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Fieldnotes by thesweetcheat

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Withington Woods West (Round Barrow(s))

Visited 30 August 2020 after leaving Withington long barrow. I thought this one might be harder to find in August vegetation, but it proves to be easy. It's visible next to one of the main paths running through the woods, prominent above the immediate surroundings and sporting a fine crown of ferns.

It's pretty big and appears to be well-preserved, although the vegetation makes it difficult to properly see the extent of the mound. On its top, beneath the ferns and brambles, it appears to be constructed of limestone rather than being an earthen mound.

One word of warning - even in pleasant summer weather, the tracks through the woods are very muddy. I pass a couple who have come to pick blackberries, and white trainers maybe weren't the ideal footwear.

From here I head northwest to seek out the multiple banks of a cross-dyke shown on the OS map. It proves to be a very reduced monument, struggling to be seen above calf-height undergrowth. Still, it's a pretty spot and I stop for lunch.

I leave the woods to the northeast and drop down to the pretty villlage Withington, where the cool interior of the church is open for visitors, the first I've been inside this year. From there it's an easy stroll back to Colesbourne and the bus home. The monuments in Withington Woods aren't of the first rank, but in this strange summer of limited travel and adventures close to home, I'm delighted to have visited some new-to-me sites in such a lovely woodland setting.

Withington Long Barrow

Of the four new-to-me Gloucestershire long barrows I visited during the post-lockdown summer months, Withington is both the best preserved and potentially the least easy to get to. Visited 30 August 2020.

I start from Colesbourne down in the picturesque Churn valley, a nice summer Sunday stroll along a quiet lane heading east then north up onto the high ground of the west Cotswolds. A bridleway from Hill Barn provides somewhat muddy access to Withington Woods. I get the feeling that this woodland is a 'country pursuits' kind of place, as various quad-biking lads wearing gillets and farming gear pass me en route and the distant crump of shotguns, a Cotswolds staple, breaks the peace.

Once in the woods I'm foolishly confident of choosing the right forestry track from a selection, but not sure how overgrown the barrow might be at the tail end of August. In any event, I end up going round in a circle, as the barrow isn't apparent on my initial pass of the area where I think it is. Second time around, I realise that I missed it because it's actually inside a high-fenced pheasant or partridge enclosure. Luckily the gate into the enclosure isn't locked, otherwise there would be no way of getting to the barrow.

The barrow is actually much better than I'd expected, a fine upstanding mound covered in pieces of limestone under a sparse covering of shrubby bushes and less undergrowth than I envisaged. I find no sign of the chamber referred to in Chance's miscellaneous notes but it's still an impressive monument.

Despite the nice woodland setting, the barrow isn't a particularly inviting place to hang around, as being effectively enclosed by 7 foot high wire mesh with only one way in or out kind of kills the atmosphere. Still, it's really pleasing to find a decent monument here, the main threat to which seems to be tree roots and some light animal burrowing in the flanks.

Having escaped the wire, I head northwest along a broad track to seek out Withington West round barrow.

Cotswold Park (Long Barrow)

After leaving Woodmancote round barrow I head to the little village of the same name, from where a bridleway heads westwards. The landscape ahead is open and I can see the next site of the day as a lighter patch in a field across the dry valley dropping away on my left.

The path enters a little wood and turns right, and here a field gate allows access into the fields adjacent to the long barrow. Skirting around the top of the valley, the barrow's field is margined with bright blue cornflowers, but the barrow itself is crowned only with long grasses.

It's clearly been ploughed over the centuries, as it's quite reduced in height. It's nevertheless a good length and has enough left of its mound to be obvious. Now unploughed, it's a nice place to sit for a while, as banks of cloud rush over. The crest of the hill blocks views to the west, hedges to the north, but to the southeast I can just make out the distant edge of the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.

From here I rejoin the bridleway to Cotswold Park and then up onto prominent Pen Hill to the north. Making my way up to the clump of trees on the top, the clouds that have been building all morning finally decide to drop their load on me, a temporary blip on an otherwise hot and sunny day. After a lunch stop by the trig, I drop down to Colesbourne and munch on a ice-cream before deciding on an impromptu revisit to Norbury hillfort and a long walk back to Cheltenham.

Woodmancote (Round Barrow(s))

An easy stroll up from the bus stop at Rendcomb on a warm August day, the sun playing hide and seek behind billows of Cotswolds clouds.

The tree-covered barrow is prominent in a field next to the minor road east of Woodmancote. It's at the top of steeper slopes dropping down to the picturesque River Churn, hidden by woodland from the barrow itself. There are neither crops nor livestock on my visit.

The trees make the barrow an obvious landmark and appear to have saved it from the plough, although the mound extends outwards into the field from the wooden fence surrounding the trees. The drawback with my summer visit is that the trees conceal the barrow beneath a deep covering of nettles, which also guard the site with a knee-high barrier. Clad in shorts, I make a half-hearted foray but am quickly stung in multiple places and retreat from closer inspection.

Vegetation aside, it's heartening to find a Cotswold round barrow that hasn't been ploughed down to nothing. The situation is pleasant, but the lack of longer views and the proximity of houses on the edge of the village stops it from really being a place to spend very much time. Worth the visit though, especially as I haven't been here before.

I head off to Woodmancote itself, then on to Cotswold Park long barrow. A good start to the day.

Ysgyryd Fawr (Hillfort)

Visited 7 March 2010.

A visit to the "Three Castles" of Skenfrith, Grosmont and White Castle with some friends includes a walk up Edmund's Tump (Graig Syfyrddin), a prominent hill in eastern Monmouthshire. A lovely spring day, a bit of a chill lingering from a cold morning, the mud still firmly frosted. From the hill, an impressive view stretches west across the Monnow valley to the Black Mountains, but the real draw for me lies nearer at hand in the form of the wedge-shaped Ysgyryd Fawr, an outlier of the bigger hills, sharp-crested and solitary in its elevation above the valley. It looks close enough to touch.

After leaving White Castle, a hasty plan is made to climb Ysgyrd Fawr before the light fades. We park to the south and make our way through woods to the steeply rising ridge. The sky is a deep blue, the ranks of hills, ridges and mountains themselves hazy in powder and periwinkle, ice and Delft.

It's cold on the top, the summit is exposed to winds that didn't register down below. The views are wonderful though, I watch a couple of planes leave their high altitude vapour trails, the only mark on the otherwise flawless sky. There's little to see of any hillfort, although scant remains of the later chapel are discernable. But coming here isn't really about the archaeology, it's a matter of location and landscape.

It's not long since I climbed the neighbouring Blorenge, a first foray to these South Wales peaks. By now my appetite is properly whetted and I long to visit the hills I can see spread before me. I won't be waiting long.

Midsummer Hill (Hillfort)

Visited 2.9.2017

The wheel of the year turns another click. It's dark when I get up, and mist fills the valley of the Severn as I ride the early train along the estuary, a chill in the air in plain contrast to the heat of the last few days.

By the time I get to the pretty town of Ledbury several hours later, the sun has returned, the heat with it. The summer bus service to British Camp is in its last couple of weeks, and I'm keen to revisit a fort that I last came to on a cold and wet December day some seven and half years ago.

Rather than climbing onto the hills, I take the lower path round British Camp reservoir, unusually starting my walk with a descent rather than getting the uphill out of the way at the start. From down here, the bulk of British Camp looms oppressively, blocking all views westwards. People high on the ramparts are tiny, dwarfed by the enormity of earth and rock.

But I'm not going to get distracted by British Camp today, instead heading south to see the near-neighbours. Woodland canopy provides welcome shade on Tinker's Hill, continuing more sparsely to Shadybank Common and the picturesque Dales Hall. Across Berrow Downs the view opens up massively to the east, from Bredon Hill (two hillforts) to the Cotswold escarpment (lots of hillforts).

Past Fairoaks Farm a path sneaks invitingly into the trees, so I head off this way. It proves to be a steep pull through Hollybush Roughs, and by the time I emerge onto a wider path I'm feeling rather disorientated about where I am in relation to the fort. A final slog takes me up to the open top of the hill and the memorial shelter mentioned by Carl. This is where I came on my previous visit, but on that occasion I was with a group and we climbed up from the northeast, as cold December rain started to fall. No such problem this time, instead it's blazing heat to contend with.

There are a few people up here, unsurprisingly on a day like this. I head to the southern edge of the fort, where two ramparts head off around the western circumference. Following the higher of the two, some way below the top of the hill, the lower rampart soon drops away, leaving a wide space and steep hillside between the two levels. The views south and west are terrific, from the inevitable May Hill, across the Forest of Dean, the hills above Cwmbran, Pen-y-Fal (The Sugarloaf), the high ridge of the Black Mountains, the Radnor Forest, the hills of Herefordshire and eventually northwest to the Clee Hills in Shropshire. There must be two dozen hillforts in view from here.

I follow the inner rampart round, a challenge in places as the chest high bracken conceals some ankle catching brambles. Eventually coming to the northern entrance, the higher hills of the Malverns and the obvious contours of British Camp fill the view.

Last time I was here we only visited this higher part of the fort, but actually it comprises less than half of the occupied area. This time I head eastwards downhill, back into the trees. Passing through the woodland, the path re-emerges into another open area. The fort is in the shape of a fat-tailed 'q', and the eastern area is broad and flatter than the high part of the hill. Sadly the views here are much more restricted by the trees below the rampart, and the rampart itself is overgrown with brambles that make it impossible to follow. Instead I walk south through the middle of the section - it seems probable that this was the main residential area of the fort, sheltered from the winds and exposure of the western part. On a nice sunny day it feels like a good place to make your home. It's easy to see why the fort is where it is, well-defended by steep slopes and with commanding views in all directions.

Eventually I re-enter the trees at the southern end, trying to get back to the rampart on the western side of the "tail". Crossing a fence brings me to the lip of a huge drop, with water glinting far below. This marks the edge of a deep quarry cut into the hillside below the fort, taking the edge of the rampart with it. A potentially dangerous place for the unwary, the sheer drop is head-spinning and I head back to the open area before following the rampart again along its southern route. It's probable that the main entrance was close to where the body of 'q' joins the tail, but a group of teenagers are doing teenager stuff in the trees here, and it's not clear that an old git lurking in the woods with a camera is going to provoke a positive response, so once again I head back uphill.

By now time has run away, as it always seems to, and it becomes a dash back to British Camp to get to the bus-stop. Still, it's been a very satisfying return to Midsummer Hill. By the time I get home it's getting dark, and the fleeting months of summer seem to be ebbing away. The wheel keeps turning.

Capler Camp (Hillfort)

Visited 12 August 2017.

After last weekend's unplanned spontaneous trip to British Camp in the Malverns, this weekend I have a plan. And it's a cunning plan, so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, etc. Anyway, I'm off to Fownhope, a little village on the banks of the River Wye towards the south of Herefordshire.

As well as two pubs (one called the Green Man), a shop and fine church with slightly twisty spire and a Norman tympanum carved with a toothy winged lion, Fownhope sits between two wooded Herefordshire hillforts. I have three hours to visit them both. That's the plan.

Things start promisingly, the sun has come out and the bus from Hereford drops me off on time. I've decided to visit Capler Camp first, on the basis that it looks less likely to be an overgrown slog and also it's further away than Cherry Hill, which is right next to the village, so will help gauge the time I have better. A fairly straight minor road leads from Fownhope church towards Capler. I've anticipated a slow climb followed by a steep bit at the end, but that's because I haven't read the map properly and don't realise that the whole way is a succession of up and down hill bits, guaranteed to tire out of practice legs before I even arrive at the proper hill. The first of these ridges does at least give a nice view of both forts from about halfway between them.

A buzzard flies over the tractor throwing up dust in the nearby fields, sheep are cajoled and corralled at Rise Farm, and I realise that there is a good view of Aconbury, another of Hereford's fine hillforts.

Passing Capler Cottages marks the start of the steep section of the road, but a slightly overgrown track beckons invitingly off to the left, promising a less direct and more zig-zag route up to the fort. It proves a good choice, quite dry despite the ridiculously wet summer, and far less steep than the road would have been. It emerges near the top of the footpath to the south of the fort.

From here I head to the ramparts. The fort is in two distinct halves, the western side covered in trees, the eastern side an open field. I head west, into the trees.

It's not a good time of year to visit wooded hillforts, brambles make the earthworks difficult to access and the thick canopy makes photography frustrating. Nevertheless, getting round this fort is easy enough as a wide swathe has been cleared inside the perimeter of the inner rampart, and a broad track follows what would have been a ditch between the inner and outer defences. The defences are strongest on the south, two lines of earthworks making up for the relatively shallow gradient compared to the west end and north side. It's very pleasant under the trees and on reaching the north side I drop down from the inner rampart to the track below.

On the north side the natural steepness does all the work, and the track is a good three metres or more below the inner rampart. Some of the trees that mark the outer "bank" here are towering, one is a venerable beech that wouldn't be out of place on the chalk Downs or limestone scarps to the southeast. The woods are an attractive deciduous mix, not the dense conifers of recent forestry plantations, but an older woodland that feels right on this hilltop.

At length I come round towards the eastern end. Climbing the inner bank brings me out into the open half of the fort. I'm somewhat surprised to find a tall post, carved to the effect that this is an Iron Age hillfort. It turns out that this is the end of a succession of similar posts marking a permissive path up from the picnic area on the road to the south. The interior is lovely, the inside of the southern rampart is rich with harebells. From here the view stretches south and east. I'm not in the slightest surprised to see the ever-present shape of May Hill, while the vista to the south is filled with the dark mass of the Forest of Dean, over the border in Gloucestershire. To the southwest the edge of the Black Mountains is visible. This is a great spot, and I end up sitting here for a while in the summer sunshine.

Finally leaving through the eastern entrance, past a lovely old stone barn and a neat cottage, I follow the Wye Valley Walk footpath along the outer rampart. It's a good hillfort this, not perhaps in the front rank of Herefordshire examples like Wapley Hill and British Camp, but a very decent site nonetheless.

Reluctant to leave, I take a final turn around the wooded half of the interior, before heading south back to the road. A little picnic area gives glimpses of the Wye sparkling in the sunshine below, living up to its picturesque billing. I follow the road down, noticing the steepness and also how many cars seem to be driving up and down this narrow lane, from nowhere to somewhere or back again.

The extended stay has wiped out the time I have left, and Cherry Hill will have to wait after all. A Spring visit would be better anyway I reckon. The best thing about a cunning plan is how easily it can be abandoned or reshaped, and this one will easily bear a bit of reshaping.

British Camp (Hillfort)

Visited 5.8.2017.

Three and a bit years on since my last visit, which was a claggy Easter day with visibility truncated by hazy mistiness. No such problems today, a rolling front of thunder has pushed its way up from the Black Mountains across Herefordshire, and the skies are clear and views are long in its wake.

No plan, just an entirely spontaneous diversion, jumping off a train at Hereford and catching a bus at Ledbury to emerge at the foot of the hill as the rain carries on to soak Worcester.

I decide to follow the lower rampart round the west side of the fort, which gives a great view of the ranks of earthworks climbing the flanks of the hillside, as well as beautiful unfolding panorama of Herefordshire. When I first came here in 2009, I hadn't explored the Black Mountains, or Radnor Forest, and my memories of the Clee Hills were from my childhood. All of these are in clear view today, as well as the Cotswolds escarpment to the southeast, Bredon Hill to the east and the ridiculously ubiquitous May Hill to the south. Three English counties and quite a bit of Wales to admire then.

In the years since that first visit I have come to recognise these distant hills, and the Malverns ridge is the common landmark visible from where I grew up and where I live now. The fort itself overawed me when I first came, and this third visit does nothing to diminish the impression of what must be one of the finest hillforts in these islands. The presence of other visitors, tiny specks against the serried rows of banks and ditches, serves only to enhance the sense of wonder.

I spend an hour walking the perimeter and up to the top, before reluctantly deciding to continue my broken journey. The thunderheads have broken over Worcester, and magnificent rainbows over Bredon and Cleeve Hill will follow later. Sometimes England is really very lovely.

Welshbury (Hillfort)

A very overdue visit on 17.12.2016.

It's the best part of 7 years since I added this site to TMA, so really about time I made the effort to come here. Heeding the warnings of Carl's approach, I come at the site from Little Dean to the south, via the edge of the woods below Chestnut Inclosures. It's been a claggy, misty December day and the light is dull, tendrils of mist rising from the Severn a couple of miles or so to the east.

Where the path Carl was on gets to the southern edge of the hill, a narrower footpath heads north up the hill - it might be easy to miss this in summer as the vegetation seeks to strangle it, so look out for a stile into a field on the south, which is opposite the entrance to the footpath. Coming from this direction the ascent is at its most gentle, the steeper slopes of the hill are on the north and east sides.

Before reaching the fort, there is a meeting with a remarkable tree, a massive beech of huge height and girth, and great age for the species. The woods here are a lovely mix of deciduous trees, birch and beech, oak and chestnut. The footpath arrives at the southern tip of the fort, where a bank rises on the right but nothing on the left, making it a little difficult to gain bearings of the layout at first. In fact the fort is an irregular shape, like a "q" with this bank being the western side of the short tail (in fact it's very similar in layout to Midsummer Camp on the Malverns). It's immediately apparent that the banks here are stone-built, plentiful mossy stones protruding through the winter cover of dying vegetation.

Because of this disorientation I initially keep heading north rather than following the bank around. The ground is still rising slightly, with a big drop now becoming apparent on the right (east). Soon I reach a confused junction of banks and ditches, which resolve themselves into the point where the tail of the "q" meets the body. The drop the east is now quite severe, with any view curtailed by the heavy tree cover and mist rising from the river valley beyond. Without the trees I imagine I might be standing in the thin upper reach of a temperature inversion.

Deep leaf litter muffles my footfalls. Towards the north I come to a clearer circle, a fairy ring among the trees. This is the only clear and relatively flat spot within the fort interior, and makes a good place to stop and take in the quiet of the woods on this somewhat eerie day.

At the northern end the ground drops very abruptly, a 5 metre drop from the top of the rampart to the next level down. It seems that this has been created by terracing the naturally steep slope rather than needing to create a wholly artificial defence, but it would certainly be a formidable obstacle and provides an excellent vantage over the valley below.

The killer construction though is on the west. Here a massive inner bank towers above two further lines of bank and ditch. There is a wide space between inner and middle defences, which gives the impression that the outer ditches are slight and shallow in comparison. This impression is quickly dispelled by dropping down the slippery slope for a closer look, which reveals the middle ditch to be a good 6 feet deep.

Near the southwestern corner, the lines of ramparts are crossed by a slightly raised causeway, but it's not clear whether this represents an original feature or a later intrusion. Either way it's a pretty steep climb back up to the inner rampart.

Disembodied voices and the bark of a dog rising from the valley settlement below to the west, the screech of an irate squirrel somewhere in the trees above me and seagull cries from the Severn are the only noises to interrupt the quiet. No boars today, although grubbings and scrapings in the soft earth at the top of the hill appear to indicate their occasional presence.

The day has been grey throughout, and this close to Midwinter the light fails early. By the time I've walked around the site and its defences, it's getting towards 4 o'clock and already darkening. Although it's a fairly compact fort, the multiple lines to explore make it feel bigger and it's taken me a good hour to get round it. It's an atmospheric place, and one that would repay a visit on a sunny spring day before the canopy refills and the brambles entwine the accesses.

Gwern Einion stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

It occurred to me after the visit that, with its flat top and broad base, this stone would make an ideally shaped orthostat for a chambered tomb.

Gardom's Ring Cairn

The path makes its descent, cutting through a cairnfield of pretty large, irregularly shaped cairns. The Gardom’s Edge ring cairn is completely hidden by bracken, but can be spotted by the forked silver birch that grows from its embanked edge. Once found, the course can be followed round easily enough, but really this is a place for a winter visit if you want to see it properly.

The Three Men of Gardoms (Cairn(s))

We follow the arc of Meg’s Walls south, before leaving the wood to emerge at the Three Men cairn. The three stone piles are clearly modern, but they sit on a much larger footprint. The views from here are great, looking down on Baslow as the sun sinks further. It’s starting to get colder and it won’t be long now until dark, so we press on without lingering.

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

Next up, we encounter the stonework of Meg’s Walls. Half-buried in the undergrowth, too large to take in easily, this is a fascinating survivor enhanced by a lovely woodland setting. But we’re really here for rock art. After a bit of rooting about in the undergrowth, we find it on the edge of the woods, looking towards the steep western face of Birchen Edge. The light is now too low to illuminate the panel, but casts a soft orange glow across the moor ahead of us.

Despite knowing that it’s a replica, the panel itself is still very impressive. I love the variety of patterns, whatever it represents – or doesn’t. Water has collected in the deepest cup, reflecting the slender trees and blue sky above, an ever open, all-seeing eye on the world.

Gardoms Standing Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The main reason for coming here is the rock art panel, so memorably filled with pink flowers by Postman a few years ago. But first, I’m hoping to find the standing stone, something of a rarity in this area. We walk through the woods, trying to stay away from the treeless edge, as I know the stone won’t be found there. It turns out to be further south than I’d realised, another site that the Ordnance Survey map doesn’t show. Eventually it makes itself known, as we get towards the higher part of the wood. The light has gone strange now, the low sun filtered around the edges of a bank of cloud giving an ethereal glow to the woods and the stone.

The stone is a good one, a little taller than I imagined and different from each angle and direction. Like many of the best standing stones, it gives off a feeling of sentience. Even though I know this is just projection on my part, it’s hard to shake once felt. There’s no malignance, or beneficence, just a presence. I often find woodland sites hard to leave, and the stone definitely exerts a pull. As we leave I’m compelled to look back, Orpheus to Eurydice.

Barbrook I (Stone Circle)

The third of today’s stone circles, and very different again from the other two. This is yer classic Peaks embanked circle, compact and neat. Unlike, say, Nine Ladies, the stones are quite varied in size, although with no particularly obvious grading towards a compass point. The top of one of the stones has cupmarks, something I was completely unaware of, but which recalls the stone at Stanage we visited yesterday.

When we first got into stone circles, I read that the Barbrook sites and Big Moor were closed for environmental reasons – this was in the days before the Countryside and Rights of Way Act opened up swathes of access land, and before the internet might have told me different – so we never came here on our earlier Peaks holidays. As I’ve felt throughout these last three days, the long wait has both sharpened and sweetened the experience of finally coming to these sites. They compare with the best.

The proximity of the track perhaps keeps this from quite reaching the heights of Barbrook II as a place to find solitude, but in truth no one passes our way in the time we’re here. We will definitely be back here.

Barbrook cairns (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

The cairn cemetery lying between Barbrook II and Barbrook I proves well worth a stop off. A widely varied group, mostly dug into in the mid-19th century, many have excellent kerbs. The star of the show is the rebuilt cairn closest to Barbrook I, a bit of a classic of drystone edging about four courses high. One of the stones in the surround shows an interesting weathered pattern that is probably natural, but just possibly could be the very eroded trace of cupmarks.

From here we drop slightly to Barbrook I.

Barbrook II (Stone Circle)

Barbrook II is a bit of an enigma. A circle of free-standing stones, enclosed within a thick drystone wall that stands only slightly lower than the tops of the stones. I’m instantly in love with this place. We’ve never been before, another omission long awaiting correction. The circle feels utterly secluded, the wall and stones are low enough to escape attention from anyone but a deliberate visitor, especially as the Ordnance Survey map perplexingly shows no sign of the circle or nearby cairns at all, other than a misleading “field system” label.

This is somewhere to spend time, to watch the clouds and the changing light over the moor. We sit here for a while, no-one comes, nothing intrudes. There are lots of details, the burial cairn inside the circle, the large stone propped against the outside of the drystone wall, there’s also a cupmarked stone in the central cist but I don’t even notice it. The next time I come – and I really hope that isn’t too long away – I’ll pay more attention to these little elements, but today I’m so overwhelmed by the whole that I couldn’t really care less. Perfect.

Barbrook III (Stone Circle)

The first site of the day, Barbrook III will be the most difficult to find, rendered so by small stones and tall grasses. Leaving the embanked edge of the reservoir behind, we follow a faint path NNE, hoping that the stones will show themselves. Arriving at a darker ring of bracken, obvious amongst the pale oranges of reedy grass, I concede that we’ve gone too far this time, so we head slightly downhill and back on ourselves. Soon after the first stone appears, barely peaking its head above the vegetation. Then another, and another, and another. This is a laugh out loud circle, so easy to miss yet huge in size, if not stones, once discovered.

It’s a bit squelchy, the stones are half-hidden, their spacing makes it hard to photograph more than a couple at a time, but it’s truly wonderful. The relative flatness of the moor makes the surroundings somewhat undramatic, but instead there is a sense of secrecy that has a charm all of its own. The play of light on the rising ground to the west, the gnarly lichen on one of the stones, the patterns of erosion and wear on the upper surfaces of others, all combine into a near perfect experience. We can see cars on the road, walkers in the distance, but it seems almost unthinkable that any of them might ever come here. Hidden in plain sight, a gem all the more precious for its coyness.

Eyam Moor Barrow (Cairn(s))

The barrow is a mess, the shape all but gone, straggling and ragged at the edges. But there’s still a lot of stone here, indicating that the upheaval wasn’t about robbing for walls. And the setting is perfect, better than the circle itself as it’s that bit closer to the northern lip of the moor. The countryside drops to a patchwork of green fields in the Derwent valley, with Hathersage the obvious settlement below. Beyond and above, the hills rise again towards the high uplands above Edale, the moors of South Yorkshire and the edges around Higger Tor.

Our rainbow makes its last appearance of the day, a welcome splash of colour against the grey. I should have come here years ago, but it’s still a sweet pleasure to come now.

Wet Withens (Stone Circle)

As the sun starts to come out, it picks out a light grey amongst the browns and reds, revealing the presence of the mutilated cairn next to Wet Withins. With that fixed, the eye then finds the darkly curving bank of the stone circle itself, with one larger stone standing out at its edge.

Wet Withens is another Peaks site that has lived in my mind and on my imaginary list for a long time. A feature in Burl’s guide, apart from the one swiftly abandoned attempt so long ago it’s eluded me up until now.

Rather like Gibbet Moor yesterday, some of the joy of coming here is undoubtedly borne from relief and satisfaction at actually getting here. But as well as that, it’s a terrific site. Bigger than I expected, the clearly defined bank and neatly placed stones make it a wonderful example of the ubiquitous Peak District embanked stone circle. Add to that the colours of the moor, freshly scrubbed from the recent soaking and illuminated by the sun against the dark backdrop of billowing clouds, and we’ve got a bit of a classic going on.
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"The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body." Alfred Wainwright

"The movers move, the shakers shake, the winners write their history. But from high on the high hills, it all looks like nothing." Justin Sullivan

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