Disconnected Sunday: Plane…Sheep…Cloud…And Then…?

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I was attracted by the sheep doing an ovine impression of Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen –  as spotted last week during our short break in the Derbyshire Peak District. Its posing place of choice is Hordron Edge, below Moscar Moor and Stanage Edge. We were walking up here on what he-who-is-usually-the-team-leader suspected would turn out to be a Tish-type wild goose chase. In short we, or rather I was in pursuit of a Bronze Age Stone Circle, otherwise known as the Seven Stones despite the fact that there are apparently eleven stones in the circle, and three more besides nearby.

I should admit straight off that I’m not renowned for my accurate map-reading, and so once we’d passed the sheep, walked for ages in surprisingly hot sunshine for late September, and then found ourselves on a path which kept wending onwards and upwards with absolutely no sign of a megalithic monument anywhere on the sky-line where I was expecting it, even I began to think I’d misread the map, and that we were definitely on a wild goose chase. Worse still, we’d left the lunch picnic in the car, so there wasn’t even the possibility of making the best of a bad job. And it was just the day for a moorland picnic too, not a state of affairs you can rely on in England’s uplands whatever the time of year.

‘We’ll just go to the next bend’ – I said – ‘so we can see over the brow of the hill’. But as always happens in such situations, we never came to the bend’s end. In fact the path began to rise very steeply. Then we noticed that exposed here and there beneath the turf were signs of a stone-paved trackway. Very puzzling in this middle of nowhere, but at least it suggested that we were headed somewhere. (I surmised later that it must be the relic of an old packhorse road up to Stanage Edge whither the locals once went quarrying to make millstones and grind stones).

And so as we pushed on, drawn on by the stone road, and quite unexpectedly Moscar Moor and Stanage lay before us. It is an awe-inspiring landscape, and so it is scarcely surprising that this whole area is rich in prehistoric cairns, circles, and settlement remains.

Also, by now I could see that my map-reading had been spot on, although the stone circle really took some finding in the heather.

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So I hope you weren’t expecting Stonehenge. Because here it is – the Seven Stones Circle of Hordron Edge, probably dating from around four thousand years ago.

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The tallest stone is the one seen here in the foreground, and is about 1 metre high. It stands on the south west edge of the 16 metre circle, and has been dubbed the Fairy Stone. You can see it on the far right in the middle ground of the next photo. P1050638

Its particular significance is taken to be its relationship to the two conical hill tops, Win Hill on the left and Lose Hill on the right, the top of the stone possibly mirroring the landscape features. Peak District archaeologist John Barnatt has apparently observed that at the traditional start of winter and spring, the times of age-old festivals, the setting sun appears to roll down Win Hill.

Perhaps the placement of stone had something to do with the gathering of sun-power? Or the marking of the seasons in relation to the farming calendar? We can never know. All we can be sure of is that these monuments were important to the people who created them – gathering places for discourse, rituals, trade, or all of these. More recent local folklore has its say too – hence the naming of the Fairy Stone, and tales of strange lights being seen around about it.

And what do these monuments say to me? Well the main thing is that we should never underestimate the capacities of our ancient antecedents. Also that we should never equate current technological whizz-kidery with intellectual superiority. These people  of the past  knew how to make a life in this challenging territory – a life charged with meaning and a deep sense of their place in the landscape. I feel too, we have lost much of our ancestors’ capacity for poetry and metaphor – the exchange between fellow humans that relied almost exclusively on language – the songs sung, the tales unfolded, the riddles set, the nuances of double and treble meanings.

But before I get too carried away with highfalutin notions, we decide that lunch is now too far away for comfort. We retrace our steps down the old stone trackway. It perhaps does date from much more recent medieval times. I’ve been unable to find out anything about it, although there is medieval packhorse road along the top of Stanage Edge.

As I descend the steep hill on a sunny Indian Summer day I wonder what it must have been like to urge pack horses up this route in a blizzard, the wind slicing under your cape, threatening to snatch your bonnet, the biting cold, the darkness. Just imagine…

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copyright  2016 Tish Farrell

Hordron Edge Circle
Bronze Age Stone Circle
East of Ashopton, Derbyshire  OS Map Ref SK21528685
OS Maps – Landranger 110 (Sheffield & Huddersfield), Explorer OL1 (The Peak District – Dark Peak Area)

37 thoughts on “Disconnected Sunday: Plane…Sheep…Cloud…And Then…?

  1. Great story. Those stone circles that take you on an emotional journey before you find them are very powerful I think. I was scrolling through your post getting immersed in your writing then I came to the last photo. Something made me stop and pay attention and my heart chakra twinged. In my opinion this circle you found is a real power spot- placed on a ley line junction perhaps. Thanks for your post. Now I am going to scroll back and take a longer look at that photo.

  2. Regrettably although I lived and worked near the Peak District for many years I never really explored it. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thanks Tish. And I do hope you finally got to enjoy your picnic lunch 🙂

    1. We’ve only recently begun exploring the Peak District despite the family connections, and three years spent nearby at Sheffield Uni. There is so much to see, and a good place for short holidays.

  3. When I was in your part of the country, I wasn’t always sure if what I was looking at were standing stones or not. The guide books weren’t necessarily accurate and local people didn’t always know themselves. I wish i’d know you when I was there!

    1. It’s not always easy to know what is really ancient and what is not. I suppose the thing is, it’s fairly unusual for a prehistoric monument to be completely isolated. There are usually all sorts of cairns, barrows, trackways in the vicinity. Another problem, though, is that sites can be re-used and adapted down the ages. I have good example coming up in a future post about stone circles – Arbor Low – also in Derbyshire -apparently Neolithic – maybe 5-6,000 years old and a Bronze Barrow – possibly a thousand years younger parked on its outer perimeter. The Romans were also good at re-using very much earlier sacred sites. And in our own time we just build housing estates, shopping malls and car parks over past remains, though we do at least try to record their existence before they are buried.

      1. For those that write I would venture the risk is quite high and in some cases almost a given.
        Not moi, of course. I am as sane as the next person.

        😉

      2. Ha! So far Tuesday is OK. I think I’ve fixed my PC problem after much fiddling. Windows 10 did a big update yesterday and rendered my internet functioning next to useless – much hair pulling out. Apart from that the sun is shining which means much gardening in the offing. Happy Tuesday over at your place.

      3. Ah, yes Wi(n)dows 10.
        My lot have 10 and when it updated it rendered the microphone on one laptop inoperative thus preventing any conversation with the wife’s brother in Portugal.
        New drivers had to be researched and installed.
        Thank goodness some at our spot are computer savvy!
        For me IT simply means ”it”.
        I am still running 8.1 and am resisting change like the blazes! 🙂
        ‘Cos I’m ”old” you see?

        Sun shining but cold.
        October is a funny month down here in Johannesburg.
        One time I ran the Jo’burg marathon on the 10th October and when I finished it looked as if I was sunburned, but it was all down to the wind! Many blokes complained that day they even got a touch of frostbite on a rather sensitive area!

  4. What a post Tish. So much knowledge, atmosphere, and imagination, and writing that carries you along beautifully. I look forward to moe explorations in this part of your world.

  5. Wonderful opening photo, Tish, and once again you’ve touched upon a subject that fascinates me. I wonder if we’ll ever fully understand these monuments. Who built them? When? How” Why? You’re right, however. We mustn’t underestimate the capacities of our forebears.

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