02/05/2016 - Sometimes when I've read about a site and seen the photos, if the place is as good as Kettley Crag it's hard to actually believe it exists and that I was there, walking up Chattonpark Hill with the rock shelter just on the other side, a few minutes walk away. It doesn't get much better than Kettley Crag with its floor covered in the most wonderful rock art.
First things first, I had to get past the rock art on the south side of the hill. Easy parking in the layby and good access straight onto the hill. There's rocks everywhere. The simple action of walking a hillside, having a nosey at each new rock we came across for any trace of markings is one of pure joy. Still happy just thinking about it again today. What a wonderful afternoon.
The pull of Kettley Crag proved too strong, so we made the walk over the top to the north side. It felt too soon. The Rock Shelter is quite magical and I hadn't realised how good its location and view of the landscape was going to be. Wonderful markings.
After a while we strolled back to the Chatton rocks again. This time just sitting by the largest panel and trying to take in all we had seen. The sunshine was in and out of the clouds, making the markings on the main panel seem to nearly disappear then magically reappear again to surprise us once more. Again the views from here are too good. The Cheviots in full view.
Finally it was time to go. I came to see Kettley Crag but in the end this main panel at Chatton stole a little bit of our hearts. Perfect day.
This has to be up as a contender for the title of 'rock art with the best view'. It really is in an excellent spot, with the big end of the cheviots arranged directly in front of you, leaving no doubt as to why this spot was chosen to be marked. I was particularly pleased on a recent visit to be able to confirm that the allegedly sacred hill of Simonside is also visible, which is unusual for this end of Northumberland.
What Fitzcoraldo says below about the ghostly appearance of the carvings is spot on, they do have an eldritch quality about them, an effect which is most pronounced in strong sunlight. At times, it's possible to ook from angles that the motifs almost vanish into the quartzy glistening white surface of the outcrop. At other times, in different lighting conditions, they can appear totally different, and the surface of the outcrop looks much darker, and reflected light can pick the pattern out superbly.
You'd think that they'd be at their finest at sunset, but I found that the trees can cast annoying shadows which prevented the motifs from being highlighted as well as I'd hoped. Pah! One of these days I shall manage to get a good photo which shows the carvings and the view. It'd be great to spend a year or so standing over this outcrop watching it intently as it's appearance shifts.
The panel Stubob speaks of at the top of the hill is one of the best examples of fresh pick marks, possibly evenmore so that the hidden motif at North Plantation. According to the Beckensall Archive, these fresh picks have been designated 'Chatton 13' (with only a 2m difference in the 10 digit refs, good going eh?!).
Whilst it seems a shame to expose such fresh cup marks to the ravages of the elements, they should provide a good indicator of the rate at which the stone hereabouts erodes. This in turn may help in attempts to ascertain the best preservation strategies for what remains of the area's prehistoric rock art. Maybe.
Chatton 4 is in the middle of a little hillfort, (or a settlement with high banks), this is a lump of stone with carvings. It's more or less in the middle of the earthworks, and it's difficult to think that the builders of the earthworks were unaware of the carvings.
The cup and ring on the top of the slab are considerably more worn looking than the ones on the side. It's tempting to think that this may have been because they were used in some way by the Iron Age (?) folk who built the earthworks. It's definitely not just the results of natural weathering, more the kind of thing you'd get after years of people running their fingers over the motif. At least to my mind, but admittedly, I am just making this up as I go along
The panel to the east that Pebbles speaks of is that designated 'Chatton 5' by the Archive, and has an unusual little motif, both in it's form and it's position on a vertical surface.
One last thing to say about Chatton, it can be an infuriating place. There is so much that leaves nagging questions which will never be answered. There are maybe-cairns, maybe-cups, maybe-burnt mounds, traces of maybe-houses. Combine these maybes with the general mystery of the meanings of the motifs, add a strong sense that quarrying and erosion may have caused the loss of some carvings, and this is a place that needs to be pondered in depth.
We came up to Chatton with Pebbles acting as our guide.
It's a lovely drive up to the moor. We parked up at the large, no longer black, shed and tried to ignore what we thought may have been a corpse in the car next to us - don't get involved!
After mooching up the hill past some industrial sized clearence cairns we hit the panels...JEEZUS!!
To be honest, I had viewed Chatton as 'somewhere on the way to Ketley'. Just shows how wrong you can be.
The rock is a ghostly whiteish grey shot through with iron staining. The carvings combined with the colour & texture of the rock give the panel a strange meglithic 'shroud of turin' vibe, wierd I know but that's what I felt.
This was a special place, the circles the dominos, the bizarre Television set carving...too much.
We finally dragged ourselves away and set off towards Ketley but Chatton hadn't quite finished with us yet. The next panel we came to was Stubobs pecked rock with its lovely pecked grooves and cups followed by the enclosure and Stans 'occulus' with it's strange ziggy-zaggy groove.
Chatton is a beautiful place. The landscape has been knocked about a bit over the centuries but it still manages to retain it's power.
I'm not an expert in rock art matters.....
But...as you leave the 'main panel' and head uphill toward the trig point, not heading for the stile though, go to its left. Just before the fence is a cup marked stone with fresh looking peck-marks.
Chatton Hill has become a DEFRA conservation area, so if you park at the black shed there is a new small information board and directions.
I recommend sticking to the path where possible – the surrounding area has been quarried and the going is a bit extreme on the ankles, and there’s a few deep holes so don’t walk and look at the map at the same time :-)
The first panel is on your left as you go up, with the “TV” panel not far away. Another large outcrop is situated right inside the “settlement” earthworks, and more to the east (which I missed this time, gives me an excuse to go back!)
Keep going over the hill & down to the right to find Kettley Crag, you won’t regret it.
Back at the car I spoke to some visitors checking out the new board – probably due to a mention in the local rag.