The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Arbor Low

Stone Circle


November 1997 – Epiphany

My 24th birthday is looming and G/F and I have been together 6 months. We decide to go away for our first holiday together. The Peak District sounds nice and it’s close and cheap, as well as accessible by bus and train. My Dad lends me a map, a great big double-sided thing at 1/25000.

The cottage in Youlgreave has another huge wall-mounted Ordnance Survey map in it. I love maps and I’m soon scanning it to see what’s around and about. We squelched our way to Robin Hood’s Stride the day before, in rain and mud, noticing but not paying much attention to some “standing stones” across the field from us. Today looks like a better day, and there’s this thing, in antiquity type-face: Arbor Low Henge. Like Stonehenge? Sounds impressive. I wonder what it is? It’s not that far away, 3 miles or so.

The walk along quiet country lanes through Middleton gives way to a busier road, where quarry lorries speed by and there’s no verges. At length we get to a farm turning, with a box to put some money. What are we paying to see? We head across fields towards an undulating bank, which reminds me of hillfort ramparts I’ve seen back in Herefordshire.

But inside, it’s something else entirely. A ring of large stones, lying flat like a giant clockface. This first trip, in failing November light, I don’t really notice the wide views, nor do I notice the big mound of Gib Hill close by. I’m too overwhelmed by the stones to notice much else. I ask G/F what’s it for, what’s it all about? She doesn’t have an answer. I don’t understand at this point that those questions don’t have answers. Or they have too many answers.

After a while we return to the road, the truck-dodging even less pleasant as the short day comes to its end. I don’t realise quite what’s happened today.

Before we leave we revisit the marvellous bookshop in Bakewell, which yields a softback book that catches my eye: A Guide To The Stone Circles Of Britain, Ireland & Brittany by Aubrey Burl. It will be another year before I really wake up to the seed that’s been planted here, in a muddy Derbyshire field. When we return the following November for another birthday, G/F has lugged my birthday present here on the train, hidden in our luggage. It’s a huge hardback book, a piece of art resplendent in orange and blue. It smells wonderful and it’s full of promise and potential.

The journey that has occupied the best part of two decades, taking me to the hills, to west Cornwall, Wiltshire, Scotland and especially to Wales began that day. It’s brought me here, to this website and the wonderful people that contribute to it. It’s eaten my time and my money, but has returned something so much more precious. I don’t think it will stop now, until I do.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
20th March 2016ce
Edited 20th March 2016ce

Comments (7)

Wonderful! made my day. Posted by costaexpress
21st March 2016ce
Great post, and lovely 'origin story' Sweetcheat. It brought to mind my own first encounter with Mr Cope's wonderful book in a bookshop in Glastonbury on a weekend away in 1998, and the realisation that there was so much out there to explore. Cue a visit to Stanton Drew on the way home, mind blown, and the start of an obsession that's taken me to some wonderful places.

I'd also echo your comments about the wonderful TMA site and community, which inspires ever further wonderful visits!
Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
21st March 2016ce
Thank you both, juamei prompted me to do "something" to mark the 10,000th post. It was nice to remember where and why it all started. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
21st March 2016ce
Stonehenge, Avebury, Castlerigg I saw first, but Arbor Low was the obsession boot in my arse too.
postman Posted by postman
21st March 2016ce
A wonderful post. I'm so new to this fascination & am stuck for a while, but the journeying has enriched my life & will hopefully continue to do so. I find your reflections very moving & as ever send a huge thankyou to you & everyone else for my on going education; excitement; empathy & laughs. Hurray for the TMA ers:) Posted by carol27
21st March 2016ce
Really enjoyed reading your vivid account of 'when it all began' ... blooming 'ec, nearly two decades ago, sounds like you and G/F are still going strong. Have to say you have inspired me on many an occasion Alken - particularly where Cornwall was concerned. Sometimes I think I'll just focus on Nature but the flame still burns and doesn't go out. Off to Donegal in May, have looked at the maps and know its going to be an adventure ... tjj Posted by tjj
22nd March 2016ce
Thanks very much both. I'm glad to have inspired sometimes and it's definitely two way, this place just keeps on giving. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
22nd March 2016ce
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