A good time of the year to hunt out antiquities as we set out from Crosby Ravensworth to look at the stone circles on the ridge around Iron Hill and Harberwain Rigg. Not stone circles in the ceremonial sense, but rather cairn retaining circles.
But a good season to seek out these moorland antiquities, the bracken is down and the light – on the better days – reveals features which might be lost at other rimes.
We walked up to the ridgeline of Harberwain (notice the different spellings on the map and on the ground) by way of the lane from Crosby. There is actually a footpath which runs roughly parallel with this, but the lane was so enticing with the wide views across to the north Pennines and the beautiful autumn colours on the trees.
Also I believe that the lane is a particularly old track. Just before it enters the open fell west of High Harberwain, the present lane swings suddenly to the north-west. But the track on to the moorland ignores the turn and continues straight on west, towards the line of the ridge and to the location of these stone circles.
Just as the ridge is topped you can see the remnants of the first circle bisected by the stone wall. There’s little doubt that this circle – also called Iron Hill North on some maps – is a cairn retaining circle. Much of its stones must have gone into the wall and there’s only slight evidence of the retaining boulders on the far side of that wall. The surviving stones seem to be a mixture of limestone and granite and are rich in colour and texture.
A burial place then and probably dating back to the Bronze Age.
Not many yards to the south is another cairn circle, with the suggestion of the remnants of a cist, known as Iron Hill South – more dramatic in its way, though the grandeur of the scene is somewhat spoiled by the nearby Hardendale Quarry and the distant M6 motorway.
A minor excavation many years ago found it to contain the bones of a man, a portion of deer antler and animal bones. A bronze halberd was found nearby.
Looking back at the long line of the drystone wall, I did wonder how many more antiquities were lost to its construction.
We joined the Coast to Coast path by the secluded hamlet of Oddendale and then across the excellent and airy tracks of Crosby Ravensworth Fell back to the village, by way of the little valley known as Slack Randy – and if you know why it’s called that please let me know.