Come to Britrocks Music Festival, Saturday 13th Sept. 2 pm to 7 pm at the Auld Acquaintance Cairn, Gretna

The Britrocks Festival Website Image

Click The Image To Visit The Britrocks Festival Website

According to a message from Rory Stewart MP and Hands Across The Border, this Saturday at the Auld Acquaintance Cairn, Gretna, behind the Old Toll House DG16 5JD. you will be welcome to join the free Britrocks Music Festival, bring a picnic and enjoy some great music. See the Britrocks web page .

The Cairn is now the focal point for people who want a united Britain.

In his latest letter Rory says:

“Dear Friends of Hands Across the Border,

We are 6 days away from a decision which could quite simply destroy our country. We cannot let a country that our ancestors sacrificed for so long to build, simply drift away through apathy, complacency and indifference. Instead, let us prove that when our country was at threat, our citizens were still prepared to stand and work together.

The event will be preceded by poetry readings at one o’clock from our especially commissioned poets: Charlotte Higgins and Magnus Dixon. Charlotte won the poetry society’s 2011 competition and has written a remarkable poem about the cairn. At just thirteen years old Magnus was named the 2013 Foyles Young Poet of the Year. He will read about his identity as a Scot and the referendum.This Saturday, we will gather English, Welsh, Irish and Scots, young and old, in solidarity –with optimism, showing, by our presence at the cairn, what a family of nations can mean.

Then at two o’clock we will host the extraordinary BRITROCKS! free music festival.  We will hear everything from Afro-Jazz act the Waaw Waaws based in Edinburgh to the Opera singer Millie Underwood reflecting the diversity of our union. Other acts include The Alleys, Robby Boyd, Reuben Loftus and Christian Moss.  Take a look at the BRIT ROCKS! website (http://www.britrocks.org/) to find out more details.

Please join us.  Be a cairn-builder. Be a builder of the Union.

Very best wishes, and I very much hope to see you  there,

Rory

Also Rory Stewart MP says:

“on Wednesday 17th, the night before the vote, we will be lighting a ‘Beacon for Britain’ at the Cairn. Everyone is also welcome to join us for our candle-lit vigil from 8 until 10 pm on the night of the 18th as we await the result of the referendum after polls have closed.

Let us unite and save our country!

Very best wishes,

Rory

P.S. Here are some thoughts on the strength and flexibility of Scottish identity: http://bit.ly/1rScf2j

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Circles in stone part 1. The Cumbrian Sculpture Valley at High Head

High Head Sculpture Valley

High Head Sculpture Valley, much to discover

We have recently learned that though the Stone Circle will still be accessible after December 21st, you should endeavour to make your visit before December 21st because the visitors’ centre and cafe will be closed after that. Call 016974 73552 to place your reservations for Christmas dinner.

High Head Sundial by Brian Cowper

The Sculptor’s Hands, High Head Sundial by Brian Cowper

sundialWe found High Head Sculpture Valley to be a delightful sun trap with a distinctly wild feel to it. Ive beck runs through it, feeding the wetland section and providing home to Otters, Water rats, Kingfishers and other wildlife, the sculptures are situated amongst the abundant foliage, and open spaces linked by paths, bull-rushes, willows and other trees in a pleasant naturalistic integration.  If you came upon the haunting vision of a faun with Pan-pipes beside the island stilt-house, it wouldn’t seem entirely out of place. Sculptural works by Jonathan Stamper abound, be sure to bring your camera, denizens of this Eden include a glass snake and brilliant giant butterfly.

Certainly, if you enjoy sculpture, particularly of the outdoor variety, then consider making a visit to High Head, for there is much to see here for visitors of all ages, there’s a children’s narrative in sculpture and good play area for children with a charming hollow tree and swing set, so it is family friendly. It is worth taking time over the exploration. After exploring the sculptures you can then refresh yourselves with good farmhouse cooking and browse the artwork within. That is what we did.

The first sculpture greets you at the entrance and just beside the parking lot there are more, they feed down past the visitor centre with its gallery,  cafe and Spa and into the wooded valley and beyond, after a short walk through pasture to the crest of a hill a handsome stone circle emerges within a grove of native deciduous trees. There is a sense of surprise and discovery about your encounters with these artworks, one moment you aren’t aware of them, the next, they are in your world and you in theirs.

Stunning iron butterfly sculpture at High Head Sculpture Valley

Here’s a glorious iron butterfly. In the garden of Eden, baby …

I came to hear of High Head while researching prehistoric sites in Cumbria for an ANA Wingspan in-flight magazine article. In the course of visiting some of Cumbria’s amazingly rich prehistoric heritage it struck me as clearly impossible to ask the Neolithic and Bronze Age sculptors why they were erecting stone circles where they did and what moved them to do it, so I was very keen to talk with the contemporary  Prehistoric Artist, Brian Cowper about Cumbria’s Stone Circles. He is in a better position than most to help us understand stone circle constructions because he has made a thorough study of them both here and abroad, and has been commissioned to design and build circles for both the public and private sectors.

Brian loves neolithic sites and they inspire much of his work, which is very good. Formerly a lecturer in sculpture at University College Of  St Martin, Lancaster, Brian has a thorough grounding in shaping his medium, stone.

Axe sculpture by Brian Cowper

Axe sculpture by Brian Cowper

His Sun dial for High Head is sculpted of polished limestone and is the result of meticulous calculations and set up with strict observance to ensure that the sun shines through in just the right place at one specific time of two days, noon on the equinoxes.  But don’t wait until then to visit, because the interaction of these sculptures with their seasonal surroundings is worth seeing.

Brian has  designed and erected a stone circle for the owners at High Head and was kind enough to show us this work and to lend us some good reading material to help my wife and I better understand Cumbria’s prehistoric art and architecture.

The High Head Circle like many Cumbrian Stone Circles: Long Meg and her daughters, Knipe Scar, Iron Hill and Castlerigg    are aligned to the mighty saddlebacked fell, Blencathra.

The High Head Circle like many Cumbrian Stone Circles: Long Meg and her daughters, Knipe Scar, Iron Hill and Castlerigg are aligned to the mighty saddlebacked fell, Blencathra.

The High Head Circle is of red sandstone and has cardinal and astronomical alignment.

The High Head Circle is of red sandstone and has landscape and astronomical alignment. Like the Gamelands circle, near Orton, it is aligned  to the rising of the Moon, but some stones have other, private, significance in their own right.

Brian was kind enough to discuss issues that had been puzzling us and clarify some common confusions. He says that one commonly held misconception is that they needed vast numbers of people to move and erect the stones. Yes, they were determined and their action was coordinated, but stone was their medium too.

We asked him why, in his opinion, early Britons had built these structures where they did and what they might have been for. Brian clarified from the outset that though Birkrigg,  Castlerigg and other circles have been attributed to Druids, these structures have nothing whatsoever to do with them. These sites pre-date the Druidicism vilified by the Romans  by thousands of years. He thinks that the structures and their sites are intimately linked with the surrounding landscape and cosmos, and that the  sites are usually within view of significant landscape features and/or other sites.  He drew our attention to the sense of surprise, discovery and succession that is characteristic of coming upon them and stressed that this was an intentional factor both in their siting and creation. Even when you are looking for them and have the best guidebook (Robert W.E. Farrah’s A Guide To The Stone Circles Of Cumbria ), your realisation of their presence tends to be surprising. It’s a true, deep seated, visceral reaction to them that William Wordsworth captured in his poem when Long Meg and her Daughters took him by surprise.

“A weight of awe not easy to be borne  

Fell suddenly upon my spirit – cast,”

These ancient architects were concious of cardinal points and astronomical cycles and factored these orientations into their site construction in many cases. Not just within the construction of each site, one stone in relation to another, but also the site as a whole in relation to other sites and to key landscape features. The alignments of sites with each other have been well documented. Ley lines, such as the Belinus line have been plotted on maps, they don’t just follow obvious transit routes such as the Lune and Lowther valley, but also traverse steep rises, fells and dales. Gamelands and Gaythorne monuments seem aligned with Appleby.

These days we have come to associate straight roads with the discipline of the Romans, but straight routes would have been very important to pedestrian hunter gatherers who would be very fit and would prefer to climb a steep slope directly, on all fours for stretches if need be, rather than zigzag to reduce the angle of ascent.

Brian feels certain that stone circles were civilization centres, important focal points around which all kinds of activities would take place including but not limited to barter trade in polished stone axes and other items, there would also likely have been social and religious rites, actions of law and of celebration,  education and information exchange and magic, these sites would likely have been important for respite and healing, the scientific centres too. They were usually sited near water that would have enabled protracted stays. They were made to powerfully assist their hardy makers survive and prosper in their tough world.

This conforms to information we gleaned from a lecture by Archaeologist Tom Clare and his excellent book ( Prehistoric Monuments of The Lake District ) that the earliest circles don’t seem to have been used for burials originally, that seems to have been a later bronze age introduction. Professor Clare stressed how little material has been found in excavations  within stone circles. It seems that people didn’t originally discard items and bodies within these sacred spaces.

Brian Cowper's stone circle at High Head.

Brian Cowper’s stone circle at High Head  seen here under feather cloud, represents a continuance of a Cumbrian tradition that spans 6 milennia and despite considerable archaeological study retains most of its mystery.

We returned to the visitors’ centre for a pleasant lunch in their cafe. High Head’ s Cafe serves a variety of freshly prepared light lunches and delicious home made cakes (ingredients locally sourced when possible). The staff are very amiable and there’s a shop with a good range of art work,  Made In Cumbria products and nice children’s clothes. High Head also has two holiday cottages available for rent and a health spa. It’s a fine example of farm diversification.

Friendly service and good food at High Head's cafe

Friendly service and good food at High Head’s tearoom

The cafe at High Head Sculpture Valley

High Head Sculpture Valley has indoor and al fresco dining.

More stone circles to come in my next article.

High Head is open everyday except Wednesdays from November to December 21st 10.30 to 16.00

Call 016974 73552 for further information and see www.highheadsculpturevalley.co.uk

Literature in our locality – a series of informal talks at Penrith’s Bluebell Bookshop

If you’re looking for some interesting events to attend as the evenings drawn in, then you might be interested in the following:

You are warmly invited to join a series of free informal talks to be held at Penrith’s excellent Bluebell Bookshop! Alongside probably being Cumbria’s most lovable independent book retailer with particularly fine selections of books on Cumbrian themes, social and environmental matters, and for children – The Bluebell Bookshop also serves as a very convivial community space with good quality refreshments available on hand. As many of you are probably aware, Derek Robinson, the friendly proprietor, often holds interesting get-togethers there. One very recently, and laudably, raised £320 in aid of Pakistan’s flood victims.

For details of the forthcoming series of informal talks, please see below.

Bluebell bookshop
Angel square,  Penrith
01768 866660
Attendance free
coffee and cakes available at reasonable prices

LITERATURE IN OUR LOCALITY

a series of informal talks by Robin Acland

  1. Friday 17 September – 7.00  Wordsworth, Dorothy and Mademoiselle
  2. Friday 8 October- 7.00  Keats Walks Cumbria
  3. Friday 29 October- 7.00 Mary Powley, Stalwart of Langwathby
  4. Friday 19 November- 7.00 Wartime Poets in Penrith

Wordsworth, Dorothy and Mademoiselle
An exploration of our hero’s affair with Annette Vallon, drawing on the limited evidence
available. Why did he leave her, when she was well advanced in her pregnancy? What do we make
of the strange gap of several months when his movements a little later cannot be traced? How
did all these events really affect Dorothy?
Keats Walks Cumbria
Keats spent a week walking the length of Cumbria with his friend Charles Brown in 1818. Their
letters and journals are extensive. But perhaps there is a critical undisclosed event that academics
have not tumbled to. They may also have underestimated the extent to which his time in Cumbria
influenced all Keats’s later poetry
Mary Powley, Stalwart of Langwathby
Eldest child of a prominent farming family in Langwathby, Mary Powley published a collection of
fine if conventional Victorian verse, plus some effective dialect pieces. More extraordinarily, for a
woman who perhaps never went beyond Cumberland and Westmorland, she translated several
poems from the Danish. How come? Does her will throw any light?
Wartime Poets in Penrith
With the evacuation to Penrith of Newcastle Royal Grammar School in the Second World War, a
surprising influx of poets appeared in Penrith. Central was Michael Roberts, later editor of the first
Faber Book of Modern Verse. Eventually more famous was Kathleen Raine. Even T S Eliot appeared.
There are plentiful insights into wartime life and literature here.

—————————- If you could pass the word or post the flier below where it can be noticed, it would be much appreciated, Thank you

list of talks