Friday, October 10, 2014

In search of archaeological wonders Birchen Edge, Derbyshire

Gardom Edge’s cup and ring Neolithic carving, discovered in the 1960s, was reburied to preserve it, but the fibreglass replica is easy to find

A replica rock carving on Gardom’s Edge. Photograph: Roy Childs/Alamy
The moorland and birch scrub between Gardom’s and Birchen Edge is smothered in archaeological wonders – cairns, field systems, tumuli – but they’re often hard to locate, either in time or space.
The unusually large enclosure known locally as Meg’s Wall, exposed and first documented after an intense moorland fire in the middle of the last century, has been described, variously, as a British defence wall from around the Roman period and a Neolithic ceremonial enclosure dated more recently as bronze age.
Gardom’s famous cup and ring Neolithic carving, discovered in the 1960s, was reburied to preserve it from weathering and damage. At least the fibreglass replica installed above the crag is easy to find. Other sites reveal how the Ordnance Survey, while remarkable, can be fallible. A bronze age ring cairn below Gardom’s is farther west than the map suggests; the wayside marker at Whibbersley Cross is on the wrong side of Clodhall Lane.
A few sites are plain baffling, such as the tumulus I am standing on now, east of Birchen’s. It lies concealed under a cloak of tall bracken, which has so far resisted the cold nights and dry weather. Otherwise the signs of autumn are all around, the yellowing grass and birch leaves, the weak pink of fading heather and wreaths of mist close to the ground punctured by the sudden rise of a meadow pipit.
The greatest pleasure, and one I draw deep into my lungs, is the crisp, cold air. Walking north to higher ground, the moors spread around me. I can look across to White Edge and Big Moor. In the bright sunshine, the Eagle Stone leaps out from the moors behind Baslow Edge, which drop in shallow arcs to the valley that cradles Gardom’s and all its inhabitants, past and present, in its arm.
Where I stand is a jumble of large stones, seemingly dug from the ground. They’re less weathered than more familiar remains and for a moment I’m puzzled. Then I spot the fluorescent orange tip of a marker wand. There’s a gas pipeline below my feet. And like a Nazca line, a ruler-straight stripe of paler grass leads east towards the rising sun.

The Guardian
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