Recently I spent some time compiling all my research into the best local Neolithic and Bronze Age sites to form a list of where I hope to visit in the near future. A number of local sites I have already visited. But that doesn’t mean I don’t intend to return, especially to see different seasons from these amazing sites.
One place high on my list was the Neolithic burial Cairn of Five Wells, located near Chelmorton, just south of Buxton. After seeing a few photos of this site and reading a little information I was impressed how intact the Cairn was compared to many and how visible the chamber was to visitors, so it went high on the list of where to go next.
In early March a perfect opportunity arose to visit Five Wells, so off I
went on a 30 mile drive to discover another amazing piece of
Derbyshires ancient history.
After some map consultation I parked near Chelmorton church and set out following a trail uphill in the general direction of the tomb. The villages original wellspring is en route and signed as a point of interest on the way.
The landscape is largely farmers fields and grazing livestock, but a strange, what I presume to be, natural rocky feature runs along the ridge of the hill as a seam dividing the space in two. It’s quite rugged terrain and I imagine what the whole landscape would have looked like before agriculture moved in.
At a crossroads I managed to wander into a nearby farm, (still following a public footpath) when actually I should have turned left to find the Cairn in fields behind the farm. A little correction later (after thinking I was going to be savaged by dogs!) and I spotted the Cairn on the horizon at last.
It’s structure is quite imposing on the hillside. Like jagged teeth reaching out to the heavens it sits prominent and protruding. The moment I laid eyes on it, I loved it. The rugged and weather beaten hillside and these great stones erupting from the earth. It had an incredible feeling and atmosphere I wasn’t expecting, but wholly embraced.
One of the tombs is slowly being consumed by the earth, as much is covered by a thick layer of moss, while the more intact chamber exists like a miniature shelter missing its roof. Great upright pillars of the entrance give the feeling you are entering a mysterious and incredible time. As ever with these ancient places I stand and wonder what happened, were rituals performed when these people were buried in this great tomb? What did this place in the landscape mean to these people? The rolling landscape surrounding the Cairn is certainly one I’d be quite comfortable to spend my eternity in.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't find Five Wells to be an incredible, moving place. Though I will not attempt to provide any real reasoning why. For me personally these sites often seem to create an overwhelming sense of connection with our history and the traditions of our ancestors. Although this window into the past is only fleeting, for me it strengthens the feeling that these people, their values and respect for and use of the land is incredible, admirable and frankly far better than our own. These people had so many things right that we do not. They worshiped the land for the life it gave, we merely abuse it. For me, Cairn sites in particular always give a sense of ancestors rooted in the earth. For them, in life and death the landscape was clearly so important. I only wish I could know more about their lives and understand more about their world ...