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STONE CIRCLE

50p


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

This stone circle at Brockholes nature reserve, just off junction 31 of the M6 at Preston (SD588311) was constructed between the summer solstice on the 21st June 2014 and the winter solstice on the 21st December 2014. There are 14 stones in the circle plus two entrance stones and a centre stone, making 17 stones in total. The British Isles and Ireland have the densest concentration of stone circles in the world. Our ancestors started to construct circles of stone in the Neolithic (4,000 – 2,500 BCE - Before the Common Era) but most were built in the Bronze Age (2,500 – 900 BCE) and the practice had stopped by the Iron Age (900 BCE to the Roman invasion in 43 CE). Stone circles range from over 400 metres in diameter at Avebury in Wiltshire, with several others over 100 metres (e.g. Long Meg & her Daughters in Cumbria, the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney and Stanton Drew in Somerset) and going down to less than 10 metres diameter. The stone circle at Stonehenge is 33 metres diameter. Many, if not all, stone circles have alignments to the rising and setting of the sun, the cycles of the moon and or other planets and stars that are visible in the night sky. Some circles can even be used to predict solar eclipses! This stone circle is 15 metres in diameter and was constructed by staff and volunteers for the Wildlife Trust, assisted by members of the public. In total, nearly 60 people helped with the circle in some way. All the stones were donated to the project, see acknowledgements on page 8. There are several original stone circles in Lancashire including Cheetham Close on Turton Moor south of Darwen (SD716158), Delf Hill Stone Circle on Extwistle Moor east of Burnley (SD900337), Summerhouse Hill near Silverdale (SD500743) and Thirteen Stone Hill on Oswaldtwistle Moor south of Accrington (SD766242); but the most famous prehistoric circle in Lancashire is the Timber Circle at Bleasdale east of Garstang (SD577459). Most people are aware that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but the sun only rises due east (90 degrees) and sets due west (270 degrees) at the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes (around 21st March and 21st September) when viewed from sea level. If there are hills or other higher ground in the way, as is the case at Brockholes, then the sun rises later and sets earlier to one side of east and west, hence there are two stones either side of due west (Equinox Sunset Stones) but the east stone is big enough to capture the Spring and Autumn Equinox Sunrises. After the Spring Equinox, the rising sun moves north, reaching its most northerly position at the Summer Solstice, before returning to due east at the Autumn Equinox, after which it moves south, reaching its most southerly position at the Winter Solstice, before heading back to due east on the Spring Equinox, and so on year after year. The position of the sun moves a maximum of 80 compass degrees between its most northerly position on the Summer Solstice and its most southerly position at the Winter Solstice. 2


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

Whilst most people know that the sun has an annual cycle, there is much less awareness of the cycle of the moon. The moon also has maximum northerly and southerly moonrise and moonset positions, but its cycle isn’t one year, it is 18.6 years! The circle at Brockholes has four stones that mark these four positions, but each moonstone also has another alignment to feature(s) in the wider landscape as pointed out below. Conservation Officer, John Lamb, addressing the crowd gathered to witness the completion of the stone circle at sunset on the winter solstice on 21st December 2014 (SM)

The Northern Moonrise Stone (23 degrees from north to the centre of the stone) aligns with the Fairy Hole Caves at Whitewell, which were used by prehistoric people, and where archaeologists from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN, Preston) have recently been excavating Neolithic enclosures, a henge and a timber circle. The Southern Moonrise Stone (157 degrees) aligns with Winter Hill, where there are two Bronze Age burial cairns. The Southern Moonset Stone (203 degrees) aligns with the headquarters of the Wildlife Trust at The Barn in Cuerden Valley Park at Bamber Bridge. The Northern Moonset Stone (337 degrees) aligns with Torrisholme Barrow, a Bronze Age burial site, on the eastern edge of Morecambe. In addition to the seven solar stones and the four moon stones, the circle is completed with the: • • • • •

Northern Stone, which marks true north and is aligned to Polaris, the North Star, Pendle Stone, which is aligned to the top of Pendle Hill when you are stood in the centre of the circle. You can see Pendle Hill in the distance if the visibility is clear, Southern Stone marking true south, Two Entrance Stones, which are Haslingden Flags from Lee Quarry in Rossendale, and A small Central Stone, which broke off from the Equinox Sunrise Stone on delivery. 3


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

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14

PLAN OF THE STONE CIRCLE (15m diameter):

2 15

113 0o

337o

3 23o

16

310o

50

o

4

66o 12 270o 262o

94o

17

5

11 229o

136o 203o 180o 157o

10 6

KEY:

9

8

7

1. The North & Polaris Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry, Carnforth) 104cm tall x 87cm wide x 43cm deep 2. Northern Moonrise or Whitewell Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 94 x 55 x 43cm 3. Summer Solstice Sunrise Stone (Pendle Grit from Waddington Fell) 114 x 77 x 79cm 4. The Pendle Stone (Pendle Grit from the Nick of Pendle, Pendle Hill) 113 x 62 x 60cm 5. Equinox Sunrise Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 132 x 109 x 30cm 6. Winter Solstice Sunrise Stone (Haslingden Flags from Lee Quarry, Rossendale) 160 x 85 x 18cm 7. Southern Moonrise or Winter Hill Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 73 x 60 x 28cm 8. The South Stone (Pendle Grit from the Nick of Pendle) 84 x 40 x 33cm 9. Southern Moonset or The Barn Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 93 x 59 x 37cm 10.Winter Solstice Sunset Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 116 x 60 x 58cm 11.Spring Equinox Sunset Stone (Pendle Grit from the Nick of Pendle) 102 x 60 x 48cm 12.Autumn Equinox Sunset Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 72 x 26 x 78cm 13.Summer Solstice Sunset Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 129 x 90 x 43cm 14.Northern Moonset or Torrisholme Barrow Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 110 x 100 x 44cm 15.Northern Entrance Stone (Haslingden Flags from Lee Quarry) 105 x 48 x 20cm 16.Southern Entrance Stone (Haslingden Flags from Lee Quarry) 99 x 48 x 23cm 17.The Centre Stone (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry) 58 x 33 x 23cm 4


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

Volunteers manoeuvring the Winter Solstice Sunset Stone into position (AW)

The size of the 14 stones in the circle ranges from 1.96m tall down to 1.05m, of which between a third and a quarter is buried in the ground. The stones weigh between 0.4 tons (Southern Moonrise Stone) and 1.69 tons (Summer Solstice Sunrise Stone). The total weight of the 17 stones is estimated to be nearly 14 tons. Why were stone circles built where they are? There are many explanations, which include spectacular landscape settings (e.g. Castlerigg in Cumbria), good locations to see the rising and/or setting of the sun or moon or other planets and being on the edge of a tribal territory, but still visible from settlements in the landscape below. Many circles are located on the crossing of earth energy lines (also called dragon or spirit lines in other parts of the world), above blind springs of water in the rocks below and/or close to geological fault lines; all of which produce energy that can be amplified by the stones and used in ceremony and rituals; as happens at sacred sites around the world, including churches & temples, especially when accompanied by chanting or singing. The idea to construct a stone circle at Brockholes came about during a British Society of Dowsers course held at Brockholes in 2011, which included the alignments of stone circles and their relationship to water and earth energies. The circle was constructed here, and not somewhere else at Brockholes for several reasons, i.e. it felt right, it provides a view up the Ribble Valley to Longridge Fell and Pendle Hill, is in a prominent location visible from the interior of Brockholes, isn’t in the way of managing the nature reserve, isn’t close to the M6, but is close to an earth energy line that dowsers have detected running south-north to the east of Preston. What were stone circles used for? It is likely that stone circles would have been used for different reasons throughout the year. Uses could have included meeting places for trading goods or settling disputes, celebrating the seasonal festivals of Imbolc (Candlemas), Ostara (Easter), Beltaine (May Day), the Summer Solstice, Lughnasadh (Lammas), Samhain (Halloween) and the Winter Solstice (Yule). They may also have been used to send blessings or healing energy to the crops in the fields, the animals on the land, or to mark the birth of a new baby, the initiation of boys and girls to man and woman hood, the joining of a couple in ‘marriage’ or to mourn the death of a person. 5


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

The Wildlife Trust can use its stone circle as an educational feature, for geological interpretation and photography, including as a setting for wedding photographs etc. What next/future plans? • The stone circle could provide a setting for an earth clock, from which your shadow will tell the time. • Another stone circle could be built at Brockholes, possibly the largest in the British Isles! Geology of the stones (by GeoLancashire): The stones in the circle include examples of the major types of exposed hard rock in Lancashire, mostly limestones and sandstones. Stone 1 (Carboniferous Limestone from Back Lane Quarry, Carnforth) is karst (limestone pavement). The flat faces are bedding planes representing two emergent surfaces the reddening indicating a soil. Stone 2 (Carboniferous Limestone) is karst (limestone pavement) and has probably been burrowed by animals which lived in the sediment while it was being deposited. Stone 3 (Pendle Grit from Waddington Fell). The sediment which created this coarse-grained sandstone, called arkose, was derived from granite mountains to the north. Fast flowing water carried it south to be deposited soon afterwards. If the sediment had been carried for a long time, the feldspar crystals would have broken down to clay minerals. In this rock, pink rectangular feldspar crystals can be seen. You can also find irregular shaped glassy quartz crystals. Stone 4 (Pendle Grit from the Nick of Pendle) is also a coarse-grained arkosic sandstone, although the grains are smaller than in Stone 3. Stone 5 (Carboniferous Limestone) is characterised by burrows. Several examples of long burrows can be seen in this image. On the same surface are two solitary coral fossils, about 30mm in diameter and a fan-shaped colonial coral. Stone 6 (Haslingden Flags) is sandstone, deposited in a tidal or shallow water environment. It is composed of fairly small grains of sand in thin beds with evidence of current movement in the form of the layers. Compare the grain size with Stones 3 and 4, which are made of much coarser sediment. Stone 7 (Carboniferous Limestone) is a slab of fine-grained limestone made from algal and shell debris. There are fragments of corals but this is not a ‘coral reef’. If you look carefully, you can see that some surfaces are shiny – these are calcite crystals and indicate that some of the fragments are crinoid debris. Crinoids are animals related to sea urchins. Stone 8 (Pendle Grit from the Nick of Pendle) is an impure sandstone with large amounts of mud. Iron staining gives the rock its characteristic colour. Stone 9 (Carboniferous Limestone) shows the effect of intense burrowing by organisms while the rock was still soft sediment. This is called ‘pseudobreccia’. Calcite crystals, which catch the light, indicate fragments of crinoids in the rock. Stone 10 (Carboniferous Limestone) is karst (limestone pavement), similar to Stone 9 but with more signs of erosion. The typical forms of limestone pavement can be seen in this Block. If turned on its side you could stand on the ‘clint’ while the gaps between this block and the next are ‘grikes’. Stone 11 (Pendle Grit from the Nick of Pendle) is an arkosic sandstone deposited in fast flowing water in a delta. Quartz and feldspar grains can be seen in the rock. Stone 12 (Carboniferous Limestone) has a calcite vein at right angles to the bedding plane on the side of the rock that faces the centre of the circle. A coral can be found in this rock and one surface shows ‘slickensides’ caused by movement of one surface against another in a fault. 6


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

Stone 13 (Carboniferous Limestone) has calcite crystals and there is a large expanse of slickensides on the edge facing the car park. Both large faces on this rock represent bedding planes and show evidence of pauses in sedimentation, possibly when sea level fell during a period of glaciation. Stone 14 (Carboniferous Limestone) is a good example of karst (limestone pavement) with characteristic signs of dissolution of rock along joints and bedding planes producing clints and grikes. Stone 15 (Haslingden Flags) is a fine-grained sandstone, which typically splits into thin ‘flags’. This stone was used throughout Lancashire and in many other parts of the UK and throughout the world for paving especially in the 19th Century. Stone 16 (Haslingden Flags) was deposited as sediment in a delta, with varying conditions of water depth and speed of flow. Mud, previously laid down, was ripped up by fast-flowing water, redeposited and incorporated into the sandy sediment. The resulting rock has mud flakes within the sandy matrix, making it an unsuitable material for flagstones. Stone 17 (Carboniferous Limestone) was part of Stone 5, but broke off on delivery at Brockholes. A large solitary coral in the rock shows its structure – the ‘ray-like’ lines defining sections in the coral called septa. Limestone is a rock made from the finely-broken remains of marine shelled animals which lived in tropical seas when Britain was located just south of the Equator. The shells and skeletons of these organisms are made from calcium carbonate. Some larger fragments of shells and corals are preserved as fossils. Stones 10 and 14 are good examples of limestone pavement. This limestone was deposited beneath tropical seas about 340 million years ago and raised to its present height by earth movements over tens of millions of years.

Carboniferous Limestone from Carnforth (BJ)

During the most recent Ice Age, the overlying rocks were scraped off by ice sheets and glaciers, leaving bare rock. Since that time acid rain has dissolved some of the rock especially along cracks, creating the so-called limestone pavements. The interesting shapes of limestone pavement led to many rocks being dug up and sold in garden centres as ‘water’ or ‘weather-worn’ limestone in the 1970’s. All surviving examples of limestone pavement in Lancashire are protected by a Limestone Pavement Order under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. The stones in the circle were taken from an active quarry where they were being used as edging stones to define trackways used by quarry vehicles, but they could have been ground up to make limestone chippings. Sandstone. After the deposition of the limestone, a river flowing south from very high mountains, created a huge delta (stretching right across what is now Britain, the North Sea and Germany) which filled the ocean basin. The rocks left behind by this delta are sandstones, sometimes very fine-grained, sometimes coarse enough for you to see and feel the individual sand grains. If you look at a river channel, you will see that the water currents separate the fine and coarse sediment. Some of the stones have been taken from places where the sandstone is fine-grained, while other examples are much coarser. You can see this clearly in the Haslingden Flags (Stones 6, 15 & 16) which split readily along the fine-grained layers to give the familiar flagstones, seen in many Lancashire streets. The coarser-grained sandstones (3, 4 & 8) are often referred to as gritstone or sometimes Millstone Grit and they make good building stone. Preston and Lancaster have many buildings made from Pendle Grit. The sandstones are often named after the places where they were first quarried, e.g. Pendle Grit, Waddington Fell Grit and Haslingden Flags. 7

Pendle Grit from Pendle Hill

Haslingden Flags from Rossendale


BROCKHOLES STONE CIRCLE

LANCASHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST, APRIL 2016

On top of the sandstone delta grew great forests, whose remains became coal seams, which stretch from Britain into Germany and upon which the industrial wealth of both countries was based. Coal is not represented in this stone circle. All the rocks in the circle are of Carboniferous age, which means that they were deposited between 359 and 299 million years ago, when, what is now, the British Isles was in the southern hemisphere at about 30° south of the Equator. By the end of the Carboniferous when the coal forests were growing, Britain was at the Equator and has continued its northward track to reach between 50 and 60° north today. Glacial erratics. The ice ages had a profound effect on the landscape at Brockholes. Great ice sheets carried rocks and boulders from places as far away as southern Scotland and the Lake District. When the ice melted, these rocks were left behind and formed deposits of sand and gravel at Brockholes. These were the basis of an important sand and gravel extraction industry – you can see a similar operation on the Preston side of the M6 motorway, although this is now nearing completion. The hollows left by extraction filled up with water and now form the lagoons at the reserve and are the reason for the very existence of the reserve. If you look carefully as you walk around the reserve, you can find some of these ‘foreign’ rocks which are known as erratics. They can be recognised because they look very different from the local sandstones and are usually very well rounded in shape. The most easily recognised are crystalline igneous rocks such as granite, of which an example, weighing about two tonnes, is located beside the Trust office near the car park. Cut and polished examples of some of these rocks can be seen in the geology display in the welcome centre. Acknowledgements - The Wildlife Trust is very grateful to: • Aggregate Industries for donating 11 stones from their limestone quarry at Back Lane, near Carnforth, • The Downham Estate for donating three stones from Pendle Hill, • Armstrongs Group for donating a stone from Waddington Fell, • Lancashire County Council for donating three stones from Lee Quarry in Rossendale (Haslingden Flags) and helping to transport them to Brockholes, • Natural England and GeoLancashire who gave consent for the removal of the stones from Lee Quarry, a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). • All the volunteers who helped with the construction of the circle. • The Border Morris team Stone the Crows from Lancashire who led a celebratory dance to mark the completion of the circle at the winter solstice on the 21st December 2014. Geology of the stones by Jennifer Rhodes & Peter del Strother of GeoLancashire. All other text by John Lamb, Senior Conservation Officer for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and author of the chapter ‘Lancashire’s Prehistoric Past’ in Lancashire’s Sacred Landscape (2010), edited by Linda Sever (ISBN 978-0-7524-5587-7). Photographs and plan by John Lamb, except for (AW) by Alan Wright, (BJ) and front cover by Brian Jones and (SM) by Scotty Markfour. For further information about the Wildlife Trust, see www.lancswt.org.uk For further information about Brockholes, see www.brockholes.org For further information about GeoLancashire, see www.geolancashire.org.uk

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The Stone Circle at Brockholes  

The Stone Circle at Brockholes  

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