Sunday, 4 April 2010

The High Places IV: The Western Moor

I had looked forward to visiting Hope Scar for so long, tried to make the journey in the depths of winter and when I finally got there it was disappointing to find a nondescript outcrop of rock with little to recommend it. Moving on I followed the logging road east towards the edge of the forest and out towards the western edge of Barningham Moor. There were still wide stretches of snow in the parts of the forest shaded from the sun and the place seemed silent and still. No birds flitted amongst the spruce and not even the croak of a pheasant or the rattle of a rabbit as it ran away disturbed the peace.
The grass on the moor was a dull mellow brown, flattened by the wind and snow as I crossed the wire fence and started the long sloping climb to the rocky outcrop that runs below the northern side of Eel Hill. Barningham Moor is privately owned and managed for grouse but I don’t give a fig for trespass and have long lived by the rule that nine tenths of the law is not getting caught so it was with a light step and a blithe spirit that I set out onto the moor. The remains of rabbits were scattered across the slope as I made a line for the first rocks at the far western edge of the outcrop, their skeletons lying on the grass like morbid jigsaws. The first scatter I came to were clearly marked with cups and rings and as I wandered along the line I saw more and more. Barningham Moor has one of the most significant concentrations of rock art in the northern dales, 139 known panels, and it is not difficult to understand why the site had a special attraction to people of the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. There are clear sight lines eastwards to the northern flanks of the Cleveland Hills and the estuary of the Tees, westward to the high point of Cross Fell and the Stainmore pass into Cumbria and north across the plains of the rivers Greta, Tees and Wear and even to the hills along the Tyne. How Tallon burial mound sits on the summit of the moor commanding the views across this panorama, a sign left on the land to mark the importance of this place for those interned within and those who wander without.

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