Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The great Grey Stone of Harewood

A magnificent boulder, must be 10 feet high!

We parked in the layby at the junction of the A61 and the tiny road from Wike village. A place occasionally frequented by car thieves so lock up your valuables if you leave your vehicle there!
A dash across the dicey A61 (it's a game of 'Chicken' crossing the road here, trying to find a gap in the speeding traffic), and we entered through an ornate gateway into the Harewood estate…

A grand tranquil vista of rolling parkland, designed by the great Capability Brown, spread out before us! We followed the well-trod bridleway through rolling meadows and eventually found ourselves in a wider expanse of pasture that stretched southwards. Evergreen woodland surrounded the fields and in the distance, near the edge of the conifer plantations, we spied the stone.

The rock itself is unmissable, standing alone in a north facing field, bounded by woodland.

The views northwards from here were far-reaching; the unmistakable gritstone lump of Almscliffe Crag could easily be seen in the distance. On the north-western face of the rock is an ancient carving. It seems to be seven concentric rings, though they're now very indistinct…
The rock art expert Graeme Chappell tells us that if you stood here sometime around 1800 BC, you could watch the midwinter full moon set behind Almscliffe Crag at the major lunar standstill!

Whilst taking photographs I noticed several huge birds circling above us – the Red Kites! The Harewood estate is home to several breeding pairs. Massive things they were, soaring across the sky like pterodactyls!

A solitary old oak tree stood above the stone. Out of curiosity I walked over to check it out. It was gnarled and partly rotten, hollow with age. Walking around to the opposite side I glanced up into the crown above and something caught my eye. Pinned to the tree trunk, just within reach, was a small colourfully-decorated piece of card, showing spiral designs, eyes and moons. On the reverse was a poem, written in ink. Above this, and to the right was a wooden stick with a teasel head fastened to one end (phallic eh?!). This had coloured cord, a feather and turquoise coloured stones tied around it. To the left, partly concealed under the bark, was a rolled up scroll of paper, again tied with coloured cord. Through the thin paper I could make out symbols on it's other side, didn’t recognise any of them though.

A spell or an offering of some sort?
Feeling that it would be an invasion of someones privacy to take them down or read the scroll, I left the objects alone to do their thing…

After taking in the peaceful panorama for a while we headed back to the car. Halfway along the bridleway I turned back for a last look at the stone. A monster 4x4 shot out from the wood at the bottom of the slope and burned it's way up the hill. It came to a stop by the rock. Probably the estate security staff?

Maybe they thought we were the vandals that had scrawled the mindless graffiti that we'd seen on parts of the stone. Or the people that had left the 'spells' in the tree? Or poachers, after the Red Kites? We decided not to hang around to find out...

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