Cleaning at Roughting Linn

I went back to Roughting Linn today – in the teeth of a howling gale – to try and find the unidentified motif I photographed on my first visit. I spent an hour there in glorious sunshine – leaning into the wind and taking photos. I could not find the errant motif! I just thought you should all know that someone has been there in the last week and they have extensively ‘cleaned’ many of the motifs on the main pavement.

I wanted to let you know that

  1. this was not my doing and
  2. is this considered ‘bad form’ ?

This image shows some of what I found at the site today, This is the ‘halo’ motif at Roughting Linn – the one with a corona of parallel lines radiating from the top of the outermost ring. As you can see a large area of moss has been scraped away from below the figure and a metre-long strip of turf has been torn away from above the figure – you can see where the exposed sandstone looks sugary white. Similar ‘clean-ups’ had been done to many of the figures on the rock – though this was I think the most ‘thorough’. For most of the other figures the green moss had simply been scraped away. The cleaning did make the images stand-out more but I was worried by the lengths of stripped turf that were lying around – it just didn’t feel quite right. So – just though you should all know – it wasn’t me! There HAS been ‘official’ work going on at the site – about a dozen birch trees have been felled all around the rock – but this ‘cleaning’ looked rather crude and impromptu to me. Would appreciate some guidance from you all as to whether this is ‘acceptable’?
The good thing about today was that I got there early – before 10am so the south Eastern edge of the rock was illuminated and I got super photos of those motifs – which were in deep shadow on my first visit.

South East Edge of Roughting Linn

I will send a selection to Jan for posting on BRAC if he thinks they are useful. My own collection can be seen on Flickr at




5 Responses to Cleaning at Roughting Linn

  1. rockartwolf says:


    the only safe of taking pics is using the side flash.. 😉

  2. Borderglider says:

    When I went back today I was able to ‘get my eye in’ a little more and realised that a lot of moss has been removed. The quarried section above – which in fact has no motifs within it – has been virtually scraped clear of all covering vegetation. In the newly exposed areas the sandstone looks almost white and powdery. I can’t believe that the archaeologists would have done this – its too crude and too extensive.

  3. rockrich says:

    Hello Graham, about 2yrs ago either Durham or Newcastle Uni (can’t remember which) conducted experiments looking into the most corrosive elements on sandstone (fell) & the impact they have on carved surfaces. They found water weakened the stones matrix the most causing friability, turf coverage offered protection drawing water away, moss was terrible in keeping the stone damp & lichen(especially crutose) was wonderful in forming an armour plated protective barrier.

    Their guidance for carvings on fell sandstone (most Northumberland carvings I think) was don’t lift turf, brush, stand on (they all weaken the stone matrix), don’t wet them, don’t remove lichen & moss is probably better off than on (as Jan says, removal when dry is best)

    It makes you wonder how they’ve survived 4000+yrs!

  4. Stoneman says:

    I have recently been in contact with English Heritage about the site
    I have been informed that the estate is doing site maintenance and the rock is been cleared of trees, brier, moss and debris and is closely monitored by the county archaeologists!

  5. rockartuk says:

    Thanks for the post, Graham!
    In this case, one of the first ‘rules’ (leave the site as you found it), has been ignored here.
    It is so simple; put the turf back in place after you’ve photographed the motif.
    With regard to the (living) moss, things are even more serious. Removing of green moss means in most cases that grains of the soft sandstone are also removed and consequently a tiny fraction of the motif. Mosses should only be removed when dead and dry and not longer rooted in the surface of the stone.
    Good to hear that you didn’t do it, man!
    I’m not sure if the ‘cleaner’ will upload his pics to TMA or so. We’ll keep an eye on the portals.
    The tiny mystery carvings will come alight someday, I guess.
    Looking forward to your photos, Graham, preferably in the usual BRAC-size of 800pix width.
    All the best,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: