It had rained overnight… heavily too. The sky still looked ominous, but held the promise of a clearer day to come. I looked at the bag of boots in the car and shook my head… “No, it’ll be fine…” There was no excuse for leaving the sensible footwear in the car and setting off over the moors unsuitably clad. No excuse at all…just my apparent stupidity and habitual insistence on being inappropriately shod…except that there always seems to be an inadvertent price for a finding and muddy feet would be a small one to pay. We had been looking for this particular stone circle for a long time.
With the meeting not until lunch, we had left early to see if the newly-found directions in a book that had been gathering dust on the shelf all the while would lead us to the stones. We had tried on several occasions, even with a map, to locate the circle but with no success at all. It would be found when the time was right and for some reason, we were hopeful that it was.
Perhaps it had something to do with the revelations of our previous visit and the ‘unlocking’ of another circle? Maybe we’d had to prove ourselves fit to find it? Others had found it before us… many feet have taken the path to the circle… but perhaps what you find is as multilayered as reality and depends upon why you go…
“Are you sure you don’t want to go back for the boots?” said my companion as we hopped and skipped from tussock to tussock across the saturated moor; earth made from centuries of heather and bracken, springing beneath the feet oozed its russet essence with every step. We crossed the rivulets with some difficulty, little grace and relatively dry feet to where a line of wind-bent thorns had marked our horizon.
From here the landscape opened up around us, emphasising the height of the moor and opening the world to our sight. We could see the location of many ancient sites that we knew and could imagine the brilliant vault of heaven strewn with stars.
Perhaps that was why this site had been chosen? Not far, as the Raven flies, from the settlements and necropolis of a forgotten people, but far enough for it to be a wild, sequestered place.
The stone circles of Derbyshire… save the great circle of Arbor Low… are, for the most part, small and discrete, as if they know that their power comes from the depths of earth and the starry dome of night. It is only marked, not created, by the stones. There is no need to impress… they are intimate and personal.
If the heather had been in bloom or the bracken had unfurled its fronds, we would not have found it, even though the path we had taken passed within a few yards of its curve. Hidden in plain sight, the boulders hunker low to the ground and, even without the added depth of centuries, can never have stood very high above the surface.
The circle is believed to date back to the Bronze Age at least, making it up to four and a half thousand years old. It is, in diameter, one of the largest circles in Derbyshire and almost complete. Most of its stones remain, three paces apart, forming a flattened circle around a stone-free space some eighty feet across and ringed with the faintest trace of a bank.
As it was, we couldn’t have missed it. Had we failed to see the almost invisible stones, we would not have missed the stark white of the bleached skull at the centre of the circle, evidence, perhaps, of its continued use as a place of working by local pagans.
There was no sense of intrusion or exclusion as there is at some sites that are still in use, millennia after their construction. There was just a sense of faded life and mysteries long forgotten but poised and waiting to be rediscovered… and reawakened.
We lingered a while, walking the perimeter and examining the stones, before heading back to the car and our eventual meeting. There is always a strange sense of otherworldliness at these places… it is difficult to keep track of the time, especially when a glance at the clock shows the phone has reset itself to a years-old date yet again, as it had done at Avebury.
We left the moor, but not without it exacting a price… the very last steps across the bog sucked the shoes from my feet and I wore mud up to the ankles. My companion rummaged in his pockets for tissues. “I did ask about the boots…” A small price to pay for such a finding.