Take the lonely North road out of Otley towards Blubberhouses – isn’t that a great name? – and when you reach the top of the moor look out for the crossroads. Take the right fork signposted ‘Low Snowden’ and follow the winding road down for about half a mile, or until you find the only place on the narrow road where you can park.
Stop the car and go through the farm gate on the left, then up to the top of the field and through another gate. Now stand still and enjoy the silence. And think to yourself what life would have been like here 50 centuries ago. For you are standing at the entrance to a large Bronze Age settlement, and it has never been excavated.
Lookout for the ‘Tree of Life‘ carving deep in the bracken – it is enigmatic and beautiful. Maybe it is a map of the settlement – no-one knows.
Snowden Carr was first described by a chap called Eric Cowling, a noted antiquarian, in 1946. He described the remains of 10 hut circles – however recent explorations has amended this to at least 13. And there are also numerous walls, burial cairns, a ‘D’ shaped large ‘town hall’, a stone circle and dozens of prehistoric carvings. It even has a Necropolis. Snowden Carr is simply amazing.
But it has been sadly neglected by the archaeologists. It hasn’t even figured on the recent ‘Nidderdale Archaeological Survey Report’. In fairness to them, the probably just don’t know how big it is. Because for most of the year it is covered over by impenetrable bracken and nettles. You can really only see a small part of the village during a couple of months in winter when the vegetation is dead. So standing near the ‘Tree of Life’ you see only the outskirts – even on aerial photos and Google Maps it is not really shown. It is only when you actually walk into the place and wade through the vegetation do you get a sense of how big it is. I spent a full morning there awhile ago and still didn’t see all of it.
Many of the ancient sites have been damaged over the years – Rombalds moor across the valley is a good example. Landowners 200 years ago dug into the stone circles and graves and destroyed them – a large tomb had 250 cartloads of stone removed by the landowner 150 years ago, and stone circles have been torn down and used to prop up walls and barns. Prehistoric rock carvings have modern graffiti scrawled on top. But Snowden Carr is untouched or damaged. It is just like it was abandoned and then overgrown. It is pristine. It is like the Marie Celeste of ancient settlements.
Oh, and by the way…there is another one just as large a couple of miles away!
You can read more about Snowden Carr here