The day after my walk up High Cup we decided to go out for a drive and visit a few sites in the vicinity of Penrith. Our first stop was a few miles past Brougham Castle – Brougham Hall
This old hall, enclosed within battlements, was built in the 14th century and after years of dereliction has been restored (in fact, still being restored) by a Charitable Trust. It’s free to visit and although there isn’t as much to see as in the nearby medieval castle, it was tointeresting looking around. Some of the buildings have been converted into workshops and retail outlets for a number of small businesses and we had a mooch around the displays. There were several potters and makers of ceramics and I spotted a room of kilns, which I suspect are used communally. There’s also a cafe on the site.
Our next stop was only a few miles away; Mayburgh henge, a prehistoric site at Eamont Bridge on the edge of Penrith, right by the M6. Expecting to see a circle of stones, we were initially a little surprised when we parked up by the site not to really see anything. But when climbed up a steep slope in the middle of a field we realised that we were actually standing on the henge, which was a large oval bank, three metres high, constructed of pebbles collected from the nearby river. It surrounded a central enclosure, in the middle of which was a single standing stone, almost three metres high. (There was a flock of sheep grazing inside the enclosure – more shoe cleaning required on return to the car!).
The English Heritage website tells us that
seven others accompanied this: three more in the centre, forming a square with the fourth, and two pairs flanking the entrance.
….. (the henge) probably dates to the end of the Neolithic period or the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 4,500 years ago. The function of such large monuments is not fully understood, although it is thought that they played a role in social or ritual activities, perhaps involving trade or astronomical observations.
My photographs really can’t give a proper impression of the structure and it’s scale, so the following aerial shot is pinched from the English Heritage website. You can see how close it is to the M6 which must have been having a quiet day given how few vehicles can be seen.
There’s quite a number of prehistoric sites dotted around Cumbria – there’s another Neolithic earthwork henge close by – King Arthur’s Round Table , also under the stewardship of English Heritage. We didn’t stop to take a look properly but drove past it as we set off to drive to our next objective which was near near Little Salkeld, a village a few miles to the north east of Penrith and on the other side of the A66.
Long Meg and her Daughers is probably one of the most well known of the Prehistoric sites in this part of Northern England. It’s a very impressive oval stone “circle” The monument is 109metres by 93 metres made up a large number of glacial erratic boulders, some standing and some lying prone on the ground. It’s said that you can never count the same number of stones in the circle twice – and if anyone is able to count them all twice and arrive at the same number the spell could be broken and bad luck would ensure! (There’s actually 59 and would have been more in the past)
Long Meg is the tallest stone, about 3.5 metres high, that stands apart from her “daughters” outside the circle, to the southwest. Made of sandstone, a different rock than the stones in the circle which are rhyolite.
There are carvings on the surface of Long Meg
It’s hard to say whether they were carved by the creators of the monument or by later visitors (the carvings on our “local prehistoric monument – Pike Stones on Anglezarke moor are fairly recent).
Local legend has it that Long Meg was a witch named “Meg of Meldon,” who, along with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath as they danced wildly on the moor. Alternatively they were coven of witches who were turned to stone by a wizard from Scotland named Michael Scot. Take your pick! But the large Meg stone certainly had the profile of a haggard witch from some angles
Again, it’s difficult to gain a proper appreciation from my photos so here’s an aeriel shot pinched from Wikipedia
There’s apparently a decent walk that takes in the monument and other points of interest. Sharon writes about it on her blog. Something for another day!
Until recently visitors had to park up on the roadside, which must have been rather chaotic especially given how narrow the nearby roads are. However, there’s now a decent sized car park just a short walk away from the site.