Castlerigg Stone Circle is one of the Lake District’s most regularly photographed attractions, and features in several lists of photogenic sites. We arrived just after sunset, a result of over stuffing ourselves on chargrilled meat protein, and half a bottle of wine.
Alison was soon rolling around among the sheep droppings looking for low angle shots, while I settled for using a tripod, a little above the ….. well shit.
Our tardiness however turned out to work in our favour, as talking to another photographer, dozens of visitors had been wandering with cameras around just 20 minutes earlier. He’d apparently found it difficult to avoid them in his shots, and had continually needed to chase sheep from out of his frame. Apart from the sheep, we had the place almost to ourselves.
Nobody is quiet sure why the stones are here, but one thing is certain, their architects had an eye for a great location. Older than Stonehenge, dating back to around 3200 BC, and surrounded by some of Cumbria’s most evocative mountains. Helvellyn, Blencathra, and Skiddaw.
As one of Britain’s oldest stone circles, it’s difficult to comprehend how long they have been around. They have witnessed the rise, and fall of empires, and were old even when Boudicca, warrior queen of the Britons forged guerrilla warfare against the Roman occupiers. They were standing when man initially started using crude stone implements, and have silently bore witness to his progress since.
It seems likely that since the time the circle was first constructed by a long forgotten people, the very mountains which surround them have undergone significant changes. Forests have been felled, landslides probably occurred, streams shifted course, the landscape of the Cumbrian fells would probably be unrecognisable to the ancient architects.
Despite, all the progress that we have made, we still don’t completely understand the reason for the stones, only aware they are aligned with the summer, and winter equinoxes.
It is strangely satisfying that stone circles like Castlerigg exist; mystical places, where legends seem possible. Great kings, knights on quests, mighty sorcerers, and mythical creatures striking fear into the hearts of all but the most courageous seem suddenly more believable.
When quiet they are atmospheric, evocative, places of mystery, and it is difficult not to wonder about their origins, or purpose for being.
On this particular evening the sky was dark, and brooding, which seemed appropriate for the setting. As the light, and warmth slowly slipped away, night closed in, requiring longer exposures, the clouds drifted on high winds appearing as if smudging the sky at the slower shutter speed. They appear slightly surreal because of this, each exposure has an extra dose of magic.
Eventually it became too dark for Alison to roll around and avoid the sheep droppings, therefore it was time to leave. Besides there was still half a bottle of wine to finish.