I've been desperately wanting to come here for years, It was a toss up between the Lleyn peninsula and Northumberland, seeing as this year has been labelled the year of the stone circle and because of Hafodygorswen I've taken on a bit of a quest for the four poster. So here we are, Phil the daughter and I, well, I parked in the little car park at Blakehopeburnheugh, same as Hob ten years ago.
The walk starts going up the toll road (£3) forest drive, but we take the first right turn and follow the track parallel to the river Rede. The track heads up hill slightly then branches into two, turn left. Then almost immediately right, up a grassed over track. Almost immediately again turn left, this left turn is a pretty vague path but is marked by a 3 kings sign. Steeper up hill now, with a slippy algae covered hand rail to steady ones self, or not.
Daughter Phil usually has the get up and go of the average 15 year old, but today she is really impressing me, no moaning at all, perhaps taking archaeology at collage has had an impact.
Up ahead there is a sun filled clearing and my spidey senses start to tingle, the stones must be just up there, and so they were.
Three bright stones shining in the sunshine, a smile challenges my calm demeanor, beats it over the head with a heavy stick, and takes over my face completely. I just love arriving at a difficult to get to high on the list site, I imagine it's how Rory Mcilroy feels when the last ball goes down the hole and the championship is won, probably is.
Some armholes have had a campfire in the circle, I cleared as much of it away as I could, then we sat down on the fallen stone. Three kings? not four? obviously if you fall down you don't count, at all.
Since Greywether and Hob came, the trees have really grown, tall and thick, all the view is gone, but I recently bought a big box of matches so it wont be long now. This little clearing is acting as a sun trap this morning, and with the stones mooning at me, this is a terrific place to be.
I'm on a bit of a quest concerning four posters, Hafodygorswen, in far off North Wales is in my opinion a bona fide northern fourposter, I was a bit concerned with it being associated with a cairn, but as i'm finding, four posters are more usually than not, associated with a cairn.
Whilst I was walking about photographing the stones, I saw a little brown vole scurry from one big tuft of grass to another, then two seconds later and one foot away a little green lizard, an out of place sand lizard, or just a green common lizard, either way, nice.
The information board, wasn't expecting one of those up here, is a bit different than most, the left side is all very normal, saxon kings, bronze age, burial etc etc. But the right hand side has three poems all by local school children one of which I would like to perform for you now........
Tall stones standing spotted, grey, looking out
across the trees.
Lonely peaceful in the clearing.
Your lichen patterns change colour in the shadows.
Ancient people left you here guarding the grave of their loved one.
Only the buzzing of the bees and the song of the birds can be heard.
And the smell of the fresh green grass stays with you forever.
Time for a break from all the rock art. So I went to see some standing stones. The 3 Kings is in a nice sheltered spot, and I'm pleased to say that whilst it requires a bit of a walk through pine plantation, the plantation has been managed well, so the trees aren't packed too close, so that on a sunny say, it's actually quite pleasant. It's not a long walk from the car-park at Blakehopeburnheugh where the WC is, and there have even been handrails placed on the precipitous parts, and there are small marked posts to keep you on the right path. It's easy to miss one of them ,so if you find yourself back at the River Rede, after reaching the point where the path becomes a track, turn back and head uphill.
On the map, it looks as if a shorter route would be from Cottonshopeburnfoot caravan/camp site. It is, but the owners are a bit miserable, and don't like people parking there if they aren't pitching a tent.
The four poster itself is quite nice. Gnarly old stones, lichen covered an all that. There are still 4 stones, but one is having a rest. The cairn is still quite clear. The only down side is that the trees have grown back, so the view is limited. It's a good sun-trap though and makes a smart spot to just sit and relax.
On a green hillock, on a moor, called The Todd-Law, north of the river Reed, are three large stones in a triangular order, twelve feet distant from each other, and each as many feet in diameter; sepulchral, in memory of the like number of valient chieftains slain in battle.
An early mention of the stones in 'The Natural History and Antiquities of Northumberland and so much of the County of Durham as lies between the Rivers Tyne and Tweed', by John Wallis (volume 2, published 1769). http://www.archive.org/stream/naturalhistoryan02walluoft#page/61
So the fourth one must have been lying down for a long time?
Also he mentions "At Berrenes, is the ruin of an old chapel; a British temple near it, on Berrene's Knowl; the stones numerous, of various sizes, in a circular order." - which I suppose must be the cairn on Byrness Hill, not so far away.