Our landscape is like a whiteboard – written over many times with feint, tantalising traces left behind.
Located in the Peak District National Park, Arbor Low is thought to be the finest Stone Age monument in northern England. It is sometimes referred to as ‘The Stonehenge of the North’ and people have used the site for more than 5,000 years. Whether as a place of ritual ceremony or a meeting point for tribal groups to gather, trade cattle and renew bonds of kinship, little is known about its original purpose.
A 2 metre high circular bank measures 76 metres in diameter, with an inner circle of stones protected by a ditch. Its form is common to other associated British henge sites, ranging from Brodgar on Orkney to the Stripple Stones in Cornwall.
The 59 stones
Arbor Low offers a fine vantage point with 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape, making this a notable landmark for early traders and travellers in the region. Archaeological evidence shows that the 59 stones in the central sanctuary were mined from local limestone quarries. Simple tools have been found on the site, made from antler and animal bone.
With one exception, all the stones lie flat on the ground. Theories vary whether this was by design, because people have toppled them, or the result of abandoned work to enhance an earlier wooden structure.
The Pennine Moorlands
Arbor Low sits on the thick limestone rocks that form much of the Pennine Hills. Often described as the ‘backbone of England', the rugged Pennine moorlands run roughly down the middle of England, from near the Scottish border to Derbyshire’s Peak District.
The porous nature of Pennine limestone makes a quick-draining landscape of cracks and sink holes. Water accumulates underground to form hidden rivers that can flow in deep and complex cave systems and caverns, before exiting back out into the open often several miles away. A really good place to see such features is at Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales.