art: 1. Arbor Low; 2. Eorthburgh Hlaw

Atop Middleton Common with magnificent panoramic views, Arbor Low is a site of evolution, stemming from around 3000BCE. Initially a 3-sided Cove, an imitation burial chamber, was erected in the late neolithic and aligned to the midsummer setting moon. Now recumbent, like all the stones at Arbor Low due to improper bedding-in, the Cove was excavated in 1901/02 and a possibly unrelated burial was discovered on its eastern side. A pit containing a human arm bone has also been discovered. The next phase saw the construction of the henge in the late neolithic or early bronze age, enclosing a platform 170’ by 130’ in circumference, followed by the erection of the stone circle measuring 140’ by 120’ in diameter during the bronze age. Comprising of about 40 large and 13 smaller blocks of local limestone, they weigh up to 10 tons and are 13’ long. Although the bank and ditch were dug 6’ deep into limestone, the blocks used in the construction of the circle were excavated slightly further afield from an exposed outcrop and were therefore already weathered before being erected - unusually, the weathered sides face inwards. With a 30’ entrance to the north west and a narrower 20’ entrance to the south-south east, Arbor Low has been termed the “Stonehenge of the North”, with its present name a derivation of Eorthburgh Hlaw, meaning “Earthwork Mound”. Continuing this site’s evolution, earth from near the south-south east entrance was later dug out to create a bronze age round barrow. Excavated by Bateman in 1845, bones, flints and 2 early bronze age food vessels were uncovered. An unfinished earthen avenue leads to Gib Hill, 1000’ feet to the west. Measuring 14’ high and 120’ across, the C18th saw it used as a site for gallows. Bateman excavated Gib Hill in 1848, revealing it to be a barrow with a burial kist, which he subsequently removed and installed in his own garden: this was returned to Gib Hill 90 years later. The area is Intersected by more than 50 ley lines, on private farmland with a minimal access fee, and a superb solstice venue.
OS: SK.160.636 Off a minor road east of the A515 between Buxton and Ashbourne, and heading towards The Nine Ladies on Stanton Moor.

oil on board, 12" x 16", 2001, £85

Profiling one of the recumbent stones. The sheer scale of this site and the undulating henge and surrounding fields only allow for the odd overview: one step in any direction and a large proportion of the circle can vanish. Having worked on large images for a while, I returned to a smaller scale for this study, and it remains one of my favourite completed works. Unfortunately the picture definition here does not allow for the detail and colours of the limestone and lichens.

oil on board, 18" x 14", 2003, £69 -pending repairs

The only view of the plateau upon which Arbor Low rests which I have been happy with to date. I think it was actually a spring afternoon when I visited again for the working drawings, but it evolved to keep in tune with the site's own history of evolution. Unfortunately this picture was damged in transit from a recent exhibition and is awaiting salvage.
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