Albion, ancient sites, Art, Don and Wen

Rooted in the Land – Walking in circles

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If you are looking for the Grubstones, you head for the shed… an incongruous building high on the moor that I would happily turn into a dwelling place and make a living selling tea to the walkers along the path. I can dream with the best of them… The shed and the stones beside it occupy a small space on a vast horizon, but in this ‘bleak’ and ‘barren’ landscape that is actually teeming with wildlife and flowers, it is a good landmark. I needed one. I haven’t been to the Grubstones since I was young and could barely remember what they looked like. The shifting light, that varied from bright to dark as the clouds rolled in, added to the sense of uncertainty.

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It was, in that respect, to be as much an adventure for me as for my companions and I hoped to be able to share at least some of that thrill of childhood upon ‘discovering’ a stone circle for yourself. Everyone was tired by this time. The tramp through the heather had not been easy and we were still going uphill. Not for much longer though, as the path levelled out beside the rocks and their guardian.

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We paused to look at the rocks, tracing the strange faces and sphinx-like profiles against clouds that were coming down to greet us. Once you begin to look, you cannot help but see the faces and forms in the stones and even though… or perhaps especially as they may be a natural occurrence, rather than shaped deliberately by man, they seem to express the spirit of the land in a way that is difficult to ignore.

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The shed is just a few yards further and I knew that the circle we were looking for was just a short way into the heather. Everyone began to look, but it didn’t take long to identify the unmistakeable presence of the Grubstones. That is the name I knew them by, though there are others… Rom’s Law, is perhaps the best known, a ‘law’ being a mound.

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The embanked circle is a curious place. Various authorities suggest it may be a robbed cairn, a true stone circle, even a dwelling… though excavations have revealed only a flint arrowhead and a cremation beneath stones in the centre of the circle. The heather and reeds have encroached in the centre and it has a rather odd feel… Everyone reacted differently to the place; between feeling uplifted, and feeling uncomfortable and hastening to leave, an agitation that curtailed our visit.

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I had planned to suggest a meditation there, but it was obviously not the right time. It has a history, this place, even into modern times, being used as a gathering place. It forms part, however, of a much larger sacred landscape of the type we have come to know well and it is a place I would love to explore in more detail, even with the little knowledge at my disposal. Others know it better… and mayhap I can wangle a walk one of these days… We turned now away  and followed the track the way we had come for a little while, then up the slope towards another stones circle that we have visited before, the Twelve Apostles…

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