Thursday 29 August 2019

Doll Tor

For many years I have had a passion for historically important sites reflecting our ancient history. Over the years I’ve visited hill forts at Oswestry and the Wrekin in Shropshire, various castles and fortifications across the country, churches, guildhalls and many different parts of our islands history.

In recent years I’ve made a conscious effort to journey to sites associated with our pre-Christian past and the ancient religions of our land. Much of these traditions are shrouded in mystery and are half known truths and stories at best, and many sites have been lost forever, to later development, to Christianity or just to the ravages of time. But a few still remain, and I have been seeking out these echoes of the past nestled within the landscape.

One of these I made my pilgrimage to last summer was Doll Tor in Derbyshire. I wasn’t expecting the site to have an especially profound effect on me, as lots of reading online played it down as small and not hugely remarkable.

First of all actually finding Doll Tor was a challenge in itself. I followed my infamous sat Nav to the nearest village; Birchover, parked up and set off on what looked like the right path. No, barbed wire and farmers fences, forget that route! Try another way, down a seemingly never ending lane. The maps saying it’s just on that ridge, but this is a farmers land! There’s no signs for a public right of way and the fields full of hundreds of cattle and their calves! Eventually I plucked up the courage and go to the farm to ask for directions. The farmer kindly let me cross through his field and pointed me in the general direction of Doll Tor. Off I went, but which thicket of woodland did he mean?! This one? No it’s entirely walled. This one?! No I can’t get in there either. In the mean time I found Eagle Tor and the strange landscape surrounding it, as well as a ruined stone cottage I decided I’d happily own. All nice finds but not what I was searching for! Finally in a corn field I saw a vague path towards another wooded area. On a hunch I decided to follow it. And surprise, there’s a gate in the wall around the woodland! I’d almost given up hope, but this could be it! And sure enough it was! A short way into the woodland there was a clearing and there it was; Doll Tor. A small but perfectly formed stone circle.

The atmosphere and feeling to the place was undeniably wonderful. I felt as if I never wanted to leave. I was so happy to have taken a chance on what wasn’t suggested to be a miraculous place, yet to me felt utterly magical and moving. I sat and wondered what our ancestors did here, how they felt, what was their world like? The Tor is part of a later site including burial cairns and various other elements clearly important to it’s function during the Bronze Age, but we can only guess at its full meaning and use now.

Doll Tor is one of those moving, curious places which draws you back, and to have no idea why really. And when I return now I know a much better route to access Doll Tor without having to hassle farmers and their cows! But ... I can’t help but think the journey of discovery and searching for the circle on my first visit was honestly part of the excitement and enjoyment of my unforgettable pilgrimage to find the lovely little site of Doll Tor.

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