2 cairns in line of 3, Manse Bridge (photo Sarah Maclean)
Along the A836 road between Durness and Tongue, take the minor road north to Melness and Talmine. 400 yards or so past Talmine Stores shop, walk left up the track onto the moor. Follow the track along as if you’re visiting the Talmine West settlement, but walk uphill onto the moor a hundred yards or so after the sheep-folds on your right. Before the top of the hill, keep your eyes peeled for the heather-covered rocky mounds in the moorland scattered about. You’ll find them!
Archaeology & History
A cluster of prehistoric cairns—or a cairnfield as it’s known— is found on the moorland scattering the south and eastern edges of the unnamed hill immediately west of Talmine. They can be pretty difficult to see when buried in heather, but they’re there! When Sarah Maclean took us up to see them, three in particular stood out: seemingly along a deliberate line, perhaps parallel with either an old trackway or old walling on the south slope of the hill.
Central cairn in line of 3 (photo by Sarah Maclean)
Central cairn hollowed out (photo by Sarah Maclean)
The main three that we visited were pretty easy to locate, with many loose stones comprising the respective piles, standing about 3 feet high and some 3-4 yards across. One of them (left) had been dug into, leaving a deep hollow in its centre, leaving it more exposed and visible than the others. There are other cairns on the slopes to the east, but none seemed to be as well-defined as the three here described.
In the same area are also a number of hut circles, much overgrown but still visible amongst the heather.
Welsh, T.C., ‘Manse Bridge – Small Cairns, Hut Circles’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1973.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Donna Murray of Borgie for putting me up (or should that be, putting up with me?!) and equally massive thanks to Sarah Maclean—also of Borgie—for guiding me up here and allowing us use of her photos to illustrate this site profile.
Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the Great Skirtful of Stones giant cairn on the boundary of Burley and Hawksworth. Cross the wire fence on its southern-side and, cross the (usually overgrown) prehistoric trackway 50-60 yards away. Keep in the same direction onto the pathless moor for about the same distance again, zigzagging back and forth, keeping your eyes peeled for some small overgrown rocky rises. You’ll find ’em.
Archaeology & History
Not to be confused with the much larger Bronze Age graveyard further south on the same moorland, this little-known prehistoric cemetery has had little of any worth written about it since the 19th century and—like many sites on these moors—has received no modern archaeological attention.
On my last visit to this site with James Elkington in 2015, only four of the heather-clad cairns were visible; but if you explore here after the heather has been burned away, a half-dozen such tombs are found in relatively close attendance to each other. They are each about the same size, being roughly circular and measuring between 3-4 yards across, 10-12 yards in circumference and a yard high at the most. As you can see in the attached images, they are quiet visible even when the heather has grown on them.
This small cairnfield may stretch across and link up with the secondary cairnfield a half-mile to the southwest. More survey work is required up here.
As with the circle of Roms Law and the Great Skirtful of Stones, this relatively small cluster of cairns seems to have had a prehistoric trackway approaching it, running roughly east-west. A short distance west are the much-denuded waters of the Skirtful Spring.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 (4 volumes), WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881).
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his photo in this site profile.
Follow the same directions to reach the recently discovered Slade-02 carving; and simply walk 30 yards southwest. The scattered ruins of numerous small stone piles, visible only when the heather’s been burnt back, is what you need to be looking for.
Archaeology & History
First discovered on a Northern Antiquarian outing in July 2011, it’s difficult to give an accurate appraisal of this site as much of the landscape all round here is very overgrown in deep heather. Added to this, there is evidence of more recent medieval and post-medieval industrial activity that’s intruded and/or affected the earlier prehistoric remains that are evident here. But these factors aside, we can say with certainty that here is a previously unrecognized prehistoric cairnfield — and it may be of some considerable size.
We have so far located at least seven individual cairns and a cairn circle in relative proximity to each other, thanks to local rangers burning back the heather. It was the discovery of the cairns which then led to the discovery of the nearby cup-and-ring stones. Amidst the cairn-spoils there are also distinctive lines of stone, indicative of either walling or embankments of some form or another. Some of the stone making up this cairnfield appears to have been robbed. We also found that in walking through the deeper heather surrounding this ‘opening’ (where it had been burned away a few months previously), a number of other man-made piles of stone were evident that seemed to indicate more cairns. There is also evidence of further lines of prehistoric walling, whose precise nature is as yet unknown. But we do know that people have been on this moorland since Mesolithic times (structural and other remains of which are still evident less than a half-mile away).
The site requires greater attention the next time the heather’s been burnt back.
Davies, J., “A Mesolithic Site on Blubberhouses Moor, Wharfedale,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, part 161 (volume 41), 1963.
Follow the same directions to reach the Harden Moor circle. From here, walk down the footpath at its side down the slope for 100 yards and take the first little footpath on your left for 25 yards, then left again for 25 yards, watching for a small footpath on your right. Walk on here for another 100 yards or so, keeping your eyes peeled for the image in the photo just off-path on your left, almost overgrown with heather.
Archaeology & History
This is just one of several cairns in and around this area (I’ll probably add more and give ’em their own titles and profiles as time goes by), but it’s in a pretty good state of preservation. Nothing specific has previously been written about it, though it seems to have been recorded and given the National Monument number of 31489, with the comment “Cairn 330m north of Woodhead, Harden Moor.” (anyone able to confirm or correct this for me?)
It’s a good, seemingly undisturbed tomb, very overgrown on its north and eastern sides. Three pretty large upright stones, a couple of feet high, remain in position with an infill of smaller stones and overgrowth (apart from removing a little vegetation from the edges to see it clearer, we didn’t try disturbing it when we found it). It gives the impression of being a tomb for just one, perhaps two people and is more structured than the simple pile-of-stone cairns on the moors north of here above Ilkley and Bingley. Indeed, the upright stones initially gave the impression of it once being a small cromlech of sorts! Other cairns exist close by, but until we get heather-burning done up here, they’re difficult to find – or at least get any decent images of them!
Easy one this! Go up thru Baildon, on towards Baildon Moor over the cattle-grid. Take your first left and go up for several hundred yards past the reservoir until you reach the track on the left which takes you onto the Low Plain, Baildon Moor.
Archaeology & History
In the year 1845, on the Low Plain on the western side of Baildon Hill, an intrepid archaeologist and historian, Mr. J.N.M. Colls, came across extensive earthworks and a number of prehistoric tombs in a very small area. Upon excavation, the ‘earthworks’ were found to be what sounds like neolithic walling running parallel to each other in a roughly north-south direction (north is the traditional direction for death). Scattered amidst these lines he found more than a dozen cairns and barrows, along with remains of “a circle, or ring.” Although the majority of what Colls wrote about has been destroyed, leaving only scanty remains of a once considerable archaeological arena, his lengthy description deserves being reprinted in full. He wrote:
“This level (the Low Plain) bears numerous traces of earthworks or other embankments running in many cases parallel with one another, at distances varying from 50 to 80 yards apart, and intersected by other works of similar construction. These earthworks can be remembered to have been from four to five feet in height; their bases nearly invariably appear to have been eight feet in diameter, composed of loose blocks of calliard, or close-grained sandstone, and earth. The greater part of the stone has been torn away to make and repair the roads of the neighbouring district; and the surface of the earth has been so nearly levelled that it is only by the scattered and disfigured remains, carefully delineated upon my plan, that any idea can be formed of their original character.
“In connection with these earthworks, and upon the north side of them, immediately above a steep fall to the next lower level (approx SE 1372 4020, Ed.), is a circle, or ring, formed originally of earthworks of precisely similar character, size and construction to those I have just described. The diameter of this ring is about fifty feet; its interior area is perfectly level; but the earthwork forming its circumference has been defaced and torn up for a considerable extent for the stone it contained. Circles of this nature have generally been termed druidical, from their presumed use as places of worship or sacrifice. I therefore opened its centre, in the hope of finding some trace of fire confirmatory of its character; and commenced clearing away a layer of peat earth, of from 10-11 inches in depth. I then found a layer of calliard boulders one-and-a-half feet in depth, the lower ones slightly burned, and resting upon a deposit of peat-ashes three inches in depth and from 2-3 feet in diameter (see Barrow No.8 in plan, Ed.). This I should have concluded to be the remains of a beacon fire, but, upon continuing the excavations, I found about three feet SSE of this deposit of ashes (at point b on the plan) a rude urn standing in an upright position, at a depth of two feet from the surface, a layer of calliard stones having been removed from above it, one of which appeared to have covered it. This urn was 12 inches in diameter and 9-10 inches in depth, of a circular or bowl shape, the upper stage of it being rudely ornamented by incised lines crossing each other at acute angles: it was filled with calcined bones (some remaining tolerably perfect), ashes and charcoal; and I selected some half-dozen of them as specimens, which Mr Keyworth, surgeon and lecturer on anatomy at York, has examined… He is of the opinion that they belonged to a very young subject, perhaps from 9-12 or 13 years of age; he thinks it possible however, that they may all have belonged to the same subject… The urn in which the were placed appears to have been rudely formed by the hand, without the assistance of a lathe; in substance about half-an-inch…it appears pretty evident that this urn has been formed of the black earth of the mountain and coal measures of which Baildon Hill is formed…
“A little to the west by south of the circle…are the almost obliterated remains of another circle (fig.9 on the plan), which I had not an opportunity of thoroughly examining; the slight traces remaining bear strong testimony of its character being similar to that of fig.8.
“Scattered over the surface of the Plain, and at irregular distances, cairns or heaps of stones, composed of bare sandstone and calliards (and not mixed with earth), frequently occur; they are generally about twenty feet in diameter and appear to have been originally 4 or 5 feet in height: these remains still require examination. In passing over them, I remarked that some of the stones of which they and the earthworks near them were constructed, had marks, or characters, but so rude that a doubt remains whether they may not have been caused by the action of the atmosphere on the softer portions of the stone.”
This final remark seems to be the very first written intimation of the cup-and-ring marked stones which can still be found amidst the grasses in the very area Mr Colls described. Sadly, much of the other remains shown in the drawing have been all but obliterated, or grown over. However, the decent concentration of cup-and-ring stones in this small area (see other Baildon Moor entries), highlights once again an associated prevalence of these carvings with our ancestor’s notions of death.
Sadly, year by year, the important neolithic and Bronze Age english heritage remains across this upland ridge are slowly being destroyed. The lack of attention and concern by regional archaeologists and local councillors, and the gradual encroachment of human erosion are the primary causative factors. Hopefully there are some sincere archaeologists in the West Yorkshire region who will have the strength to correctly address this issue. Under previous archaeological administrators, Bradford Council have allowed for the complete destruction of giant tombs, stone circles and other important prehistoric remains in their region—a habit that seems not to be curtailed as they maintain a program of footpath “improvements” on local moors without any hands-on assessment of the archaeology on the ground.
…to be continued…
Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons – volume 1, St. Catherine Press: Adelphi 1913.
Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Eaton Press: Wallasey 1982.
Colls, J.N.M., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia, volume 31, 1846.