Cuddy’s Cave – Gled Law

Had a great time exploring Cuddy’s Cave and Gled Law today. Could not find any of the substantial motifs that were recorded in the 19thC but did find some deep cups on the top which looked to be genuine.

Cuddy's Cave on Gled Law

Another beginner’s question – are the dense black patches on the central surface of the rock here the result of centuries of fires here? I have found exactly the same blackening on the crags at Doddington Law and also at Kyloe crags. I thought it might be a specific algae or lichen but when I scraped some it seemed deeply ingrained into the actual stone. It also seems to be in places where smoke from fires would have risen. If it is the result of ancient cooking fires it would be a good indicator when looking at crags – as to where people were living?

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6 Responses to Cuddy’s Cave – Gled Law

  1. DaveC says:

    Hi there, just to answer your question about the black colouring under the overhang.

    This is caused by water percolating through the porous rock and leaving a deposit on the surface, rather then by fire (although I have seen this on many crags) The black colouring seems to go about 1mm into the rock surface then it is orange beneath that.

    You can see this colour variation on many of Northumberlands cliffs and outcrops where the rock is offten a bit softer (lower quartz content)

    Cheers.

  2. rockartuk says:

    Hi Graham and all,
    Your photos are in place on BRAC. Many thanks for them!
    Still not convinced the cups are genuine.
    There has been a lot of erosion going on over the Centuries on that barren rock just on the SW corner of the hill.
    Cheers,
    Jan

  3. Hobsonish says:

    That’s jogged my memory. I think it was in reference to some doubt about St C’s body having been in the cave that I saw the mention of the hermit. The author was maintaining that there was no evidence of Cuthbert’s coffin having been taken there, and that the hermit was known by the same name. It seemed a bit of a spurious argument to me as there are records of medieval carvings in the cave, which could very likely fit with the period of Cuthbert-trail pilgrimages that abounded in the years before everything went pear-shaped with the border wars. Either way, I reckon that if it took those monks so long to get to Durham, they probably did have a stop off at most of the out-of the way shelters in the region. It stands to reason that they would have followed tracks/paths through the landscape which had probably existed for millennia, those tracks having quite likely had their origins in the late mesolithic (Though allegedly, the Meso/Neo transition in Northumberland seems to have been a particularly protracted and fuzzy affair…). Anyway. What I’m getting at here in a roundabout way, is that old Cuthbertian pilgrimage routes could easily overlap with spots where Prehistoric folk parked their behinds, and thus, a tenuous hypothesis could be put forward that there is a corelation twixt Cuthbertian pilgrimage routes and prehistoric rock art. There’s not much to back it up, but the Gled Law cave and Ketley crag are examples. I suppose the confounding variable is the fact that the medeival pilgrims might not have been following the actual route of Cuddy’s extra-long cortege.

    Sorry about the waffle here, just thinking out loud 😉

    As far as the Gled Law carvings go, I’d say they are shining examples of the kind of carvings that you can’t see at all in some lighting conditions, but which leap out at you when the light is just right. Their placing may also have a lot to do with landscape features such as those you mention, as it’s generally held by the archaeologists that the Millfield plain was once a whopping great lake.

  4. borderglider says:

    Hi Ian,
    The local dialect word for St Cuthbert is ‘Cuddy’ – so ‘Cuddy’s Cave’ means ‘St Cuthbert’s Cave – there are a number in the area. The story is that when the Vikings destroyed Lindisfarne Abbey – the relics of St Cuthbert were taken on a procession around Northumberland – and this is one of the places the coffin was said to be lodged’ mythology I’m sure but the name has persisted. I was trying to imagine what kind of environment these Neolithic people lived in – here and at all the sites in this area. Forests and swamps would have blanketed the low lying valleys and the animals would have been spectacular: wolves, lynx, brown bear, beaver, red deer, roe deer, aurochs, wild horse, bison? every kind of goose and wildfowl you can imagine. The rivers would have teemed with salmon and trout; the coasts would have had grey whale, minke whale, seals, orca, these hunterss were living in a sea of protein – which perhaps explains why they had time to devote to religion and art?

    I have been looking at Jan’s photos of Gled Law motifs – which are pretty dramatic – well I’m damned if I could find them! Need to go back with more time and less of a gale blowing. Fabulous views over the Milfield Plain. You can see why they liked it up there.

  5. Hobson says:

    Hiya Graham,

    I think I recall reading somewhere of the cave having been inhabited by an old-fashiobed hermit fairly recentky (i.e within the last couple of centuries).

    Having said that, that obviously doesn’t preclude folk from having lived there since the year dot. I’m pretty sure that if I were some mesolithic Northumbrian proto-pastoralist in the area of Gled Law, I’d have made a beeline for that cave when the rain and wind got going.

  6. rockartuk says:

    Hi Graham,
    It would be nice if you could send me some photos of the cups on top of the cave.
    We haven’t visit this site yet but it is still on the ‘to-see’ list.
    The -now vanished- 19th C carvings can be seen at:
    http://rockartuk.fotopic.net/c894075.html
    Cheers,
    Jan

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