My 24th birthday is looming and G/F and I have been together 6 months. We decide to go away for our first holiday together. The Peak District sounds nice and it’s close and cheap, as well as accessible by bus and train. My Dad lends me a map, a great big double-sided thing at 1/25000.
The cottage in Youlgreave has another huge wall-mounted Ordnance Survey map in it. I love maps and I’m soon scanning it to see what’s around and about. We squelched our way to Robin Hood’s Stride the day before, in rain and mud, noticing but not paying much attention to some “standing stones” across the field from us. Today looks like a better day, and there’s this thing, in antiquity type-face: Arbor Low Henge. Like Stonehenge? Sounds impressive. I wonder what it is? It’s not that far away, 3 miles or so.
The walk along quiet country lanes through Middleton gives way to a busier road, where quarry lorries speed by and there’s no verges. At length we get to a farm turning, with a box to put some money. What are we paying to see? We head across fields towards an undulating bank, which reminds me of hillfort ramparts I’ve seen back in Herefordshire.
But inside, it’s something else entirely. A ring of large stones, lying flat like a giant clockface. This first trip, in failing November light, I don’t really notice the wide views, nor do I notice the big mound of Gib Hill close by. I’m too overwhelmed by the stones to notice much else. I ask G/F what’s it for, what’s it all about? She doesn’t have an answer. I don’t understand at this point that those questions don’t have answers. Or they have too many answers.
After a while we return to the road, the truck-dodging even less pleasant as the short day comes to its end. I don’t realise quite what’s happened today.
Before we leave we revisit the marvellous bookshop in Bakewell, which yields a softback book that catches my eye: A Guide To The Stone Circles Of Britain, Ireland & Brittany by Aubrey Burl. It will be another year before I really wake up to the seed that’s been planted here, in a muddy Derbyshire field. When we return the following November for another birthday, G/F has lugged my birthday present here on the train, hidden in our luggage. It’s a huge hardback book, a piece of art resplendent in orange and blue. It smells wonderful and it’s full of promise and potential.
The journey that has occupied the best part of two decades, taking me to the hills, to west Cornwall, Wiltshire, Scotland and especially to Wales began that day. It’s brought me here, to this website and the wonderful people that contribute to it. It’s eaten my time and my money, but has returned something so much more precious. I don’t think it will stop now, until I do.
I have been to Arbor Low many times. Somethings I have noticed-
The mound on the SE side of the henge is directly in line with Gib Hill when the sun sets on the winter solstice. A journey clockwise around the outside henge (when following the setting sun on this day) leads you on to this mound as the bank of the hill slowly rises to it and the mound sticks out from the henge.
The central cove has a ring of energy that is different to the rest of the area. This ring is about 10ft diameter. The largest stone in the middle of the circle is the southern tip of this energy ring.
There is a large energy spike west and slightly north of this point about 1/3 towards the stones of the west side of the ring.
I have read reviews of what other people feel about this place. About how the energy in some spots is the same and others how it is constant. The two spots I mention above have not changed in the last few years.
Other things about this place-
Liberty Caps grow in the field around the site. Particularly on the north and north east sides of the outside of the henge. I think this is appropriate.
I have no problem with the people who own the farm :)
The weather here can be extreme. It is on an exposed site.
Gibb Hill hasn't ever done much for me. It has bricks buried in it!
This is my favourite megalithic site. I have meditated here many times with the gentle changes in the the temperature of my skin tickling me lightly as the wind (and rain) has blown over me.
The famous Arbor Low, a place which has been on my wish list for a number of years and at last I am here. Being an English Heritage site the place is well sign posted from the main road so finding the circle isn’t a problem.
The ‘road’ leading to the car park is unnecessarily pot holed for such a well visited place. As we got out the car and started to walk towards the farm the lady of the house stopped her car to ‘remind’ us to put our money in the tin!
It is still £1 per adult although children are allowed in free – that’s good of them!
It’s not that I mind paying for the upkeep of a site but perhaps some of the money raised could be used to fill in the pot holes?
Still, at least the conservatory extension on the farm house looks nice!
We walked through the first gate and could hear the crackle and buzz of the electric fence keeping the cows in check – something to be avoided.
Like most people we headed straight for the stone circle and what a good one it is. The main thing which makes this circle so special of course is the fact it is inside a henge. In my totally unprofessional opinion I would say the stones were purposely pushed down in antiquity and would favour them being re-erected.
I know others will think differently but as a say, just my opinion.
The henge banking was much better preserved than I was expecting and from the top gave great views of the surrounding countryside. There was only one other visitor when we arrived so we were able to try to take in some of the atmosphere.
At least I would have done had Sophie and Dafydd both not been playing up and spoiled things for me somewhat.
This is indeed a very special place and in the ‘Premier League’ of prehistoric sites in Britain. I am really glad to have finally got to visit and was not disappointed in the slightest.
A place I would one day like to re-visit – minus the children!
Highly recommended – worth going a long way out of your way to visit.
My first visit to Arbow Low, and a great visit it was. The whole family all marched up there, leaving two quid in the little metal box for the two adults in our party.
After a while our youngest got bored but my daughter and I stayed and had a really good time exploring each stone and walking around the entire site, we even had the place to ourselves for a while. It was a beautiful hot dry day, a little overcast at times but when the sun broke through directly the light on the stones was amazing. This place has a real energy, it had a deep feeling of peace about it and is magnificent in scale. If you're up this way then you have to call in and spend some time in the wonderful Arbor Low.
This was one of the first places I went to after buying the big orange book and it sent me on an almost fervoured Cope inspired ramble all across the UK, Ive been here in blazing sunshine, at sunset, at night in the snow, foot n mouth drizzle, and now an equinox foggy sunrise, todays was by far the best.
At 6.15am I slung the heavy wooden stepladders over my shoulder and made my way through the farm yard paying the obligatory quid on the way.
The fog which had plagued the whole drive here now threatened to obscure any sunrise, but on the, erm, bright side there was no-one here but me, no pagan dafties, no stupid dog, no livestock, nothing, just me the camera and some stepladders, we had a good time.
Then to top it all the sun came out, weekly at first but as the fog thinned intermittently it shone through brighter and more beautifully than ive seen in quite a while. Alas the fog and bright light outfoxed me and my extremely limited camera knowhow, but the ladders were a good idea for getting above the stones a little.
Before I knew it the sunrise was well and truly over but the light there was so gorgeous that I spent nearly two hours just trying to capture the scene.
Well, maybe you got the wrong end of the stick? The people that live at the farm are ok - they want you to pay your pound, but let's face it - Arbor Low is worth a pound! Far from not wanting you there, I rather feel they want all the pounds they can get!
Imagine if you lived next to a stone circle, and at all hours all kinds of people were turning up there - people who are in to stuff you know little about, and who may look a bit strange to you... you would be ill at ease, and sure to make sure people know that you can't just do anything there. It's only natural, and we would all feel the same if people were coming through our garden at all hours. Having said that, the path has clearly been diverted sot hat it goes past the farm, lol... to get those pounds - but there again, you'd want to see who was up there, near your home, wouldn't you?
Anyway - a powerful place that does not suit all people - it can hide, make you trip, see things, make you ill at ease, make you calm, teach you stuff, bring out stuff that is long hidden or dormant... seems to always know what to do. A special, magical place. The farmers do not like people staying over night, and will tell you not to stay.
A word to the wise on Arbor Low: the farm owner whose land you must cross to access the site appears to be quite discouraging to visitors. An email to ask about hours/dates of access received a very unfriendly reply and when we got there, we found an open tin for our £1 fees, which looked trusting until we bumped into the woman who'd replied to my mail – her only conversation was to ask if we'd paid. Later on, we saw her checking the tin. Her attitude spoilt the visit for my partner and I think we would have stayed much longer if we'd felt welcome.
Despite this, it is a very unusual site – a stone circle protected by a fortress – and well worth experiencing. Julian Cope (and the info board at the car park) states that the stones had fallen down, but I got the feeling that they were meant to lay flat – to me the place looked like a giant clock face.
Once I had my back to the farmhouse I got a much better vibe.
Last time I visited, some hideous (human) beast had left a pile of excrement, complete with toilet paper, in one of the dips on the henge. I could not believe it! Kind of ruined the beauty of the whole site for a few minutes...
This is one of my favourite places, even though it has rained on each visit I've made and the last visit was in (what felt like) a force 10 gale. I think it adds to the sense of the place though, the wind and rain made it more exhilarating and when we climbed onto Gibb Hill and faced the direction of the weather, the rain hit our face like a thousand tiny needles. We had planned to try and get across to the incomplete henge in the next field but the elements were in control that day and we headed back for the car absolutely soaked to the skin but deliriously happy.
Sits 'On top of the world'.
A really strong sense of 'up-aheightness'.
Made all the more so by the low scudding cloud.
Combined with the lumpen bumpiness of the earthworks and the gnarled chunks of prone stone, the position in the landscape makes this a memorable place, and well worth seeing, even for a bit of a detour on a dreary day.
There's such a contrast betwen the limestone here and the sandstone over on Stanton moor. Check out the grooves, bowls and hollows, imagine the stones they're on standing, illuminate them in your mind, with sunrises, sunsets and moonlight. Imagine their silhouettes and changing shadows as the light plays across them throughout the years.
It's always good to see what can be done when careful attention is paid to the arrangement and placing of stone and earth. Nice one ArborLow-building-people of yesteryear, a job well done.
I havent been close to anything 'neolithic', be it stone or earth since leaving Cornwall last june, today i found myself here after simply jumping in the car and heading into the hills.Its wonderful here, the wind blows terribly strong across the stones, must have been rather difficult and still is i guess by the rather obvious evidence of pagan rituals here for those who did and do so here with such winds howling.I had the place to myself, being late in the day i was allowed to 'wallow' in the landscape here, the stones holding many many memories, the earth trodden over many days and nights holding the past within.First impressions as you approach from the farm are decieving, "just another earthwork" you think...until you find yourself abreast of these beautiful stones, shame yes that they lay flat, comparable to Stonehenge??, yes i would say so..
Markings on the grass banks of pagan origin seem to reinforce local use of this sight for ritual, the energies here also too...
Gib hill over yonder, presumably a burial mound so i read again, a very powerful spot.
To link with these stones brought images of many to me, when you dance with the stones, your footprints last forever!!.
A fine place, no strange farmers giving us the eyeball and for 10 minutes we had the place to ourselves. Perfect. I found myself wondering if we could just put the stones upright again, would it shed more light on how the place fitted in with it's surroundings. There is a curving avenue-like earthwork from the border mound heading off in the general direction of Gibb Hill (probably only a mediaeval field boundary).
I believe that it is the Stonehenge of the North. It has most of the defining features- big stones, central stones, pronounced ditch and mound, and the burial mounds of it's contemporaries.
If you park right down on the road, don't forget your 50ps otherwise you'll have along walk back to the car (as someone did while we were there).
05/09/03. Toby, Mell, Andrew and Tracy visited here before moving on to The Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor. We liked the site, it was easy to find but not over visited.....
We put our 50p's in the tin and strolled around the circle, I took some pictures then we moved on to the Barrow.
We didn't have much time as we wanted to make the 9 Ladies before sun down.
As we left we were blatantly blanked by a man who made a great show of leaning on a drystone wall and studying the horizon as we passed him, as if he was determined not to pass any conversation with us. we didn't bother to try.
Relatively speaking, Arbor Low is quite close to Alton Towers, so went my reasoning on convincing the family we should visit before spending the next day on processing in our pilgrimage in the queues at Alton. They seemed convinced until it started raining and they realised it was an additional 100 mile round trip back to the Stafford Travelodge , all after driving up from Portsmouth. Anyway I still think it was worth it. What a site. We did get a bit lost trying to come in from Youlgreave to the East on minor roads, JC's directions from the West and the fork on the A515 are far easier to follow.
I'll go with the 'designed to be recumbent' theory and from pictures I'd seen I hadn't realised just how impressive the henge itself was.
Sunday 13 July 2003
Since it was now about 1.15pm, we briefly thought of leaving Arbor Low until later in the day, just before heading back to Leeds, in the hope that there would fewer people around.
We arrived to find the car park and verges at the bottom of the lane very busy.
Paying our 50p each we hurried up the incline beyond the farm towards Arbor Low itself. It was pretty busy, but I managed to squeeze off some photos to replace my mislaid ones, timing them carefully according to where people were standing and using a wide angle lens to reduce their prominence in the pictures.
As we wandered around the site I felt much more comfortable with the place than on previous visits. I wonder if it was the weather, which was much more friendly than when I've been to Arbor Low before. I don't think it was the people, though you never know – there's not been many about when I've been there before!
Since Sunday I've noticed that Mr Cope said it can seem almost like a 'little Avebury'. I must have remembered that subliminally I guess, because the exact same thought went through my head. Henge, ditch, stones, cove, grassy etc.
Ha! Consciously though my thought was prompted by a middle-aged (hark who's talking) female visitor advising a crony that the 2 of them really must go to 'Aylesbury or Avesbury or whatever it's called….' Hope Pete G doesn't hear them talking.
It really is a fascinating place. John thinks someone should make a 3d animation in full detail of what the site would've looked like when (or, if) the stones were standing. That would be interesting.
If someone would pay him to do it, he'd actually be a good man for the job – he worked for many years creating 'scenery' for computer games, has a great eye for detail and tenacity to spare. He's also at a 'loose end' and I'm on commission.
Anyway, after about half an hour, just as I took the last few photos on the film in my camera and I realised I'd left my spares in the car, something strange happened. Almost everyone walked off towards Gib Hill.
Now, I've only been to Arbor Low a couple of times before, but I'd only ever seen about 2 other people make the short walk to Gib Hill. On Sunday a veritable procession had begun. And we're not talking megaraks here, but bog standard sightseers. 'Sheep' syndrome?
Which is the norm I wonder?
Ironically of course, we decided not to go to Gib Hill this time – too many people! Weird. I wonder what the blue rinses thought when they got there. 'Oh, it's a little hill.' Sorry, that's probably patronising….
As a result, we missed out on Arbor Low II which I didn't know about on previous visits and haven't noticed from Gib Hill. I sometimes wonder if I walk around with my eyes closed….
Bet none of the blue rinses noticed it either though.
On the way back through the farm we noticed that some big renovation or conversion work is going on, and observed how nice it would be to live there. We both thought we'd try to get the path moved so that people weren't traipsing past the house all the time though!
[visited 19/5/3] - Following an abortive first visit at night earlier this year (I was considering whether to tresspass when a dog licked my hand & I was so freaked I gave up :), I arrived here with the rain just starting. Luckily it was only a twenty minute shower and gave me a chance to eat some lunch.
So the skies temporarily cleared and I quickfooted it to the henge. In one word, wow. I loved the visual effects the makers had created, not being able to see the stones from outside the henge & aiming straight at the meeting of the two hills in the distance. I was lucky enough to have the sight to myself and if I hadn't been on a fairly strict timer I'd have stayed much longer. As it was more rain & more sites to see drove me back to the car.
And so onto the incident which prompted the unwritten actual fieldnotes to start 'Still shaking & ouch'. Whilst at the henge the kindly farmer had put cows, sheep & lambs in the field between the henge & the farm. I'm not sure but I think cows like to protect lambs in the same field & I am definately sure that a cow trotting into me is gonna hurt more than the electric fence I gripped two handed after leaping over the nearby stone wall. Watch the cows, keep watching the COWS!!!
I'm lucky enough to be able to say Arbor Low is one of my local sites.
There used to be a holed stone at Arbor Low, an 8ft long thin stone with a perferct largish circle through the middle. The first mention of it I can find is when in the 1920's it was used as a threshold between 2 gateposts. At the start of the 1930's when access was improved to the henge the stone was put upright and used as a gatepost. The hole was then at ground level.
Between then and the mid 90's the stone moved around wall sides near the farm until vanishing sometime in the last 10-12yrs.
Some old guys in the local one night told me that the stone is a garden ornament somewhere around Bakewell........but then,that could just be old guys in the local.....
Us three ex-Uni friends, and Harry, had met up in Nottingham for Martyn's 'stag-night'. The next day, on the way to Stockport I noticed that we were planning to go on the A515, right past Arbor Low. So I started lobbying for us to stop and have a look. None knew much about ancient sites and Mike and Harry seemed OK about it. But Martyn was very worried and nervy about time. I felt guilty at asking them to indulge my odd habit just before Martyn's 'big day'. But it may be the only chance we get to be so close to this fine site and it might chill us all out. Reluctantly Martyn agreed to stop.
It was very wet but we clambered out of the cars, dressed ourselves up in any jackets we could find and trudged up to the henge. It was a great experience and the cows were very territorial and kept on coming to sniff around us. Martyn had spent a year in New Zealand analysing the effects of cow's piss on soil, so he should have felt right at home here. What a great place!
I had never met Harry before and never met him again, but I do have a photo of him standing with an umbrella, in the middle of the circle contemplating life. Over the years I have taken ten relatively un-interested people out to see various ancient sites and all have said they really enjoyed it. 3 more converts for the wagon!
I’ve visited twice now and there is definitely something strange and magical about Arbor Low. Its such an awe-inspiring and majestic relic, so open to the natural elements yet isolated and removed from civilisation. It provokes, in me at least, such a sense of time, of change and of loss, while forever maintaining a constant and passivity that’s utterly mysterious and foreboding. A monument once so significant to a people long since departed still holds within its dark stony aura the capacity to bestow such thoughts of wonder and intrigue upon those that now walk within its sacred shadows.
I returned to Arbor Low & Gibb Hill for the 1st time in 4 years. After standing on Gib Hill in 1997 I spent 9 months shortly after recovering from a bad accident (smashed leg) and was told by many people that this fate was due to visiting this burial mound and standing on top of it. So you see I was a little nervous. I think this site must be one of the jewels of England together with Silbury, Avebury & of course Stonehenge. It will probably never be appreciated by the masses until the stones are re-erected. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea, after all they are all in position but have simply fallen over over the years. What a sight if they were restored.
I've visited Derbyshire a number of times over the past three years and have always been struck by the vastness of the landscapes around Arbor Low but failed to actually take the courage and visit. I've always considered that it would be a bit like seeing Stonehenge for the first time, you are looking out for it and then suddenly there it is and due to the vastness of the landscape around you think 'is that it!'. That was my reason for not visiting as I was so drawn to the landscape that the site and stones themselves would seem so insignificant in there recumbent, recumbent state.
This summer though I happened to be passing and thought hey! its about time I checked into Arbor Low.
The sign off the main road is very clear, however you need to turn again as soon as you come off the main road otherwise you will end up in the sleepy villages.
Once parked, there is a small pull off, there is a long track upwards that leads to a farm yard, where you pay 50p. There is a small weatherbeaten sign and information board just before the farm. If the occupier is at home then there are opportunites for a cup of tea and a cake. You follow up through the farm yard and turn left and suddenly............
wow!!! you are transformed, the stones might be all recumbent and subdued but stand there and take it all in and the beauty to behold is magical!
I came for the Midwinter Solstice dawn and marched around the broken clock face beating my bodhran drum. Round and round, winding in the sun, pulling it over the horizon, wrestling with it like the Old Man of the Sea.
Soft light on recumbrant stones that felt like fossilised clouds which had fallen to Earth - so solidly grounded and yet so weightless.
An old woman lays a sprig of holly on the altar in the cove. Red blood berries dripping onto white stone.
The midwinter sun is rising. Hallelujah! Oh Ai! Oh Ai! The Goddess's consort has returned to waken her from the dead. Spring will come again and surely melt the slabs of ice laid out like a frozen splash at Arbor Low.
This is on the OS Map. The circle is on the huge plateau that towers above the village of Beeley. After walking along the track through the woods, above the noisy waterfalls, you join the moorland track that follows the edge of the plateau. After a short walk, head right across the heath for a few hundred yards and look out for the low stones of this tiny but beautiful circle, with a disturbed cairn in the middle. The best of the stones is a very phallic number indeed, it even has a foreskin.
Between the circle and the track there seems to me to be evidence of ancient settlement, field walls, and there are cairns all around the plateau.
This is a place filled with peace and tranquility, and surrounded by some of the best beauty spots in the Peak District.
sometime last week:
Sitting among the prone stones, gaze drifting away to the distant hills... Cows wandering about on idly on the mounds, laying extremely healthy-looking patts on the daisies.
Time stands still. I've just driven through 90 minutes of Hell's traffic to get here, and I've got about another 3 hours of B-roads to go before I arrive at my final destination (Ingleton)... But the stones are warm, lichen-smooth, and welcoming. And for now, right here, I am happy.
And Natasha is riding one of the angled ancient slabs like its a magic carpet. What a buzz.
The bloke who did my piercing used to be involved with the Temple of Psychic Youth/Genesis, and he told me some *really* hair-raising stories about the rituals that the Temple had at Arbor Low a few years ago ...
... he had a really rough psychic cross carved into his side, allegedly done by Genesis in a fenzy at the circle ... and such a peaceful place!
Slightly longer extract from "Romances of the Peak" by W.M. Turner (London 1901), including local "bravery":
"... coming away from a visit there in the year 1897, I accosted a young herdsman who was attending some cattle grazing by the wayside. After touching on several points I came cautiously to the Druidical circle business. I wanted to know how it came there and its purpose and so forth. He could not tell. It had been there undisturbed for generations and according to the account given him by the old people, and that was all, excepting, there may have been a battle there and people buried about the place.
'How did he come to know that?' 'Well, you see', he said, 'the folks round about never go that way at night for fear of boggarts. Several have been seen prowling about, and it is the common talk that people must have been buried there'. 'Did you ever go that way at night?' I asked. He said that he had not, but he bravely added, he would not mind, for he did not believe in such things."
As commonly held beliefs about the site, these surely belong in the 'folklore' section. People state as fact what they hold as a belief, or they say what they think will impress people, or they tell other people what they want to hear?
Dr. Pegge, writing in 1783, says that "the stones formerly stood on end, two and two together, which is very particular." Glover, in his History of the County of Derby (1829), states that "Mr. J. Pilkington was informed that a very old man living in Middleton, remembered when a boy to have seen them standing obliquely upon one end;" tersely adding that "this secondary kind of evidence doesnot seem entitled to much credit." One of my excavators, an old man, assured me that he had seen five stones standing in his boyhood, and had sheltered under them! On inquiry, however, I ascertained that the man had a reputation for gross exaggeration.
From 'On the Excavations at Arbor Low, 1901-1902' in Archaeologia 58 (1903), p466.
In Burls 'Prehistoric Avebury' and various other books is the story which was told to journalist Paul Screeton.
About ' a very sincere man ' who fell asleep at Arbor Low and was visited in his dream by the ghosts of Atlanteans who instructed him in the henge's 'Purposes and dimensions'.
I've never come across the rest of the story, so can't really shed any light as to what those purposes were......
'Spirit of the Stones – Visions of Sacred Britain.' Alan Richardson 2001.
"When Elizabeth Anderton visited Arbor Low on May 1st, or Beltaine, she started fooling about on the central stones – and immediately regretted it…."
"….Something made me turn and from the north was a dark black wall, and in seconds we were engulfed by darkness a howling wind and a storm of rain and very large hailstones. There was no shelter, I tried to shield behind a larger stone, but it felt like I was being flayed by the hail…."
Have a quick flick to the back of the book….
"…Alan Richardson has brought together a collection of outstanding experiences"
Just the usual run of the mill weather for Arbor Low Alan....Get with the program.