I was just going to write a thing about today’s jaunt to Barningham Moor organised by the redoubtable Mr Stroud, when I logged in, I found this draft which has been sitting gathering digital dust for a half a year or so. Bear in mind it had taken me a year to get around to writing it in the first place, it’s about 18 months overdue. The photos date from the 2nd of Feb. 2007. Deep down, I am a lazy so-and-so…
A bad case of ‘threshold’ RA. I’m possibly being cheeky to claim even threshold status for the highly dubious features on these lovely outcrops. I just loved the place so much I want an excuse to waffle on about it for a page or two.Cloudy crags is a lump of outcrop in a place familiar to anyone who has spent time looking at the landscape around Old Bewick. It’s right next to that great white golf ball of an RAF radar station to the west of Alnwick. It commands one of the finest views Northumberland has to offer, with a clear panorama stretching from the Cheviot down to Simonside.
It’s right in the middle of a belt of definite RA that starts at Ottercops Moss, via Fontburn, Lordenshaw, Millstone Burn, Snook bank, Caller crag, Corby’s Crags to the south, then continues to the North with Midstead, Hunterheugh, Beanley Moor and Old Bewick to the north. It seemed odd that there should be none recorded here, but upon visiting, it became apparent that this is one of the most exposed bits of Outcrop in the county and that any carvings which remained open to the elements would long ago have eroded away. Even the Victorian graffiti is pretty well hammered when compared to other examples of a similar age. If you were to take the iron bearing bands as an indicator of the post-glacial surface of the outcrop, then at least and inch has been eroded away over the millennia, as the ridges of those bands stick up by at least that much above the present surface of the outcrop. That’s a pretty ropey way to estimate how much weathering has taken place, but it gives you an idea. Considering that the average cup mark wouldn’t be more than a couple of inches, the anything left would be quite difficult to discern by now. Not that this fact stopped me trying, obviously. Hope springs eternal and all that…
So all I have to report is a few vague features, two of which could be cups, (heavily eroded), one of which could be the remains of a cup and ring (even more heavily eroded) and another in a sheltered spot that looks like a genuine single small cupmark, but looks irritatingly fresh, possibly the work of a more recent incidence of cup-pecking.
Before you scoff, consider the heavily eroded motif at Gled Law North
and compare it with the admittedly very dodgy ‘motif’ at Cloudy crags. Now you may scoff with wild abandon.
I know that these are all a bit iffy, but the possibility that the turf has protected other areas of marked outcrop, or even that the eastwards slope towards Alnwick may have marked boulders is something I think should be flagged up as a matter of record.
In combination with the view, and intervisibility with other sites (It’s always bugged me that the markings at Hunterheugh face south when the Titlington burn is such an uninspirational feature, but the south side of Hunterheugh is in plain view of Cloudy Crags…) there’s the fact that Cloudy Crags also possesses one of the oddest rock formations I’ve seen outside of Arches National Park in Utah. It’s definitely the oddest in Northumberland, and as such I can’t help but feel it would have been significant in prehistory. If you’re going to have ‘Dreamtime’ myths about your landscape, then this is the kind of thing that gets firmly plonked into the oral history. (It would if it were me dictating that history anyways…). Normally, I’m prepared to bet packets of wine-gums when I feel a place has hidden traces of prehistoric activity, but in the case of the arch at Cloudy Crags, I’d bet a whole tin of shortbread biscuits that there’ll be at least microliths and charcoal scatters lying about under the turf.
Just to add to my gratuitous pontification, I noticed that when you’re standing at Hunterheugh 2, looking towards Hunteheugh 1, they draw a bead on the arch at Cloudy crags. Now I know alignments and RA generally don’t mix, but it also seems to be the case that the three little C&Rs that have been labelled Hunterheugh 4 also draw a bead on the same spot. But in my head, 2 possible alignments prove nowt. If another one ever pops up, I’ll be sure to point it out, as three would seem to indicate something more than random chance being involved. (If there are any statisticians about, please let me know what would constitute a decent sample number for a measurable effect size, I’m rubbish at stats.)
So there you go, Cloudy Crags: a nice rock formation next to a surrealist golf ball with an excellent view. There may be rock art, or there may not. If not, then shame on you Ancient Northumbrians, what were you thinking? Because there should be. Maybe they decided to mark Hunterheugh crags in a way that drew attention to this crazy formation. I dunno. If anybody knows of any Academic Archaeologists looking to keep a PhD student occupied for a month or two, tell them to send them up there with a trowel.