Posted by: Steve | May 7, 2012

Ancient sites around Old Bewick

Magical and macabre

Finding myself with a few spare hours on the May bank holiday I packed Henry into the car boot and headed North up the A697. The plan was to try and find the hill fort and cup & ring marked rocks on the hills behind Old Bewick.

To find Old Bewick, take a right on the A697 about 2.5 miles North of Powburn (just past Scott’s sawmill). Follow the B6346 for about 4 miles until you reach the T juction. Turn right following the sign for Chatton. Travel on for about about 1.5 miles, Old Bewick is basically the farm and cottages on the right-hand side of the road. You can find a sensible spot to park here, or go a little further to find the track up to the Holy Trinity Chapel.

I’d visited the Holy Trinity Chapel at Old Bewick several times in the past – a magical site! It seemed like a good starting point to begin the trek uphill towards the fort. There’s a stile into a farmer’s field just over the little burn in the graveyard at the front of the church.

Old Bewick Hill

Old Bewick Hill

Just head towards the wooded hill that dominates the landscape directly behind the farm and cottages of Old Bewick. This is a very steep climb with a few fences and gates to cross. The land can be boggy, so you’ll need good boots.

The hill-top is quite flat:  if you’re approaching from the Northern edge you’ll immediately see an exposed burial cairn. Unfortunately there’s no sign of the cist among the smaller stones.

Old Bewick Cairn

Climb a little higher and you’ll reach a point where you’ll see the ramparts of the extensive hill fort. It’s worth checking it out on Google Earth first to get an idea of the layout. While the Western edge is very defensible, offering brilliant views of the Cheviots, the ramparts form a very odd arrangement of ditches and mounds. Like the nearby site on Beanly moor, one begins to wonder if these sites were more about ritual rather than defence.

Old Bewick Hill Fort

You’ll notice two second world war pill-boxes as you explore the fort. Walk on past the one on the edge of the hill and look for two large stones further down the gentle slope to the east. Both stones have some pretty spectacular cup and ring marks. The stone over the fence in the farmer’s field has the better markings.

Old Bewick cup and ring marks

As I made my way back to the car I noticed what looked like an isolated shepherd’s cottage about a mile in the distance towards the North East. My curiosity got the better of me, so I put Henry on his lead and we set off to explore.

As we approached the cottage we passed a superb kerbed cairn complete with what looked like several cists and cap-stones. Follow-up research turned up this report (link), authored by Ian Hewitt and Stan Beckensall. It’s worth a read if you’re interested in the technical details of an excavation of the site in the 1980’s.

Blawearie Cairn

The ‘shepherd’s cottage’ turned out to be the ruins of a homestead, the place is known locally as Blawearie. It’s fascinating to explore, but very strange and unsettling. The whole landscape is dominated by menacing, rocky outcrops of fallen stone slabs and boulders.

Blawearie Homestead

The slabs and boulders around the abandoned cottage have been formed into a weird garden. Some of the stones used to form a maze of walls and passageways are quite large. It must have taken considerable effort to put them in place. The original reasons for creating this place have probably been forgotten. What remains is a mysterious, magical, quite macabre location.

Blawearie Garden

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