And a Happy Midsummer to you all…

Midsummer isn’t much celebrated in Britain these days. There are a few revived festivals around – in Cornwall, especially – but most people’s ‘celebration’ is restricted to a TV news clip of folks at Stonehenge having a knees-up, courtesy of English Heritage.

Summer Solstice, Stonehenge copyright A Dunn

Summer Solstice, Stonehenge copyright A Dunn

Most of Britain’s midsummer festivities – including Cumbria’s – were dying out by the end of the 17th century1, although there is evidence that they lingered in the north of the county into the mid 19th century2. Continue reading

Langdale axes: Cumbria’s prehistoric export

Whenever The Time Team‘s Phil waxes lyrical about flint knapping, arrowheads and axes, you can hear the TV audience willing the producer to hurry up. They just look like uninteresting flakes of dark grey stuff, which you often wouldn’t realise were anything special if you dug them out of your vegetable patch.

Copyright Michael Greenhalgh

Copyright Michael Greenhalgh

Langdale axes, now – that’s another matter. Made from greenish Borrowdale volcanic stone from the central Lake District, even the ‘rough-out’, unfinished axe heads look purposefully-shaped. The polished ones are amazing. They can be 11 inches long, with roughly parallel sides about 3 or 4 inches wide, an oval cross-section, and an almost glass-like sheen where they have been smoothed to perfection over many weeks.1 They are very hard, resistant to breaking, and often much bigger than their flint equivalents. There’s no mistaking these for natural stones; the skill and deliberateness of their manufacture sings down the millennia. Continue reading

Castlerigg Stone Circle

There is a new, updated and much longer post on Castlerigg here.

Castlerigg stone circle

Castlerigg stone circle

Castlerigg is the most-visited stone circle in Cumbria, and for good reason. For one, it’s well signposted from the A66 and Keswick, and for two, its location is quite spectacular. It lies on a small flat area of a low hill, surrounded by views of Skiddaw, Blencathra, Lonscale, Derwent and Castlerigg fells and as you enter this National Trust site from the road, you can see across the circle to a view of a typical Lake District valley, framed by two massive stones.

Continue reading