Wandering stones

stone row, barbrook  derbyshire  (1)

Sunday morning the skies weren’t so clear. We had work to do, of course, but we were going out too. We had every intention of finding Barbrook III… honestly we did… but then again, there was the distant upright stone we had noticed the day before. The first time we had seen it in spite of the many visits we had made to this part of the moor, and in spite of driving along the road that borders it almost every time we go out to play…It isn’t as if there are trees, or even any higher ground there to have hidden it from view. Of course, it could have just appeared there, having wandered in from somewhere else… maybe it was coming to the brook to drink? There are far too many legends of this type of thing occurring in the folk history to ignore them completely. We needed to find it. See if it was still there, or had wandered off in the night.  It had to be done.

 barbrook  merlin stonederbyshire  (8)

No, we are not losing the plot altogether here… there are other stones, one in particular, that wander. One, bigger than any my companion had seen before, had already led us on several wild goose chases… not that we minded, as each one had taken us into adventures anyway, from the fairy woman in the ice-cream van, to the valley of dancing trees and most recently, to the ‘discovery’ of the Crone Stone. Perhaps that is the errant stone’s mission… to guide us through the wild places in search of mysteries.

 barbrook derbyshire  (2)

We walked the familiar path beside the stone row, half hidden in the grass and growing bracken. Many who pass this way will see only a few more boulders, not realising they walk an ancient and probably sacred route marked by the stones. There is a real sense of privilege in having been able to get to know these sites better. They are free to the winds, no price is charged not barrier set between these ancient sites and the visitor, but there is a price nonetheless, paid in time, effort and the cold of winter weather, for those who would really get to know the place well.

snake adder barbrook  merlin stone beeley derbyshire  (3)

First, however, we had to cross Deadshaw Sick, a bog around the Bar brook where the sphagnum moss holds a cushion of water, masking the potholes and making walking an uncertain exercise. We would have to cross the brook too, but that we had done once before…in winter, when the greenery was low. We had been following a trail of rowan berries and the ghosts of the past, and it had been a journey full of emotion. This time, however, the day was warm, in spite of the clouds, and everywhere birds sang and wildflowers were in bloom.

barbrook derbyshire  (6)

We squelched our way through the moss to where the little stream falls down to the brook from higher ground. Few come this way and there are no real paths through the stones. Small holes in the banks beside the water show a thriving community of wildlife must live here, and birds watched from the bracken, so light they barely bent the curling fronds. One, a pipit, I think, seemed to be taking an awful lot of interest in our progress.

 barbrook   derbyshire  (4)

We reached the fall and greeted its guardian, the troll-like face in the water-worn rock seeming to smile a welcome at our return. You cannot walk these old, quiet places without feeling the life in the landscape and seeing it shadowed forth in the curves and colours of the stone. It is as if, walking with reverence, the land itself draws back the veils of our mundane reality, revealing the magic that waits, as it has always waited, for man to see and know.

 barbrook derbyshire  (5)

We finally reached the guide stoop. In 1697, long before maps were commonly available to travellers and tradesmen, an Act was passed requiring the intersection of two paths to be marked in the more remote areas. Each post had the name of the next town on one face, and the accepted idea was that the traveller turned right at these intersections. There are a number of these stoops still standing in the area. Often there is a carved hand to point the way, many place names are misspelled… as here, where ‘Sheffield’ has only one ‘f’. This one is odder still, as both Bakewell and Sheffield are carved on the same face… which would doubtless result in some rather annoyed travellers, as the towns are in opposite directions from here! The stone is pockmarked with more recent traces of shells from WWII target practice; the top was blown off too. Yet still it stands, guiding, or misguiding, travelers. But this one we had seen before… what we couldn’t see was the stone we were looking for.We were beginning to wonder if it was really there….

 barbrook  derbyshire  (7)

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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19 Responses to Wandering stones

  1. barbtaub says:

    Thanks for this beautiful start to my Sunday—I feel as though I’ve taken a walk with a friend (only with slightly less mud).


  2. Ali Isaac says:

    I love these posts! I’d love to join you on one of these journeys one day. Those signpost stones sound very much like our modern road signs in Ireland! Irish directions are very confusing, like the old joke where someone asks for directions, and the Irishman replies, well I wouldn’t start from here, lol! I do feel that feeling of having paid the price and earned the right to visit these old places. Often, they reward you for your efforts, I find, for example at Sheemor, I felt the most extraordinary sense of peace such as I never experienced before. Time seemed to slow, and I could have just stayed there all day, enjoying that feeling and just being… I’d probably be there still, lol.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      That time shift gets a little strange… I think that is why we fel it so much when we come back to ‘civilisation’.
      I’d love to have you with us exploring, Ali, one of these days. There are so many places to share… 🙂


  3. Tremendous post – love the mystery of nature in these places.And love the photos, Sue.


  4. jenanita01 says:

    I have to congratulate you, Sue, on yet another fascinating adventure. What with the amazing photographs, it is as good as being there, as Barbtaub says, only a lot less mud and soggy bottoms!


  5. claire says:

    Particularly liked the bit, “You cannot walk these old, quiet places without feeling the life in the landscape and seeing it shadowed forth in the curves and colours of the stone. It is as if, walking with reverence, the land itself draws back the veils of our mundane reality, revealing the magic that waits, as it has always waited, for man to see and know.” Know what you mean.


  6. I just want to go for a run down the path in the first picture 🙂


  7. blondieaka says:

    Again beautifulpics and I am still wandering down the green path to……… 🙂


  8. Eliza Waters says:

    It’s wonderful that we get to journey in this beautiful landscape with you – thank you for that! I am curious, how many miles do you trek (on average) on any given day?


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Very few… Ten miles plus have been known, but we are more leisurely meanderers, doing no more than two or three miles… we don’t usually need to walk far and it isn’t about te walking, it is about the places. And, to make things even worse.. we only get to do that when we meet up once or twice a month 🙂 The rest of the time I have to thank Ani for keeping me moving 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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