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Great Urswick (Burial Chamber) — Fieldnotes

Visited 30th April 2016

I would never have known about this place without the handy ‘sites nearby’ drop down on the TMA website. I’d been looking to see if there was anywhere to combine with a visit to the Druids Circle at Ulverston, and being only a couple of miles away this seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I’d done a bit of Google Streetview scrying before we set out and located what looked like a suitable layby to park up in on Hooks Lane just to the south of the village on the way towards Little Urswick. Being too busy scanning the fields for the chamber we initially overshot the site, and if you reach a crossroads on Hooks Lane you’ve definitely gone too far. Managing to turn the car around in the narrow lane we eventually made it to the pull in, and walked back down the road looking for the chamber.

It’s difficult to spot from the road but soon we reached a likely looking gate with pubic footpath sign, directly opposite a small stone building and noticed that actually there was space to park the car right next to the field gate. It’s always nice when a site can be accessed via a public footpath as it just makes the whole visit more relaxed, allowing you to enjoy the place without feeling like an intruder. So crossing the field we soon reached a stile over a stone wall with the slope on which the burial chamber stands behind it.

The burial chamber is cunningly concealed by a tree, which not so much as hides the chamber but erupts from it, pushing aside the stone orthostats as if in a time-lapse arboreal explosion. From the blocky stone facade the burial chamber resembles the result you’d get if you asked someone to build a chambered tomb in Minecraft, chunky stone slabs of grey stone forming the proud remains of a frontage, whilst behind the chamber layers of limestone outcropping rise in a wide shelf.

It’s really peaceful here, a few cows going about their business cropping the grass in a nearby field, and I squeeze into the remains of the chamber and sit in the dappled shade soaking up the atmosphere and writing some fieldnotes. Although small and ruined this is a lovely place. It’s certainly an unusual site, of what I’m sure antiquarians would have referred to as a ‘rude’ construction, and reminded me a bit of the Brane burial chamber all the way down in Cornwall. The top stone of the chamber seems to support a little ecosystem of its own, with various mosses, ferns and even a small tree growing there, and standing back from a certain angle the chamber resembles a giant turtle, the bushy greenery of the central tree forming the shell.

Decamping over to the limestone ridge to survey the view the sun is out, and the chamber blends nicely into the landscape, almost as if it’s a natural feature. I could happily stay here all day, I just wish we’d got a picnic with us, as it’s getting late into the afternoon now and we’ll need to move on soon to find somewhere to eat.

Crossing the field back to towards the car we encounter a couple of walkers examining an O.S. map, ‘Don’t suppose you know where the burial chamber is?’ they ask, I point them in the direction of the tree hiding the stones, they initially look at me askance, probably having expected something more along the lines of West Kennett, but head off anyway another two visitors for this engaging little site.

Alignements de Kermario — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Alignements de Kermario</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

The Druid's Circle of Ulverston (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>The Druid's Circle of Ulverston</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>The Druid's Circle of Ulverston</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>The Druid's Circle of Ulverston</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>The Druid's Circle of Ulverston</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>The Druid's Circle of Ulverston</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

The Druid's Circle of Ulverston (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 30th April 2016

The Druids circle always strikes me as a bit of a Cinderella site, always overlooked for the more glamourous sites of Castlerigg, Long Meg and Sunkenkirk that lie further within the heart of the Lake District. It’s always been the case previously for me too, with never time to detour off as there always seemed bigger sites to see. Now it’s time to put this right and the circle is first on our itinerary for our weekend in the Lakes.

Engaging in the traditional British bank holiday pursuit of dodging both the showers and the traffic it’s not long before we turn off at Ulverston and are on the A5087 hugging the coast. I’d previously Google Street Viewed the hell out of this road, to make sure I’d recognise the sharp turning onto Birkrigg common, and so had no trouble in finding the un-signposted lane we needed. Pulling in on the grass next to a couple of other cars I was amazed to find I could just about make out the low shapes of the stones. I’d worried it might be harder to find, having read some of the previous fieldnotes, and the ominous pronouncement ‘needs an O.S. map’ from the papery TMA, but it seems the previously obscuring ferns have been quite brutally hacked back.

It’s a lovely setting for a site, and the circle’s not bad either. Blue skies stretch over the expansive stretch of Morecambe bay, and the tower of Bardsea church in line with the circle draws the eye, a fine juxtaposition of the old gods and the new.

The circle itself is intriguing, the small pristine ring of pockmarked stones initially looking like they tell the whole story, and only at a closer glance do you make out the outer circle of recumbent stones around the perimeter. It may be natural, but it almost looks like the circle sites on a henge, vague traces of a raised platform and embanked ditch catch my eye, but it’s probably wishful thinking on my part. As a site it makes a complex picture, and I sit amongst the stones and ponder.

The breeze is mild and the warmth of the sun is pleasant when it makes an appearance between the scudding clouds, and I’m struck by how nice it is here. Sadly there is still some traces of red paint on the stones, but it’s barely visible, and the circle will persist unbowed long after the existence of the idiotic vandal responsible is forgotten. A small piece of amethyst has been left in the centre of the circle as an offering, but it’s nice to see everything else is clean and tidy with no signs of litter about.

I walk to the nearby limestone pavement to get a slightly elevated view, serenaded on my way by a skylark, and have to concur with Mr Cope, that this truly is a ‘righteous hangout’, even in this region of spectacular circles the Druid’s Circle holds its own. It retains a certain charm of the plucky underdog, and is surely worth the visit in its own right. I like it here!

Long Meg & Her Daughters (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Long Meg & Her Daughters</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

King Arthur's Round Table (Henge) — Images

<b>King Arthur's Round Table</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

King Arthur's Round Table (Henge) — Fieldnotes

Visited 2nd May 2016

When visiting King Arthur’s Round Table I’d make two suggestions. Firstly the little village of Eamont Bridge is surprisingly busy, and there isn’t really anywhere designated to park if you’re coming to see the henge. We squeezed in amongst some other cars at the side of the A6, outside what seemed to be a rather busy hair salon and garage that seemed to be holding a yard sale. In hindsight it would probably have been better to park up at one of the two nearby pubs, where a leisurely drink, as opposed to a continual fear of getting the car bumped, might have proved more conducive to a pleasant visit.

Secondly make sure you come here first before visiting Mayburgh henge. Having just come from there it’s fair to say that after the grandeur of the amazing Mayburgh, which exceeded all expectations, there’s a palpable sense of let-down when you first see King Arthur’s table. Huddled between the intersection of two busy roads, on first appearances it bares more resemblance to a village bowling green, or King Arthur’s picnic spot perhaps? Like Carl before us we were somewhat disappointed with this place.

Shadows from the late afternoon sun pick out the gentle undulations of the earthworks. It’s a shame the northern edge of the henge seems to have been barbarously shaved off, along with the second entrance, but walking around the neatly trimmed grass of the lumps and bumps of the ditch and mound everything was pleasant enough, there just seemed to be something missing. The tree adorned top of the bank at Mayburgh is visible on the horizon, and as I wander around the circular centre of the henge I try to imagine how the sightlines must once have been between the two monuments, but it’s hard to strip away the modern trappings of the road and village.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not so taken with this place, perhaps if it sat in splendid isolation, with just the majestic embankments of Mayburgh on the horizon, or in a way just felt a bit more ‘wild’ I’d appreciate it more. I was interested to read in Fitzcoraldo’s notes that it was once turned into a tea garden, as it still feels a bit like that now, perhaps just a little too manicured?

Still it’s so close to the road and near to Mayburgh it seems rude not to at least pay a visit when passing, but I think it’s perhaps best taken as an appetiser to the wonderful Mayburgh just up the road.

Orkney — News

Two Finds in One at Harray Chamber

From the Orcadian:

"A prehistoric underground structure has been rediscovered in Harray – rediscovered in that the archaeologists found it to be full of Victorian rubbish!

But although it had obviously been opened, entered and used in the 19th century, the chamber appears to have gone unrecorded.

Martin Carruthers, of the Archaeology Institute UHI, and county archaeologist Julie Gibson made their way out to the site, near the Harray Manse, last weekend.

Martin explained: “It’s either a souterrain or a ‘well’ and, given similar examples elsewhere in the county, probably dates to the Iron Age"

Read More:

Machrie Moor — Images

<b>Machrie Moor</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Machrie Moor</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Machrie Moor</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Machrie Moor</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Machrie Moor</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Machrie Moor — Fieldnotes

Visited 7th August 2015

Machrie Moor is nothing less than one of the megalithic marvels of Britain. Within the protective embrace of the surrounding hills the moorland harbours a wealth of fine stones, and the whole area is like some sort of pre-history park.

It almost resembles a showroom for the types of megalithic monument seen across the land. Walking over the moor I can almost hear the monologue of a Neolithic salesman;
“Ooh looking for the latest in contemporary design, well just step this way! Now here we have your traditional style stone ring, very popular nowadays, and room for conversion if you fancy an en -suite burial cairn, whilst just along here we have the more chunky boulder-style of circle with interior ring, very handy for resting your cauldron in if you’re of the giant persuasion. If sir is on a modest budget let me show you the four-poster, compact and suitable for all ritual needs, or if you really want to make an impression how about using some really tall stones…” the scope and type of monuments you will see here is unprecedented.

As with all moorlands things can get a little bleak in poor weather but today we are blessed with bright sunshine and the rain which has plagued us throughout a week in Dumfriesshire has blown itself away. There is still evidence of the recent wet weather though, as Carl mentioned in the previous fieldnotes one of the circles has temporarily turned into a marsh, although this only seemed to add to its magical atmosphere, the deep spiky green grass poking through the water providing ample perches for dragonflies, which continually buzzed around us during our visit.

The good weather has brought out the visitors and a steady stream of walkers cross the moor, the little car park at the start of the walk filled to capacity, but there’s plenty here for everyone, and some solitude to be found if you want it.

There’s not much more I can add to Carl’s excellent previous fieldnotes, funny to think he was here only the week before!

Soaking up the wonderful megalithic atmosphere of the moor, the blue sea shimmering behind us in the distance, time slips by quickly, and like a fine malt whisky Machrie Moor needs to be savoured and so we’ve elected to spend most of our day on Arran here, despite the wealth of other lovely megalithic sites in the area.

When I first visited here fifteen years ago I was totally blown away, it was the first really ‘premier league’ site I made a pilgrimage to after getting Mr Cope’s big orange book, and further opened my eyes to the prehistoric wonders that were out there. I still feel the same being here today as I did then, this really is somewhere very special indeed. Until next time Machrie Moor…

Sanday — News

Chance Discovery of Bronze Age Settlement on Sanday

From the Orcadian:

"Archaeological discoveries are often made when least expected, and this is exactly what happened on Monday, at Tresness, Sanday.

In very poor weather, Professor Jane Downes (University of the Highlands and Islands), Professor Colin Richards (University of Manchester), Dr Vicki Cummings (University of Central Lancaster) and Christopher Gee (ORCA, UHI) were walking out to Tresness to examine the eroding stalled cairn on the point.

But en route, they discovered the remains of no less than 14 Bronze Age houses, distributed over a kilometre stretch of sand.

What this discovery reveals is that an entire Bronze Age landscape on Sanday was covered by as the sand dunes formed in the second millennium BC.

But it was the scale and density of occupation that really surprised the archaeologists as they proceeded along the ness. Not only are house structures present but working areas are also visible"

Dry Tree Menhir (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 26th June 2015

After leaving Halliggye fogou it seemed rude not to visit the Dry Tree menhir as it was only a couple a miles away and so seemed a fitting way to finish off the day even though we didn’t really know what to expect.

I made the mistake though of first taking the turning into the Goonhilly Earth Station, and on arriving into the eerily deserted parking area it became apparent we were probably in the wrong place. I got out of the car for a scout around but was unable to spot anything vaguely megalithic. The area had a strange feel to it, the giant dishes of the listening station looming mute above the perimeter fences and with no visible signs of life inside the compound, it felt like the sort of place the survivors of a post-apocalyptic alien invasion film would end up at.

Getting back into the car we were almost ready to give up and come back another day, but fortunately we had a signal on the phone (would have been somewhat ironic if there had been no reception here of all places!) and a quick check of the internet suggested that we actually needed to park at the old RAF site next door.

So back down the B3293 and in minutes a brown sign indicating ‘National Nature Reserve’ pointed us into a turning which leads to a sizable parking area. Here several paths lead out over the downs, and information boards and some very good leaflets are handily available to guide the way.

Following the path which shadows the perimeter fence we soon see the stone ahead of us, and it’s much taller than I expected. From the angle we approach it reminds me a friendly giant with a tiny head perched atop his wide body. As I happily wander around the menhir taking photos from every conceivable angle I’m struck by the way the stone has such a different appearance from each side you view it from.

This is a lovely stone, I was a bit worried that close proximity to the perimeter fence might spoil the ambiance somewhat but the counterpoint of the modern dishes with this lovely stone just sort of works. I’d love to explore some more of the walks across Goonhilly, perhaps spotting some of the many barrows around which dot the landscape, but that will have to be for another time, only Cruc Draenoc barrow will be close enough for a visit today as I can see that one from the stone!

It’s nigh on 8pm now as we bid farewell to the stone, and hunger pulls us away home for supper. As we walk back we’re escorted by Meadow Brown butterflies that flutter along the path in front of us, a magical end to a lovely visit.

Dry Tree Menhir (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Dry Tree Menhir</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Dry Tree Menhir</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Dry Tree Menhir (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

Local legend has it that the menhir stands on the spot where five ancient parish boundaries met, and takes its name from a gallows tree which once stood next to the stone.

Goonhilly Down (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Visited 26th June 2015

Cruc Draenoc is one of many barrows which dot the landscape around Goonhilly Downs, but this one benefits by its close proximity and intervisibility with the Dry Tree menhir.

From that stone the unmistakable lump of the barrow looms to the south west, easily distinguished by the trig point and concrete post which crown it.

We poke about the barrow, the late evening sun still blazing down on us. The mound itself is quite low, but it stands on the highest point of the downs, and the view out and down to the sea is wonderful. It’s difficult to discern the exact size and shape of the barrow due to the ferns which mask its outline, but it’s mercifully free of the thorny gorse which covers much of the downs, and no longer lives up to its old Cornish name, Cruc Draenoc, which means ‘barrow of the thorns’.

It’s a strangely beautiful landscape here, and a nice bonus to stumble across a barrow of this size at the end of a pleasant walk.

Goonhilly Down (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Goonhilly Down</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Halliggye Fogou — Fieldnotes

Visited 26th June 2015

We weren’t intending to visit any megalithic sites today, a thick sea fog blanketing everything in a damp muffling duvet of cloud when we awoke this morning in St. Just, but during a day spent in Falmouth the clouds finally burnt away leaving blue skies and blazing sunshine. So over a pint of Hobgoblin in ‘The Grapes’ a quick check of the TMA site on the phone (isn’t technology a wonderful thing!) produced a list of nearby candidates for a visit.

By far the most promising was Halliggye, somewhere I’ve never been before, and an impressive looking site to boot. So setting course for Garras on the B3293 we soon managed to find the Trelowarren estate and driving up the main drive (beware of the stealth humps though, which nearly ripped my car’s exhaust off!) soon the information board and layby appeared. It’s then only a short walk to the lovely enclosure surrounding the modern steps which lead down into the fogou.

As soon as we stepped inside we could tell this one was going to be something special. Ducking down to get through the entranceway, the passage soon rises enough to just about stand upright, and the feeble glow of my torch, desperately in need of some new batteries, struggles to illuminate the end of the corridor. Inching my way along due to the uneven floor, a long curved passageway soon opens up to the left, and I’m straight down it like a rat up a drainpipe.

The curve of the walls is disorientating as you carry on walking, the corridor seemingly wending its way into the depths of the underworld. It reminded me of the Tumulus de Rocher in Brittany, which had a similarly long and winding interior passage. Like Carl mentions in his fieldnotes, the stygian gloom of the surrounding darkness seems to suck the very light from my torch as I proceed, and only Ellen bringing up the rear with the light from her phone helps to penetrate the dimness.

Soon we reach the ‘stumbling block’ a raised stone ridge protruding from the floor, which marks the passage’s end, and I shuffle forward, crouched over, down the southern creep to the end of the fogou. Here I sit, Ellen waiting in the corridor nearby, and we turn off our lights. The darkness is all consuming. Total blackness surrounds you, and the atmosphere of the place becomes even more tactile. I become very aware of the sounds of my own breathing, and nearby an occasional squeaking sound, possibly from the bats that often roost here. I was expecting a damp, dank place, but it’s nothing like it. I can smell a faint but lingering scent of incense, then overlaid by a subtle lilac fragrance, and through the darkness I become more aware of all my other senses. If ever anyone needed help in practising mindfulness this is the place to come, something about it is affecting, sharpening your awareness of your place in this place, only the here and now seemingly existing as you float in the comforting darkness which surrounds you.
After maybe minutes or maybe hours, it’s hard to tell, the pinpricks of our torches come back on and we head back toward the entrance. Before leaving I wedge myself into the smallest northern creep, toward the original entrance to the fogou. It’s tiny but I can just squeeze in, although so wedged I fear I’ll ever get out! Happily after a bit of scrabbling I manage to ease myself back into the more spacious passageway, where we take more photos, before reluctantly taking out leave.

Although there is a suggestion fogou’s may have had a purpose as a place of storage this just doesn’t make sense to me, why construct such an elaborate and impractical cellar? I imagine it would be one hell of a hassle for an Iron Age farmer having to nip down the creep each time they wanted to retrieve an item! Visiting Halligye just strengthens my view that there was more likely some form of ritual purpose involved, seeing how an experience of the fogou can affect you psychologically I can only imagine the impact it would have had on people in that long ago culture.

Well I might have gone on a bit about this place, but it’s just that I haven’t been so blown away by a site visit for some time. There’s certainly a power here, and even for those less enamoured with the mystical mumbo jumbo a visit to Halliggye provides you with possibly the finest example of a fogou you could wish to see, so it’s a definite must visit.

Halliggye Fogou — Images

<b>Halliggye Fogou</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Halliggye Fogou</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Halliggye Fogou</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Halliggye Fogou</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Halliggye Fogou</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Spurdagrove (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 22nd May 2015

Scouring the OS maps for obscure Orcadian sites I’d not yet visited, I spotted a promising looking standing stone at Spurdagrove. So parking up at the nearby Loons RSPB reserve, and armed with some binoculars, we took shelter from the biting wind inside the bird hide, and scoped out the landscape looking for the stone. A plethora of fence posts and tufty grass made it hard to identify our target, and despite spotting some Tufted ducks amidst the wetlands, and a very cute gaggle of goslings with their Greylag goose parents, the lesser spotted stone of Spurdagrove continued to prove elusive. Checking the O.S. map it looked as if the stone should be fairly close to the road, so braving the icy breeze we walked along the lane from the hide.

Just a short way along the road we noticed a newly tarmacked layby, next to a short path which led to a seat looking out over the Loons and sheltered by a semi-circular concrete wall as a windbreak, the whole structure looking newly built. From here Ellen spotted the small stone, tucked away down by the fenceline.
A nearby gate gave access into the field which sloped down toward the stone, the ground becoming more wet and marshy as you approach the fence and the wetland beyond. Marsh marigolds lined the bottom of the field, and amidst the wonderful view across the flat marshland plenty of birds could be seen.

Approaching the stone the small ‘recumbent’ paired with it becomes visible, although at first I didn’t realise it as such, thinking it was just a natural stone outcrop. I’d been gingerly picking my way through the boggy ground, and now reached the fence, the small standing stone tantalisingly close just on the other side.
As I’ve said before in many fieldnotes, when I visit a megalithic site I always have an urge to touch it. Somehow it just doesn’t seem as satisfying if I don’t, it’s hard to explain. I think somehow it just gives me a sense of connection, touching the stone, my hands making contact with the same surface that, thousands of years ago, another pair of hands, those of a distant Neolithic ancestor, had toiled and struggled to move and set up the monument in this place for their own unknowable purpose. So I’ll often go to great lengths to have that physical connection. On this occasion it takes little more than donning some wellies, and carefully stepping over part of the rickety gate which is gently sinking into the marsh, in order for me to get up close and personal to the stone.

Practically abutting the fence, it’s a small and wide stone, with a sloping top, of a grey rock with cracks running diagonally across it and pale lichen growing over it in bands. The stone itself reminds me of a stunted version of the Comet stone at Brodgar.

Hunkering down near the stone out of the wind I watch Lapwings wheeling overhead, the sound of their mournful cries carrying on the wind and giving the place a melancholy air, but still I love it here. The earth smells rich and loamy down by the stone, and out of the wind even the sun has some warmth. I’m glad to have found another of Mainland’s standing stones, they’re all different in their own ways, and though Spurdagrove won’t win the award for most impressive, it’s got a great atmosphere in a lovely location, and I know I’ll be back!

Spurdagrove (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Spurdagrove</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Spurdagrove</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Spurdagrove</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Long Cairn — Fieldnotes

Visited 17th May 2015

The earlier rain has blown over now, but the brisk wind remains (well what did I expect, this is Orkney!) Now that the sun’s out I decide on a walk to the Long Cairn from the centre of Kirkwall. Taking the East road out of town you’re soon in the countryside, with the town spread out behind you as you head along the coast towards the Head of Work.

Once past the sewage works and a couple of gates negotiated, a vague path follows the shoreline to avoid the soggy moorland which comprises the rest of the headland. The walk grants superb views of the island of Shapinsay, seemingly only a stone’s throw away across the Sound, and allows me to get a good view of the chambered cairn atop Helliar Holm, the uninhabited island which practically connects to the south of Shapinsay, probably as close as I’ll get to it without a boat!

Skuas wheel around me as I walk along the headland and on arriving at the cairn I’m dive bombed by a tern, which obviously must be nesting nearby. The outline of the Long Cairn looks suitably chunky on the O.S map, and it’s just as substantial in real life. The large mound is visible on the headland from some distance as you approach. Some of the cairn stones are still visible amongst the grassy tumulus, particularly atop the mound where a small dip in the top has been accentuated by the piling up of stones around the depression by someone to create a partial windbreak.

I hunker in the dip to write my fieldnotes and marvel at the site. Another fine promontory location for a monument, and looking out to the west the dark heather clad slopes of Wideford hill draw the eye. The Long Cairn seems to be one in a chain of great burial structures, Wideford and Cuween atop the high ground and the Long Cairn sitting at the edge of the land, perhaps once a large landmark cairn on the coast like Midhowe was on Rousay.

The length of the Long Cairn can still be made out, as can the vestigial remains of the horned enclosure at the front of the cairn. I love the solitude here, so near to Kirkwall but seemingly so remote, one of the places I love to walk to in order to escape the hustle and bustle of Kirkwall when a cruise ship is in harbour!

Long Cairn — Images

<b>Long Cairn</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Long Cairn</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Long Cairn</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Long Cairn</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Long Cairn</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Stembister (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 17th May 2015

I’m told there are twenty-three standing stones on Orkney Mainland, and being determined to visit them all I turn to Stembister. It’s been on the radar for a while, and inspired by Wideford’s pictures and fieldnotes I’d attempted a visit before, driving up the track off the A960 and getting as far as the entrance to the farm, before finding I’d have to park in the farmer’s yard should I wish to walk onwards to the stone. Not wanting to intrude, and being a somewhat unsociable creature, I decided then against knocking on the door to request access, and turning the car around decided to find a different approach another day.

That was nearly a year ago, but today I’m back and having examined the 1:25,000 scale O.S. map it looks as if it would be possible to walk along the coastline to reach the stone therefore avoiding having to disturb the farmer. Taking advantage of some brief blue skies amidst the recent showery weather, I drive out to the car park at the wonderfully descriptively named beach at Sandi Sands. There are lovely views out here both to the north and south of this thin spit of land, with the large green mound of Dingie’s Howe, itself an ancient Norse ‘thing’ or parliament, built on the remains of a broch site, dominating the approach to the southern shore of the beach.

Climbing up past the Howe, and following the cliff edge I’m buffeted by a brisk wind as I walk along the vague track that runs next to the fenceline. It’s probably not a route for the fainthearted or anyone afraid of heights as it takes you pretty close to the edge, and I found myself having to keep one eye out for my footing, despite the distractions of the plentiful birdlife, and the desire to spot the pod of Orca’s that have been seen around the coasts of Orkney over the past few days. After negotiating the odd gully, and a quick clamber over a piece of fence which extended out to the cliff edge, the stone itself became visible.

Soon I was there, at a typical slab of Orcadian sandstone around 6’ tall, the tip bent at a jaunty angle, and somehow reminding me of the fin of a whale. The ever present tufts of sea moss ubiquitous on Orcadian megaliths tickle my neck as I sit with my back to the stone looking out to sea. It’s a wonderful view, with the island of Copinsay bold on the horizon, the stone wonderfully placed on its promontory, and reminiscent of the stones I’ve seen on South Ronaldsay in size and shape.

As with many other standing stones there is supposedly folklore surrounding giants attached, the oversized inhabitant of Stembister was said to have flung stones as far as Copinsay, presumably the standing stone here was the result of a duff throw, the name of the farm itself also coming from the old Norse, stein-bolstadr, meaning ‘stone-farm’.

As lovely as the view to the south-east is the same can’t be said of the opposite aspect, with the shabby agricultural outbuildings of the farm a glowering presence, and the farmhouse only a few feet from the stone. Such a close proximity does ruin the atmosphere somewhat, but as long as you fix your eyes out to sea you can forget the trappings of modernity and enjoy the stone, which I do until the clouds I can see sweeping along the coast whisk across me to unload some more rain, forcing me to hurriedly make my damp way back to the car.

Stembister (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Stembister</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Gardom's Edge (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

<b>Gardom's Edge</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Gardom's Edge</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Gardom's Edge (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes

Visited 7th March 2015

Third time lucky! Twice before I’ve fruitlessly searched for this cup and ring marked stone, but given the preponderance of gritstone rocks strewn around Gardoms Edge it was like looking for a needle in a huge pile of needles. Today I’ve got Andrew Johnstone’s rather excellent ‘Prehistoric Peak’ book with me, which gives excellent directions and maps, and once we had arrived back at nearby standing stone we fanned out and walked back along the edge of the woodland, where just before coming level with the Nelson monument atop Birchen Edge across the moor a likely looking large flat stone became visible.

On the edge of the trees, long afternoon shadows pick out the intricate inscribed whorls and indentations of the cups and rings on the stone. I know the visible stone is a fibreglass copy, but it’s done so well, the naturalistic colouring and speckling of lichens giving it an uncanny realism, only broken if you tap the stone. Normally I’d be in two minds about such a replica, but the fact that the original stone is still here albeit buried out of sight, and the quality of the reproduction means that things seem to work, and the original location means you don’t lose the context of the placement as you would if the stone had just been unceremoniously dug out to be placed in a museum.

The patterns on the stones are intricate and intriguing, and some the best I’ve seen in Derbyshire, so I’m glad the decision to protect them this way was made. I don’t suppose we will ever know what inspired someone several thousand years ago to take the time to carve out these markings, but they still hold the power to make us wonder today, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings in which they are set.

It’s a pleasant place to sit by the stone, whilst Ellen sketches the designs, and the sun sinks lower, bringing the motifs into even sharper relief. I’m so pleased to have finally found the place, the efforts have been worth it, and after enjoying the rock art there is nothing else for it but to head back to the Robin Hood Inn for a celebratory pint of Hobgoblin before heading for home after a great day out.

Gardoms Standing Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Gardoms Standing Stone</b>Posted by Ravenfeather<b>Gardoms Standing Stone</b>Posted by Ravenfeather

Gardoms Standing Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 7th March 2015

Last time I was here was in the gloaming of a summer evening after a frustrating couple of hours searching for the nearby rock art, and when the stone hove into view after my fruitless search it was an ample consolation prize. Today things are a bit more relaxed though. After a nice lunch at the nearby Robin Hood Inn (lovely veggie quiche) a walk up Gardoms edge past the Three Men cairns, brought us to the woodland where lurks the stone.

Easily hidden amongst the trees, we nevertheless managed to find the stone with a little searching. It’s an interesting menhir, charismatic and bent over like a stooped old hag as you approach through the birch trees, whilst deep curved erosion of its other face gives it a raddled aspect.

Long afternoon shadows only add to the atmosphere, but the closely surrounding trees make it difficult to discern the orientation from the penumbra of the stone, so whether it was selected to act a gnomon for a sundial, or merely because it had a distinctive shape is something for conjecture.

It’s a fine stone whatever it may have been used for, and certainly worth a visit amongst the fine walks and rich archaeological heritage of Gardoms Edge.

Five Wells (Chambered Tomb) — Images

<b>Five Wells</b>Posted by Ravenfeather
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Megalithic wanderer and modern day pagan.

I've always loved anything historical, particularly megalithic sites (I've many a fond memory of visits to Stonehenge in the mid 1970's as we used to stop there every year on the way to the annual family holiday down in Bournemouth, which I think started it off), and the discovery of a certain book by Mr. Cope set off an obsession in the late 1990's to see as many of these wonderful places as I can.

Enjoys walking in the wildnerness and climbing mountains (currently on the worlds slowest round of Munroe bagging), travel, playing guitar, real ale and malt whisky, historical re-enactment, fencing and wargaming (although not all at the same time!) Also adores small furry critters (particularly cats)

Spends most of the year in the megalithic desert of the Midlands, although fortunate enough to live part of the time in Kirkwall in the megalithic oasis of Orkney, with my lovely (and very patient) wife Ellen, and the cute furball that is our cat Hecate.

Favourite sites would be Callanish and Ring of Brodgar (where I was handfasted) in Scotland, Les Pierres Platts in Brittany, Havangsdosen in Sweden, Glavendrup in Denmark, and Sunkenkirk in England.

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