Starting from the Robin Hood carpark and pub, the well trodden footpath goes up the hill, first passing a small but identifiable ring cairn, winter being the best time to see it as it's still got its summer coat of bracken on, making it hard to find and harder to distinguish.
Then passing what I presume to be about half a dozen small cairns possibly of the clearence variety, we come to a long outcrop of rock, huge boulders stacked atop each other, nothing like Sacsayhuaman in Peru, but it still makes me think of that faraway wonder.
Passing between two standing stones guiding us to the edge, next up is the three men cairn, an odd thing without a doubt, but the mound beneath the three peaks is undoubtedly a barrow of some sort.
Then the path strolls meanderingly about the giant rocks that litter the Edge that is Gardom's, sometimes a vertigo inducing drop is just a few feet from the path, it is truly spectacular, well maybe not, that kind of statement should be reserved for places like Patagonia or the Himalayas. But it is beautiful, the colours, the clear air, darting little brown lizards, it all conjours up words close to spectacular.
Then we leave the edge and go through the hole in the wall.
This is the abode of Megs walls,pit alignments, the standing stone and two pieces of rock art one of which is covered by a replica, the other stubbornly refuses to let me find it.
From the replica, cairns can be got to between the two edges, Gardom's and Birchen edge with its little monument to Nelson on top, then its back down to the pub carpark.
The path makes its descent, cutting through a cairnfield of pretty large, irregularly shaped cairns. The Gardom’s Edge ring cairn is completely hidden by bracken, but can be spotted by the forked silver birch that grows from its embanked edge. Once found, the course can be followed round easily enough, but really this is a place for a winter visit if you want to see it properly.
We follow the arc of Meg’s Walls south, before leaving the wood to emerge at the Three Men cairn. The three stone piles are clearly modern, but they sit on a much larger footprint. The views from here are great, looking down on Baslow as the sun sinks further. It’s starting to get colder and it won’t be long now until dark, so we press on without lingering.
Next up, we encounter the stonework of Meg’s Walls. Half-buried in the undergrowth, too large to take in easily, this is a fascinating survivor enhanced by a lovely woodland setting. But we’re really here for rock art. After a bit of rooting about in the undergrowth, we find it on the edge of the woods, looking towards the steep western face of Birchen Edge. The light is now too low to illuminate the panel, but casts a soft orange glow across the moor ahead of us.
Despite knowing that it’s a replica, the panel itself is still very impressive. I love the variety of patterns, whatever it represents – or doesn’t. Water has collected in the deepest cup, reflecting the slender trees and blue sky above, an ever open, all-seeing eye on the world.
The main reason for coming here is the rock art panel, so memorably filled with pink flowers by Postman a few years ago. But first, I’m hoping to find the standing stone, something of a rarity in this area. We walk through the woods, trying to stay away from the treeless edge, as I know the stone won’t be found there. It turns out to be further south than I’d realised, another site that the Ordnance Survey map doesn’t show. Eventually it makes itself known, as we get towards the higher part of the wood. The light has gone strange now, the low sun filtered around the edges of a bank of cloud giving an ethereal glow to the woods and the stone.
The stone is a good one, a little taller than I imagined and different from each angle and direction. Like many of the best standing stones, it gives off a feeling of sentience. Even though I know this is just projection on my part, it’s hard to shake once felt. There’s no malignance, or beneficence, just a presence. I often find woodland sites hard to leave, and the stone definitely exerts a pull. As we leave I’m compelled to look back, Orpheus to Eurydice.