The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Crag Hill



Easy access through South Charlton village, less than a mile off the A1 north of Alnwick. Helpful details of the route to the site are given as part of a local Village Walk listed on the web with a downloadable PDF Map. The cist is marked on the map as a "Cairn" early on the walk, south of Crag Hill.

As an alternate to the route shown on the map, turn left after the last house on the left going out of South Charlton and go through the gate onto a bridleway (shown branching left of the first section of the marked walk). You immediately enter a secluded "valley like" area with higher ground on each side, following what looks like an old riverbed, cutting east to west through the two slopes on either side. The top of the south slope seems to have earth works at the top. Impossible to tell if these are repeated on the north side due to heavy gorse. The path goes to the north side of the "valley" but Google earth and the eye shows what looks like a set of impressive trackways or terraces on the south side. This "valley" opens out into a secluded "hidden" boggy area surrounded by high ground on nearly all sides. As this is the first high ground encountered coming inland from the North Sea this valley could have made an impressive entrance route into the whole Langley Fell area?

The bridleway then cuts right and climbs towards the marked path on the map and towards "Crag Hill" alongside heavy gorse on the right and views to the south on the left.

Before reaching Crag Hill you will start to encounter a rather weird ditch feature. This is weakly defined east of Crag Hill but very strongly defined to the west. On the west side it is tightly "V" shaped (photo) and appears to have rocks and stones lining it. At first appearance it looks like a stream cutting but there is no obvious source of the amount of headwater that would be required to make such a cutting and the feature climbs from the west, over the sky line and descends to the east. As a result it's almost certainly man made and looks like a ditch, but offers no obvious function either defensive or boundary. It is linear and appears unconnected with any other feature, but does follow the line of an old right of way running east to west towards Eglingham and the area of Beanley Moor and The Ringses. Looking across the "ditch" towards crag hill a small hump stands out to the south west of top of the hill. This is the burial "barrow" (photo).

Approaching the top of the barrow you quickly see the capping stop, lying on its side to the west of the cist. This stone is about 1m by 1.6m and very impressive bit of stone in its own right (photo). The cist, though full of stones and grass, stands out quite clearly. Roughly 1m long and ½m wide, the stones that line the west, north and east sides are clear to see (Photo). The cist looks like it was originally covered with a barrow. This barrow stands on the southwest edge of Crag Hill and offers great views to the west and southwest. "> A History of Northumberland (Vol 2, 1893) states that the Barrow was excavated in 1824 and the remains are now at Alnwick Castle Museum. "In the
centre a fine urn or 'food vessel' was found, lying upon its side and filled
with ashes. It is 5 inches in height, 5 inches in diameter at the top, and 2
inches at the bottom. It is dark in colour, and is ornamented round the
shoulder by a grooved line, on which there are unpierced ears at regular
intervals. The urn is now preserved in the museum at Alnwick castle." Other sources state that 9 other burials were found around the cist.

This is the first Cist site I've visited and I found the site easy to find and the state of preservation to be surprisingly good. The views from the site in fine weather made the whole trip worthwhile.

Other points of interest:

1) There is a small circular enclosure around 22m across at the top of Crag Hill but"> Keys to the Past has this as probably a post-medieval animal enclosure.

2) The whole area of Longlee Moor looks big and interesting, viewed on Google it looks like there are lots and lots of earthworks over a wide area of higher ground bounded by streams on all sides. My first trip was very short and I decided to focus on finding the Cist. Some of the earthworks look like natural formations but I'm heading back again, it would be easy to spend a day just generally looking over the area. "> A Topographical Dictionary of England published in 1848 says of the area "A great portion of North and South Charlton is covered with ancient roads and earthworks; and graves of rude workmanship are frequently discovered, containing bones, urns, and armour."

3) The access track to quarry at Crag Hill has some interesting rock groupings near it and on along the slope to the west hand side of it. These appear to be grouped in small collections of 5-8 large stones some of which have "star shaped" holes worked into them, possibly for lifting? Some of these appear to have quite sharp edges so are probably the result of steel chisels and as such reasonably recent in nature? Some of the natural outcrops of rocks on the west slope may have markings but I would guess all are natural features as light was fading at this point I didn't have enough time to look at all the outcrops.
mascot Posted by mascot
14th April 2009ce
Edited 14th April 2009ce

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