Here is a route covering all the sites listed for Eyam Moor. It is just over 5 Km and earlier this week took me just under 2 hours in good weather. It could take substantially longer in poor visibility, especially without the use of a GPS to locate Wet Withens, and of course when you spend time looking at things!
Starting at the bend in Sir William Hill Road at SK 224780, take the path running NE. It runs alonside a wall for 500 m and then after the wall turns off to the E, the path continues NE across the moor. In another 500 m you will see down below you to your right a right-angled corner in the wall 200 m away. Head straight down through the heather to Eyam Moor III stone circle (SK 2320 7881) which is just to the NW of the corner and can be seen as a green bilberry mound.
Next head N to the end of the delapidated wall and follow it for about 100 m until you reach 2 gate posts through which runs the footpath down to Leam. To find Eyam Moor II stone circle (SK 2316 7897) go 30 m SW along the footpath back towards your starting point to a large rock in the middle of the path. There is now a raised circular bank of about 10 m diameter immediately to the left of the path which marks the site of the circle.
To get to Wet Withens (SK 2254 7900), return to the gate posts and follow a compass bearing due W through the heather for 650 m. Locating it in the heather can be extremely difficult. The most noticeable features to look out for are the pile of rocks in Eyam Moor Barrow 30 m N of the circle and the tallest stone at the NE of the circle (lots of photos on the site).
Navigation but not the going underfoot now gets easier. Head SW towards the mast near the top of Sir William Hill that hopefully will be clearly visible. Knee high heather is intermixed with waist deep bracken but after about 800 m you come to a wall running across the moor. Climb over the barbed wire in a gap in the wall and follow the path to the NW on the other side. In about 500 m the tops of the trees in Gotherage Plantation can just be seen to your left and 2 tall stones looking like gateposts appear in the wall. Now head W along a gap in the heather for about 100 m and find the Stanage Cup-Marked Stone (SK 2152 7870). The Stanage (Ring) Cairn with another cup-marked stone is clearly visible 40 m to the S (SK 21540 78663).
A footpath can be found about 10 m to the W. Follow it S to Sir William Hill Road and then go E to return to your starting point. Be prepared to get back with very wet legs if it has been raining but look forward to lots of bilberries if you get the season right - they wre still plenty this week!
There is, in the neighbourhood of Eyam, a very popular tradition of some great chief, or king, having been buried in this barrow; and it has been frequently explored in search of something appertaining to him. Nothing, however, has ever been found except the urn; but in the vicinity, spears, arrow-heads, axes, hatchets, and a many other remains of antiquity have been turned up. About a mile west of this barrow there was, about forty years ago, another of great dimensions: it stood on Hawley's piece. The diameter at the base was twenty-two yards, and about twelve yards high. When the Moor was enclosed, it was carried away to make fences. An urn of great size was found near the centre on the ground, and was carried away to the residence of the person who found it; but was afterwards broken and buried. The person who had this precious relic of antiquity, was persuaded by his silly neighbours that it was unlucky to have such a thing in the house; and on losing a young cow, he immediately buried it.
From 'The History and Antiquities of Eyam' by William Wood (1842). He also spouts a lot about Druids and even Phoenicians - but I suppose it was the fashionable explanation. Though he gets a little carried away with talk of the sacrifice of a 'lovely female' with her 'heaving bosom'. Hmm.
He does however, also mention
One large stone ont he Moor has been a great object of curiosity, from it having a circular cavity in the top about a foot in diameter, and the same in depth. The stone is of an extraordinary size - by far the largest on the Moor. It is conjectured to have been the altar, or central stone of some large circle, but of which there is no trace now. That this place was one of the principal places of the Druids there are numberless proof; but as it is out of the road to any place of note, it has been rarely noticed.
Large natural boulder has been cut flat along one edge and several upright flattened stones have been added, at right-angles to form a reasonable sized cist.
One of the 'walls' has slumped a little into the cavity between.
The idea for an Easter break in Chesterfield was in order to knock several English Heritage sites off the list (I have now visited just over half of the 400 or so sites). Due to time constraints I hadn’t intended to visit the Wet Withens stone circle but each day I looked at the map the little blue square surrounding it called out to me. In the end it all became too much and I just had to somehow squeeze a visit in.
The chance came one evening as we were heading back to the Travelodge. Although it was still quite early (about 6.30pm) it was already starting to get dark. The sky was filled with black clouds and it was obvious a storm was on the way – confirmed by the weather forecast.
We parked at the point where the road out of Grindleford takes a sharp turn to the south towards Eyam. There is plenty of room to park here. The rest stayed in the car as I tried to work out the best way towards the site. There is a stone stile leading to a path which runs to the north-west and another path which leads north-east. I opted for the north-west which in hindsight was a mistake. The path runs parallel to a drystone wall and after walking for a bit it was obvious I was going way off course and I had to climb over the wall in order to head in an eastern direction towards the circle. It would have been better to have approached via the other path and have avoided the wall altogether.
Despite previous TMA site reports I could find no path which lead to the circle.
All I could see was a sea of knee-high heather. Luckily it had been dry for several days and the dry bracken crunched under my feet. In wet weather I am sure it would be quite bogy. With compass in hand I headed for where I thought the circle should be. I could see nothing but heather. I headed further east but again nothing.
All of a sudden a bolt of forked lightening made me jump as it struck the hilltop opposite. A loud rumble of thunder quickly followed. The sky was black and the storm was clearly heading my way. I looked around – it dawned on me that I was the highest point on this open moorland hilltop. Not the ideal place to be in a lightening storm! Time to get a move on.
To my relief not much later I spotted the tops of several stones sticking out just above the heather. In all honesty the circle was a disappointment. Perhaps it would have looked better had the heather been cleared away? The tops of some stones sticking out of a sea of heather did not seem much of a reward for the effort it took in getting to the circle. Although the views are pretty good to be fair.
The Cairn slightly north of the circle was easier to make out.
I could not spot any of the cairns shown on the map south of Wet Withens.
At this point large raindrops began to fall. Time to get back to the car.
I had been gone for over an hour and the gang were restless by the time I got back.
As we drove down into Eyam the heavens opened. We had to pull over as it was like driving in a power shower. The road turned into a stream and all was black. After about 10 minutes the cloudburst had run its course and things started to dry up.
I was glad I had made the effort to visit the stone circle but in all honesty I thought it was a lot of effort to see not much.
Why this circle appears on a ‘normal’ AA map when many other better (and more accessible) stone circles don’t, I don’t know.
I prefer the AA map to others produced as I find it clearer and easier to use. I do however wonder what criteria they use when deciding which standing stones / circles / hillforts etc to put on the map. You would expect to see the Stonehenge / Avebury type sites but Wet Withens? I would say your average holiday maker would have no chance of finding this site and even if they did, would be very disappointed with what they found.
Perhaps I will E-Mail the AA to ask them?