice one Fitz. 'Twas a grand day.

I've got to echo the big-up for Rich's efforts in getting permission.
Hob Posted by Hob
13th March 2008ce
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