Sunday, 13 November 2016

Gwaith 13: Exploring Three Sites in Cheshire (12 Oct 2016)

Helo Pawb

After my research on Ynys Môn, I left for Manchester, to enjoy for a few days the gracious hospitality of my friend Grevel Lindop and his wife, Amanda. The day after my arrival, he took me to visit two megalithic sites neither of us had seen before and to return to a favourite.

For some unfathomable reason, at each of the sites we were greeted by ravens, which hovered nearby as if checking us out and were still there when we left the site.

The first site was the Bullstones (sometimes known as Bullstrang), one of the best-preserved stone circle and burial sites in Cheshire, which is situated near the town of Macclesfield. A circle of millstone grit cobbles surrounds a single monolith. Excavations at the site revealed a cremation burial with an urn, a flint knife and a flint arrowhead. Apparently, there is evidence that a Bronze Age settlement existed close to the Bullstones. The setting itself gives amazing views of the surrounding countryside, including that of Shutlingsloe, which features in Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. The Bullstones are aligned with Shutlingsloe at approximately 50 degrees, which apparently is the angle of the summer full moon-rise nearest the solstice. Intriguing.
The centre monolith and some of its cobbls
A close up of the centre monolith, as a bed of smaller cobble stones than those in the circle around it
The monolith with Shutlingsloe in the background
The second site we visited was a relatively unknown one, the Allgreave Menhir, which was discovered partially buried on land belong to Burnt House Farm and re-erected close to where it was found. It is about one mile south-east of the Bullstones and bears a resemblance to the great standing stones at the Bridestone Burial Chamber some 4.6 miles to the south-west (which we were to visit another day). The stone is on a north-south axis, with a flat face on the south side, a sun-face, and a tapering body of feminine curves to the north. On the west side we found a niche that contained carved indentations that fitted our hands. The reasons for the flat face and the niche are obviously lost to time, but I can think of a possible use, which I may include in my book and so won’t reveal at the moment.
The east side of the Allgreave Menhir, showing its tapering curves
The south side 'sun-face' of the menhir
My hand in the niche with its curved indentations and guidance protusion
Our third stop was to the site that overwhelmed me with awe the last time I visited it, Lud’s Church. We had our lunch at Castle Rock and Grevel pointed out that the Allgreave Menhir seemed to be made from the same water-eroded sandstone as the massive stone blocks we later climbed for the superb views of the surrounding areas.
The trail to Castle Rock
One section of Castle Rock
Another section
To the accompaniment of robins, crows, jackdaws and ravens, we then walked past birch, oak and rowan, the masses of bracken still green under the thick canopy. At the end of the trail, which was smothered with autumn leaf litter, we climbed down into the hallowed place that actually featured in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Grevel descending into Lud's Church
 To our right as we entered we discovered a section of the chasm we didn’t remember from before. As Grevel said, the site plays tricks with time and place and memory. The deep chasm itself is always damp, and so is rich in ferns, moss, lichens, fungus, and tufts of long blades of grass. Oak, rowan and birch lined the tops of the jagged walls. As I did last time, I felt awe at this site that had existed for over ten thousand years and had seen peoples of different tribes and times standing here as I did and possibly worshipping the dripping silence. There is a presence I can’t explain, especially at the deepest, widest section of the chasm. The shadows, the quiet, the wet massive rock walls and overhanging rocks covered in many shades and textures of green, all combine to slow one down, ground one in the moment. As we made our way towards the exit. Grevel spotted, at the end of a small moss leaf, a drop of water filled with emerald light. Then another drop. And another. Magical.
View of the bend in the chasm which is at the widest, deepest part
View to one end, from the bend
View to the other end
When we emerged into the brightness of the day, the silence and awe stayed with us.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Cofion Cynnes

NB: I had inserted a video of the view from the top of Castle Rock, but it doesn't seem to work on some devices, so have had to delete it. Sorry about that.


jmsd said...

It sounds fascinating,Earl, especially Lud's Church. I hope this will feature in your book as the sense of awe you describe is marvellous. One of the 'thin' places.
Thanks Jean

Earl Livings said...

Thanks, Jean. Lud's Church does feature in the book, though changed somewhat. I like your phrase 'thin places'. Lud's Church is definitely one of them! Blessings