Sunday, 4 April 2010

The High Places VIII: Washbeck Green and BAR 19b

I had an eight figure grid ref for BAR 19b and knew it must be close of the other stones in this group but try as I might I could not locate the panel. I quartered the area, walking outwards in ever increasing squares and returning to my fixed point until it clicked with me that the panel may have covered over again to prevent damage from the weather and the curious. I returned to the location suggested by the grid ref and there, amongst the turfs was a very small section of grey-blue stone poking out, no bigger than my thumb. Falling to my knees I peeled back the grass and moss like a carpet revealing BAR 19b in all its glory. Now open to the air, the waterlogged moss and turf which had been laid over the panel left behind a dark stain on the rock but as I watched the water began to evaporate in the cold wind and the rock shone with a pale grey sheen.
I dusted off the soil and lay flat to see the panel close up, prostrating myself as if before a shrine. On the skyline Odmonds Gill notched the line of the ridge. It was obvious that the pictures I had seen on the web had been lit and prepared, the covering turf carefully cut away and trimmed, the panel made wet to bring out the designs. Here was the panel revealed anew, earthy and raw. The literature describes how the peck marks from the tools can still be seen on the panel and up close the rock felt cold and rough. For me this was a moment to rival Howard Carter at the steps of the tomb of Tutanhkamun. If I was not the finder I realised that I must at least be one of a small number of people to view and touch the panel since its rediscovery in 2006.
The panels on Barningham Moor are as important to me as any national monument or work of art housed in a gallery. They are direct links back to our ancient past and still mark the High Places beneath which we live. There is a deep responsibility which comes with viewing such works of art and I felt as if I had lingered too long in a place that had not easily or willingly given up its secrets. I rolled the tuft back down over the panel, being careful to position them so no part of the panel was exposed. The gaps between the turfs I filled with handfuls of sheep pellets, letting them run down into the cracks, sealing the rock from frost and fire.

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