Shap Avenue – walk around the stones
Our first walk took place during our 3 day archaeology event in July.This proved so popular that a second walk was arranged for August 8th. The weather for both days was sunny and breezy. Eight of us left from the Old Courthouse along the road to the south end of Shap and to the Arc of Five Stones, known locally as Kemp Howe or Shapsey but officially known as Shap South. This is the place at which Lady Lowther did her painting in 1775. The coming of the railway in 1844 cut the circle and left the five Shap Granite boulders next to the railway where we see them today. We then retraced our steps.
looking at the Stones in gardens,walls, buildings and gate stoups. The road rises and there are many broken Stones in wall footings showing where the very large circle is thought to have been. We crossed the road leaving the traffic and noise behind and into open grassy fields to Barnkeld Stone, locally known as The Drummer, circular with a flat top, the shape of a drum. On now through fields past Peggy Nut wood more Stones can be seen in many of the walls. Some of these fields were ploughed and then walked in 2014 but little was found . Now on to the well known Goggleby Stone which fell over in 1969 and has now been reset upright in concrete. There are supposedly two Bronze- age markings on this large stone, but could be frost damage? The Aspers Stone is next and has three very clear “cup and ring” marks visible. There is another very sunken stone with a possible cup mark in the same field. From here a short walk along a busy lane to join the Coast to Coast footpath and Skellow Hill – the Hill of Skulls, which is the most northerly point of the avenue. It’s a low Round Barrow of late Neolithic-early Bronze age known to have once contained human bones. This small mound is easily missed but gives a wonderful 360deg. view of our route and from where other pre-historic sites can be seen. It is possible that once upon a time the Avenue continued towards Moor Divock, from here we returned to the Old Courthouse for welcome tea and cake. Thanks to our guide Patrick for a fascinating stroll into the past -and for the good weather!
SOME THOUGHTS : Was the avenue built to take advantage of the high ground, and numerous springs which emerge from the base of the Limestone escarpment, also the sparkle of the Shap Granite boulders .Could it have been a meeting place or just a ceremonial site- there is evidence of numerous burials in the area?
It’s a great shame that this still important monument survived for several thousand years and was then almost destroyed in the last couple of centuries, we will never know how much we have lost.