Along the only road that crosses Askwith Moor, park up at the single carpark on the east-side of the road. Walk up the road for 350 yards and through the gate on the left-hand (west) side of the road onto the moorland. Once through the gate, walk directly west into the heather immediately below the path for some 25-30 yards. Look around!
Archaeology & History
Rediscovered by Helen Summerton in May 2022 are at least two simple hut circles on this level piece of land close to the roadside, amidst this much wider and impressive prehistoric landscape.
The small ring of stones (SE 17430 50978) closest to the road is slightly more troublesome to make out due to it being more deeply embedded in the peat than its companion about 30 yards away. Comprising of typically small rubble walling, this first circle is only 4 yards across and would certainly have been fine for one person or, at a push, perhaps a small family.
Its companion immediately west (SE 17401 50953) is somewhat larger and slightly more elongated in shape, being 10 yards along and 5-6 yards across, as well as being in a better state of preservation. This larger hut circle has been raised on a notable artificial earth-and-rubble plinth, being one or two feet higher than the surrounding peatland. A notable internal stretch of walling only a yard or two in length exists within the southeastern side of the construction, whose nature can only be discerned upon excavation: an issue we can say applies to the many prehistoric settlements and tombs across this small moorland. It’s very likely that other settlement remains will be found close to these two hut circles.
The remains of another hut circle can be found closer to Shooting House Hill, several hundred yards away; whilst five hundred yards southwest we find a small but impressive cairnfield. There are also a good number of petroglyphs close by and on much of the surrounding landscape.
Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Helen Summerton (not Winterton) for finding these ‘ere remains – and for the photos accompanying this site profile.
Coming up from Otley, make your way up to the Askwith Moor road (the only one that goes across the moors) and park up on the rough parking spot on the right-side (east) of the road. You can’t really miss it. From here walk up the road for less than 500 yards until your reach the rickety gate and the path onto the moors. From here I walked 600 yards east, thru the heather until I reached the wall (close to the Tree of Life Stone) and then followed the wall up for 150 yards, then back up (west) onto the moor again and, about 50 yards along at the foot of the slope, keep your eyes peeled for the earthworky undulations beneath your tiny feet!
Archaeology & History
Just below the scattered Snowden Moor settlement we find this curious large structure, first described 75 years ago by the northern antiquarian Eric T. Cowling (1946). Since then, apart from a cursory overview, archaeologists haven’t really paid it much attention.
It’s a large site – and one which Cowling thought was constructed in the Iron Age. He may have been right, but there’s such a profusion of ancient sites on this small moorland area—dating from Neolithic times onwards—that it could be earlier than he thought. It’s an odd site too! Unlike the prehistoric D-shaped enclosure and settlement on the top of the slope less than 100 yards away, and an equivalent D-shaped enclosure to the south, the area inside Cowling’s enclosure ostensibly is on quite sloping ground, with barely a flat level area anywhere inside it. As a result of this, we can safely conclude that it wasn’t where people lived; and the complete lack of any inner hut circles (which you’d expect in a standard enclosure of this size) encourages this view. It’s a bit of a puzzle! Cowling opted for the idea that it was built to enclose cattle – which may be right; but again, even this must be questioned, as there is ample space on more level ground where this could have been done. His description of the site is as follows:
“The most prominent feature (on these moors) is a D-shaped enclosure which covers the nose of the spur; the area is eighty feet from north to south and seventy feet from east to west. The enclosing bank is of piled boulders, three feet high and eight feet wide. Cuttings across the north side revealed no evidence of dry walling, but rather a bank to carry a heavy stockade. A shallow trench runs inside the bank, which is doubled where it is overlooked by higher ground at the northeast corner. A second outer bank at the eastern side has an outer trench. Along the ridge to the east are circles of varying size, probably a hut group. A larger circle (?) of heavy material, some thirty feet in diameter, is isolated on the shelf above Snowden Crags to the west. Strips of wall and remains of enclosures of circular shape abound.”
Cowling’s initial measurements of the site underestimated its real size, as the bank and ditch that runs roughly north-south is close to 52 yards—nearly twice as long! The same was found along its east-west size: being 56 yards, which is more than twice what Cowling measured. Altogether, the enclosure measures approximately 225 yards around its outer edges. In fairness, Cowling’s error was probably due to it being covered in vegetation when he came to do his measurements here. …So, if you’re gonna check this place out, make sure you do it in the winter or early spring months, before the bracken encroaches.
There’s a real abundance of prehistoric sites all over this part of the moor, from more settlement remains, cairns, ring cairns and petroglyphs. Make a day out of it.
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Take the same directions as if you’re going to visit the Naked Jogger Carving (stone 612), not far from the well-known Tree of Life Stone. From the Naked Jogger carving, walk up the small outcrop of rocks that bends above you. Barely 100 yards up when you reach the top, you’ll notice a single large sloping stone barely 50 yards ahead of you in the same field. That’s the spot!
Archaeology & History
This is a little-known beauty of a carving just off the edge of the quiet moors that are littered with prehistoric remains. It was only rediscovered a few years ago — by myself if you believe the writings of rock art student Keith Boughey (2010) in his essay (scattered with mistakes) on the validity of amateurs exploring petroglyphs. But I’d never even visited this carving until two years ago! The stone was in fact found during a field-walk by early members of the Northern Earth Mysteries group in August 1989 (Wilson 1990) and subsequently described and illustrated for the first time by Phil Reeder (1990).
Close-up of main cluster
As can be seen in the photos accompanying this site profile, the rock on which the carving has been done has, at some point in the past, been cut into and its edges have been hacked away and destroyed, literally cutting into the overall design. We have no idea what the original size of the stone was, obviously, but this petroglyph was once larger than the design that we see at present. Such is the price of ‘progress’, as some folk call it.
Anyway – a few months after the carving was rediscovered, Phil Reeder (1990) wrote:
“After a visit to the Tree of Life stone…a cursory inspection by the NEM Group was made on nearby rock outcrops, part of which showed evidence of recent exposure due to soil erosion.
“One stone in particular stood out as five shallow cups and associated rings could be discerned. When cleaned, it became apparent that further carvings extended beneath a thin eroding soil layer. When this layer was cleared, a complex set of carvings were revealed.
“Only preliminary work at the site has been carried out to date, but it appears that the carvings comprise of at least 28 cups, 13 of which have associated rings; several of the cups are linked by gutters forming an intricate design, one gutter part enclosing 11 cups. The carvings on the lower edge of the stone have weathered badly and are difficult to interpret.”
Reeder’s amateur description is a good one. Certainly more accurate than the subsequent one by Boughey & Vickerman (2003):
“Large rock of coarse grit whose surface slopes with the hill. About forty cups, some large, many with single rings, and many curving grooves, the whole forming a remarkable, complex design.”
Phil Reeder’s 1990 drawing
Boughey & Vickerman’s sketch
We can see in the respective drawings by both Reeder (left) and Boughey & Vickerman (right) that some elements which should have been included in the ‘official’ drawing were missed, yet had been accurately included in the earlier ‘preliminary’ drawing, as Mr Reeder put it. I hope that readers will forgive me pointing out these seemingly minor elements; but I do it to illustrate the ineffectiveness of more recent rock art students who are gaining the title of ‘experts’ in this field. It’s important to recognise that, in this field of study, “experts” are few and far between indeed… I’ve certainly yet to meet any!
Northern end of carving
Southern side of carving
The carving is mentioned briefly in Beckensall’s (1999) introductory study, with little comment. But of note here is not only the curious linear feature running between two cup-and-rings, but the position of the stone in the landscape. For if you sit either upon or next to this carving, you are looking east straight across the gorgeous Fewston valley directly at the prominent wooded hill of Sword Point. As it slopes down into the present-day greenery of fields and scattered woods, the Wharfe Valley spreads out to the distant east and, as the sun rises and scatters its rays onto the wet morning stone here, the design on the rock awakens with much greater visual lucidity than that which our daytime eyes bestow to us. In all likelihood, sunrise was an important element in whatever mythic function underscored this curious carving, with its human-like figure rising on its southern side, emerging from the edge of the rock, personifying perhaps the rising solar disc and the living landscape as the daylight breath awoke Earth’s creatures; or maybe it signifies a symbolic group of people gathered together watching the sunrise…
Of course, I’m dreaming…
Barnett, T. & Sharpe, K. (eds.), Carving a Future for British Rock Art, Oxbow: Oxford 2010.
Beckensall, Stan, British Prehistoric Rock Art, Tempus: Stroud 1999.
Boughey, Keith, “The Role of the Amateur in the Study of UK Prehistoric Cup-and-Ring Art,” in Barnett & Sharpe, Oxford 2010.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
Chappell, Graeme, “North Yorkshire Rock Art – New Discoveries,” in Northern Earth, no.62, 1995.
Michell, John, The Earth Spirit, Thames & Hudson: London 1975.
Reeder, Phil, “Snowden Carr Rock Carvings,” in Northern Earth Mysteries, no.40, 1990.
From the Askwith Moor Road parking spot, head across the road and take the directions to the Woman Stone carving about 510 yards (467m) across the moors to the west. From here, look straight down the slope and head towards the largest boulder at the bottom, 20-30 yards away. About 10-20 yards to the right of this, zigzag about in the vegetation until you find the small stone amidst the bracken. You’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
This small stone, whose natural contours and cracks have been utilised in the design of the petroglyph, may once have been part of a prehistoric tomb, perhaps rolled or thrown downhill from the nearby Askwith Moor Cairnfield. I say this due to the size and portability of the stone, i.e., it’s small and barely earthfast, giving an increased likelihood that its present position was not its original one. But we might never know…
It’s almost archetypal in design, being a primary cup-and-ring, with what appears to be a faint inner ring etched marginally within the larger notable incomplete circle, just an inch beyond the inner central cup. From this same cup runs a carved line, out to the near edge of the small stone. Single cup-marks occur on the edges of the rock, as can be seen in the photos: three, possibly four of them. One of the cups, where the stone narrows to a rounded point, may also have had a partial ring around it. When we found this stone a few weeks ago, the day was grey and overcast and the light was poor, so our photos do not highlight the carving too well.
(Note: the OS grid-reference for this stone is an approximation: pretty damn close, but not close enough. If someone ventures here and can get the exact grid-ref, we’d be most grateful.)
From the Askwith Moor Road parking spot, head west to the Askwith Moor cairnfield. Keep walking west, going downhill past the main cluster of rocks. If you begin zigzagging amidst the heather hereby, you’ll eventually come across this relatively small stone which, even when the heather is deep, thankfully rises to the surface. The Wester Cairnfield 1 carving is close by.
Archaeology & History
Although I presumed that Graeme Chappell and I found this petroglyph when we surveyed the area in the 1990s, I cannot find an early account of it in my files, so must presume that when James Elkington, James Turner and I came across it a few weeks ago, it was the first view of the stone in many a century… It’s another simple carving, only of interest to the mad rock art hunters out there.
When we first found it, it seemed to me (with the sunlight effects on the stone) that two cup-marks had been etched here; but as Mr Elkington pointed out, from the angle he was looking at the stone, there were another two. He was right. But it’s nothing special to look at, sadly, and is probably only of interest to the real hardcore petroglyph nutters amongst you. (please note that the grid-ref for this carving needs revising and may be 50 yards either side of the one given)
From the Askwith Moor Lane parking site, take the directions to the Askwith Moor Cairnfield. Walk westwards for about 100 yards down the gradual slope, towards the boggy land below, but before reaching the reeds, still in the moorland heather, there are a scatter of rocks. Just keep zigzagging about until you find it. It’s a reasonably large stone.
Archaeology & History
This is one of several simple cup-marked stones found down the slopes about 100 yards west of the Askwith Moor Cairnfield. When James Elkington, James Turner and I re-surveyed this area again recently, I wondered whether it was a newbie or had already been located when Graeme Chappell and I did our tedious surveying of this region in the 1990s—and it turned out that we did! The carving is nothing special to look at, even if you’re a petroglyph zealot. Comprising of a distinct single cup-mark on the top nose of the rock, another is visible on the vertical south face, and another possible is on its eastern face.
When we look at the early maps of this area, we find that to the north and south of this stone once existed ‘Shooting Houses’. As we can see on the attached map, the position of one of the shooting targets is very close to the location of this stone and so we must conclude that the cups on the vertical face were done by gunshot and are not prehistoric. However, the distinct cup on top of the stone retains its prehistoric link.
Start at the Askwith Moor parking spot on Askwith Moor Road, then walk down the road (south) 300 yards till you reach the gate and track on the other side of the road, heading southeast. Following the track onto the moor and take the footpath on your right after 75 yards. Follow this along until you hit the gate & fence. Climb over this, then follow the same fence along (left) and down, and keep following the fence and walling all the way on until you reach the very bottom southwestern edge of Askwith Moor itself. Now, walk up the slope to your right and, near the top of this rise 250 yards away, past Lower Lanshaw 01 carving, in some ancient walling, you’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
A very faded cup-and-ring carving can be found about 30 yards northeast of the Lower Lanshaw cup-marked stone, just as the hill slopes down to the overgrown stream. It rests on the lower edges of the prehistoric (probably Bronze Age) enclosure in which other archaeological remains can be found. Although the photo here highlights what seems to be 3 cups on the south-face of the rock, only one of them seems authentic. A pecked “line” also seemed evident, but the light conditions were poor when we were here. It does seem that there’s a faded ring around one of the cups, as you can see in the photo.
From the scruffy Askwith Moor lay-by car-park, along Askwith Moor road, follow the fence north up along the roadside until you reach the gate on your right. Go thru this and head due west into the moor, towards the small cluster of other carved stones (carvings 581, 582, etc), particularly the Small Rings Stone (carving 579). Around here, you’ll notice a cluster of about 10 mounds in the heather, which seem to be prehistoric cairns, and this particular stone rest against the northwestern side of one of them, about 30 yards west of carving 579. If you’re patient, you’ll find it! (if you fancy a look at all these on the moor, gimme a shout & I’ll take you straight to ’em – but you need to make a booking!)
Archaeology & History
This carving takes a bitta finding amidst the mass of deep heather and open moorland and is probably only gonna be of interest to real cup-and-ring fanatics. But it’s the setting which makes it more intriguing — for me anyhow!
Like other carvings on this moorland, we find it in direct association with a prehistoric tomb (though it aint been excavated), resting up against the edge of one. However, it seems to have been moved from its original position and may, perhaps, have actually faced the other way at some time in the past. We might never know. However, some student in the recent past saw fit to name this small carving the ‘TV Stone’, thanks to the slightly cronky outline of an old television screen, with its small half-cup-and-ring near the bottom corner of the rock. You can see where they were coming from!
Boughey & Vickerman (2003) made only a brief note of the stone, seeing only the cup-and-half-ring here; but there seems to be a faint cup-marking near the middle of their TV screen, along with faded evidence of an incomplete ring around it. You can just about make it out in the poor photos we took of it. (sadly, we were without water when we visited it, which would have highlighted the additional cup-and-slight ring more clearly)
We gave this stone the title ‘Solar Stone’* as it seems more appropriate and would certainly have more mythic relevance to the people who carved this. The curious natural ring, or TV outline, running round most of the stone (with the faded cup-and-part-ring near its centre) may have been attached with more animistic attributes than us moderns tend to give things — children notwithstanding! Circular forms in Nature have universal tendencies in more traditional cultures with such heavenly bodies as sun or moon, which might have been relevant here with the stones association with a tomb.
…Again, we might never know…
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
* though did debate in somewhat primitive northern lingo: “Ugh – errr…solar? lunar? Ey? — Solar? Lunar?” uttering the same queried mantra numerous times between ourselves till we got tired and stuck with ‘solar’, as seems common these days (though I preferred ‘lunar’, it’s gotta be told!).
From the Askwith Moor car-parking spot, walk up the road (north) for 350 yards and go thru’ the gate on the left-side of the road, up along the track onto Askwith Moor. To get to it, walk on the footpath towards the trig-point on Shooting House Hill from the Askwith Road. Between 50-100 yards before the trig, walk into the heather to the right. Just 5-10 yards off the footpath, it’s there! If the heather’s grown back, don’t even bother looking for the place!
Archaeology & History
Although I add this as the remains of a small Bronze Age or neolithic settlement — which was found on August 3, 2005, in the company of Richard Stroud — subsequent walks up hereabouts in the surrounding heather has shown that, far from being a small independent site, it was part and parcel of a much greater prehistoric landscape all round here: with the remains on High Low Ridge immediately west; the cairnfields of Askwith Moor and Snowden Crags south and east; and numerous cup-and-ring stones scattered all over the place here. It’s a veritable minefield of archaeological remains, from the mesolithic to the Iron Age all over these moors!
We came wandering up here looking for another of Eric Cowling’s “lost circle” sites described in 1946, near Shooting House Hill, which Graeme Chappell and I looked for ten years previously without success. But on the August 2005 visit, much of the heather had been burned away. Instead of the lost circle however (which remains unfound, though something suspiciously like it is close by) we came across a well-defined, though small settlement complex. The walling of two well-defined near-rectangular structures emerge either side of a reasonably large boulder. Beyond these is further walling and what seems a well-defined hut-circle less than 10 yards away. Like many other sites on these moors, the walling seem to have been pretty much robbed for building grouse-butts. (hence the pictures here looking a bit sparse of stone!) Subsequent investigation found more neolithic walling which ran into the deeper heather — so it has been difficult to work out the full scale of it all.
The landscape from here stretches way off. To the eastern horizon (not far away) is the legendary Almscliffe Crag, with the rising hills of Rombald’s Moor due south; whilst far to the sunsetting west rises the great contours of Pendle Hill, to which legend relates some of the witches of the Fewston Valley, a mile below…
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
From the Askwith Moor Road parking spot, walk up the road for about 500 yards and head to your right (east) onto the moor. Walk past the upper side of the disused quarry and through the heather for about 200 yards until the moorland slopes down and you’re on another flat moorland ridge. You should now be stood on the edge of the Snowden Crags Necropolis or cairnfield. There’s a large patch of bracken near the top of Snowden Crags in the middle of the prehistoric cemetery. That’s the spot!
Archaeology & History
Very little has been written of this site and for years several of us have wondered whether or not a stone circle was the antiquity that was being described in the only singular reference of the place, mentioned almost in passing in Mr Cowling’s (1946) fine survey of this area more than fifty years back, where he reported:
“A large circle of heavy material, some thirty feet in diameter, is isolated on the shelf above Snowden Crags to the west.”
But despite the various explorations of me and a number of other students on these moors over the last 20-30 years, Cowling’s curious singular reference (which some have taken as an error of judgement on his behalf) has remained a mystery. Until now!
Thankfully, with the help and attention of the hardworking Keighley volunteer Michala Potts on Thursday, 20 May, 2010, this large and very well-defined antiquity has been relocated — and a damn fine find it is indeed! It would appear (unless someone has notes to the contrary) that when Cowling did his extensive walkabouts on these and adjacent moors, this Snowden Crags Circle was much overgrown in heather and bracken; and I think we can safely assume this due to him making no further remarks regarding the site. Indeed, it would seem that Cowling’s consequent silence on the matter would lend us to think he never caught good sight of this “large circle” ever again. And upon these moors, that’s easily done when the heather gets deep up here! (numerous cup-and-ring stones on these and other northern moors still lay hidden amidst moorland undergrowth, awaiting rediscovery as a consequence of the deep vegetation) But thankfully now we have a good view of the place.
Wrongly ascribed by Neil Redfern of English Heritage to be a part of Scheduled Monument Record number 28065: Cairnfield, Enclosures, Boulder Walling, Hollow Way and Carved Rocks (it’s actually a short distance north of SMR 28065), the site here was relocated during one of The Northern Antiquarian exploratory walks, assessing the extensive walling, settlement pattern and prehistoric graveyard that scatters the central and northwestern section of the moors here. Michala Potts stopped and shouted for Dave Hazell and I to come and have a look at something she’d found whilst we were carefully peeling turf back from a previously unrecorded site about 100 yards away.
“What is it?” I asked; expecting just another small tomb or new cup-and-ring stone. But her tone of voice was different this time.
“I think you’d better take a look at this,” she emphasized.
As we walked through the shallow heather towards her, it became obvious she was standing in a rough circle of dead bracken, unbroken by the lack of rain over the previous months. We’d actually walked past it a couple of times the previous week and gave it no attention due to the depth of the dead vegetation covering the area. But this time it was different. I got within 50 yards of where Mikki was stood and my footsteps slowed; a couple more steps perhaps; then I stopped dead in my track. My arms lifted up and I held my head gazing at what she appeared to be stood in.
“Aww my god….” I said — transfixed at what was in front of me (I’m easily pleased aswell!).
I’m not quite sure how long I stood there with my head in my hands. Ten seconds or so. I couldn’t really say. I think it was when Dave caught up to where I stood, rooted, and appeared at my side. We walked a bit closer to make sure that what we could see wasn’t just another one of those curious shapes in the landscape that you find when seeking out prehistoric sites and turn out to be bugger all — but it wasn’t. Instead, Mikki Potts had stumbled upon an average-sized ring of stones, between 1-3 feet tall, and about 13 yards across, with what seemed like an entrance on its southern side, seemingly untouched in the middle of the mass of decaying bracken! It was an exciting find — as it’s not everyday that you come across a previously unrecorded stone circle. But, once we’d calmed down and walked round and round the site to make sure that something man-made was under our feet, we decided to make our way home (we’d been on the moors all day) and get back up to have a more detailed look at the place in a few days time. On Tuesday, May 25, we went back up for a second time and had a better look at the place…
It was another lucky day. For before we even reached Askwith Moor, Mikki pointed out what looked like a small cup-marking on a stone yards from the edge of the River Wharfe. We brushed off a bit of the dusty earth and were greeted the single cup-marked stone we’ve named the Riverbank Stone. It sat there all alone and dusty and we were very tempted to look for more potential carvings along the riverbank, but the Snowden Crags site was calling for attention and so up the hill we walked.
The ring of stones was still covered in a carpet of dead bracken and also had the new shoots of Spring emerging from the Earth, so we spent the next few hours picking up much of the dead bracken and carrying it beyond the outskirts of the circle, hence enabling us to see with greater clarity the monument Mikki had found a few days previously. The hot sun shone down on us all day and it took longer than we expected to shift all the bracken; but eventually, once we’d done it, we were looking at a very distinct man-made circular monument, measuring 13 yards by 12 yards across and, at its highest point, not even three feet above the present ground level. But today’s ground level is certainly much higher than it was when these stones were first placed here — at least 12 inches higher.
When Mikki first clapped eyes on the place, only a few small upright stones were sticking up amidst the mass of compacted bracken, but once all this had been brushed off we could see the stony earthworks averaging 18 inches high around the edges; and in places this outer ring is nearly 6 feet across. The ring consists mainly of smaller packing stones (perhaps thousands of them) between a number of larger upright stones — a dozen of them — making up the perimeter; but much of this perimeter is still considerably overgrown in compacted vegetation that’s prevented us seeing the ring in its proper glory: what archaeologists in the past have called a rubble bank. On its southern side is what appears to be an entrance, i.e., in this part of the circle there are no larger stones at all and only a handful of small stones have been noticed; but we must take into account the fact that we’ve done no excavation work here and this “entrance” may in fact be illusory, as the centuries of compacted vegetation (in all probability at least 12 inches deep) could be overlaying an unseen portion of the ring. This “entrance” is about 2 yards across.
The circle has similarities in size and design to the better-known site of Roms Law on Ilkley Moor. The difference between the two however is Roms Law has been robbed, whilst the Snowden Crags circle hasn’t even been catalogued. Yet there is a distinct anomaly here.
As we walked through the southern “entrance” and into the circle, we noticed what seemed to be some form of internal walling running roughly north-to-south. This “walling” started about three yards between the southern “entrance” and the inside of the ring, but then it ran roughly through the centre and all the way to the northern perimeter. This was indicated by a distinct rise in the ground which, as you walked over and stomped your feet, proved to be a mass of numerous small stones seemingly a few inches under the ground, some of which were poking through the Earth’s surface. This ingredient alone made me stop and wonder about the nature of the site. Had we come across a cairn circle of some sort? Or were we in fact stood in the middle of a small walled enclosure, which itself sits in the middle of this prehistoric graveyard? Indeed, was this walled enclosure a potential living quarter: some sort of large hut circle with a wall through the centre splitting it in two? It was hard to say for sure. On another visit to this site a couple of weeks later, in the company of Geoff Watson, Paul Hornby and Dave Hazell, this potential internal walling was given a bit more scrutiny.
We were dying to get our hands and feet digging at the heart of this ring of stones but — as yet! — we’ve managed to restrain ourselves. Although carrying off the mass of dead bracken has dislodged a couple of the small fist-sized stones at the edge of the ring (we carefully placed ’em back into position; yet it was only as much as you’d unintentionally disturb if you walked over the place a few times), we needed to use a couple of small brushes to have a look at this apparent internal walling running through the middle of the ring. But after carefully brushing off the dry dead earth, we found this “walling” was nothing of the sort! Instead, it seemed, someone at some time in the past had beaten us to this place! The central walling was, in fact, where someone had dug into the central region of the circle — probably looking for treasure or other wealthy valuables — and in doing so had dislodged a great number of the small stones that were initially in the middle of the ring, and in doing so pushed them up into small piles of stones, away from their original central position, creating an obvious long line of rocks which, once covered with dead vegetation, gave the impression of it being a length of walling. We also found that the mass of rocks that were around the centre of the ring also spread outwards covering all of the ground inside the outer kerb of stones — probably thousands of them. Geoff called this trench in the middle, the Robber’s Trench!
This begged the question: who the hell had been here, dug out a trench in the middle of this cairn circle (possibly taking out whatever remains were in the middle) centuries before the site had even been catalogued? It didn’t seem like it could have been Mr Cowling, as the covering vegetation was much more than a mere 50 years of age; and Cowling would very likely have reported any finds that he might have made here. So it is a mystery that needs solving.* Again, an accurate archaeological excavation would be invaluable here — but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Archaeological officials don’t seem interested in helping here. I was informed by Neil Redfern of the archaeology department of English Heritage for North Yorkshire that they are unable to support any funding that might help towards any decent analysis of this important archaeological arena (probably spent all their cash on prawn sandwiches and tedious autocrats, as usual).
So what we have so far is this: a large flattened circle consisting of at least a dozen upright stones that define the edges. Between these uprights are hundreds, perhaps thousands of smaller stones, making a rubble bank of a near unbroken circle, apart from where there seems a small entrance on its southern side. Inside the circle is a scattered mass of many small stones, typical of cairn material, filling the entirety of the monument; but the central region has been dug into at some time in the past, by persons unknown. It sits on a flat plain of moorland amidst the Snowden Crags Necropolis with around 30 other small cairns. But this particular site is several times larger than all the others, probably indicating that whoever was buried/cremated here was of some considerable importance in the tribal group: a local king, queen, tribal elder or shaman. Whoever it was that this monument was made for, the landscape reaching northwards from here looks across to the giant morphic temples of Brimham Rocks and the heavenly landscape beyond and above them. It is very likely that the Lands of the Ancestors this way beckoned…
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Huge thanks for the help, assistance and photographs of this newly discovered site — and others nearby — to Michala Potts, Dave Hazell, Paul Hornby and Geoff Watson.
* There is a legend that tells of gold and treasure found at a nearby pre-christian well, but this site is a mile to the north of here. Another nearby treasure legend is that of a chap called “Robinson”, who came upon tons of wealth from an unknown source, enabling him to build the eloquent Swinsty Hall a mile northwest of here (though such a chap didn’t actually build Swinsty!). Perhaps there’s some grain of truth somewhere down the line about someone finding some treasure hereby…perhaps here…perhaps not!
AN APPEAL TO SOME DECENT RICH CHAP FOR SOME MONEY TO ENABLE EXCAVATION HERE!
This site and the surrounding monuments have received no archaeological attention of any worth. If it wasn’t for the fact that us amateurs had explored these (and adjacent) moors, this cairn circle would remain unknown, many of the cup-and-rings upon these moors would remain unknown, the extensive enclosures and walling (of indeterminate age and function) would remain unknown, many prehistoric tombs would remain unknown, etc. It is clearly evident that we have quite extensive domestic and ritual remains covering this small moorland region, from the neolithic period onwards. In the event that anyone reading this with a healthy financial backing behind them could work out a financial strategy enabling us to accurately excavate this and the adjacent monuments, please get in touch. We need an archaeologist to be paid for in order that we can do the duties correctly, but there is a group of a dozen volunteers willing to put a lotta work in to do the right job in this and the surrounding sites. Is there anyone out there who has the finance to enable this? I’m serious! Or are these important sites merely going to be left alone for the elements to consume and disappear over time? Surely there are one or two rich antiquarians left in this country who, as in times of old, are willing to help in the investigation of our country’s ancient monuments? Does anyone out there know how we can get the ball rolling?