Still stuck at home… possibly for good now… I can still share memories and previous visits to places that have special meaning for me. Some, like Brimham, were magical, both in their own right and to the eyes of the child who wandered between the rocks…
When I was a child I was taken to a magical landscape… one of many my parents and grandparents shared with me; gifts I loved then, but have only fully learned to appreciate now, when I realise how lucky I was. Raised in the city for most of my childhood, I might have known only the pollution stunted trees or the green regiments of parks, instead I learned to love the forests that whisper secrets from hoary, moss-grown bark and the thick undergrowth where enchantment awaits. They read me books and wrote me stories… any tree could be the Faraway Tree, and Seelie, the water-fairy, might wait in any stream.
One of the places they took me was a stretch of moor in Nidderdale where the rock formations take on fantastic shapes and boulders are precariously balanced at heights of over a hundred feet. To those who know similar landscapes on the grander scale, this may seem paltry, but in Yorkshire, the whole place seems incredible… an alien landscape.
There seems little to be found on the physical archaeology of the place to the casual seeker, but that matters little. The surrounding area is rich in the memories of our ancestors, with circles, cairns and standing stones and Brimham Rocks standing high on the moor and offering an unparalleled view across the dales, could not have been ignored.
If it looks alien and fantastic to our eyes, with strange faces, monstrous forms and simulacra in every rock, how much more so must it have seemed to those who lived the land and held it sacred? Four hundred acres of these contorted and flowing shapes rise from the heather … dancing bears, sphinxes, huge heads and narrow tunnels…. Great boulders poised on cliff tops… or upon mere pebbles, it seems, defying gravity, balanced impossibly… Even we, accustomed to the world in all its richness of landscape through visual media, cannot help but be as awed as children as we approach the rocks.
Then there are the acoustics… a very peculiar quality of echo. It is said in local folklore that the stones whisper secrets from their soul. Legends tell, inevitably of the Druids and although that may be a bit of Victorian romance I cannot but think this place would have been held sacred by the Old Ones.
There is a wishing stone where you place the fingers of your right hand in the hollowed rock. There is a place where the echoes are named the Son of the Rocks and were venerated as an oracle. And, of course the rocking stone here too could only be moved by an honest man, just as at Ilkley. No folk history of such a place would be complete without a love story and Lover’s Rock reminds us of the young couple whose love was forbidden. Choosing to enter death together, rather than live apart, they leaped from the rock, only to be lifted up into the air. The father, who witnessed this miracle, gave his consent and the two were wed, leaving their story in the stones.
For me another ghost remains there… a small child who saw wood sprites and water fairies still wanders there, laughing in delight, her toes stained from the heather and sunlight making a halo of unruly golden curls around the small head.