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Fieldnotes by spencer

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Crammag Head (Stone Fort / Dun)

A return a year after my first visit, and I found that the replacement of the power line and the poles that carry it has caused fresh damage to the cliff to cliff earthwork that encloses the dun, which is believed may be an earlier structure. See photo. When the light was replaced a few years ago there was a watching brief on the work. Sadly, times seem to have changed..

Tree Island, Whitefield Loch (Crannog)

This site is no longer an island due to a fall in the level of the loch. It is unmarked on OS 82, but delineated by a cairn symbol on Explorer 310 on account of the spread of stone atop it. Access is from the fisherman's car park at NX 235 549, from whence paths radiate, then beating your way through the brush. Canmore ID 62149

Drumtroddan Standing Stones

Yes, I know I've wrongly uploaded a Cairnholy pic ..can't remove. (Eds?) Nor, he neatly sidestepped, the memories of visits to Drumtroddan. One of my 'evening' sites that suit that time of day. Night comes in, sun fades in the west. The stillness, the manicured grass island wherein they stand and lie, the horizon, the lichen. The two that lie.... perchance they sleepeth. One is on guard, slender but imutable, in profile in mourning for the fallen. Barsalloch mid October for the late afternoon bask, then here. Turn back and look when you get to the gate at the road. That head will still be visible against the fading light, still bowing, this time to you. Reciprocate. Try to return.

Minninglow (Burial Chamber)

There are some places that I hold dear due to memories of antiquarian stomps with my late dad in days of yore, places that I have not returned to since his passing twenty years ago. Minninglow is one such. We first visited not long after the rails of the Cromford and High Peak line had been lifted at the turn of the '70's, our feet crunching along the limestone ballast as we trekked in from Newhaven crossing. The atmosphere of the place on that blue sky day captivated me the way that the arid calculation of azimuths never will. I had last been there about ten years later. After marriagr,lthough moving much nearer than when on holiday jaunts, life had precluded a return. I had, though, seen Minninglow from afar countless times, as it hove into view on the A621 south of Owler Bar near Barbrook. Some people always greet magpies... I always silently greeted the sight of that beech tree topknot that never failed to raised the spirits. "Hello Minninglow!" The tree profile changed with seasons and time, but always had the same effect. So near but so far.

The hankering for return had been increasing steadily, a must. I had read after the passing of TMA's Stubob that his ashes had been scattered there at his wish, and this had made me smile. I understood. It also acted as a nudge. I had wanted to go earlier in the season at budbreak, but the demands of fieldwalking in the soon to awaken bracken had precluded this..a race to at least cursorily survey a list of sites I'd been given where the Peak Park did not hold much archaeological data took precedent, and at weekends my nose had been to the gritstone. This had been brought to an abrupt halt the previous weekend, when seven hours of tooing and froing in the sprouting green menace wearing new boots, although productive, had resulted in a huge heel blister and a bad viral 'do'. Time to have an enforced break. My allotment this Sunday had been my intended limit. I'd then remembered that a steam engine would be visiting my former preserved railway haunt at Matlock, and I couldn't resist a look and a picture of its departure back to London. Just in case I put the OS Explorer in the car. I needed some limestone. News of further damage to Stanton's Nine Ladies, another haunt with dad, had upset me too. A further defilement of memory. I needed the antidote of a place where such acts would be unlikely, away from the maddening, gormless crowd. Only one place would do, if I felt up to it. Soil was turned for a while on allotment, then, yup, I reckoned the drive south was doable.

I drove to Matlock, thence Cromford, limped to a vantage point, got my shot, rued not paying in an almost deserted out of the way car park at six on a Sunday evening, then dammit, I had to do what I hadn't for nigh on thirty years. Up the Via Gellia, past Grangemill, then the Parwich turn off the A5012 to the car park at SK195582. As I neared there were swallows wheeling in the sunshine round nest sites in the huge limestone railway embankment that shielded my goal from view. Only two cars in the car park. I wondered if they'd gone to where I was heading...and also wondered if my goal was accessible. There had been no TMA fieldnotes since 2012, and Stu had posted that concessionary access was to end. One way to find out. I struck out, wincing from my blister, from the car park. Once out of a cutting and atop the finely engineered embankment there, to my right, was Minninglow, drawing me on. There too was the farm. Were eyes watching me? Had Stu's nearest and dearest had to ask for access? Would I be confronted with an unsurmountable field wall near my goal?

I pressed on, Minninglow ever larger, as larks sang above and lambs bleated around in the early evening sun. A runner passed, then a cyclist. That was it. Such a contrast to Matlock Bath's bustle. Through a cutting which opened out into a lineside quarry, then, yes!!! There was a metal gate to my left, and, adjoining, a small wooden one...and a recent sign confirming a concessionary path uphill to my destination. The limping w a s worth it. There were no bootmarks in the mud. Perhaps people are offput by there being no path marked on the OS, perhaps this place just seems too far out the way. Perhaps this is a blessing. No voice would shout 'get off my land!!' from the farm..just the sound of happy children playing drifted uphill. Lift the catch, through that gate, past the woolly mums and kids, past the limestone scarp, and there was that encircling wall with the open gate. It had been too long. I confess emotion. I had known here when the encircling tree belt was but the tiniest saplings, and prefer it with just the central beech sentinels.. surely the builders had meant here to be seen. If others prefer the present day seclusion so be it. One day the trees may be gone but those capstones and mounds will remain. I kicked and scraped a few molehills, 'just in case', and then, taking a breath, through the gateway. Back. The bronze age cairn, with young nettles starting to conceal Bateman's stone exposures for the summer, was to my right. I stopped, thought of my dad and then, mindful that Stu's ashes might be underfoot, walked slowly and lightly as I could to the main mound and those great capstones again. So good to return after all this time. No carved names, no paint..just everything as it had been and should be. After another pause and contemplation of my own mortality I took stock. There were one or two small stones protruding through the grass. Had Bateman excavated everything here, I wondered. I photo'd, then went through the gate on the low's furthest side.

The footpath veers to the right. I walked a little way straight ahead to get a view of another nearby cairn marked on the Explorer. A small green mound, no discernible stonework at that distance. I decided my blister should take precedent over curiosity and instead opened out the map to try and ID the other see for miles highpoints...if sheep have a sense of humour they would have enjoyed the battle. Paper won, but was mishapen. Back to the capstones, a quiet pause, taking in the lowering sun streaming through the beech trunks and branches..then time to go. I wiped my boots. Stu remains where he wished. Downhill, out into the evening blue. Turning right on the uphill side of a wall that cuts along below the scarp I wanted a look at another cairn marked on the OS. Close inspection was not possible due to a wire topped wall barrier, but I found a stone that seemed of interest embedded in that wall below the scarp. It was of wall height, and seemed to serve no demarcational or structural function. If anything, it was a structural weakness, as the wall was toppling either side. With some possible packing visible, was this contemporary with the hilltop sites? Had it been noted? One to read up on in due course.

I retraced my steps to the Midshires Way..somehow my steps felt lighter. No kids voices from the farm now. As I walked back along the black ash I scanned left and right, looking for signs in the close nibbled fields around of those who had built Minninglow for their loved and revered. On the north side of the farm and uphill? Who knows. So much remains hidden still. We do not know it all, never will. What I do know though is that, yes, Minninglow still is a special place, four square to time, part of the fabric of the landscape and my life, and I felt recharged and fulfilled by my visit. I hope others will too. Don't believe the map. Go. Once will not be enough. I walked slowly back to my Landy, past the cowslips and curlews, lambs and larks. An hour later I was back at my allotment, picking rhubarb in the gloaming. Better. Date of visit 22nd May 2016.

Green Low (Ring Cairn)

Before meeting the first group of trees to your left you will see Mag Low...one of those 'easy to reach with vibe' sites. The shafts of sunlight picked it out, bright green. On, till you cross the brook. I climbed a stock track that passed under an old hawthorn, then, cresting the rise, the 'whateveritis'. There looked to be three pretty evenly spaced degraded remains of small cists tucked into the inner face of the ring. The light wasn't right, so thought I'd wander before returning to photo. Uphill, through the open gate, the grass undulated and there looked to be traces of trackway and other earthwork. These, and the presence of sorrel, also an almost ubiquitous bellweather of settlements on the west coast of Scotland, made me feel 'as sure as' that those who built Green Low lived here. I climbed the rise behind, looking for more earthworks. Yup, but I reckon not t h a t old. A potter in the top of the wood prior to the intended extended pic session looking down on the site..I was looking the wrong way. The wind had got up, then, suddenly, snow. With surreal speed it fell and was blasted into the branches and grass. I couldn't see more than 100' for a time. Curtains crossed the valley, muffling the sound of trains climbing to Cowburn Tunnel below. It was bloody cold too. Back down to the site. Not a cist to be seen. Bother. The sun was back though. A few pix, decision made that this place was well worth a return, then back along the track. A happy woman with her even more happy offspring passed, heading to where I'd been. A fine, easy site to blood the young archaeo with. Good luck to 'em.

Farley Moor (Standing Stone / Menhir)

This is a very fine stone in my opinion, and also one I cannot help feeling is very underappreciated in view of the lack of any evidence of other visitors since it was rediscovered and its existence put online in 2013. I also cannot but help feel slightly apprehensive about its future in view of the fate of two other stones in the vicinity and the heavy timber extraction machinery clearly in use at this location. I became aware of it through the most illuminating Pecsaetan website of TMA's Harestonesdown/Geoff and the late Stubob, and I recommend at a minimum reading their homepage for the sage words, including about safety, concerning fieldwalking therein. Several months after the stone went on my 'must see' list - as it should be on others - the opportunity arose after a day in the liquid sunshine on Stanton Moor with Geoff, TMA's Juamei and pals who were company more than equal to the elements. Spirits bolstered and realising that it was difficult for clothing to get much wetter, so what the hell, off to try and find this beleaguered monolith without any aid other than the grid reference on TMA provided by Stubob. Sparing the details of circuituous forest wanderings apart from to say it was dusk when I found it and was on the point of giving up had I not spotted a thin vertical line of greeny grey lichen in the forest gloom, here are directions hopefully sufficient for non GPS enabled others to follow....park opposite the lane leading to Tax Farm with its Caravan Club signs. Walk uphill along the road and on the right hand side after approximately 170 paces you will see a clearly defined little path leading initially at right angles from the road then bearing right by the stone wall which is then crossed through a gap and then you're in the forestry. Ahead another path is quickly met. Turn left and soon you will see on your right a long, neglected and boggy forest ride between plantations. Squelch along this, negotiating the heavy machinery rutting. A large replanted clearing will come into view on your right. On the left as you make your final approach to that you will see a path joining at right angles. Pause, then continue walking onward counting each step. At around number thirty seven and to your right by the side of the path you will see a fallen stone Turn 180. Ahead you will hopefully see the stone in the gloom - possibly clearer in late afternoon sunshine. Walk eleven pacesish in from the treeline on the left hand side of the path. Touch, pat or, as I did, an extreme behavioural rarity, put your arm round your goal and hug it. Pause again and think of and thank its finder Stubob and all the others now gone who have made this website what it is. The third tallest stone on the Eastern Moors, over six feet, deserves all the attention that you will give.

More Hall (Cup Marked Stone)

I must express my gratitude to Terry Howard, eminence grise of Sheffield's ramblers, for bringing this to my attention and providing directions to its approximate whereabouts. It was he who discovered it many years ago when in the employment of the water board, who oversee neighbouring More Hall reservoir. He reported it promptly to Sheffield Council's archaeology service, who should hold a record of its discovery date. It was, apparently, the first rock art discovered in South Yorkshire, pre-dating the finding of Eccleshall Woods 1. Subsequent to his finding it, some ne'erdowell uprooted it from the univalate rampart of what appears to be an unrecorded promontory fort or settlement above, for which I will be providing a separate site entry, and it tumbled down onto a plateau some twenty feet below, where it now lies. I do wonder if it has gone completely off Sheffield Archaeology Service's radar, for reasons apparent if you keep reading...... To find it, park on the far side of the reservoir and walk across the dam. If you look to your right you will see, above and beyond the adjacent Broomhead dam and reservoir, the moors of the same name, my TMA rummaging hangout for the forseeable, and an area I'm becoming increasingly of the opinion is of great archaeological importance. Anyway, back to the star of the show. Terry said I should take the path on the far side of the dam that goes uphill to Brightholmlee, and then bear off it left into the wood following the 60-80' scarp E above the weir. I saw a worn path in that direction and followed it. It gradually became apparent that those keeping the path worn were, if humanoids, diminutive, as I had to duck under branches, and then as the path proved a challenge to the most agile limbo dancer, I realised that those responsible were four legged. Keeping parallel to it I came to a plateau with a sheer drop through the rhododendrons to my left. This plateau was full of big holes. The four legged creatures were evidently of the black and white striped faced variety. So t h a t s why the grass on top of the dam was so chavelled....As Terry directed, I carried on, but would return to this spot on completion of my search, as stonework and the univalate rampart along the scarp ahead greatly intrigued. First things first: the Great Stone Search. I crossed three babbling rills beyond the platform area that plunged about thirty feet down the drop to my left, and the rampart became progressively more distinct, and I walked along its top, mindful of avoiding being tripped by brambles and plunging over. Yes, there was a plateau, obviously man made, 25'ish below to my left, but where was the stone? There was a large tree in extremis, big boughs and branches hanging over or lying on this flat area, bits n bobs of brambles and ferns, but...no stone. It should have been visible, being described by Terry as about a metre long by half a metre thick, with, thankfully, the cup marks uppermost after it had been toppled. Should have. I was nearing the wood edge. Ahead, beyond a rough stone wall topped with remnants of an iron fence, which could easily have been 18thC, was pasture. I had to descend over the rampart and hunt in the wood below. It was clayey, leafmoulded and bloody slippery. I started to head back W, eyes peeled. Nada. I came to the point that those rills had tumbled to. Too far. Back E again, this time sticking to the flat area immediately below the rampart. The distressed tree's fallen boughs came into view, a layered jumble of branches up to thirty feet long overlay a huge bough. Something under its cleft end caught my eye. It was totally covered in moss. I could tell if it was wood or stone even. Could it be..? One thing for it, getting my hands dirty. What I do for a living. No problem. What was the problem was all the branches on top of it. Heaving them out the way took twenty minutes before I could lay hands on the object of my curiosity. It was raining and I didn't care. At last, I could start moss peeling. Stone. I will not forget gradually revealing what was underneath that moss. Cup mark, cup mark, cup mark, another, another, another....I scrabbled away, digging deeper into them, cleaning them out one by one, brushing off, looking....I counted fourteen, gingerly feeling under the huge bough that had missed resting directly on them by an inch or so. Only one cup mark was apparent when I cleared away the branch debris and then moss on the far side of the bough, which, judging by their spacing, could, if it existed, be directly resting on no more than one. Picture time. At last, the stone was ready for its closeup. Then, with reluctance, time to leave this rediscovered buried treasure. Pat, stroke, appreciate. I checked the old fenced stone wall by the pasture for any more cup marks, but found none. Certainly worth another look when I return, which I will - the wood will be a sea of bluebells in a few months..... I climbed back up to the rampart, walked back along it and then looked down after I passed that sad wreck of a tree. This time the formerly moss and branch covered stone looked back. I could see the cup marks from sixty feet away. Now I hope others will. Now for that fort.. Cheers, Terry.

Barbrook II (Stone Circle)

If visiting Barbrook 1 then this is a must....but surely found by anyone following the path from the latter looking at the wealth of cairns on either side. Those who leave the path as I did and do some fieldwalking may well find even more - the odd stone pointing through the turf or not even that, only a faint bump. Just how many are there? Certainly a visit when the bracken is dormant will pay dividends. Anyway, back to the circle: as with the opinion of others, if this is a rebuild then I'm all in favour. Yes, I did prefer it to Barbrook 1. I do not know the extent of the rebuild, but feel that this is a reused structure anyway..not now a stone circle in the conventional sense, but perhaps at was at one time before infilling between regularily spaced larger components, though even these are mostly less than knee high - as per all bar one of this circle's neighbour. These, though, seemed of more regular shape, and, of course, may possibly date in their positioning from the rebuild. Whatever the provenance, come here. Early or late in the day you've a fair chance of solitude. I wandered around alone in the dusk, exploring the neighbouring cairns, looking for more hidden in the heather, the sound of a waterfall on the wind, red grouse and ring ouzel for company. Then, back to Barbrook 1 for some flash photography, darkness shrouding whatever further delights Big Moor holds, thence back to the large layby, now deserted bar my Fiesta, then tagging on to the rear of a caterpillar of red lights that made its way back to Sheffield in the shrouded mist and mizzle. A good antidote to the Christmas 'jollities'. One of those 'aah, needed that' experiences. I understand why those in the past wanted to live there. So much to see with so little legwork. Make the effort

Barbrook I (Stone Circle)

The number of times I've driven along the A621 over the last twenty years and not known the delights of the moor alongside...coming from Sheffield you'll see Minninglow on the horizon, so near yet so far. There are laybys either side of the road, well used at the weekend, even when the weather is pretty foul, like it was when, finally, after looking at the OS, I decided this would be the destination for much needed post-Christmas solo perambulation and stone therapy. I'd no idea that there was a stone circle so close to home. Through the fresh painted white gate, late in the day, passing a few groups of people making their way homeward in the mizzle. I was the last outward bounder, had the muddy track to myself after a few minutes. As per the increasingly damp map, there was the circle, or at least the tallest stone, visible up the slope to my right, with path leading to it. I became aware that the entire area was covered with cairns..what a place. At the circle the tallest stones current offerings were a trio of spent shotgun cartridges, while a neighbour sported a plastic reindeer. This wasn't the Nine Ladies.. though the path indicated plenty of visitors none wanted to paint or carve. Plastic reindeer welcome. The very modest size of the stones mattered not. A fine setting, and so many other sites, recorded or not, within sight and under foot. Try visiting before the bracken and grass grows - so much more visible in the bleak months. Has the vicinity really, really been properly fieldwalked? Be sure to visit Barbrook 2 close by, and wander round the other cairns, and, if time, explore further. 'Sites within 20km' above reveals more a few minutes walk away, but fading light precluded that for me, but if there was nothing else apart from this circle I'd still want want to return, and will. My jobs are only a few minutes away, and on summers evenings what a place to wind down afterwards. I WILL be back. Recommended.

Fort Point (Promontory Fort)

Well..this was an adventure. Prompted by studying OS Landranger 82 I thought it worth a mooch, which in the end proved more of an endurance test. However, no regrets. A 7.5 or 8/10 site certainly as far as ambience.....Turning off the B738 I drove seaward down the sweet rough road to Meikle Galdenoch with its indicated car park. OK, outside the scope of this forum, but I defy anyone not to fail to admire and photograph the adjacent castle. Small, yes, character huge. Anyway, back to subject. Point number one: the map is wrong. There's clearly never been a way to the coast that starts as indicated. The true course starts on the other side of a farmyard with buildings either side. Understandably the farmer would appear not to want casual visitors venturing here, and there is a footpath sign pointing in the opposite direction. Dutifully I followed the track indicated for a short distance till a gate blocked the path. On the other side: cattle. Lots of them. Fortunately there was another gate to an adjoining field of stubble separated by a wire fence, so, over that, and following a parallel course towards where the footpath was indicated on the map. This was doubly a good move, as a fine bull made its presence known. The footpath came into view.. it was in fact a fenced unmetalled track. Once again, though, when I got to the nearest fence progress along it was barred by the presence of aforementioned bovines the other side of a gate across the track. Fortunately though, there was an identical means of avoidance and further progress in the form of another gate on the opposite side of the track with pasture beyond, once again separated from the stock by a wire fence. Same procedure as before, follow the fence westward till the field's end. Entering the cattle's field was unavoidable, but only briefly. Over a gate, then over another adjoining one which crossed the track. Metal between me and the bull and harem and, finally, progress as the map indicated. Phew, about time. I walked along the track with a forestry plantation to my right, shortly found a small quarry with forlorn abandoned digger, and then skirted a small loch with an unusual octagonal wooden building landward and small jetty with chairs on opposite. The farmer's place to chill, doubtless. Onward seaward... and damn. The track curved round northwards, while the map indicated the footpath I wanted headed due west, through a gate to another field of pasture. There: more cows, another bull. Yup, more swearing. Bugger was justified. I followed the track hoping for another way. On my seaward side - this now in view and an incentive that my goal wasn't too far away - was an unfenced area of uprooted gorse and sedge. It looked a bit of a obstacle course, so I didn't attempt to cross despite the sea and a possible clifftop route being beyond and continued along the track, realising that as I did so I was walking away from my target. After a few minutes I gave in and headed towards the sea, over a barbed wire fence and turned south along the clifftop. Fine views and geology, yes, way to the fort, no. An unclimbable deer fence, which in any rate had a sheer drop feet from the other side. I climbed over the adjoining barbed wire fence into the uprooted gorse as a shortcut back to the track. I'd given up, wanted out, knew there were other sites nearby. I followed the deer fence uphill towards the track. After a bit the deer fence stopped and headed at right angles south. A normal sized wire fence replaced it. Lo and behold, there was a little stile. If ever there was a morale booster. Over that, enthusiasm returned, as I was heading where I wanted to go. I followed the deer fence southward along the edge of a field of barley. Then more cattle came in sight on the fence's seaward side. Deer obviously a past enterprise. They saw me, and all ambled unhurriedly away. I became emboldened, and carried on despite seeing that my way was blocked at the far end of the field by another fence. Over that, I could see from the map, should be the footpath. All the cattle walked slowly past me and headed off uphill inland when I got to the fence. It felt like a miracle, a reward for perseverance. I was surely only a few hundred yards from my destination, still out of sight, tantalising. I hoped it would be worth it. After making sure the cattle were all well out of the way I climbed over the fence, footpath rejoined. Seaward it became undefined, but I could tell from the map it followed the top of a bluff. The shore came into view, and then.....the remains of the fort. No mirage. Most importantly, not a disappointment. Canmore does a far better job of describing it than myself. Yes, greatly robbed for other buildings associated with salt manufacture and farming, themselves now gone, but the fort's foundations remain, a bleached white ghost. It had obviously been a fair size. I paced it out, but forgot the dimensions subsequently. Iirc approximately thirty five paces east to west. My photo's should give the gist. Despite its depleted state it was the best preserved site I'd found thus far on my D&G wanderings. I liked it there, and the view down the coast was another attraction. Kemp's Wark at Broadsea Bay and Killantringan's dun were both in sight - see photo. The latter was my next planned destination, so after a good potter it was time to retrace my steps. No cattle in sight, thankfully. Over the fence, back along the edge of the barley field to the stile and then, this time, uphill through that uprooted gorse and high sedge wilderness. Others may prefer to hug the barleyfield's fence when toing and froing from the stile should bovines demand but the going wasn't too bad. Anyway, you never know what lies hidden by gorse.. our forebears appreciated its defensive merits while we today curse it. I beg to differ. Two roe deer jumped up, alarmed, and I watched their white rumps bounce away with greater agility than mine. After a ten minute yomp the track was regained, and from then on the return was simple and stress free. I knew what I was doing, where I was going. how long it would take. It was a fine blue sky evening. I photographed a raven and buzzard hunting in tandem, soaring over the stubble. A steady plod saw me back at the car, with a sense of fulfillment. The stubborn head had won and been rrewarded. Definitely a place to return to. During the summer and autumn months it's bound to be lucky dip as to which field has stock, but winter and up to mid spring should see the stock indoors and a clear run. Yes, worth the effort, and you're very unlikely to see another soul if solitude appeals, as it does to me. Back at my campsite the owner, a long time resident, said she'd never made it down and she didn't know anyone who had. I have, and am far from superhuman. I hope the directions herewith in the event of bovine presence will encourage others.

Mull of Galloway (Cairn(s))

This is my most visited site..a dozen times or more. I love it here, standing on top, looking across to the Isle of Man, the Lake District, Whithorn, Snowdon on a very clear day, and the Irish coast...... watching the birdlife, the resident roe deer, the seething high tide, and, after dark, the beam of the adjacent lighthouse sweeping overhead. To find, just drive south from Stranraer till the road ends. Half an hour non stop, but see how many times you stop en route for scenery and sites, not least the superb triple banked linear earthwork, increasingly believed to be Iron Age, that you pass through near your destination. Park in the car park north of the lighthouse, visit Gallie Craig, the great eatery - with loos - cum travel centre and emporium, walk towards the light. The cairn is on the skyline, left, as you approach. As Canmore - ID 61039 - describes, it's been knocked about a bit. Until recently there was a flagpole atop. Two watertanks have been incised into its western side. This site is symbolic, and deserves an entry in TMA for this if no other reason. Like so much of Scotland's ancient archaeology, degraded by the millennia and man, but still a prescence, battered but unbowed. It is the country's most southern site. 'Just' a cairn... but a nation's archaeology starts - or ends - here.

Slockmill Enclosure

On my walk from Slochmill to Crammag Head to inspect the dun at the latter, indicated by the OS map, I encountered a fine turf covered Galloway dyke en route. As I know such features can be of great antiquity and as it was curved, starting from the clifftop south of Crammag Head and ending near the clifftop on the Head's northern side, and also as it had what may be a ditch, I was tempted to submit it to TMA as a dyke. What has made me change my mind and classify this site as an enclosure was what appears to be revealed by the aerial photograph that I found online after returning home, which is accessed via a link, below, to these fieldnotes. I advise making a paper copy of this image. At the time I did not notice anything unusual as I passed through the northernmost of the three entrances through the dyke - the middle one being the largest and roughly knocked through perhaps to gain access when the lighthouse at Crammag Head was constructed. The long grass was bumpy in places, but I thought nothing of it. Finding the photo changed all that. If studied carefully there would appear to be well over a dozen circular features of varying size which may be hut circles or the remains of their drip trenches. These are most heavily concentrated at the mid point of the dyke and away from the cliff edge. Only excavation for want of a better aerial image would confirm this. Note how, on the left hand side of the image, the dyke ends where it reaches the Mulrea Burn a short distance before the latter commences its steep descent to the sea, thus providing a point where water could be obtained by man or beast within the bounds of the dyke, and also note the southernmost or right hand entrance through the dyke near the coastguard lookout station, and the staight path or causeway running from this entrance - or exit - to the stone circle, visible as grey - white dots, which is the subject of separate TMA fieldnotes - via the 'sites within 20km' facility at the top left of this page. From what I have read subsequently hut circle size increased towards the end of the Bronze Age, so, if the circular features are of this origin, the image may be an indication of sustained occupancy of the site commencing at an earlier date. Another image of the enclosure showing the circular features on the seaward side of the dyke is attached as a link to my fieldnotes for the TMA entry for Crammag Head's dun.. once again, accessed via the 'sites within 20km' facility herewith. Date of visit 3rd October 2015.

Slockmill Fort (Hillfort)

Having visited Crammag Head's dun and then found what may be either a stone circle or setting while fieldwalking inland I started to head back to my car at Slockmill. Within a hundred feet of leaving the circle I realised I was walking upon the upper rampart of three of what I assume is a hillfort. These encircle a raised outcrop covered in gorse, and are for the most part are obscured by this. The three tiers of ramparts of the length that I was able to fieldwalk are connected not by ditches but by level terraces. I had found another example of a level terrace on the southerly side of the promontory fort up the coast, Kemp's Wark. It is possible, though, that any ditches had infilled over time or that this is an incomplete structure - one image herewith showing what look like ramps between the tiers perhaps supports this. Ramparts may perhaps have been thought unnecessary on the western side owing to the presence there of a high stone outcrop. There is another example of a triple-tiered fort nearby, believed Iron Age, at nearby Kirkmaiden, called Core Hill. The stucture of the latter has been badly damaged, but the triple arrangement is discernible through stock erosion on its eastern side leading to the exposure of three bands of fine rocky material. Another example of a triple arrangement may be found down the coast at the southernmost of the Mull of Galloway earthworks, increasingly believed of Iron Age origin. Based on these similarities I am tentatively dating this site to the Iron Age also. An image of the eastern side of the fort showing the line of the ramparts also herewith. I did not attempt a full circumnavigation and fieldwalk due to my injured leg, but am reasonably confident that the large gorsey outcrop is almost completely encircled by earthworks after subsequently finding a photograph taken from the south from the much higher cliff fort at Dunman, which I have placed as a separate link, below, to these fieldnotes. The presence of only a single rampart in the vicinity of Slockmill stone circle - or setting - may be due to this western area being the entrance to the fort. NB, I named this site Slockmill fort after failing to find any reference to it on the internet, including Canmore, in order to distinguish it from the dun at Crammag Head, which some believe to be a fort also due to site reuse. It therefore seemed correct to ascribe the name Slochmill to the stone circle at Slochmill fort's western base, and, due to aerial photographic evidence - see the entries for the stone circle and Crammag Head dun for links - showing a direct pathway or causeway and entrance connecting the stone circle to the circular features, possibly hut circles, within the neighbouring enclosure bounded by the dyke, name this feature similarily too. The name Crammag is not, apparently, known locally in any case. Should these sites already be known and named so be it. An aerial image showing the fort and its position relative to the enclosure and stone circle can be found as a link from my TMA fieldnotes for both - accessed by clicking on the 'sites within 20km' feature at the top of this page - in addition to the image linked to my entry for Crammag Head. Date of visit 3rd October 2015.

Slockmill (Stone Circle)

I had visited Crammag Head to explore and photograph the dun there, and had on my way found a long, crescent shaped turf covered Galloway dyke of obvious antiquity. This and the intriguing gorse covered outcrop nearby prompted me to do some fieldwalking subsequently. After first inspecting the adjacent abandoned coastguard lookout station I then noticed nearby a small exit through the dyke which on close inspection, looked an original feature. Passing through this I made my way up the sloping terrain towards the outcrop and then climbed it as best I could. Part of its summit and surrounds were covered by gorse of sufficient density to deter further exploration, and I therefore descended, but by a slightly different route. Walking southwestwards towards a field fence to get a photograph of nearby Dunman with its sensationally sited summit cliff fort I then found at my feet something that I had never encountered before.... poking through the turf by only an inch or two was an arc of four or five flat topped stones which were equally spaced to what seemed geometric precision. I then became aware that this arc was part of a circle as other stones were exposed in places, and little mounds indicated that more probably remained in situ just under the turf. I then realised that other exposed stones outside of this ring were part of another, surrounding circle, and that further exposed stones without the latter ring indicated yet another, larger surrounding circle. What I had found was tri-concentric. I stepped from stone to stone round the initial, inner ring that I had encountered, and found that by stamping my feet as I did so that indeed most if not all of its non-visible components remained in situ hidden under the turf. Maintaining an equal pace proved that all components were evenly spaced. A megalithic yard? My estimate is that this inner ring comprises fifteen or sixteen stones, giving an approximate circumference of the ring of 45'. The distance between this inner ring and the middle ring of stones and the latter and outer ring was approximately five feet in both cases. I did not do a test walk round the circumference of the outer rings, but I could see from such exposed stones as there were that, once again, they had been placed with geometric precision, but did not establish if there was a radial linkage with the inner ring. I photographed - in retrospect not nearly enough - trying to absorb this phenomenon. Initially I thought that it was the degraded remains of a cairn, but then discounted this as there was no evidence of spoil in the surrounding area, and also the inner ring, being on a slight dome, should have had most damage, whereas in fact it seemed the most visibly complete. One of my photographs suggests faint traces of shallow ditches between each ring, not noticed at the time. Photography using a drone overhead may reveal the true nature of this site much better than I was able to. The best definition I can think of for it is a tri-concentric stone setting - it doesn't fit the conventional notion of a stone circle, even though it is circular with stone components. None of the proscribed TMA definitions when adding sites to the database are really appropriate, so this site is a circle by default...the most accurate description from those available. This site is an enigma......sacred, ceremonial or astrological function I know not. It may even be unique. I hope that other more experienced and learned minds will be interested enough to want to discover which. In view of their proximity there may be comparable sites in Ireland or the Isle of Man... but from what reading I've done there's nothing comparable recorded on the latter. What I do know though, through subsequent discovery of online aerial images - see link below - is that there is a direct physical connection to the Galloway dyke and the enclosed land beyond in the form of a straight path or causeway of which some stones appear to be visible, leading from the gap in the dyke that I had come through straight towards the centre of the site. This path or causeway appears to have faint traces of a ditch at either side from dyke to circle and that these ditches appear to surround the outer ring of stones and meet each other thus enclosing the entire site. The presence of this causeway would, like the absence of spoil, point towards this site not having been a cairn. On close study of the aerial photograph linked below to these fieldnotes, which is accessed online by clicking on the red 'Photographer's Resource' wording - I advise making a paper copy 'in case' - it is possible to discern well over a dozen circular features of various sizes on the seaward side of the dyke, none of which being apparent as I made my way to my initial destination at Crammag Head. It is feasible that these features are hut circles, or remnants of the drip trenches thereof, and that therefore there may exist here in the hinterland of Crammag Head both the remains of a settlement and a contemporary physically interlinked circular feature of unknown function. I will leave it to others to find out and confirm. It could be that both are related to the earthwork westward, on the landward side of Crammag Head's stone fort or dun. Some authorities appear to believe that the dun is of later date than the earthwork. Of indeterminate date though, is the hill fort, the three ramparts of which I then found poking out of the gorse at the bottom of the NW side of the aforementioned nearby outcrop as I made my way in my already somewhat taken aback state back to my car at Slochmill, for which, like this site and the enclosure there are separate TMA fieldnotes - see the 'sites within 20km link' at the top of this site's webpage. I have checked at length online and there appear to be no records for either circle, settlement nor fort. Quite a day: I would always advocate fieldwalking the vicinity when visiting known sites as you never know what you might find, and remember to look down as well as around - there is a lot more out there.......... NB: As this site is so hard to see till you're on top of it, apart from walking up the causeway feature perhaps the best alternative way to find it is to follow the wire fence that runs from the coastguard lookout near Crammag Head light uphill towards the rocky outcrop. As you approach the latter you will see a metal gate in the fence. When reaching this, head away at right angles a few yards, and you should start to see the stones at your feet. Make what you will of this place.. archaeological investigation is surely metited. Site visited - or discovered? - 3rd October 2015.

Crammag Head (Stone Fort / Dun)

I parked opposite the two houses by the entrance to Slochmill Farm, and then made my way to the start of the footpath leading to Crammag Head, as indicated on OS 82. This turned out to be accessed by slipping round the end of an out of kilter iron field gate. Thence the track leads eastward to a rather overengineered bridge crossing the Mulrea Burn composed of two heavy duty concrete slabs, and then becomes undefined thereafter, but follows the course of the burn. This part of the walk was an absolute pleasure, listening to the burbling water, with iris and primroses along its banks, which must be beautiful sight in bloom. I had not done any research of the site beforehand, and had, based on such information I could glean from the map, thought that the dun was on top of the large gorsey outcrop that was ahead of me. It certainly looked a good place for a defensive position, so I headed off the illdefined path towards it. At that point I saw a dogwalker who, when I called over to her for confirmation, pointed me not to the outcrop but over the brow alongside it. As I crested it the top of the lighthouse at the Head came into view. There was still no sign of the dun, but what grabbed my eye was nearer. I had never seen one before, but, having an interest in walling, knew what it was immediately: a turf covered Galloway dyke. Like Cornish hedges and the field boundaries of West Pembrokeshire these can be thousands of years old. It curved round in a crescent from cliff edge to cliff edge, and had what was either a ditch or depression caused by centuries of stock erosion. I could not tell which, but was sure that it's structure and form alone merited mention in TMA as an archaeological feature. Dykes, sacred springs and holloways do, to me, deserve equal note as other archaeological features. There are other things apart from stones, forts and cairns. I was very intrigued and took several shots. Still no dun though. I carried on walking over the verdant and bumpy grass towards the lighthouse. Where was it? Through the gate to the light. There was a cresent shaped degraded rampart encircling the outcrop the light was built on, obviously ancient. Some of its structure was exposed by stock erosion. I photographed away, but was aware that it was not what I had come to see. Where on earth was it? The puzzlement increased. I approached the stubby light on its concrete plinth.....and then became both aghast and incredulous. There, at the western side of the plinth, was a curved foundation structure of large stone blocks. The lighthouse had been built on top of the dun. I expored what remained, then descended some steps to a structure that may once have housed a foghorn. Turning to look southward along the cliffs is an experience I shall not forget. I knew that there was a fort on top of neighbouring Dunman, and had intended to go there. What is in no way possible to glean from the map is just how stunning the sight is that awaits you. I know of no finer setting for a cliff fort than Dunman's. The ramparts are on the skyline, and its westward edge is a drop over four hundred feet to the sea. My superlatives are inadequate. I stood looking for a while, trying to take images that did it justice, then retraced my steps to the gate. A clifftop sheeptrack towards Dunman beckoned. I went some way along, enough to make me pretty sure it went all the way there. My leg injury from broching dictated otherwise. 2016. Please. Back to the gate. Near it was an abandoned two storey lookout station. I climbed up its steps to its viewing platform. How I would love to buy it for a few grand and bodge it into habitability... what a view to Dunman and the light. Dreams... I then descended the steps and decided to do some fieldwalking inland, prompted by finding the dyke and that still intriguing gorsey outcrop. What I found deserves separate mention, suffice to say that a walk across Slockmill's farmland to Crammag Head's dun is a walk through history. Even if there was no archaeology there whatsoever it is still necessary for that view and probable access to Dunman's fort. But there is.... See separate site entries for Slochmill enclosure, stones and hillfort. Canmore ID 60437. Date of visit 3rd October 2015.

The Wren's Egg & Nest (Standing Stones)

One of those sites I'd meant to do on my previous visit to this side of Luce Bay in '14 but got tripped up by 'busman's holiday' garden visits. I'd made it to Barsalloch, but not here. So near yet so far. A return to Barsalloch first, a contemplative chill and bask there, then, yes Wren's Egg, I'm on my way. I parked in Monreith and went across the fields to Blairbuy Stones first - see fieldnotes. The Wren's Egg and Nest called me in. Through the open gate with lady at farm's ready approval, then up the slope to the Wren's Egg and attendant smaller stones, sadly unmentioned in the name of this place. Like Barsalloch, I was it seems, having read his notes subsequently, following in CARL's wake. Woof woof, pitter patter, widdle. Same impression as him and Postie. Bloody nice place, especially on this blue sky autumn day. Why, why, why don't more people make it here??? Ffs, latitudinally it and MoG over the other side of lovely Luce Bay are south of Carlisle and Newcastle. The A75's a fine drive, a Euroroute even, and the A747 from Glenluce is even finer. Come. Please. Anyway, rant over. I circled the Egg, then had a look at the two stones, checking the alignments with those at Blairbuy. Snap, snap, snap. Then, as is my wont, off for a fieldwalk. I headed east away down the rise to check on the alignment of the Small Stones - they at least deserve capital letters - with the Egg. Then walked further away towards the the N-S field wall with its belt of trees behind, and farm buildings beyond them. As I approached the wall something in it caught my eye....... TWO ADDITIONAL STONES...... I have walling experience, and looked at what was before me from a structural, non fanciful perspective. I was adamant that the stones in this wall were in situ, but in light of info recieved now accept that they have been probably placed there in more recent times... however they are of the same shape and distance apart as the two by the Egg, and align with it. The wall has been built around them, and at present the ground level on the 'Egg' side means they look very squat, but I am confident that they are of the same size as the Egg's attendants, should a test excavation take place. Further stones from the site, displaced? I stood and looked at them for a bit, and had already decided there was more to this place than met the eye. Back up the slope to Egg and Stones for an alignment double check, then I decided to have a good look, circle and scramble over the oak covered Nest. Exposure by stock of soil and stones on it makes it plain that it is not a natural feature. What it is, pass, but.... not natural. Like the strange gorse covered conical mound by Terally Stone and the identical gorsey conical top to the outlier at Kemp's Walk, I'd love a ground penetrating survey out of curiosity. I carried on round the Nest, circling its perimiter anticlockwise, looking at the bare soil exposures and pretty uniform small rocks within. Under a tree on it's western side between about a third and half way along I found a large stone in the long grass. It had a fine, laminated structure, running from top to bottom. Something caught my eye again.. the light was right. There were about eight lines of long horizontal incisions on the lefthand of its 'field/W' side. Each line had other shorter cutmarks leading off from it, either at right angles or at an angle. Convinced then that this was made by human hand, I now accept Tiompan's judgement that what I had found were ploughmarks. It just goes to show how the inexperienced can be decieved. At the time though I confess I was a bit blown away after finding this stone in addition to the other two. Drumtroddan and more awaited though. My last day. Back to the open gate, and I thought I'd walk along the road back to Monreith. After a few yards walk along it I thought I'd get some more Egg pics and leant against the field wall. I looked over the wall to my right. Two further stones, resting against each other, incorporated in it. On the 'road' side of the wall they don't look much, on the lower, 'field' side they are revealed to be the best part of five feet long. Uprooted Wren's attendants? They are visible in this TMA image: http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/img_fullsize/126593.jpg Look at the left hand edge of the left hand stone, then to the field wall beyond. Two whitish lines therein. Another, possibly, to their left. While stamping back the grass on the road side of the wall to take some pics of the stones, herewith, a couple approached with their dog. She was a local, and had never noticed what I'd found. We had a natter, and I told her the purpose of my trip. She then told me about some carved and cup and ring marked stones locally, "plain to see when I was young, now covered in nettles and brambles". Oh, how I wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask her to point out their location on the map in my hand. I have not checked others Blairbuy fieldnotes yet, but, there may be yet more to find and record around here. I have read on preceeding fieldnotes Julian's assessment of this place as a 'protoneolithic temple'. Too right, Drude, too right. NOW will someone else come? A fine, intriguing and undervisited site.

Portobello (Promontory Fort)

This is a site that my visit did not do justice to...one of those victims of my 'it's not dark yet - time to squeeze one more site in' syndrome. I know that I am not alone in this though. It was the end of the first day of my Galloway, and, having first been in birdwatching mode and spent a while on the Scaur on Loch Ryan's Wig Bay watching the oystercatchers and wheeling golden plovers I realised it was high time to start going to sites, the prime reason for my visit. Dunskirloch - Corsewall to the OS - and Dounan Nose were revisited after first being there in 2014, then, as the sun was setting I thought I'd give Portobello a go..it'd been on my hitlist last year but the round tuit intervened. It's not far down the coast from Dounan. Off I went. Down the dead end road, west towards the sea. The road became unmetalled past the last inhabited house, but was 'doable' in my little old Fiesta..only a couple of big watery ruts to carefully negotiate, until the driveable bit ended by a derelict croft on the right hand side. There was ample room to turn round. That'd do. Onward westward on what was now a grassy farm track, until a leaning rusty gate in an extreme state of decrepitude was reached, wire either side, wire supporting. I knew it was permissible to venture further thanks to a list of beaches and directions at my campsite, the excellent North Rhinns Camping near Leswalt (I WILL be back. Second visit in '15). The farmer's cool about visits, and the council are due to put in a new gate. So: don't be deterred. I scrambled round the gate and over its accompanying wire. Straight ahead my goal was visible. No cows. The fort is on a promontory, the southern side of which drops to Portobello beach. I did not find a finer sheltered landing spot on my entire trip. To our forebears this place must have been a 'des res' for that reason. If there was no fort here I'd still say go regardless. Like Dounan, Broadsea Bay (Kemp's Wark), Killantringan (dun) and Ardwell Bay (Doon Castle) it is an excellent site to visit if with family perhaps less enamoured by archaeological sites. Low tide paradises. Back to the purpose in hand. Oh to have read Canmore beforehand. Yes, I 'think' I found it, but the light was fast receeding. I had seen enough to put the place on my 'must return to' list. A good vibe. I attempted a few shots and retraced my steps, meaning to return in the following few days. As I got to the rickety gate a short eared owl flew from an adjacent roofless croft's gable. It was the night of the full Supermoon, which hung over the further croft where my car was parked. More low light blurry clicking. Bye Portobello, I like you. Back tomorrow perhaps, or day after, promise. Sigh. Promise not kept. 2016. Off to Morrisons in Stranraer to stock up on stuff, raid the reduced for quick sales. Then, dammit, footloose, on holiday.. carpark mapread...dammit, I'm off to Knock and Maize for a quick bit of flashing. I blame that full moon. As an update, I've now found that it is permissible to walk south along the coast from Portobello to two further nearby forts at Strool Bay and Juniper Rock, both apparently worth a visit. Can't wait.

Hole Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

I had visited so many sites on my trip to Galloway, this would be categorically the last. It looked very near the road on the map, I just needed to have an antidote to my experience at Torhousekie Stone Row... my fieldotes for there give the details....somewhere to stand, take a deep breath and reflect. A wind down and quiet finale to my adventures over the preceeding eight days in this sumblime and underappreciated part of this island of ours. Hole Stone and adjacent White Cairn got the short straw. My headlights were on as I drove, I took a wrong turn, then had to stop a couple of times to check the map on the road that should take me there. A farms namesign by the road told me I was close, the geography lined up with the maps contours, then I made out a faint pale grey blob in a field on the left hand side of the road. It had to be White Cairn, Hole Stone had to be nearby. I parked, climbed a little bank by the road, leant over the wall. There it was. I wanted to go to it, take some closeup flash photos as I'd done at Knock and Maize and Terally, but knew I could not. On the horizon there stood a large number of cattle. No. I crossed the road to the other side of the road where the vantage point was better. At least I could take some zoom shots. The hole in the stone was visible despite the poor light, and the stone itself looked redoubtable, and quite large compared to most I'd visited. Three shots without flash, then a rumble. The entire herd of what turned out to be about forty bullocks charged down towards the stone, carried on past it till they reached poor, denuded, nettle surrounded White Cairn, then wheeled round and returned to their starting point. I don't think they'd even seen me, but even if so I'd already decided my quest was impossible and had seen enough to know that this site deserved a visit in good light. There would be another time, if permitted. Enough.....home.

Torhousekie Stone Row (Stone Row / Alignment)

Visit Torhousekie Stone Row and you have to visit Torhousekie Stone Circle..and vice versa. Whether they are contemporary chronologically I know not, but they are duo. Little and large. Ish. The same layby for both. Through the little gate on the east side of the road...the stone row's on top of a rise, you don't have to search for it. I approached and as I walked a herd of cows came into view. Most were a few hundred yards away, and the few nearer, initially hesitantly inquisitive, ambled off to join their kind. Cud and grass more interesting than prat with a ponytail. I eyed them with caution nonetheless. They had been an almost constant factor throughout my trip. At Cairn Pat near Stranraer I'd not got within half a mile of the site, I'd not liked the look of the bovines in front of me, a voice inside said 'no' and I'd taken heed. At Fort Point I'd been extremely circumspect but, hunch correct, no problem. Bulls were an automatic no, apart from at Caves of Kilhern, where I hadn't spotted one till my return leg. These ones looked OK. Onward. Mind the pats. The three stones looked bedded down for the night against the the last rays of the setting sun. I moved round to their eastward side to get silhouette shots, only achievable by lying down due to their short stature. The cowpats just about permitted, their creators, heads down at distance, munched away. I got what I wanted, circled round them, took in the stone circle, listened to the sounds of its visitors happy chatter as they posed and took their pictures, looked at the horizon and land about and the late sunset's glow. Trip over. I turned to go. Supper, tent and drive home in the morning. I walked slowly down towards the car. Then I heard a rumble. Turned. There were about twenty cows coming over the rise. Running. At me. I was being charged. It is an interesting experience. I looked round at that little gate. It was too far. I knew I wouldn't make it. I froze, then realised all I could do was face them and hope. Run and I feared they would follow, and overtaking and its consequence would be inevitable. I made myself look as big as I could, stood four square, looked straight at the head of the herd. Whatever would be would be. On they came, then as the leaders passed the westernmost stone they wheeled round it, perhaps fortyfive feet away. Surreally as the leaders did so I said to myself 'it's like Ben Hur', meaning the chariot race in the Colosseum, where the speeding vehicles had wheeled round 180 degrees at each end of the central barrier. It felt like I wasn't there, watching on a big screen. I then knew I was safe, spared. I turned round and the stone circles visitors were still there, prattling away, happy, oblivious. I stood quietly, and then, anger overtook me. Anger at myself and at at the cows. I didn't want the end of such a great holiday to be like this. Bloodymindedly I retraced my steps to the stones. The cows were back where they'd been, heads down, munching as if nothing had happened. I stood and pointedly took a couple more shots, trying to do likewise. Then a bull appeared in the distant gloaming and promptly proceeded to fulfil its function. I walked back to the gate as unobtrusively as I could, got into my car and thought. Sometimes you think that something's going to turn out one way and the opposite occurs. Torhousekie, I decided, would not be the end of my site visits and holiday, whatever the light. I looked at the map. Hole Stone looked ten minutes drive away. Goodbye stones, goodbye cattle. I was still alive and would do something I loved. Onward.

Torhousekie (Stone Circle)

When planning my trip to Galloway I had resolved months previously that Torhouskie and the adjacent stone row would be the finale...on my visit to the area in 2014 I'd driven within a couple of miles, but, being more focussed on garden visits I'd not done much research beyond scanning a map and tourism website or two. Cairnholy 1 - Torhouskie 0. No regrets about Cairnholy... a 'must' for anyone even vaguely interested in stones, and Cairnholy 2 was subsequently my HH avatar for some time... but having subsequently researched more about other Galloway sites I felt chastened that Torhouskie had been overlooked. No mistake this time. It had been a gorgeous final day of site visiting.... Barsalloch, Blairbuy, Wren's Egg and Nest.. where fieldwalking had revealed things other than what had been expected or recorded, Drumtroddan, Rispain. Now, with the sun dropping to the horizon and a dreamed about sunset in prospect in minutes, everything had fallen into place. I had reached my goal, and the photos I'd hoped for a click away. I had not met any other site visitors all holiday, had places to myself, absorbed, photographed without heads appearing over stones or popping out from behind them, such a contast to my visit to Callanish in 2012. A holiday of solitary bliss. Apart from f**king my leg broching that is. I parked in the small layby adjacent, through that little gate. I had not looked at any images beforehand, and had not either realised or remembered from reading how small the stones were. Sunset shots would have to be achieved by lying down, contortion or a combination of the two. The fence surrounding the site is far too constricting, my only criticism of this place. I circled the stones within the fence, climbing up on its western side, trying to get as much of the sunlit side of the circle into shot as possible...holding my camera and smartphone above my head, hitting and hoping. In retrospect this was the one site where photography had way too much precedent over absorbing, chilling. I need to return as an act of contrition. I even forgot to pat. A cow over the other side of the fence stood looking at me balefully while performing its bodily functions while I teetered atop the wire. Fair comment, perhaps. Now for the artyfarty contrejour. I moved round towards the gate, laid down on the manicured grass, looked at the red sun on the horizon perhaps a little too long, got my silhouettes..such was the closeness of the fence that I could only get three stones in one shot in front of the smouldering orb however much I pressed against the wire. I felt I had done my best. The stone row awaited on a rise over the other side of the road. I closed the gate and as I got to the other side of the road a car drew up. Visitors. I had missed them by under a minute. My site solitude record remained intact. Thank you circle, thank you sun. Sometimes things work out.
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I have always been interested in history, fictional or historical, and loved reading as a child the works of Rosemary Sutcliff. Yes, I did read Stig Of The Dump too. When ten I found a mussel midden when digging holes in the back garden - it turned out my folks house was built adjacent to the town hanging place, and the mussels were part of the additional social attractions. I used to visit sites when I could with my similarily interested father, particularily on holiday. Glenelg Brochs, Caer Caradoc, Maiden Castle, Warham Camp... History was my strong point at school, but life took me elsewhere for a career. I continued to read the likes of Graves, Belloc and Childe, though, as well as watching any history programme on television.. Cunliffe, Wheeler, Chronicle.. this continues to the present. I watch the repeats of the repeats of the repeats of Time Team, you name it. While my interest latterly has been for the most part armchair based, I have always loved looking at maps, and by using the distance between the Roman milecastles of Hadrian's Wall as a datum I have done a lot of work identifying Roman settlements along pre-Roman routes, cross referencing with linguistic clues in placenames and archaeological records. I also believe I have found three settlements of some size where little or no habitation exists today. Oh, to dig. I have no favourites as to type of archaeological site, and feel that phenomena such as holloways and holy wells or sacred springs are unjustly neglected compared to the likes of stone circle glamourpussies. A site is a site is a site. I visited many in the White and Dark Peak in the '80's before raising a family and steam engine restoration and firing took precedence. After tentative explorations on holiday over the last five years I have recently started to visit sites intensively again, but my circumstances frustratingly rarely permit this. My prime interest currently is visiting Western Scottish coastal sites, and, as a horticulturist, studying the botany in their environs that may be present day survivors of cultivation contemporary with site's occupancy, such a sorrel and, yes, gorse, sacred to the Celts and much used by them, now cursed by those interested in archaeology today. Sorry! (Not : p) Favourite sites: Lagvag Cairn, Dunman, Slochmill, Barsalloch, Powerstock Common, Eggardon Hill, Arbor Low, Warham Camp and Stevington Holy Well. Avatar: Torhouskie Stone Row. I took this image after being charged by cattle there five minutes earlier. A reminder to myself to make the most of what life may yet have to offer, including enjoying this, my hobby, as it can end in a trice.

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