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

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Burnswark (Sacred Hill) — Fieldnotes

Burnswark is a Magical and very special place. Looking like some primeval ark sailing across the landscape, there is no excuse to miss it. Whatever direction you approach from, it stands out. Its importance to our ancient ancestors is highlighted by the Roman forts and roads which lie all around, still easily seen. Leave the M74 at Ecclefechan and go north on the lane past the Kirkconnel Hall Hotel. At the T junction, turn left and continue for just over a mile, till the road becomes a track, and park at the Y junction. Take the path through the firs, and climb to the top. The view is panoramic, and the landscape epic. I have had the honour of climbing Bear Butte, the Teaching Mountain of the Cheyenne and the Sioux, and was delighted to discover the same qualities here. The Lake District even looks like the Black Hills do from Bear Butte, with the Solway taking the place of the lake (I can't recall the name) that lies before them. At Bear Butte, the east end is where mystical encounters are reported, and Burnswark's eastern outcrop is called Fairy Craig! Like Julian, I resisted climbing my sacred hill, content to look with awe, but I lost nothing by doing so. There is a Teaching Mountain on my doorstep.

Stonehenge (Circle henge) — Fieldnotes

Stonhenge is dwarfed by its environment, and this is highlighted if you have just come from Avebury. I had not intended to visit, when I planned my trip, but wandered south anyway. A peculiar sight lay before me when I crested Kings' Barrow Ridge. A tiny jumble of grey shapes lay encircled by a multicoloured ring and a black ring, all cradled in a grey Y. As I drew closer, the rings defined themselves as a crowd of people and a high fence. I have never seen double yellow lines this far out of town. They explain why people have to pay 2 quid to park. The green sentry box made me laugh, as did the tourists looking out through the fence at me, looking in at them, but I was left wondering why the peeps are guided to walk widdershins round the stones. Accident or design? Stonehenge has always seemed to me to have been built by people who did not understand our indigenous circles, as a symbol of their power and authority, in much the same way as the Romans took on Christianity, and the modern day authorities' attitude to visitors of all hues ( unless they have the right "credentials" ) seems to flow from that. I am sure a lot of you get great pleasure from visiting, and I mean no slight to any of you. Maybe I will buy a ticket next time, and try to open my mind, but I enjoyed Stonehenge best from the wonderfully eery barrows on the ridge. Don't miss them!

The Twelve Apostles of Hollywood (Stone Circle) — Miscellaneous

About a mile along the road to Dunscore, a large stone lies on the right, where it was recently excavated to clear a road for a new sub station. Could it be an outlier, or the missing twelth apostle?

The Twelve Apostles of Hollywood (Stone Circle) — Folklore

Local folklore tells this tale; The farmer decided to remove the stones and, one summer's day, set out to do just that. The sky was clear as he drove his tractor to the field. As he neared the stones, however, clouds were beginning to gather, but he carried on, intent on his task. By the time he had hooked up the chains it was quite dark. Climbing up into his tractor, he reached for the ignition key, at which point the storm broke overhead, and a bolt of lightning struck the stone. Taking the hint, the farmer quickly undid the chains and took off for home. Nobody has tried to move the stones since. The product of fertile local imagination? Maybe, but this story is told in hushed tones, and does show the sense of mystery that this circle imbues on us simple, country folk.

The Twelve Apostles of Hollywood (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

I grew up near here, but it took me 34 years to actually walk round them. A new moon hung low in the sky, above the row of hills to the west, and the stones looked ethereal under her pale glow. I felt a strong and pleasant atmosphere as I wound my way round them. To the west, the familiar view of foreground and background, but no middleground, is to be seen. I could have stayed for hours, so charged was I by the magical atmosphere, but was rudely interrupted by my daughter, standing on the stile and shouting, " Da-ad, we're starving! " Sigh.

Drumtroddan Standing Stones — Fieldnotes

Getting to the stones proved to be an adventure. I decided not to bother the farmer, and went round to the south. I saw the sign, but managed to miss the stones in their prominent site and turned down a narrow track. 20 minutes later, I breathed a sigh of relief as I arrived back at the sign. Do not go down the track, unless you have a jeep! The walk up to the stones is easy, and well worth the climb. The stones are very tall and stand on a natural platform, with clear views of the Galloway Hills, to the east.I noticed that the stones lined up eith a well defined notch in the distant Hills. Driving back up towards the A75, I tried, but failed, to see this feature from any of the roads' many vantage points. On leaving the fenced in site, I found the field to be full of 'shrooms ( it was September ). If I had got lost later, I could have blamed it on them!

Castlerigg (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

I had ridden my bike through 300 miles of rain, from my first visit to the Avebury complex, and was nearing home. Still charged with energy from the experience, my mind and body in turmoil, I headed north, through the Lake Distict, looking for Castlerigg. I had never been before, although I only live an hour away, but I immediately felt 'at home'. At Avebury, I was a visitor, these were stones laid by my forefathers, and they knew me. There were few others here, when I arrived, but everything calmed down as I stood back and sent out some smoke. The sun came out and the drying of the air brought people flooding up the hill. In my mind's eye, I could see them in the cafes of Keswick, nursing cups of tea and watching the skies. Did they all throw their chairs back en masse, and scrabble for the exits? Walking into the circle, I felt the familiar signature of circles up here; the pull of the eye to the horizon, the foreground and background, but no middleground; the echo of festivals and celebrations past, or yet to come. Finding the exact middle of Castlerigg is a simple, but wonderful task. Site yourself roughly in the middle, look around you at the silhouette of the stones until you find one that matches a shape on the horizon, then move back and forward on this axis until more stones start to line up with other prominent features.When you have done that, try stooping down. More stones line up. Now, stand up and take in the view. The landscape becomes more immediate, more familiar, more home. At Avebury, I was challenged to contemplate that which is beyond my ken while, at Castlerigg I was reminded who I am. I left here at a relaxed pace, dry and warm, and headed for home.

Avebury (Circle henge) — Fieldnotes

I came to Avebury through backroads and, by taking intuitive turns, came into the village from the north west. There was another avenue here, and I think that each avenue had its own purpose, complimentary, but individual. Go up some dead end roads and count the interesting stones used as features in the gardens. The sense of layered events is palpable. Joining the crowds streaming from the official car park, I drifted, looking around. The path is a joy in itself, and the complex remains out of comprehension for most of the walk. The first impression I got, when the view finally opened out, was that the village had crashlanded, hard, on the northwestern side of the henge, a long time ago, and then life had carried on as if nothing had happened! The flow of people turned right inside the henge and I was a few stones into the ring before I registered that something felt wrong. Widdershins didn't seem right, a concept which I resisted for a few more steps. I stepped outside the circle and sat down to eat some cherries and watched the people go by. Was it my fancy, or did they all seem to be walking uphill, into the wind? I pulled out my copy of The Modern Antiquarian, and started to read. Immediately, another couple of Canadians came up and asked what the kind the stones were. Thank you, Julian! I headed for the centre, then north to the outer henge, passing between two enormous stones, recently vacated by some dowsers. Polarity was there to see. At the outer henge, I began to make my way, deosil, round the top. A road cuts through from the east, so I had to climb down, back into the very earth, or so it felt, before climbing back up the other side. Four Watchers stood quietly here, and I spent a while listening to what they had to say. They have been here for a long time, and have not always held this form, which they chose to continue in peace, in these busy days of tour buses, digicams and celebrity. As I sat at their feet, people strolled or strode by within 5 yards, yet none cast an eye in our direction, even when I stared directly at them. People walked towards, then round where I sat, seemingly oblivious to the detour. As I walked round the outer henge, I wondered is its purpose. It would make a Grand Gallery from which to watch events taking place within, and an artificial horizon for the stargazer looking out upon the heavens. Both, and more, would seem the most likely answer to me. On the Avenue( the more famous one), I found it more difficult to walk out than to return. A grand, local gentleman told me to stand outwith the western side of the Avenue and look between the opposing stones towards the Ridgeway, on the horizon. Some alignments with barrows and other landmarks can be seen. Unfortunately, some of the stones are missing, replaced by stumps of concrete, and many of the stones are not in their original positions, being dislodged or re-erected by well meaning people, so I found it difficult to get over enthusiastic about any success I had. The next day, I returned and parked my father's car outside the Post Office, feeling a delicious sense that some of those who had obeyed all the tourist parking signs were looking on me as a 'local', part of the experience of Avebury! This was my first visit, but Avebury has been in my conscious thoughts for as long as I care to remember. One last reflection; If Glastonbury is the Heart Chakra, then Avebury is the Womb. I don't think I have encountered a place with such latent female energy. Enjoy....

West Kennet (Long Barrow) — Fieldnotes

The journey to West Kennet Long Barrow has many distinct parts, starting with the car park. Apparantly, this is one of the most thieved-from in the county. A man in Marlborough came up to me and warned me to lock my bike if I stopped there. Arriving, I saw that shattered glass lay all around. I marvelled at the incongruity of this, in the presence of the quiet dignity that is Silbury Hill. It felt like a test of the heart, so I left my bike without lock and lifted my head. Take time to stop under the wonderful oak at the side of the meadow. A kind soul there abides.The climb up through the barley shows all sorts of detritus in the soil. I picked up a heart shaped sliver of flint and a couple of lumps. The surface felt like soupstone, so hard, yet so soft. I caught up with a couple of ladies and we reached the barrow together. I walked off round the outside of the barrow, leaving the ladies to the "Hey, You!" of the stones at the entrance, and came back along the spine. A small pit seemed an appropriate recepticle for the stones, so I left them there. The heart I gave to my wife when I got home. The back of West Kennet is scarred, deeply, by the excavations of the curious, and the greedy, but the scars are old and make the path up the spine into a mini adventure. I felt like a giant striding across the downs. The roof of the chambers is a mixture of huge stone plates, glass bricks and concrete. It had a hint of the Cold War utilitariarn to it, but only affected the Glamour of the place. West Kennet has deeper levels of meaning to it than that. Met a Canadian couple who had just come from Dunscore, the small village in Scotland where I lived as a boy, and smiled. What were the chances....? Inside, the stones are beautiful, all swoops, scoops and curves. I didn't feel much life beyond the stones. The word I would best use is 'cold', not malevolent, just dead. I suppose this is fitting, if this was a site associated with death. In the time I was here, at least 9 army helicopters flew directly past, usually in pairs which seemed intent on corralling us. I suspect that this is intentional but feel it as an impotent fury. When here, smile and wave. Who knows what hearts might melt, behind the Rayban Shine.... Incidentally, my bike was still there when I returned!

Adam's Grave (Long Barrow) — Fieldnotes

On the peak of Adam's Grave, I felt very close to flight. It felt natural to spread my arms and stand, effortlessly, on tip-toe. Military and commercial heicopters buzzed past continuously, yet could not compete with the power emanating from this place. All the people I met here were open in gaze and word, and every meeting felt especially important. I encountered warmth, contentment, generosity, wisdom, insight, wonder and a curious crop circle which I can best describe as a Chakra Bee!
The system of earthworks which surround the barrow are worth exploring, and the scattered, burrow excavations give a tantalising glimpse of what lies beneath. A lady told me that there is an unexcavated chamber inside. Let it remain so.
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