Everyone told me that Arbor Low, toppled stone circle and barrowful of bones, was a place of bad vibes. So of course I had to go. Sunday was sunny and bright, the kind of day that makes you ache to get out of the house. Chris drove us into the countryside along a series of narrowing and increasingly rutted trails, following the Satnav because we still foolishly haven’t gotten round to buying a map. Yes, that’s right. We’re those idiots, charging into the unknown, relying on Google Maps and Chris’ uncanny homing pigeon abilities to save us.
So we found Arbor Low, and the cheeky farmer trying to charge an access toll because you have to walk through their field to get there. The circle is on high ground, and the surrounding earthwork is imposing, giving a sense of shadowed claustrophobia to the central ring of stones. To induce claustrophobia on top of a moor, under a beautiful blue sky, is quite a feat. The rest of the landscape has such a feeling of expansiveness, entering the circle is like feeling a cloud cover the sun. Each stone lies flat in the grass, toppled perhaps by witch-fearing medieval folk or just the ravages of time. The wind whips around the circle, the head-high raised earthworks somehow offering no shelter at any angle. Sheep wander freely, and some hikers sat happily picnicking on one of the stones. That seemed like a bad idea. Too many ghosts for sure, and maybe they’re contagious. The least evil-feeling place was, surprisingly, the round barrow forming part of the earthworks, where archeologists have found human remains and grave goods. They also found human remains in the centre of the circle. Human sacrifices? Honoured burials? The neolithic equivalent of someone doing Black Mass in your favourite cathedral? It’s a mystery.
The feeling of sorrow is there. A similar melancholy to ruined churches, but with more than a touch of enmity. 4000 years is a heavy weight of history. So now there’s a place which could have been beautiful, now haunted by ghosts and hostile weeping, out there on the moors. It’s cold and lonely at Arbor Low.
For more fascinating historical info on this place, click here. They seem to know their stuff, and cite a fascinating array of historical sources.
As for myself, maybe I’ll do a cleansing ritual just in case. The mourning of the Earth is not to be trifled with.