Hunting Haunted Backstone Circle

28 02 2015

Sun 18 Jan 2015
After reading a post on fellow blogger Smacked Pentax’s site about a mysterious, haunted stone circle, of course I had to go and have a hunt for it myself. I love anything mysterious or supernatural and I also love stone circles. His post is here – go and have a read but don’t forget to come back πŸ™‚

(click on photos for full size/resolution – you’ll probably need to due to the conditions on the day – they’re not black & white film honest!)
We had snow on the moors and a Sunday was looming. Sundays around here mean there are cheap buses up to places in the Yorkshire Dales such as Ilkley Moor where the stone circle is situated. I had a quick walk over our moor on the Saturday as I wasn’t sure the bus would be able to follow its route over the high moor in the snow and icy conditions. Most of the road had been cleared so I turned up at the bus stop in the morning.

The Dalesbus arrived bang on time and I had a quick discussion with the driver before I bought my ticket. I pointed out the fact that it was forecast to snow during the day and asked whether he would definitely be returning later from Ilkley or I’d be due a very long day’s walk! He said that, if he couldn’t get over the moor, he’d just take the main road instead. I paid the very cheap fare of Β£4.60 and sat down on one of my favourite ‘side seats’ at the front of the bus. Very generously, the driver had provided a huge tin of sweeties for us passengers with a notice saying ‘help yourself’… so I did! πŸ™‚

I gave him a quick run down on how I’d found the road the day before and he set off to see how far he could get. We had a great drive to the moor top but then we met a 4×4 driver who said we wouldn’t be able to safely descend the big hill down the far side of the moor as it was frozen solid. That meant the poor driver had to try to turn around in snow on the moor with just one vehicle’s width gritted. After about a 10-point turn, he managed and we set off back down through the village to get to the main road.

This meant my arrival was 20 minutes later than planned but no problem. I set off uphill out of town on nicely-gritted pavements (I wish they’d do that round our way) up to the Ilkley Tarn path.

I’d read various directions to the stone circle and heard it wasn’t marked on most of the maps. I’d looked through all my parents’ maps of the area and only two had much in the way of antiquities and features marked on them – the 1952 and the modern-day one – I took both just in case. From the descriptions, I had in mind that the stone circle, as it was walled around the outside, was where the two maps said ‘enclosure’ and showed a semi-circular wall some way to the east of Backstone Beck.

The start of the path was icy and the weather was misty and gloomy. I took a few dull photos of the tarn as I’m trying to use a film up but could see they wouldn’t be very good.

Ilkley Tarn in Winter

Ilkley Tarn in Winter Snow

I headed along the path briefly until it crossed Backstone Beck. As I’d determined to follow the beck up, I turned steeply uphill on shallow, hard-packed icy snow to ascend the eastern side. My enclosure was on the eastern side of a southern branch of the beck just after it turned south-west towards its source. I took a couple of photos while the beck was still in its gorge…

Snowy Rocks above Backstone Beck

Tor above Backstone Beck

My path eventually headed away from the beck towards the Cow & Calf rocks so I left it to plough through the soft snow and deep heather. Heather is famous for growing on holey ground – not sure whether the heather makes it holey or it just prefers that habitat. That meant that many of my strides sunk above the knee in soft snow and made for very hard going, especially as I was heading uphill.

As I ploughed on upward, looking resolutely ahead into the gloom, I suddenly got an irresistible urge to look hard-right. My eyes landed straight on a jumble of stones across the beck which looked exactly like the photos I’d looked up the night before. It was calling to me “Over here! Over here!”.

“But you don’t match the route description I read and the enclosure shown on my map” I mentally replied and ploughed on through the deep snow.

It was pretty misty and I couldn’t see too far – certainly not far enough to scan the distant snow for walls. Eventually my foot hit something firm – a path at last. I followed it briefly southward and found another path turned off left. As the map shows a north-easterly path intersecting the end of the walled enclosure, I headed off to see if this was the path. It bobbed nicely along a ridge on a lovely, trodden path but then a small tarn hove into view. I recognised it as High Lanshaw Dam – way too high up the hill (I must admit that I didn’t have a compass with me but I did know the general cardinal directions from my familiarity with the moor).

The mist started to clear briefly at this point and the sun attempted to come through. I looked south and saw a boundary stone, The Lanshaw Lad, which I recognised as being near the higher stone circle of the Twelve Apostles – a stone circle I visit a lot and know well. I decided to visit it anyway, partly to confirm my bearings. The first photos below are summer ones…

xThe Twelve Apostles, Ilkley Moor

12 Apostles, Ilkley Moor(towards Baildon)

I took a couple of photos but it was snowing and, looking away from the snow-flakes, the stones were white against a white background. I took a quick one into the oncoming flakes and hoped none would settle on my lens.

12 Apostles, white snow, white sky

I’d passed a couple on the way to the Apostles and said hello – little did they know, they were to see a lot more of me as the day went on!

I hurried off back down the path, ignored the easterly path I’d walked earlier and looked for a lower one bearing north-east – if I hit on the correct path, it should take me straight to the enclosure. Paths were pretty impossible to see at all due to the thick snow – they could really only be felt – apart from the main one which was popular, paved and very hard-trodden.

I decided I’d overshot the start of the snowy path and, to the surprise of the folks around me on the busy path, did a quick about turn and headed back uphill… soon passing by the couple I’d met who were descending from the stone circle… they looked puzzled…

Soon I found firmness underfoot heading north-east with a few footprints on it. There were also people coming up towards me. Just to make sure, I asked an oncoming local whether I was indeed now on the correct path – he confirmed I was but knew nothing about the stone circle. He suggested the circle was back up the hill above me but was referring to the Twelve Apostles.

The weather had started to mist over again but I could see enough of my section of moor to note the complete absence of any walls! One problem was that ridges of heather in the distance kept looking like walls but, on closer inspection, proved not to be. All I could see was one solitary stone way off the path across more deep snowy heather. I thought it was too high up the moor and fervently wished I’d brought my altimeter with me so that I could be sure!

Eventually, I decided I was nearly reaching the edge of the moor and would soon be too low. This prompted me to take another easterly path which turned up precisely nothing. I descended to the next plateau and headed back north-west on another path.

Still nothing on that plateau so I headed back up my earlier path. A familiar couple headed towards me… looking even more puzzled. By now, we’d stopped saying hello. I shot back up the path and decided I’d have to wade across more deep snow to visit the lone standing stone I’d seen to see whether, on closer inspection, it was surrounded by the enclosure. It wasn’t! I ploughed my way back to the path again…

I’d been criss-crossing the moor and going up and down the hillside for nearly three hours now and decided enough was enough. I was going to visit the jumble of stones which had called to me earlier…

I walked all the way back up to the paved path with the multitudes on it until I’d crossed the beck and found a path heading off down the west side of it. There was a curious set of new walls with a seat within them but no mention of what they were there for. I continued on downstream to where the jumble of stones lay quietly waiting 50 yards off to my left.

As I neared the jumble of stones, I found a very old, tumbledown enclosure with a small square enclosure joined on to its western end. The small square was in much better condition than the larger one. Within the tumbledown walls were two lots of standing stones in vague circles and looking exactly like the photos I’d seen, complete with very long tufty moor-grass between them. Unfortunately for me, the scene wasn’t at all photogenic as the light was gloomy and the stones were again white against white.

Backstone Circle & enclosure

Backstone Circle Square enclosure
The square enclosure on the western side

Now was the time for me to put my ‘feelers’ out to see how friendly the circle was today (apparently it’s moody and some days is fine but others it just doesn’t want you to enter). I approached very respectfully…

“Welcome”, said the tallest stone “what kept you?”

Another, smaller, more squat stone said “What on earth were you doing ploutering around the moor instead of coming straight here?”

“Oh, you know how it is – confusing directions” I thought in reply…

“Come in, come in”, said the first stone “take a seat – we make lovely backrests”

I went inside and had a mooch around, touching each stone and debating about whether it was warm enough to sit for a while. Unfortunately, I decided it was too cold to stay so took a few photos, made my apologies, said I’d be back and then left for the very short walk back to the tarn!

Backstone Circle Main Stone

Backstone Circle in snow & mist

Backstone Circle (snow)

Descending Backstone Beck

Of course, as I exited the beck, I met my couple again to yet more strange looks πŸ˜‰

Back of Cow & Calf Rocks in snow

Now I’ve met Backstone Circle and had a friendly reception, I’m keen to revisit much more often. Much as I enjoyed its friendliness, I’d really love to see some of the sights and feel some of the feelings others have had when its in a bad mood. I’m definitely going for a bimble up there at night when the weather warms.

What I’m really hoping to see sometime is what is reported on the ‘Megalithix‘ WordPress blog which describes an unsettling experience the author and his friend went through up there. The whole thing sounds to me very much like a Wiccan ‘mill’ – a type of round dance with chanting which is used to raise power to do various work, e.g. curing sick cattle, getting good harvests etc. The power seems to indeed have been raised on this instance when you read what follows the spinning figures after they disappear! I’m sure that the power, once raised regularly, could definitely hang around and recur at certain times.

All I can say is that I think this circle has been used much more recently than Neolithic times!

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32 responses

9 03 2015
razzah

Liked reading this. In Aberdeenshire where I live, there is a very high concentration of stone circles. They are always so atmospheric to visit.

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9 03 2015
mountaincoward

I must have a look around those when I’m done with ‘top-collecting’ – I like Aberdeenshire what I’ve seen of it so far πŸ™‚

Liked by 1 person

7 03 2015
keithbadger

Reblogged this on The LongWalker.

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8 03 2015
mountaincoward

Thanks Keith πŸ™‚

Liked by 1 person

4 03 2015
bob

Great post Carol. An area I’m only familiar with through the obvious song and rock climbing (hard boulder problems) guides. I’ve only felt a strong feeling of foreboding and impending doom once in a bothy and everyone shared it. We worked out later a deer might have been butchered in it as there was a large hook on the ceiling and we might have subconsciously smelled the blood. Either that or something else was going on as I’ve never had that feeling of an invisible presence watching in any other bothy before or since.. It also had a large square window in one wall looking out into total darkness all night which didn’t help the feeling that something could be watching us from outside. We all agreed later it was an uncomfortable atmosphere but nobody mentioned anything at the time. We were on a bothy tour over several days and the next bothy, although bleak and remote, situated in empty moorland, felt warmer and friendly. It’s one bothy I’d need a lot of money to spend a night in alone as it really creeped me out. Even outside collecting firewood with a head-torch on I had to force myself to stay out in the surrounding woodland until I had a decent armful of fallen branches. Almost ran back inside.

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4 03 2015
mountaincoward

Go on then… which bothy was it??

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6 03 2015
bob

Don’t really like giving bothy locations away but as the MBA already publish a full list it was in G.B. near Fort Augustus. A few of my friends stayed there at a different time though and experienced nothing out of the ordinary.

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6 03 2015
mountaincoward

Ugh! I’ve tried a google for Fort Augustus bothies and all I can get is the damned ‘bothy bar’ 😐

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3 03 2015
chrissiedixie

Ooh Carol, another place to visit! I read the other two accounts you linked to, and it does actually sound like it might be a very scary place to spend the night!
Funny you mention Burnmoor Tarn, too. I’ve often thought that would be a lovely place for a wild camp, but didn’t know about that ghost story……..

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3 03 2015
mountaincoward

I’m definitely doing the Burnmoor Circles camp – probably next summer as I’ll be busy this year. You’re welcome to come along…
Carol.

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3 03 2015
chrissiedixie

Thanks Carol, in fact I very nearly suggested a joint camp in my initial reply! πŸ˜€

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2 03 2015
tessapark1969

I do like a good stone circle πŸ™‚ looked very atmospheric.

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2 03 2015
mountaincoward

Yes, it is quite an atmospheric one. I’m hoping I get lots more ‘atmospherics’ next time I visit in warmer weather – and hopefully at night! πŸ™‚

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2 03 2015
McEff

PS That’s taken from The Legends of the Lake Counties, by Gerald Findler. And I’ve never heard the word “plouter” before. I like that a lot.

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2 03 2015
mountaincoward

I do quite a bit of ploutering on all our local moors πŸ˜‰

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2 03 2015
McEff

I’m glad to hear it. I’m going to start now.

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2 03 2015
McEff

Very interesting, Carol. I always want to experience something unusual in stone circles, or near cup and ring carvings, but it never happens to me, Perhaps I’m not tuned in like some people.
Camping at Burnmoor Tarn sounds like an adventure. But watch out for the ghost:
Ghost of Burnmoor: A young dalesman had died and his coffined remains were being taken over the moor when suddenly the horse took fright at some invisible being, bolted and was lost. The shock of this happening so grieved his mother that she died, and at her funeral in the snow her horse also ran off quite near to the scene of the first occurrence. Some men eventually found the first horse and completed the burial with reverence, but no trace of the second horse was ever found. It is now stated that in times of storm and mist, a galloping horse with a dark box-like shape on its back thunders past anyone who happens to be on Burnmoor.
Just thought I’d cheer you up, Alen

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2 03 2015
mountaincoward

I was on a horse once when it suddenly bolted by a haunted old hall – didn’t end well 😦

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1 03 2015
Simon Howlett

Fascinating location, Carol. Stone circles are a favourite of mine too.

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1 03 2015
mountaincoward

Ilkley Moor’s stuffed with antiquities.

I’m aiming to camp at a stone circle in the Lakes sometime (probably next year) – the ones near Burnmoor Tarn.

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1 03 2015
Simon Howlett

Unfortunately, I’ve not visited Burnmoor Tarn or the stone circle. I’ve done the most popular, Long Meg and Castlerigg but hope to visit a few more. I’d like to photograph stones individually, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Will visit Burnmoor Tarn and see what I can come up with!

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1 03 2015
mountaincoward

there are a couple of circles there but they’re not in very good nick and not that picturesque – I just like the atmosphere there…

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1 03 2015
underswansea

Great post! I feel honoured to have followed along with your photos and descriptions. It must be special to walk across land with such history. Not enough people ask permission to walk among snow and ancient rock. No wonder you are held in such high esteem! Take care!

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1 03 2015
mountaincoward

I suppose I see stone circles and such as ancient places of worship so enter them with the same respect I would a church…

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28 02 2015
Paul Shorrock

Thanks Carol and James for another great tale – I’ve got the location logged for the next time I’m in Yorkshire.

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28 02 2015
mountaincoward

Did you read the other link near the end – the really scary one?

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28 02 2015
EchoohcE

A nice homely post Carol; I can quite understand how it took you so long to find it despite walking right past it early on! It’s amazing how a bit of mist and snow can alter your perspective of even familiar areas. I would tend to look at my watch often in these circumstances, in order to guage the distance walked.
Your photographs have come out well I would say, they look very atmospheric and moody πŸ™‚

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28 02 2015
mountaincoward

I’m glad you like the photos – I thought they were a disaster but needed them for illustration/identification purposes!

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28 02 2015
smackedpentax

A great post Carol, so glad you found it at last. It is a shame you didn’t experience the ‘closed door’ (or more likely ‘Get The F**K Outta Here!’) experience, because it is really unnerving when it happens. And it does quite frequently – I personally know 4 people it has happened to! And your photos of the snow covered moors are beautiful – I think the Apostles looks particularly lovely with it’s winter coat on. Another place I find creepy is Horncliffe Circle – and that is a well worth a visit next time you are up there.

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28 02 2015
mountaincoward

Well just don’t forget you’re giving me ‘The Grand Tour’ come spring πŸ˜‰

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28 02 2015
smackedpentax

Looking forward to it πŸ™‚ We need to go before the bracken becomes too high – maybe in a month or so. My leg isn’t up to 8 or 9 miles just yet, but hopefully will be soon.

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28 02 2015
mountaincoward

I’ll bring you a wooden one πŸ˜‰

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