We walked through the cairns, seeing their contours in the rise and fall of the heather, knowing many more were now hidden by the late summer bracken. We were heading for the prosaically named Barbrook II. We know it better by another name, but that is a different story.
“…We reach the house-place. My eyes see only the encircling wall of stones, a few courses high… standing stones in the walls… even here she did not escape the Seeing… Her eyes join mine and I see the angled roof of thatch… the low opening covered with hide.
A fire burns within and I enter.
By the door a rough cot covered with fur… On the far side an alcove, draped in hides to keep out the draught, piled with furs… a necklace of seashells, incongruous on the moor, lies beside the bed. Beneath it, I know, is the stone cyst where she placed their ashes. The last of the embers glow softly on the hearth.
The remains of a meal discarded.
It is warm, homely.
They were here not so long ago…”
From Doomsday: Dark Sage, Stuart France & Sue Vincent
It is a curious place, unlike any other stone circle I have ever seen. At first glance it seems no more than a hut circle, the remains of a dry stone wall that might once have supported a conical roof, thatched with reeds. That was my first impression, though I have never found any recorded evidence of this. Closer inspection, though, reveals something extraordinary… a small stone circle of nine stones is built into the internal face of the walls. The site is recorded as a ringcairn with a revetment of dry-stone walls and an earthen embankment, but that is only a technical description.
It was, as were so many, excavated in the 19th century by antiquarian Samuel Mitchell who found nothing of significance. It was again excavated, carefully and extensively, in the 1960s. Several cup-marked stones were found, along with the remains of four human cremations. Two of them were simply interred within the circle, one was buried in the stone cyst and the other beneath the small cairn within the circle itself. Radiocarbon analysis of the remains from the small cairn gave a date of between 2192 BC – 1430 BC. Vandalism in the late eighties gave rise to a further investigation and a careful restoration of the circle to how it would have appeared back in the Bronze Age.
For us, it is a place of peace. A homely place, where I feel I should be offering hospitality and making my friends comfortable… which sounds silly, in a pile of stones out there in the middle of the moor… but that is how it feels. As we entered, everyone found a place to sit…and it seemed everyone gravitated to the upright stones of the circle. For a while no voices broke the hush… there was just a strong sense of companionship. Then we spoke of the circle and our thoughts on its usage and some shared the readings they had brought. there was no hurry. The first two were song lyrics, both pertinent, and, with that odd synchronicity that is no coincidence, one of them raised some very personal memories and emotions that led to a third reading that meant a great deal to its author and, through that curious and magical bond of love, to his listeners also.
We fell silent and shared a little quiet time, a comfortable quiet apart from the over-friendly midges and one persistent wasp. When the moment passed, our companions again tried their hand at dowsing… the shift in the reactions of rod and pendulum are quite clear there, especially around the cairn and the small standing stones. It was a gentle sort of an afternoon. The weather was kind, the land beautiful in its own, wild way and went a good way to restoring us after the morning at Gardom’s. We moved off, continuing over the moor towards the modern pathway that would complete our circular route. There was still much to see before we reached the final circle of the afternoon…