‘Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor . . .’ I mean Broomhead. (That was the first line of a song for those of you who didn’t know). Yes, what a smashing time the Landscape Detectives had communing with the manipulated ‘natural landscape’ of Broomhead Moor. Snow up to our knees soaking our socks and feet and mist closing in on us didn’t stop us from fulfilling our mission to see things in the landscape. But what were these things we saw? Here follows a very exciting description of the ‘close encounters of the landscape kind’ we experienced on this eerie and mysterious moor. Well done if you read to the end!
To begin with we stopped off to look at the Bar Dyke bank and ditch – obscured from a distance by a pea soup mist. Very boring description: the bank is c. 8m wide, the top of the ditch c. 7m wide and the bottom of the ditch c. 1m wide. It is orientated north-east to south-west with the aligned ditch on the north-west side of the embankment. It is 400m in length and divided into three sections by two roads. The NMR describes this as a linear embankment that could date from the Iron Age to the 5th-7th A.D. No radio carbon dates have been taken.
We drove on and parked up again. Heading due north on foot (except Drew who kept wandering off on his own little landscape missions) we happened upon Broomhead Dyke. Very boring description again: this linear earthwork is c. 1200m in length and is orientated in an east-north-east to west-south-westerly direction. The bank is aligned on the southern side of the ditch. The ditch is c. 3m wide and up to 2m deep. It is described in the NMR as a Bronze Age cross-dyke but it has never been dated.
We visited these two features really to compare them to each other and to a much smaller bank and ditch that is situated between the two and running almost parallel to them. And again: this earthwork is c. 50 – 75m in length, with the bank being almost 2m high and the ditch c. 1m wide.
To find this we traced our steps back to a line of grouse butts further south on the moor. Just after the last in line we veered west and headed towards a stream which we then followed south until reaching the bank and ditch. It was difficult to see the structure of the bank because of the snow but it was definitely there. We discussed whether it was manmade or natural. Drew thought it may have just been part of the stream or been built as a drainage ditch. However, it was blocked off where it meets the stream making these two explanations unlikely. The small tributaries seen on google earth running into it from the south-west may have developed after it had been built. The short length and its position on the moor pose significant questions relating to its date and function. Anyway, it made an excellent place to have a picnic. Luis brought some interesting continental meat called Jamon Serrano (mountain ham – quite apt as we felt like mountaineers traipsing through the snow) which everyone in the world has heard of except for me. Two of us die hard vegetarians were tempted by its fibrous texture. Pete C actually swallowed some. I chewed it but my stomach had a protest march when it realised what was about to land – so I had to spit it out. Very unfortunate for the meat to be catapulted out into a nest of snow only to be detected by my undistinguished and ill-discerning dog, Sheba, who consumed it with no hesitation or thought – Yum, Yum, Yum! She had some fresh pieces too thanks to Luis’ generosity – this comforted her a little bit while she sat there shivering in the snow – poor little dog. Pete and I made excuses about survival instincts to justify our brief diversion from vegetarian principles (and Pete is quite lenient anyway and I have turkey at Christmas sometimes. Pete doesn’t celebrate Christmas because he is a Buddhist – or does he)?
Anyway, back to landscape archaeology. Where were we? Oh yes – on our way to the next incredibly fascinating feature which took the form of a rectangular enclosure situated on the top of a small elongated hillock. The bank of the enclosure was detected by Pete C initially and then spotted shrewdly by Drew and Luis after it had been pointed out. Sadly, it has been argued by Colin Merrony that this is not a Medieval (or earlier) stock enclosure due to the sharp angular nature of the corners. There is no reason to dispute this as he is nearly always right and so probably is about this too (does anyone know if his hair is streaked or natural)?
Leaving the enclosure and heading north down the hill we came across a very interesting ‘stone triangle’. I am completely convinced – unlike everyone else (!) – that this is a prehistoric feature of great significance – as yet unrecognised by the wider archaeological community. These triangles (as indeed there are others scattered about on Broomhead and other South Yorkshire moorlands) are constructed from quite large stones set as to appear triangular and placed at three points c. 15m apart making – yes you guessed it – a triangle. So what are they? Are there any sensible ideas floating about in the landscape internet – osphere? We also found a hobbit sized cist thing – but what it really is who can tell?
After this the landscape lads were cold and wanted to get their wet feet off the moor whilst I could have wandered about endlessly with my tough Landscape Detective Dog. But enough was enough so we descended peacefully and reflexively down the slope and back to the car.
So what did we learn? Well, it seems the only thing we really learnt, which we probably knew already, is that it is much easier to find things in the landscape than it is to interpret them.
We just about coped without Pete T’s eagle eyes and sharp wit to see us through the day so he shouldn’t feel too guilty for not coming with us even though we missed him. And I had better give Bob a mention too even though this has got nothing to do with him except that he runs the course. Also his new nick name is Big Brother Bob (BBB for short) as he knows everything about everybody, but in a good way. . .
Luis, do you have any comments? And thank you for my near meat experience!
Bye for now, Clare.