The day I visited the weather was beautiful, right up until we left Masham and started to climb the twisting narrow roads into the hills. As we neared the Temple grim clouds raced in (right on cue!), it became eerily dark and the wind began to howl through the pine woods!
Parking up in the tiny carpark, we grabbed our waterproofs and entered the gloomy interior of the forest. Following a woodland path through the swaying spruce and larch it wasn’t long before the menhirs loomed up ahead.
The trilithons and a solid ‘wall’ of boulders encircled the site. Within the perimeter were guard stones and uprights, an altar and a tomb.
This dank hole in the hillside was once home to a hermit, according to local lore. Apparently, William Danby made the offer that any man who could live there for seven years would receive an annuity. One man managed almost five years, but went insane in the process…
Dotted throughout the plantation are more single menhirs, dolmens and other curious arrangements of stone. Around one such dolmen nearby was a raging bonfire and hordes of well-wrapped-up kids careering around. Barbecues were arranged around the fire and balloons were pinned to the trees. They were having a party!
The site is a popular destination for neo-pagans and there are many stories of it’s ritual use in recent times.
It also has a reputation for inducing fear in visitors! Baroness Masham of Ilton (quoted in Hansard) said:-
The main reason for my visit was to check out the surfaces of the stones in the circle. Tony Liddell of the Otherworld North East Research Society had told me that he'd previously noticed strange esoteric symbols that had been scratched on the rocks. He described how he'd taken some photographs several years ago and had the symbols looked at by an occultist, who identified some as being reminiscent of ‘Travelling Magic’, or of ‘Summoning’.
I’ve yet to discover the exact nature of ‘Travelling Magic’. Discussions with friends have come up with; symbols that you concentrate on and 'enter' to reach another plane/place, symbols that act as 'beacons' or place-markers for spirit travel (either 'ghostly' or shamanic?), symbols similar to the ones Romany people and 'tramps' used to leave to show if households were sympathetic to travellers and might provide a meal etc., and symbols like 'Yantras' that are geometrical designs to illustrate the essence of a particular thing (or realm)...
The idea that I tend to think most likely is that the occultist was referring to something like ‘trance’ work, which some people call Journeying, or Travelling. The ‘Summoning’ could be for invoking a guide for that sort of travel?
I’m planning on returning in the near future however, hopefully with better luck and a companion who can point out the curious carvings…
It’s definately an atmospheric and impressive place, just don’t go on your own when it’s dark!