It's getting a little late in the day now as we've already been to Minniglow Hill, and had a poke about in the lovely bookshop at Cromford, but it's been a good couple of years since I last visited the Grey Ladies, so it seemed rude not to pop by.
We parked up where the road is slightly wider, just down the hill from the farm entrance opposite the stones (the plethora of 'No Parking' signs by the farm making it quite clear that the farmer wants no truck with visitors blocking his accessway)
I love Nine Stones Close, it's one of the best sites in the Peak District, fantasticaly framed against the outcrop of Robin Hood's stride, the whole area redolent of folktales and myth. The four remaining stones are all lovely, each one unique, from the heavily pockmarked stone, to the deep grooves worn into the tops of the stones by the countless years of falling rain.
Its a shame that only four stones remain (possibly five if you count the poor sad stone pressed into service as a gatepost) but they are all of a good size and satisfyingly chunky, the largest stones in Derbyshire. The nearby tree also fits in well with the circle, and as the sun dips lower long shadows are cast onto the stones.
I didn't get chance to climb Robin Hood's Stride today, and I've never found the Hermit's Cave yet, but that only gives me an excuse to come back to this lovely place another day.
The solitary stone in the wall is easy enough to see, but the walk to it involves some pretty wet trousers as the long grass is now soaking wet. Across to the circle itself, I'm now having to wipe the lens between shots, which suggests the weather isn't improving! But this is what I've come for, these lovely stones, standing tall and impassive against the backdrop of the Stride. No cows today, just me and the rain. Each stone is markedly different from its fellows and most bear some kind of cup marks – natural? Old? Recent? I don't know!
Always start a visit to these stones by observing them from on top of Robin Hoods stride, for no better reason than its a good place to start and you can see exactly where you have to go oh and the damn fine views too.
Half way or so between stride and circle is a stone in a wall, used as a gate post but because of the weathering on the stones summit it is obviously an ancient menhir, but part of the circle I dont know, fantasy tells me its the last survivor of a stone row from stride to circle.
Seven stones still stood in 1847 in a circle 45feet across, of the four remaining stones the most north and south stones are set in concrete, the northern one now stands 7feet tall but the stone is 11ft 6 long before being reset so back in the day would have stood a little taller, Burl also states they are collectively the tallest stones in Derbyshire.
The shapely southern stone has a new scar at its lower end it looks like its been chiseled, but I really hope not.
I love these stones, I love trying to imagine it in a more complete state, this is my fourth or fifth visit and the weather has always been kind, we spent four hours here scrambling on the stride, stalking deer and grooving with the stones.
The stones and stride are public access. Nearby you will see some cliffs - through the forest - well, you can just about see the back of them from the stride, as the face of the cliffs is slightly out of view. It is well worth a climb up on to those cliffs - a powerful place, whcih resonates deeply with me. Be careful though - very dangerous - no place for kids! The drop is sheer, and very high - certain death! But you can sit on the edge and look at the fantastic view.
Beneath the cliffs is a hermit's cave, with a cross carved in the wall, and some candle shelves. If you are thin enough, you can get through the railings and leave a candle to burn! Magnificent yew tree there also.
The circle is lovely, the stride is magical - a lot of graffiti carvings - some ancient - cup and ring stuff, and has a centre stone that feels like some sorecerous alter - ripe for ye devlishe sorceries - if you are in to that sort of thing! Who isn't?? Lol... The forest nearby is nice as well, with a few out of view camping areas. Farmer says no camping, but as ever, if you're quiet - well, maybe. I have stayed there with a fire many times and never been bothered.
Behind the farm is a hill fort - not very dramatic though. Nice feel though.
A lot of climbers and tourists come here, some stay later. Comes alive at night - worth an over night, little camp, little fire, and a wander about.
Ont he other side of the cliffs - if you should be curious, lol - is a steep incline, lots of trees - found a small cave once, but never found it again, and then in to a connifer plantation. Fromt he cliffs you can see the road at the bottom of the cliffs - there's a way to this site from both sides - the lower road can be crossed, and there is a path up to some rocks on the other side that you can see atop the hill. Thise are nice as well, and from there, you can walk down in to the village and up to Doll Tor - a nice walk, not too far. I've even done as far as Nine Ladies and back! But I was pretty tired!
All in all, magical site - take time to explore all around, in the woods - many hidden nooks and interesting things for the seeker!
Upon visiting Nine Stones Close at the midwinter solstice we were happy to discover the sun appeared to be setting along the sloped top of the stone nearest Robin Hoods Stride. We assumed the sun would finally dissappear between the "chimneys" on the Stride. You have to stand in the circle at the right place to observe this.
Unfortunately we didnt have time to hang round and see the sunset for ourselves as Arbor Low was calling
Is this as a result of the stones being reset, or was it truly intended? Or is it all to do with the moon? Since the southern moon rise was 3am I was too lazy to check this theory out....maybe next year!
I like the oak tree just hanging out with the stones...very much like the one at Nine Ladies.
Can we also point out that despite easy access to the stones through two gates in the surrounding dry stone walls, it appears the wall between Robin Hoods Stride and the stones has been damaged by people climbing over it. This "direct" route to the stones is really unecessary and it only takes seconds to detour through the gates.
If you are visiting Nine Ladies on Stanton Moor these beautiful stones are well worth the small detour.
The biggest stones we saw all day, and they are big. We were concerned however about whether we we on private land and unwelcome visitors, ah well, I've got fast legs! Check out the stone in the wall towards Robin Hoods. Burl says the major moon rises between the ears of Pink Panther (Robin Hoods Stride)
Sunday 13 July 2003
Arriving at Elderford's layby at 119 229 619, we discovered it was full. But luckily there is room for one car at the bottom of the lane on the west side of the road. This is right by the gate to the track leading up the hill towards Robin Hood's Stride, Cratcliffe Rocks etc and Nine Stones Close.
We didn't stop at the Hermit's Cave as there are far too many really old stones in Derbyshire to bother wasting time looking at medieval holes! (I guess it may well have been significant before that really, but I liked the phrase!)
The track bends left as it approaches Robin Hood's Stride directly towards the craggy outcrop, leaving Cratcliffe Tor (as I believe the outcrop with the hermit's cave is called).
Robin Hood's Stride is pretty impressive, but we weren't going to bother climbing it (too hot!). We kept to the track, not taking a footpath to the right which I'd guess goes out onto the top of Cratcliffe Tor.
As you pass Robin Hood's Stride on your left and the hill flattens out, there is a field gate in front of you, a stile on your left and another gate on the right. Someone has painted arrows to try to clarify where the path actually goes, but they probably make it more confusing from this direction.
If you're going to Nine Stones Close, however, it doesn't matter! Although John and I took ages to realise it – too busy working out where the path goes – the stones are in the second field right in front of you!
At this point they are about a quarter of a mile away, slightly to the left, in a field bounded by a dry-stone wall, next to a single tree.
Nine Stones Close caught me off-guard both by the fact that we looked virtually straight at it without seeing it and by the fact that it was somehow not as I had imagined it.
I knew its stones were pretty big. I knew it was in a 'good' setting. I'd even seen quite a few pictures. But I think I'd let it get 'over-shadowed' (ironically) by how much I was looking forward to seeing Doll Tor at last.
In the end I think the stark contrast between the 2 circles in size and setting actually worked to make Nine Stones Close all the more interesting and impressive. It's not really at all like any of them, but it faintly made me think of one of the Machrie Moor circles on Arran (a wonderful place). Machrie Moor II maybe.
Well, Nine Stones Close is a wonderful place too.
Despite being overlooked by the outcrops of Robin Hood's Stride and Cratcliffe at the south, in the sunshine on Sunday Nine Stones Close was, for me, far from in their thrall. On a clear day, the wide dale opening up to the north allows the circle to be intimate, almost cozy, yet in a place of space under a huge sky.
I found it strangely compelling and now want to see it in more forbidding weather. I imagine it will look and feel very different.
On the way back to the car, I quickly sprinted up Robin Hood's Stride to see if it was worth an 'elevated context*' snap of my now beloved Nine Stones Close, as I had a 300mm lens with me (it wasn't).
*I just made up some jargon! Anyone know what it means?
I was very impressed with Robin Hood's Stride itself and it's wacky shapes though, as well as the views it commands.
Visited August 2001: Ah! Road altases. How marvellous that the cartographers still mark places like Nine Stones Close. Without an O/S this could be hard to find, but my vague hunch as to its whereabouts and some chaps with a tractor pointed the way and although it's on private land and we had to wade through a sloppy, well-manured field of friendly cattle to reach it, it was truly worth it. Each of the four remaining stones stand tall, proud and each is uniquely individual. The view they enjoy is quite superb - one way looking out over gentle dales and the other way back towards Robin Hood's stride. You get a very clear sense of there being something much, MUCH larger here at one time. Though precisely what is a secret it retains. We noticed some large stones in the walls of the field - perhaps these were once part of it?
[visited 19/5/3] - This is another delightful sight with what I've just found to be Robin Hood's Stride very close by (ooh thats a very interesting rock outcrop). The stones definately look like the sorry remains of a circle & reminded me quite strongly of Bathampton Down. Very easy to reach from the road & lots in the area, well worth a visit as you'll probably get this to yourself like me!
The walk to the circle from Robin Hood's Stride is beautiful. You see the stones in a field up ahead, you see the farmer between you and the stones, the farmer smiles and waves you on.. you're there... Stone groove.
Lovely stones in a beautiful setting. Each stone is fiercely individual. The stone with all the deep depressions on the outer face is my foxy favourite,
the stone in the wall looks too shy to join in.
The path doesn't strictly go to the stone circle, so it's best to keep to the wall side.
I reckon the SW stone has around 5 cup marks on it 3 on the outward face and 2 on the inward. The ones on the inward are very worn but one is easy enough to find. The most prominent ones on the outward facing, one slightly worn.
On special occasions (say midnight at the full moon) fairies gather at the stones to dance. 19th century passers-by apparently could hear the fairy music playing and saw hundreds of them gathered, sitting on the stones and grass and dancing about. A local farm labourer was said to have found a 'fairy pipe' in the field, and resting propped against one of the stones he used it to smoke his tobacco. One might wonder what else he popped in the pipe, as he reported a similar vision.
Why should the site be called 'Nine Stone Close' when there aren't nine stones? Is it a memory of when there were? Or is it just a suitably magic number? Or, could nine really be 'noon' - a typical time of day when you might see stones turn or dance?
(convoluted source: Bord ('Fairy Sites' 2004) cites David Clarke's 'Ghosts and legends of the Peak District' (1991) who in turn was using Llewellyn Jewitt's 1867 'Derbyshire Ballads')
When Rooke came here in the 1780's he reported that 250ft to the NW of the circle there was what appeared to be a recumbent stone. He said it had what he thought to be a socket, and the stone was not buried as deeply as the natural stones.
The recumbent stone is still visible in the field, although there is no access to the field, therefore the stone.