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Deep within Burley moor is a very old, half ruined stone circle. It is one of half a dozen on the moor – but few know about it. The bracken on these moors can grow very long and often obscures many of the old circles and monuments, so this one is really only visible during those months when the bracken is dead and laid flat.

There are dozens of strange prehistoric carvings on the moors - most are thought to be at least 5000 years old and so far their meaning isn't known.

There are dozens of strange prehistoric carvings on the moors – most are thought to be at least 5000 years old and so far their meaning isn’t known. This one is called ‘The Idol Stone’ and is on the way to ‘Roms Law’ circle.

‘Roms Law’ (or ‘Grubstones’) is the name of this circle and it is estimated to be about 4500 to 5000 years old. No one knows what it’s purpose was but it is very near a Neolithic cemetery and fragments of bone and some ashes were discovered in its centre in 1946. Some think it may have been where the dead were rested, or a ritual of some form occurred, before taken on their way to the cemetery beyond.

Roms Law circle - even in early Spring the site is starting to get overgrown with bracken.

Roms Law circle – even in early Spring the site is starting to get overgrown with bracken and heather.

Whatever it’s purpose it is a very peaceful place and I have spent may an hour sitting there watching red kites soar overhead or listening to the curlew and grouse. It is at it’s best at first light in the morning when the sun rises and illuminates the moors and circle with it’s glow. It is then when you really get a feeling of the age and the mystery of the place.

The Neolithic cemetery

Looking towards the Neolithic cemetery area

There is also fragments of an ancient track which leads past the circle and bypasses the remains of a huge ancient tomb nearby – the ‘Great Skirtful of Stones’.

The moors around the cemetery

The moors around the cemetery

This track is hard to find, especially when the heather is long but it is definitely there – although only a hundred yards or so now remain – the rest is swallowed up by the moors – and the millennia. It is almost like something out of an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie – you really only see the track when crouched looking straight down it   – and suddenly the scattered stones which lie on the moors begin to align before your eyes and the track becomes visible!

The moors around the cemetery area abound with deep pools of water and streams

The moors around the cemetery area abound with deep pools of water and streams

Some people think the track is an ancient trade route, whilst others believe it is where the dead were carried to the circle for preparation for the afterlife. I like to think the latter, but in truth no-one knows. Like so much on these moors it has never been properly excavated.

Gamekeepers burning the old bracken and heather on the moors. This is done to promote new shoots for the grouse who live and breed on the moors. Then they are shot!

Gamekeepers burning the old bracken and heather on the moors. This is done to promote new shoots for the grouse who live and breed on the moors. Then they are shot!

A couple of months ago I was visiting another circle a mile or so away from Roms, and on the way back I detoured off the path and had a wander through the old cemetery. There are over a hundred burial mounds there. This is an area where almost no-one goes – it is remote and there are no paths. I was looking for some rock carvings on the stones which cover some of the burial mounds, when before me out of the heather appeared part of the ancient track.

I had no idea it was there and I followed it for a hundred yards or so. It kept getting buried by the heather and reappearing, and it twisted and turned and was heading towards Roms circle a mile or so away. Eventually it petered out and I could follow it no longer.

The prehistoric track. Is this a bronze age trade route or an 'Avenue of the Dead'?

The prehistoric track. Is this a bronze age trade route or an ‘Avenue of the Dead’?

Maybe the path is an ancient trade route, but as you walk down it you can’t help but imagine, maybe 5000 years ago that the inhabitants of these moors were carrying their loved ones to their final resting place, or to preparation at ROMs circle.

 

The path can only be followed for a hundred yards or so, then the moor reclaims it

The path can only be followed for a hundred yards or so, then the moor reclaims it

I would to thank Paul Bennett and the Megalithix website for additional information

 

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