The farmer is apparently a perfectly nice bloke, we didnt come across him, his wife came out to us, and i'm glad to say she is also a nice, friendly and helpful guardian, she even apologised to us for not getting round to getting rid of all the thistles, knowing my own willingness to present a site in it's best light I know how she felt, I bet she's out there right now making the place look presentable. Thank you.
Burl says much on the site:- The name of the ring means 'the spring of Gunnarr' from the old Norse. The outer ring is badly pillaged with the remaining stones having a lye down. At the precise north just outside the ring are the two big impressive entrance stones. A slight mound within the inner ring contains the remains of a cist. Having architectural similarities with Castlerigg and Oddendale.
Oh, and the M6 is a bit on the too close side but it doesnt take much away from the site.
I've been spotting this circle since the mid 1980's when I used to travel down to England on Citylink coaches. Later, when I got my car and was heading down the M6, I always saw it at the last minute as I hurtled towards some much needed comfort stop at Shap Services. Gunnerkeld - often seen and never visited. So it was again on Friday 23 September 2011 as we headed down to North Wales, battering over Shap with our first stop already decided as "the first Gwasanaethau on the A55" - so Gunnerkeld would still have to wait. I caught a fleeting glimpse of the site in the morning sunshine as we passed heading South for Pwllheli and I made a note to stop off on our leisurely return on Monday.
The leisurely return trip on Monday was thwarted by a bad crash on the M6 at Junction 31-32 near Preston during the afternoon. It took us five hours to move ten miles during which our missed lunch turned into tea-time. My OH and junior were both starving by the time we got through the carnage of the accident (it looked awful) and with the promise of some fast food and a wee scenic rest, they held their fast until we hit the burger joint at Tebay. We all rammed burgers and fries into our faces while I manouvered us off at Junction 39, rolled up the minor road and parked up. We'd been on the road for nine hours.
I was truly bowled over by this site. Maybe after the carnage of the journey North I needed to relax, maybe it was the hunger, maybe it was the Cumbrian evening sunshine, maybe it was actually stopping at this old friend whom I've looked at for more than half my lifetime (but never stopped and passed the time with). Who knows, but the place is a delight. Someone here has pointed out the similarity to Croft Mhoraig - it does have a similar feel. I loved the toothy, stumpiness of the place, the odd angles. It reminded me of a busted molar tooth with various bits split off and jutting up. Oddly perhaps, I loved the fact that the Southbound carraigeway of the M6 was so close. It made the stones feel alive and at the heart of things, even though they all do look a bit worse for wear. I could have sat all evening, sipping my regular drink and picking at juniors left over fries, watching the traffic and the sun sinking to the West over the peaks. The field was empty of livestock but some sheep thoughtfully baa'd in the next field over, completing the whole Cumbrian Gunnerkeld experience thing.
However, the car wasn't gonna drive itself to South Lanarkshire and there was still around 150 miles till home. The clock was ticking with school and work to get up for on Tuesday. We headed back to the car, back to the M6 and headed North for home. A great site. Roof of Cumbria. Shap. Great. I'll be stopping here again.
Visited this site at the mid-point of an epic drive back from the Isle of Lewis to Somerset. I'd been in two minds about stopping, but when the sun broke through the clouds it seemed like a sign, so off I trundled to take a nosey.
Glad to say, friendly farmer is still in residence. We drove through the gate as their was nowhere obvious to park (I wasn't entirely comfortable approaching so close to the farm in the car, but nothing to be done about it...) As I got out of the car, the farmer was walking over. I asked in a friendly fashion if it was ok to visit his stones please, to which he responded jovially "of course it is!", and pointed us in the right direction, whilst his beautiful collie was molesting us. I have to say, I think it's incredibly tolerant of him considering how intrusive visitors must inevitably be, with the trek to the stones leading right past his front window.
On they way to the stones, we were again molested by animals... this time, young sheep! I've never seen sheep be so friendly. This lot practically mobbed us, running up and nuzzling us with their noses.
The site itself is fantastic. It really shouldn't be, with the M6 running so close, but it certainly has a magical feel to it. I was oddly unperturbed by the passing cars. I guess that there's just something about people in fields that makes drivers want to honk, because I was also beeped by a couple of motorists.
On the way back to the car, I tried to find the farmer to thank him. Sadly, he wasn't to be seen, so I left a bottle of wine on his doorstep as a small token of my appreciation. I strongly suggest other visitors do similar, because this guy really is welcoming above and beyond the call of duty, and his attitude is a breath of fresh air and absolutely made my day.
Finally!!!! After driving past this site lord only knows how many times and making a hundred promises to myself to visit, I finally made it on Saturday. Inspired by a certain Dr Burl, who we had just witnessed giving a rather humourous talk in Penrith about Cumbrian stone circles, we jumped in the car and headed out, mapless but determined. Fortunately, Dom has a great sense of direction and I had vague memories of having checked out the route when I had planned to visit previously and we found Gunnerwell Farm without too many u-turns!
We parked on the road and walked down to the farm - I don't know whether the farm was ever sold but if it was, the new owners seem as friendly and welcoming as the previous ones. We did see the stone standing in the field outside the house but weren't sure whether this was just one of those cheeky old glacial erratics which manage to get everyhere round this bit of Cumbria.
From the farm, you just go through the gate and follow the field straight down - access is easy and no longer do you need to take your life in your hands and climb over dangerous walls. Jane will be pleased!
The M6 wasn't too busy and it was a stunningly beautiful day so we pottered around for some time - Dom mentioned the resemblance to Croft Moraig and I have to admit, it is equally as "messy" - it looks as if 2 groups of peope were trying to out-do each other and it just ended up as one big stone-fest! There are a couple of those lovely pink stones you find at Kemp Howe and Gamelands too which looked fab in the sunshine. Perversley, you actually get a better sense of this circle as you drive by on the M6 than when you are stood in the centre of it, so we climbed up to the top of the field to look down and see it is all of its glory.
A fabulous site to visit after being so inspired by Dr Burl and a good way to end the day. Bliss.
I agree with Jane, don't be put off by the fact that this circle is within spitting distance of the M6 or that the circle is on private land.
The farmer is a nice fella
Farmer with a big smile "Here for the circle?"
Farmer "Follow the path, through the gate, you can't miss it"
Us "Cheers mate"
This is a beautiful concentric circle sitting on a slight rise in a valley bottom with becks running down both sides. The two huge portals in the north are perfectly balanced by the even larger stone at the southern end.
Stu and I sat watching the cars whizzing by, the drivers oblivious to what was beside them or casting a curious glance at the two freaks in the field, all but one - white van man who gave us a toot on his horn.
After asking permission and having walked west through the trees towards the M6 you have to climb over either a seriously wobbly gate or cheat death by clambering over a wall which threatens to fall and kill you at any time. I like a gamble so I went for the wall of death. I survived. Only after entering the field did I realise that it was right in front of me on a slight rise! I got a real shock. Cos its really fab! Big old rocks, most of them down but best of all you get two for the price of one with added cairny bit in the middle! Concentric! How cool is that?
The M6 is very VERY close - about 12 metres away - but somehow, it didn't matter because the stones spoke with a louder voice. This one had got away with it and survived! Wonderful!
Though I nearly didn't as the wall attempted to wreak its evil revenge on me as we returned, hurling rocks at my legs as it partially collapsed as I climbed up. The survival instinct kicked in and I went over the gate instead. Be careful!
After driving back from Mayburgh henge one fine summers day I was on the M6 heading south and had a sudden urge to look to the left of me for some mother hills to pass the time as I took the long drive back to Blackpool. To my surprise I saw this strange stone circle in a field to my left.
Not knowing what it was I logged on as soon as I got home, and discovered it to be Gunnerkeld, which I'd never heard of before.
One week later I was at Gunnerkeld, and what a beautiful place it is. Even the bustle of the M6 couldn't spoil it for me. This is a truly remarkable place. There is a huge boulder that seems to be made from pure crystal, situated directly opposite the entrance to the circle. There seem to be three circles here in all, a mound in the middle and two concentric outer ones. The place itself definately has an ambience. I got a sense of overwhelming sadness here and I'm sure the place was crying out to me about the indignity of the M6. This truly is a sacred place. The farmer seems to care about it too, but alas the M6 is here to stay. A nice touch was the numerous people who beeped their horns at us knowing where we were and acknowledging our presence here.
As always I'm submitting precise directions to make your journey easier. Don't forget to ask the farmer's permission first. So far we've found all the Cumbrian farmers friendly.
From Shap follow the A6 north towards Penrith. Around half a mile north of Shap take a right turn. Follow this road passing over one half of the M6 and under the other half. Take the next left and then left again down a farm track about a third of a mile later. The track leads down to Gunnerwell Farm it also worth noting that if you go south through shap towards junction 39 of the M6 you'll see a railway line at the end of the village. Towards the left keep looking, and poor old Kemp Howe appears.
Sunday 29 June 2003
We decided to go to Gunnerkeld via Shap town itself, to get (in my case) and renew (in John’s case) our ‘bearings’ for the local sites.
We made our way to the public road past Gunnerwell farm, parking on a bit of gravel and verge. I guess you could drive down to the farm, but that always seems a bit intrusive to me, especially if you end up parking actually in the farmyard or whatever. I prefer to arrive on foot, it seems less presumptuous somehow.
Anyway, we were greeted cheerily (‘Stone circle I assume…!’) by a lass of around 16 or 17 (my guess) who had been mowing the lawn at the back of the farmhouse as we approached.
She told us to follow the path we were on, past the house and diagonally down through the trees. Get to ‘an old red gate’ and the circle was straight up the slope. And guess what? She was blummin’ right. And what a groovy thang ‘the circle’ is!!
I’m ashamed (not a new feeling!) to say that I didn’t notice the ‘standing stone in front of the house’ noted by broen, but I’m preeeety sure that nothing else on the short route described above is of any particular significance.
So, the circle? Circle’s’ actually. ‘Tis certainly an interesting site. Vaguely reminded me & John of Croft Moraig in Perthshire, in as much as it’s a circle within a circle. I notice though that Burl seems to say that (unlike Croft Moraig) it was all built at the same time.
Drove to Gunnerkeld after Shap and managed to gain access to the farm, on my first visit. Excellent. The famer was in the driveway playing with his tractor, he was polite and showed me where to park and the way to the circle. There is a standing stone just in front of the house, (though I didn’t look, as it felt like walking over their front garden) and a few small stones barely sticking out the ground on the way to the circle, (could be old kerb stones?), which all seemed to line up, though there is a wall in the way so I couldn’t get a full view.
I had already read about the close proximity to the M6 but I really wasn’t ready for just how close.
The circle itself has an inner and outer ring with only a handful still standing. On approach It’s hard to get a grip of what’s going on as the stones seemed scattered but a formation soon appears when standing in and around the circle. There is also what appears to be a cairn in the center and one of the entrance stones has a big piece of flint in it. There are a lot of stones remaining and some of fairly good size.
A friendly place - the sheep were mellow and even the motorway drivers were tooting their horns as they drove by.
Luckily for us the farmer was around when we visited, more than happy for us to go wondering thru his fields. He gets lots of visits and let us park up in his yard.
The noise from the M6 does little to detract from an amazing site. Alot of the outer ring has gone or fallen, but the 2 large stones that mark the entrance still stand.
I have tried to visit this site three times now - this time was the closest, but still didn't manage to get right up to the stones. I attempted to ask at the farmhouse, but there was nobody around so I left again, temptingly close to the stones. I returned home on the M6 (Southbound) and got another tantalising glimpse of the circle. I tried to take a picture, but messed up with my camera. It isn't easy driving on the motorway and attempting photography - never mind, I will return!
"To the most ancient inhabitants many authors ascribe the origin of the various stone circles to be found in different parts of the country. There are two remarkable ones in this district, one in Gunnerskeld bottom, and another near Odindale Head. The former is situate on a level area elevated a little above the bed of the stream. It is a circle of large granite boulders eighteen in number, some of which are still standing upright seven feet high, while many have fallen one way or the other. The circle is thirty-eight yards in diameter; and within it is another formed by thirty-one stones much smaller in size and eighteen years in diameter; within this has been apparently a mound, most of which is removed for the sake of the stones and the earth has been thrown into a heap outside; there are still some large stones left and three in the centre are situated as though they may have formed part of a cromlech. There is no record of anything having been found, and the word Gunnerskeld is of too modern a character to throw any light on the matter.
From: The Vale of Lyvennet
By J. S. Bland
In Gunnerkeld-Bottom, a mile north-east of Shap, is a circle of large stones, in great perfection: it is usually called the Druid's temple; but has unquestionably been used as a burying place.
This is from the admittedly touristy sounding 'Beauties of England and Wales' by J Britton and others (1813). So it's a good point who might have 'usually' have been calling it after the Druids.
The 'keld' of Gunnerkeld is apparently a name for an old well* - and indeed the farm nearby is called Gunnerwell. And there are springs in the vicinity, judging by the map. So maybe it's near 'Gunnar's Spring'.
*A Glossary of North Country Words (1825) by John Trotter Brockett. Both books via Google Books.
William Camden, an Elizabethan antiquarian, wrote illuminatingly about this site: "Design'd to preserve the memory of some Action or other, but the injury of Time has put it beyond all possibility of pointing out the particular occasion."