Rocking round the rock art
15th March 2009.
Map: Landranger 75
Weather: Overcast, with a light breeze.
From Wooler town centre out along the road to
A gentle walk for today, after a visit to
The bridge over the river ?
Looking over to Doddington Moor and Buttony on the right horizon
The walk out of Wooler was down through the town streets initially before crossing over the road – and unbeknown to me I was actually on the St Cuthberts Way out of town! That shows how much attention I was paying, and as I stopped to take my first picture of the day, the batteries on my camera gave a low power signal. Luckily for me there was a farm shop across the road that has some AA batteries. Unluckily for me I think that they had been on the shelves since 1945, and that’s not a quarter to eight last night! But I didn’t have much choice, so I bought them anyway, not really thinking about the power draw my camera takes – I’m so used to using lithium batteries now that I take them for granted. Anyway, I managed to get some smarties and fruit pastilles as well, so all was not lost. I crossed over the busy road through Wooler and walked across a bridge on the way to Weetwood Moor to the east of Wooler. The road was fairly quiet but I didn’t have the time to go up over the moor, and the verges were wide enough to step aside when we needed to – not my favourite form of walking but it got me there. I had views ahead of us to my objective and over to Doddington Moor where I thought I would be later on – but I can save that for the end of April.
Looking back to the hills above Wooler across the flood plain
A large flock heading North
One of the benefits of walking up in Northumberland is that the pressure of population is a lot less here, and as a consequence there is much more wildlife to see all around. In the distance I spotted a big stream of wildfowl flying north along the distant coast of the
Any one for a 99?
Wind blown debris garnishing the barbed wire fence
Hares doing what hares do
The road was now very quiet and only a little farm traffic must travel along here. The fences were hung with wind blown hay from stormier days, looking like some crazy basket weavers day out. I was still on Bert’s Way and this was shown by some small marker posts set into the verge – blink and you would miss them, so I will have to take care when I walk this way again. The wildlife beyond the hedgerows sprang into life as we walked along the lane, and watched a couple of hares haring down a steep slope, ducking and diving like Frank Bruno at his best. They seemed oblivious to my presence on the other side of the hedge and carried on cavorting around the field for several minutes. A little further along a Barn Owl swooped past me in slow motion, resplendent in his white plumage. I saw him again sitting on a driveway about 50m further on and he took off once more to have a rest down in the woods or a barn I suppose. I paused to look back at Weetwood Moor and the Cheviots in the distance smothered in low cloud, and to the south was rich arable farmland, with spots of woodland dotted between fields here and there. Above the hedgerow to the north I could see the likely location of the rock art and my step quickened in anticipation of what was to come.
Looking over to Weetwood Moor - earthworks in centre on the horizon
Rich farmland amongst the rolling countryside
The Cheviots in the distance
Looking up to the location at the brow of the hill
Soon enough I reached the farm at Chimney Hill and the route took me north up towards the east side of Doddington Moor. There were some huge cattle sheds full of steaming cows chewing their way through a mountain of hay – I guess it was still too early to set them out to pasture, or maybe the grass isn’t growing strong enough yet. The hills here are gently undulating and aren’t very steep or very high, just enough to give you a good view of the surrounding landscape at all points of the compass. After following the farm track for about ½ mile my route took me back towards the west uphill passing a small forestry plantation. Up on top of the hill I looked at every rock outcrop I came across to see if I could spot any signs of ancient scribing, but didn’t see anything. As the path departed on towards Doddington Moor, my GPS took me off path along through a patch of gorse – very spiky – and on to a small wooded enclosure. At this point I must tell you that this location is off the regular path and if you come up here at certain times of the year you may not be able to access the area because the owners use it for feeding up the Pheasants prior to setting them free to get blasted by a few hooray Henries. But this time of year it was OK and there wasn’t anyone around to tell me otherwise. I knew from the internet search that the rock art was some way into the plantation, but didn’t know exactly how far. I had added a ‘point of interest’ to my Satmap and what happened to the batteries before I had got there? You already know, and it was just as well that I was nearly there – I managed to cobble together enough good batteries to get me some pictures thank goodness. About 50ft inside the plantation and just off the main path through is the first of several pieces of rock art. When I first saw them it is a special feeling that you get knowing that they are about 5000 years old. I tried to imagine what it would be like if the plantation wasn’t here and the views were uninterrupted.
The Pheasant plantation wood
I'm sorry that they are so blurry - there were tears in my eyes!
Slightly clearer - the rings are each about 20" wide
All of the cup and ring marks are on the south or south west side of the rocks, and without the trees there would have been clear views across the valley towards Weetwood Moor and the Cheviots beyond. It would have been a nice place to sit doodling away with a big lump of rock all those years ago – but then again it was probably more densely wooded back in the Neolithic than it is now. The art is heavily mossy in places, presumably from people wetting the stone to get a better picture of the rings. I tried my best but didn’t get many satisfactory shots. A little further on form the first circles are some that can be seen in a better light – in situ as it were, chiselled into a rock face. I scraped away some loose pine needles and stepped back to stand and stare for a while, and as I said previously it does provide a moments contemplation.
The main panel - no moss where I have moved some pine needles
If you’d like to see some better pictures, and some more information have a look here - http://rockartuk.fotopic.net/c822531.html and for sites all over the UK have a look here http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/celynog/index.htm . Once I had seen all I had come for, I made our way out of the woods on the north side and out into the fields. As I was literally powerless and now mapless, I had to abort a planned walk across to the crags on Doddington Moor to see some more rock art panels, and turned around the corner of the wood to walk back down to the road I had come along from Wooler.
The pill box overlooking Wooler and the Cheviots
Back down the fields to the road
A Yellowhammer posing nicely for me
Daffodils looking pleased to see me
There is an old WW2 pill box made of brick and concrete stood on the hill facing over towards the Cheviot Hills – not a bad vista for the Dad’s Army to ponder their shifts away. I made my way down along the field boundaries and regained the road via a field gate, and then back down the route I arrived by. More birdlife flitted in and out of the hedgerows, and near to Wooler the bright yellow Daffodils bowed down towards me when I walked by. After crossing over the main road, I made my way up to the high street, passing by the parish church, and found a nice tea shop for some late lunch. I sat and reflected on the morning and the cup and ring markings, and felt strangely peaceful – well it was a nice cup of tea.