Monday, 16 December 2013

Druid's Hill
In search of a Lost Stone Circle

Druid's Hill - so named since time immemorial, lies just to the south east of Settle.  It contains many gritstone erratics dropped by the Ribblesdale Glacier - and this mysterious appearance - along with a once celebrated stone circle - have given it the enticing name.  The ancient woodland of Cleatop Park now covers the hillside - and is a key to finding the site of the circle. Writing in 1892, Harry Speight concluded: 'Mr Thomas Brayshaw, of Settle, informs me that within the memory of persons still living, it was so well defined that one or two gaps caused by the removal of stones could be easily distinguished.'  This afternoon I paid a visit to the circle's enigmatic remains, high on the hillside - and didn't meet another soul: but look at that sky!

Turning off the A65 towards Settle, a lay-by is reached on the right with this beautiful sign close by, depicting the rock of Castleberg, traditional rams and the white rose - just to remind us where we are.  A lane on the right, opposite this sign, climbs up towards Cleatop Park.

Crossing the railway line and looking towards a misty Penyghent.

Handsome bulls at Hoyman Laithe, by the track up to Cleatop.

Far Thornber Barn, looking towards Settle, and Penyghent, with the limestones of High Hill lying on the Mid Craven Fault to the right.

The steep, rustic path up to Lodge Farm.  When you know you are visiting an ancient site, excitement keeps those feet plodding ...

Lodge Farm.  Just beyond, a gate on the right gives us access to the spooky Druid's Hill.

As if the ancients were aware of a rare human in their presence, storm clouds began to build, giving an eerie yet beautiful atmosphere.  Here I am looking back at Lodge Farm, with Settle nestled in the valley, carved out by glaciers of long ago.

View down to the mysterious little Pond Plantation: the great limestone mass of Giggleswick Scar, on the South Craven Fault is visible in the misty background.

The view ahead towards the slopes of Druid's Hill - with the woodland of Cleatop Park behind.  The stone circle remains are situated on the highest point of the hilltop - just where the evergreens meet the browns of the larches at centre.

The Cleatop or Druid's Circle. It takes a little time to find it at first but is unmistakable once located with its henge type banking suggesting it was certainly Neolithic in origin.  According to Brayshaw in his 'History of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick' it stood here undisturbed for centuries until a farmer decided to destroy it - no doubt he was expanding his pasture - or dare we suggest he was scared of it?  There are scattered boulders round about which may have belonged to the circle, but it is likely the stones were incorporated into the wall surrounding Cleatop Park.  

The circle from the north.  The banking to the east (left) is more prominent and there appears to be an entrance into the complex on the west side, facing the setting sun.

The circle from the east, showing the curving arc of the eastern banking and a prominent stone (left centre) which may have been linked with the complex as it is lined up due west. The ancient peoples chose a superb vantage point for this site.

Including the width of the banking, the entire 'circle' is about 60 feet across.  Again the prominent stone at west can be seen in this photograph - with the Settle by-pass leading towards Clapham and Ingleton.

The massive banking of the Druid's Circle - viewed on the initial appraoch from the north. What a stunning feature it must have been once.  Apparently, it was visible from a great distance.

Several ditches and earth bankings connect with the circle site from the west.  They may or may not be contemporary with the circle itself.  Are these scattered boulders the remains of the ruined feature?

Final view of the circle with the larches of Cleatop Park a clear pointer for locating the elusive site.  

Beautiful rock and sky scenery on the aptly named Druid's Hill - situated behind the stone circle site.

Getting up close!

 The summit of Druid's Hill - shrouded in legend.

By now - as I walked in the path of the Druids, I couldn't look at the sky without a shudder.

 .... while at the same time being humbled by the beauty of the place.

This short but invigorating stroll is ideal for a winter's afternoon and can be combined with a trip into Settle for a bite to eat at the Naked Man.  The route from the parking spot is highlighted in blue and the circle is situated to the north east of Cleatop Park.  The views throughout are magnificent. Go and tread where very few have gone before ... it's better than reality television any day.

Finally - a close up of the circle area with the ancient feature between the arrows and the ditches dotted in red.  The boulder to the west can be seen at the left hand side of the circle beyond the tufts of rushes. Don't you just wish you could bring that farmer back and tell him to rebuild it?  Enjoy .....

Stephen x


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