Cheshire's western Peak Part I
This obsession of mine, and it is a fully fledged obsession, costs money, money I don't really have, but as with all addictions you can come up with any excuse to indulge in your passion, today was no exception. I just can't stand sitting round the house looking for something to do, so I asked Eric if he fancied a day out and he physically leaped at the chance. So to keep costs down we didn't even leave our home county of Cheshire.
As previously promised a return trip in the spring for some better views, and man they were better, in fact I could have poked one eye out and still it would have been better than the icy fog last time almost two months ago. Seeing as it's considerably less than a million miles away it was always going to be sooner rather than later.
We parked in the same place, where the map indicates 316 meters, we jumped the fence at the same place, but trod a more direct route to the barrow, which was pleasantly in the same place.
Nothing more to add to the barrows discription, only that the views have changed since last time, back in February the fog curtailed the view to about fifty yards, today it was at least fifty miles.
To the north past the Bow stones (two early Christian sculptured stones) to Lyme Park, north east down to the Murder stone, west is the long barrow topped Spond's hill, east and south is the best view with the evocatively named Windgather rocks on Taxal edge, Cats tor (519m), Shining tor (559m Cheshire's highest point), and way off in the distance Shutlingsloe.
I'll be back soon ish to check out the barrows on Sponds hill, and survey the area from that different perspective.
We ran back down to the car hand in hand as per usual, jumped back over the fence and got back in the car, gladly, it might be sunny but that strong wind is cold and we came dressed for last weeks weather. Brrrr
Just a five minute drive from beside Reed hill with it's still impressive round barrow is this pretty little stone, murder stone or not it's a nice one.
The stone was just off the map so I was going on a vague memory from too many years ago, luckily Iv'e got the stone finding knack, I parked by the newly renovated farm house, just off the small lane and five minutes later we were at the pretty little stone.
The shape of the stone whilst not unique (superficially Maen Llia like) is undoubtedly intentional, they didn't just pick the nearest likely large stone, this one was special, how so I can not say. But what they couldn't have known (or perhaps they did) was how the colours would come out after being exposed to the elements for four thousand years or so, oranges, yellows, reddish browns, it was really quite beautiful.
The positioning was paramount too, very visible from a long way to the south and east and west but not north as there is a big hill behind it. It also has a tentative connection with the barrow on Reed hill, presumably of the same (ish) date, as the stone seems to sit in the lea of the great hill, maybe even saluting the hill and barrow.
On the way back to the car we saw two older gents out for a walk, one of them was of African descent, it's always nice to see a diverse mix of people out in the countryside, I hope they had a look at the stone.
We retraced our car tyres back past Reed hill turned right back on to the B5470, but only for two minutes or so untill the left turn came up.
On the B5470 three miles south of Whaley Bridge turn east off the main road. Park by the footpath sign. Walk up the track towards Charles Head farm then strike off to the right up hill following the wall. The Bowl barrow will come into view soon enough.
Mascots short and sweet field notes just aren't good enough, and because he hasn't included any Os ref there's no link to streetmap. That said at least he added it. (OS ref. added - TMA Ed.)
The barrow has been delved into, a pity as the barrow is only a couple of feet high, the wall running over it adds to the insult. But it's in a good place, views to the west are long and clear, Kerridge hill a hogs back of a hill dominates the fore ground. To the North the bulk of Reed hill with its large and impressive barrow, and beyond that the Murder stone sits on it's hillock below a higher hill. To the east is Taxal edge with Windgather rocks, which a previous visit to has taught me that they are more impressive close up.
Thirty meters south of the barrow is a two foot tall stone, with a sheep ground moat round it, is it a coincidental erratic or an outlying stone connected to the barrow.
PS, even in the afternoon sunshine the wind is strong and cold and not for the first time I wish I'd brought my coat.
After the obligatory run down hill, I perused the map and the clock and decided a small drive south would do us good, down to Allgreave and the Bullstones, or there abouts.
Cheshire's Western Peak Part II
We leave the hills east of Macclesfield and head south through the hills down tiny little lanes, passing Lamaload reservoir and the unlikely named village of Bottom 'o the oven. Then tantalisingly close to Shutlinglsloe, and through Wildboarclough, alongside Clough brook and on to the A54 Congleton to Buxton road. Then it's across the crossroads down the lane to Allmeadows gueast house. The footpath runs through the property and out the other side.
We came down from the north past Lamaload reservoir and down the lovely Clough brook valley, passing the intriguingly named village of Bottom o' the oven.
Parking for the stone is at a one car place next to Allmeadows guest house, there is a footpath running through it. The footpath takes one down to where the River Dane joins up with the Clough Brook, a really pleasant place indeed, a Blue Tit let us get remarkably close before flying away.
As the path goes down the stone will appear large and obvious on the right, but unnervingly on the wrong side of the fence, we approached as far as the fence, Eric lay down for a while, whilst I went for a bit of a trespass on the other side of the fence.
The stone was apparently partially buried then dug up and re-erected by landowners at Burnt house farm. In shape it reminds me of Gardoms edge standing stone. The stone is on a gentle slope coming up from the river and has a different aspect as you walk round the stone, it's best side is seen whilst looking past it up to Shutlingsloe hill, the stone has a dimple with creases leading into it. It's a very nice looking stone.
Then it's time for a minus fog revisit to the Bullstones and Longgutter mystery circle. Turning around go back to the A54 turn left then first right.
Coming from Congleton to Buxton on the A54, turn left after Cluloe cross, well worth a visit in it's own right, as it stands on a natural knoll that has often been taken as a large barrow. A small area on the right side of the lane is good for one or two cars, from the fence/gate the Bullstones can be seen.
I'm walking about a hundred yards down to the stone amid the newest born lambs I've yet seen, keeping my distance the lambs and ewes don't seem to my mind my intrusion into their field.
It's sooo good to finally be here in good weather, it's been fog and icey fog the last two times, so the warm sun, expansive views and glut of ancient sites seen today have satiated my need to "get out", didnt much care for the cold wind though.
The profile of the central stone is almost exactly the same as that great big hill Shutlingsloe, not the highest point in Cheshire but certainly the most recognisable and with the most "I want to climb that" . Even though it is the most prominent landmark on all the horizon, we mustn't forget all the other sites seen from here, Luds church, The Bawd stone over by the Roaches and Hen cloud, The Allgreave stone and the Bosley Minn stones to name but a few.
When you do come to see the Bullstones please don't think they are all that's here, if you are able and willing, climb over the fence and have a look at the possible outlier then a bit further on there is the weird Longgutter circle and the strange semi circle of stones, I once thought the Bullstones was a lonely monument far from anything else but now it's getting possitively crowded up there.
Then it's home time, my daughter is having tea at nanas and needs picking up, but we are both unwilling to return home when there is such good weather, I stop by the entrance to Bosley minn lane where a couple of standing stones lurk. But just then synchronicity lends a hand and she texts me that she doesnt need me or the car after all but instead of the standing stones we head into Congleton for some tea then head of for the Bridstones.
It's been eleven months since our last visit, and seeing as we were unwilling to return home just yet, we nipped into Congleton for Tea and came up here for the sunset, damn good idea it was too.
Once again we had the place to ourselves for nearly two hours, even on a beautiful day like today, no dogs barking either.
In the field next door are two or three time team type trenches, I don't know if they're archaeological in nature or weather the farmer dude is going about his farming duties, which this day include perfectly square tidy trenches. Either way half the trench includes what looks like a low rubble wall running north/south, I wish i'd taken a photo now but was remiss at the time.
We sent monkey boys up a conifer in the stones compound to try and look down on the stones, not in a dismissive way you understand but just trying to see something new in a place that we've seen a dozen times. In the end something new did occur to me, but it wasn't found up a tree you wont be surprised to find. Nearly thirty miles away on the Cheshire plain is the Mid Cheshire ridge, part of this sandstone play ground contains Beeston Crag with it's famous castle, but less known is the neolithic enclosure, Bronze age settlement and Iron age hill fort. Well, the Bridestones chamber seems to be directly aligned on the distant crag. Trees and Rhododendrons are blocking any definitive proof but both are neolithic in date, both inter visible and (not related) I live between the two, for the first time ever Crewe isn't such a bad place to live after all.
On another tack the rhododendrons are too close to the chamber, we used to be able to walk right round the chamber but are now confined to the southern side, it's not on, this place is too cool to be swamped in vegatation.
The day before
For the past six months or so every trip out into North Wales was with the plan to get myself up to the Carneddau, weather put us off most of the time and a contingency plan went into effect, but yesterday was different, the weather reports were giving favourable conditions, so I decided to go for it, even though I would be making this attempt solo.
But I do have a small companion, of a sort. Just before christmas the doctor told me I had an Aneurism, and after a warm and fizzy CT scan my appointment with the doctor, to decide on which hair raising stomach turning kind of operation was nessesary was due tomorrow.
So on the day before with good weather warnings in effect where else was I going to go.
After our last failed attempt to climb the Carneddau I was definately not going up the Pen yr Ole Wen suicide route, but instead heeded the Gladman and headed up the Afon Lloer to the mirror like Ffynnon Lloer. The path follows the many strands of the river as it babbles and plunges down the mountain side, with Tryfan directly behind me catching the first rays of a perfect dawn on its summit, I was almost rooted to the spot, transfixed by the awsome beauty of this whole Ogwen valley.
When the small lake is arrived at, the first words I uttered was "oh my God",not just at the majesty of the place but also because only from here can we appreciate how far is still to go. All around the lake the towering peaks are still snow covered and the cliffs are mostly absolute sheer. Only to my left is there an inkling of a way up,
but the eastern end of Pen yr Ole Wen is just as difficult looking as the other side, but I make a start on it any way, I get to one tricky point and decide to fffforget that, turning round I can see the easy way from here, its in the opposite direction, so back down to the bog and stream to cross, then up up and so much up that you run out of up.
At the top I come out on top of Ysgolion Duon, and for the second time this morning I invoke the dieties name in wonder, the land drops down vertically, into a wide u shaped valley untill it rises all the way up again to Carnedd Llewelyn, Wales second highest mountain.
For the first time in a long time I'm at the top of a big mountain and it's not a complete white-out, it takes my breath away, it really does, if I were ever to go somewhere exotic like Macchu Picchu I'd probably faint.
Up to my left on the path to carnedd Dafydd is a walkers cairn, the good kind, one that isnt built from someones grave, and warns walkers in fog that the cliff is right there, I pass two of them before I reach the big bronze age cairn that crowns this mountain, fourth highest in Wales.
But it has been despoiled, a huge amount has been pulled aside and a small shelter built from it, next to the shelter the cairn rises once more, but it's not the way it should be.
Just before I was engulfed by white out I could see another cairn down the hill, but untill the fog blew away I lay down amongst the cairn out of the icy wind, usually my thoughts would turn to that of a spiritual wonderer, but today my mind hovers on having a wire squeezed through my entire artery system into my head. I open my eyes and see blue, that didnt take long, I stand up take a picture and tread carefully down the icy slope to the cairn that is southwest of the summit, but not Carnedd Fach.
This cairn is very noticeable standing two meters tall, though that is just how tall the shelter walls stand, yes this ones been abused aswell, but I dont shelter in this one, the mist is coming and going and at no time do I get a clear view all round, just snippets, it teases me, it knows I love it, and it knows I'll be back.
I reclimb Carnedd Dafydd and pass it by following the path that eventually brings the traveller to Carnedd Llwewyn, the weather on either side of me couldnt be more different, down to the left a million natural colours wash across the wide valley giving way to the gleaming white sundrenched mountain tops, but to my right down in the Ogwen all is dark, a low cloud hangs concealing the Glyders and Tryfan summit, just as well, i'm going the other, sunnier way.
I follow the cliff top and sometimes feel dizzy with vertigo, I stay well back from the edge, but soon the ridge narrows and i'm surounded by edges. I sit near the edge staring up at llewelyn, trying to pick out the path by ffynnon Llugwy and watch a helicopter on manouvers way below me.
Time and scardy cat-ness have me beaten (mostly time though) for this mountian visit, I am already planning my next trip up here before ive even started the long wak back.
Belated summer solstice fieldnotes.
Due to insufficient funds my solstice trip would have to be as economical as possible which for me could only mean one place, the hills above Penmaenmawr and the Druids circle. I also wanted to find the nearby cist which I did after considerable field wandering, and further along the coast near Aber falls is a super little cairn called Carnedd y Saeson, so I was coming back anyway it might as well be on a superb solstice morning.
Up at two and carparked by four thirty, to my mild suprise and annoyance there was two more cars parked by the two pillars, and further up the track two more cars and an over hippied van, que the long inward groan.
I passed the four remaining stones of the red farm circle, and the big maen crwm standing stone, and before you know it a sign points the way to the druids circle, before you get there stop and appreciate the five stone ring circle 275 (blyecckkk). From this little treasure I could hear the voices see the smoke and feel the presence of a considerable gathering up at the big old man.
I sucked it in and made the short walk to the top of the hill and finally cresting the ridge the whole circle is revealed at once, most of the time you would be totally alone, but not today, imagine a perfect summer solstice sunrise and then think of the best way to spoil it and you might be half way there.
Four tents were erected within the circle, a big campfire was still smouldering, a small campfire was boiling water and scorching a fallen stone, four or five dogs were running wild, and quietly standing without the circle were a couple sitting quietly admiring the view, one bloke on his own occasionally taking a picture , and a paratrooper/ photographer who had been out in the field too long, and myself taking in the morning in it's entirety.
The normals can sometimes add to an experience, but the asswipes who decided they deserved to entirely overrun the place should be shot, obviously.
When I came here back in April I saw the burn mark and the scorched stone and thought what kind of an arse would do that?
well I saw them face to face and there was no glimmer of consideration from any of them, they obviously thought it was completely normal, and that was the worse thing, the mindless nonchalance of the thoughtless halfwit.
When the sun came up it looked beautiful, I wasnt even sure the horizon was visible from the ring, but these hoodlums obviously knew, at the moment of peak beauty one of them said in a weak vegan voice " hellllooo suuuun".
It was about now that I started to make way round to the other monuments in the near vicintiy, it took about four hours, just as I was passing the druids circle they were packing up, I moved quickly ahead.
I dont go to places like Stonehenge to avoid folk like that but up here in the hills of my beloved North wales ? is it really that time already.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
The first time I came up here I was only looking for the standing stone, but have since found out about another stone and a ring cairn and two kerb cairns all with in site of that first standing stone.
It was time for Eglwyseg part two.
After being blown away by the big clifftop barrow and astounding views over to the hillfort/castle of Dinas Bran, I followed the path up to the hilltop, then veered off towards the kerbies, ring and standing stones, there were no fences to climb and no gates to open the weather was good and the views fantastic. No worries
I first spotted the nearly horizontal standing stone first, the end of the stone still in the ground has packing stones round it, should it be upright it would be an impressive bulky stone about six feet high. From here I could see the first kerb cairn and then as I approached the further one by ten metres came into view.
Niether cairn has all its kerb stones left one of them has only five stones forming a semi circle with one stone bigger than the others, the other kerby has eight stones with again one stone bigger than the others.
The view over to World's End and Moel y Gamelin past that also takes in some of the cliffs that the area is renound for. From the kerbies I could see the ring cairn just above the grass and as I walked over to it I got giggly and a bit giddy, what had started off as a single standing stone was now turning into whole megalithic complex.
The grass in the field is neatly trimmed by a thin hoard of sheep making walking a pleasure, whereas on the other side of the fence an impenatrable waist high sea of heather rather puts a crimp to your stride
The ringer is next to a big hole and a fenced off area, all the stones seem to be there and making a perfect stone circle of themselves, I climbed up onto the corner post in the fence to get a more elavated photgraph, when just then I heard an engine behind me, I turned to look and at first glance it looked like a bus, a quick double take revealed it to be a big farmers quad-bike, I sharpishly dismounted and innocently carried on inspecting the stones, it was farmers wife and she had driven whilst scowling straight over to me.
"What are you doing here?" she impatiently asked, "Erm, I'm just taking a look at the stones"
I replied sheepishly.
"What for ?" she asks incredulously
"Because i'm interested in ancient places"
I slowly and unthreateningly ambled over to her, just be calm and dont forget to play the innocent.
"This is private property, your not allowed to be here" she says " your supposed to get permission from the CCW (Like DEFRA) and us."
I tried in vain to tell her that I just came down off the path to take a quick look at the stones, that there were no fences or gates between the path and the stones and no signs saying go away.
Then with no further a do she threw me off her land, and told me not to publish any photos of the stones taken whilst on her land and not to tell anyone the stones whereabouts.
So I withdrew, asking if it was ok to take pictures from the other side of the fence, " yes thats ok, but over there is a site of special scientific interest"
She really didnt want me anywhere near her land, she never left site of me all the time I was there, and so in deference to the old biddy I haven't put up any pictures taken on her land, but managed just about to get some from the goodboy side of the fence.
If I hadnt had the time to give the place a good look over before she came I would have been on a real downer, but as it is I felt great at rediscovering a secret megalithic complex, and I really think as many people as possible should go and look for themselves (preferably on the same day) though its up to you which side of the fence your on.
After that I went on a long walk to the Eglwyseg mountain cairns supposedly three but just one obvious, then it was back down to the clifftops and a phenomenal walk back to the car, these cliffs, terraces, gorges and hardy trees growing in impossible places is fast becoming a favorite haunt of mine.
Two more large impressive barrows and its home time, but they really were taking a very back seat to the Eglwyseg complex.
God bless her irrational heart (the farmers wife that is)
After visiting over a thousand ancient places and driving between fifteen to twenty thousand miles every year I can only conclude that I'm obsessed with these places, and finding this website seven years ago only compounded that obsession, at least I'm not alone anymore.
My favourite places are:
Ring of Brodgar
Balnauran of Clava
Nine stones close
Bryn Celli Ddu
The Druids circle (penmaenmawr)
Gwal y Filiast
La Roche au Fees
Talati De Dalt
and these are only the ones that immediatly spring to mind, so many stones and not enough lifetimes.