Dodging the heavy showers we did the very short ramble to look at the antiquities close to Penrith, including Mayburgh Henge, King Arthur’s Round Table (didn’t he get around!), the Roman Fort at Brocavvm, Brougham Castle and Hall – a fascinating walk into the palimpsest that is British history.
We started from the Millenium Stone at Eamont Bridge, a massive and rather wonderful 2000 AD addition to the landscape, acknowledging the area’s prehistoric landscape. How ancient men and women would have appreciated it.
It’s but a few yards to Mayburgh Henge, the impressive Phase II henge monument (3000-2000 BC) that brings you very much in focus with the distant past. Or it would, but for the intrusion of the M6 motorway that runs literally within a hundred feet of it. The traffic noise is quite deafening, but despite that the henge is well worth a visit.
One solitary and quite large standing stone stands within the earthen banks of the henge. We know that there were at least four stones not that long ago, with the suggestion that there was at least one and possibly two stone circles within.
It’s important to look at these antiquities in their landscape context, rather than seeing them as isolated remnants of the past – something this wretched government seems to be forgetting as they attack the considerable prehistoric landscape around Stonehenge. Not far away from Mayburgh are the other henges known as King Arthur’s Round Table. There are many more antiquities in this area, grouped around the Rivers Eamont and Eden. A riparian archaeological landscape that is deeply fascinating.
After Mayburgh, we crossed by a beautiful stone stile (Save Our Stiles!) and followed the Eamont to Eamont Bridge, the hamlet nearby named after the old stone structure. This road too has its place in British history. It was this way that Bonnie Prince Charlie fled in 1746, fighting a desperate regard action nearby at Clifton – arguably the last battle on English soil.
The Eamont was near overflowing with muddy brown water as we made our way down to Brougham Castle (pronounced Broom). The keep dates to the 13th century and it became the home to the powerful Cliffords. James I and Charles I both stayed here. The castle was restored by the impressive Lady Ann Clifford (do seek out her diaries, essential reading for those interested in 17th century English history.)
We couldn’t cross the Eamont directly to it as they are repairing the old bridge, so we were faced with a ghastly quarter of a mile along the verge of the A66 dual carriageway. Not particularly pleasant. How much quieter Neolithic Britain would have been…
But at last we came to Brougham. Of interest here are the mounds making a square, which shows us the site of the Roman fort of Brocavvm. I’ve written on previous blogs about the route of the great Roman road of High Street – well, this fort, built to guard the ford across the Eamont, is its northern end.
Lane walking then to Brougham Hall, a fortified property dating back to the 14th century. It became something of a political salon in Victorian Times. The door knocker is now a reproduction of the 12th century original – probably the biggest door knocker I’ve ever seen.
Walking back to Eamont Bridge, we had a look at King Arthur’s Round Table. This too was once an impressive pair of henges, though damaged by road building over the years. It was used for fascinating purposes in recent history. In a book I have on Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling (wrestling is an interest of mine), there is a 1727 illustration of a crowd watching wrestling bouts within recent times.
There is no historical evidence for King Arthur here but, sadly, there seldom is at Arthurian sites, but there is an grand monument to two local men lost during the Boer War, with their faces carved into the stone.
A short walk up the road
brought us back to our starting point – a walk of just four miles and five thousand years of British history.
Don’t forget that you can enlarge any of the pictures by clicking on them.