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North of the Wall. But only just.

After a mostly successful summer solstice sunrise at Fontburn Dod, and after a much overdue return visit to Blawearie cairn, and after a good look round Old Bewick hill fort with it's fancy rock art, and after I've squeezed in a standing stone, for measure, it's time for the big one.
Any of the places we've seen this morning could be construed as the big one, but this particular grande finale is a seven mile walk, maybe more, seven sites to be seen, and twenty pounds in cold hard cash.
Ridley and Haughton common's stone circles are my quest, never heard of them? I'm not surprised, they are pretty obscure, in the middle of no where and on the very edge of the map. Parking is non existent, these sites can not be seen from the road, perhaps Hob could get his car closer than I could, but the best I could come up with is Housesteads Roman fort, because the eponymous Wall is that of the old mucker himself Emperor Hadrian.
The car park for Housesteads Roman fort is on the B6318, I cant remember the exact tariff but in the end it cost me £7. Of course then you'll want to walk up the path, ignore the fort entirely and break through the wall and out of the empire. But that will cost you money again, they think people are going to be interested in Roman stuff, but for us it's just in the way. £13 for me and Eric, barring perhaps Stonehenge or Newgrange the most expensive entrance to any old stony place, but then you do get Hadrian's wall and a fort thrown in, and if your really lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a time team expert taking a guided walk.

As soon as Eric saw how far up the hill the fort and wall were he asked me how far we were going to have to walk to find these stone circles, I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth so early on in the hike, it wasn't a walk, you might walk to the shop or the bus stop, this was further than a hike really too, almost an expedition, in the end I lied bare faced and said two or three miles. Miles? he bewailed.
So, up the well walked path to the fort, ignore it, go to "the wall" and follow it west to where the Pennine way crosses it. Break through the wall putting on your wildest Scottish accent and laughing wildly, if you have a Claymore I suggest you wave it now.
Follow the Pennine way north, away from the wall, making towards the east end of Greenlee Lough. When you can see the dark waters of Greenlee Lough below and to the left, do not descend the hill your now on the edge of, instead walk west along the farm track until a stone circle appears on your left hand side. You have arrived at Ridley Common stone circle.

Ridley Common — Images

25.06.19ce
<b>Ridley Common</b>Posted by postman<b>Ridley Common</b>Posted by postman<b>Ridley Common</b>Posted by postman

It's not a big circle, all but one stone is very definitely on the low side, but it is a nice place, and a good stone circle and one more with a big tick by it's name, only 387 to go.
This is a bit of an odd place for a stone circle, the hills north and south are nearby and cut off any views or feelings of openness, the view west is better, but to the east is perhaps the reason these stone circles and cairns are here, the local rock god, now called Gwenhyfar's chair, but in times gone by, probably by many names.

Done with this circle I jolly Eric along and we walk along the track east towards a gap in a wall (not thee wall, a wall) and that chair rock thingy. The rock, long ago had broken off from Queens crags and landed in an unlikely place, perfectly upright, from one aspect it looks just like a Devil's Arrow.
But for now we pass it by a few hundred feet distant, making instead for a trio of cairns, two round cairns one with an exposed cist capstone inside it, and one cairn that looks more like a ring cairn, but perhaps is still just a round cairn too.

Kingscrag Gate — Images

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<b>Kingscrag Gate</b>Posted by postman<b>Kingscrag Gate</b>Posted by postman<b>Kingscrag Gate</b>Posted by postman
Eric has collapsed in a heap, I'd quite like that too, but if we both did that we'd never get anywhere, so I go round and photograph the cairns and take a seat next to him for five minutes. It looks for all the world like he's asleep, and I almost dare'nt rouse him, but I do, he climbs to his feet and we head east once more. I'm not sure where I'm going for a minute, so we climb a wooded hillside and walk along it looking for anything ancient looking, I spot a henge like circle, but I have no information about it at all so I presume it to be outside of our circle of interest and sit for a while and ponder the map for a while. The light bulb above my head lights up and were off and underway again, we skirt by a small conifer plantation along it's east edge until we come to an old homestead, it's marked on the map, much folding and flapping of said map revealed the second stone circle to be just over there, stands on tip toes and points enthusiastically. Eric waits under the shade of the big tree in the homestead ruin and I go over to the stone circle.

Haughton Common — Images

25.06.19ce
<b>Haughton Common</b>Posted by postman<b>Haughton Common</b>Posted by postman<b>Haughton Common</b>Posted by postman

Haughton stone circle is another small ring. The northern half of the circle has quite big stones some oddly shaped, the other half of the circle barely makes it above the grass. There are two small odd little cairns either side of the circle. If it were not for the trees we'd be able to see the Rock god Gwenhyfar's chair, but we cant. I do the hoiking up of the tripod for an elavated view, it works well, the camera must be twelve feet up.
Back at the ruin I pick up the tired little boy and carry him a bit further west to the big cist known as King Wanless green. Quite a big cist this one, worthy of a position on Dartmoor, cist central of England. There is no capstone, just the four side stones, one stone, lets call it the headstone, has two cup marks on it's upper surface. There is another lesser cist hiding in the grass, I forgot to look for it, so i'll leave that one for the TMAers of the future.

King Wanless Green — Images

25.06.19ce
<b>King Wanless Green</b>Posted by postman<b>King Wanless Green</b>Posted by postman


Going almost straight to Gwenhyfar's chair we stop off for one more cairn, a big cairn, it's lower courses are grass covered, there's no sign of a cist.

Kings Crag Cairn — Images

25.06.19ce
<b>Kings Crag Cairn</b>Posted by postman<b>Kings Crag Cairn</b>Posted by postman

Eric picks himself up, girds his loins and prepares for the last walk, the long walk, the sneaking back into the Empire. But first, that rock god.
Gwenhyfar/Gwenhwyfar or Guinevere, so the story goes had the rock thrown at her by King Arthur for annoying him with an expression whilst doing her hair, one can only imagine what he did when he found out about Lancelot. From all directions the big rock looks like that, a big rock, one flat edge and a curved edge on the other side, but up close, by it's side, it looks just like a big standing stone, perhaps a twin for Yorkshire's Devils Arrows.

Kingscrag Gate — Images

25.06.19ce
<b>Kingscrag Gate</b>Posted by postman<b>Kingscrag Gate</b>Posted by postman<b>Kingscrag Gate</b>Posted by postman

Almost right below it are the three cairns we saw earlier, and the cist and circles can all see it too. Bonkers.

And that is all, we struggle back towards the wall, it's about now that I remind Eric I said the walk was about two or three miles, and then admit that I gave it a bit of a measure on Google earth and it 's about 6.8 miles, give or take a half mile. he uncharacteristically thought this was funny and stepped into a tiny stream and fell over, unable to get up from laughing, I joined him on the grass. Until in the end we practically crawled back to the wall climbed over it, waved the Claymore and walked along the wall back to the fort. I would have liked a look around the Roman bits but really after trekking about this way and that for over four hours we were both pretty close to collapse, so we ignore them again and walk the walk back to the car park. Passing on the way a guided tour, the chap doing the guiding had a voice, I know that voice, getting closer I knew his face too, that odd shaped beard, I dont know his name but Ive seen him on Time team a few times, as I held the gate open for him I looked at him and he looked at me, I'm sure he knew I recognised him. Then the moment was over, and we left.
A quick stop off at the Mare and Foal standing stones and it's run for home, Run for home, run as fast as I can, Oh, running man, running for home. Via Burger King.
postman Posted by postman
10th July 2019ce
Edited 10th July 2019ce


Comments (1)

Epic! Just returned from Northumberland, wish I had read this first. would love to retrace your steps at the first (dry) opportunity. I walked from the Housesteads car park over to Sewingshields and back and from the top of the crag I was thinking Haughton Common stone circle is out there somewhere, must visit and then here are your detailed notes guiding us all in. Thanks. Posted by costaexpress
7th September 2019ce
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