Ancient Sites and Artefacts: Cup and Ring Stone, Loads Road, Holymoorside.

Words & Image: Colin Harrison

Few people in Chesterfield probably realise that the area (mainly to the west) is liberally scattered with small but interesting works made by pre-historic people. Because of its position near the Peak District, where a large number of stone artefacts have survived for thousands of years, the town is a good starting point to visit many of these, most of which are within range of a moderately fit cyclist. The nearest, not far from Loads Road in Holymoorside, is a large stone into which have been carved cup and rings marks and other workings to the surface.

The carved rock may not seem particularly impressive, but it was worked by our ancestors from thousands of years ago, and given the effort required must have been important to them.

Prehistoric art of various sorts is found all over the world, but the lack of caves (with Cresswell Crags a notable exception for Britain) and the abundance of stone, especially in the north and west of the country, means carvings and arrangements like stone circles are quite widespread here.

There are no confirmed explanations as to the meaning of many of these, but their spread means there was probably some unifying significance – cup and ring marks are uncommon south of Derbyshire, although that may be due to the lack of suitable material for carving. Burial mounds and cairns are found all around the country, although lots have been slowly flattened by agricultural use over the centuries.

The carved rock may not seem particularly impressive, but it was worked by our ancestors from thousands of years ago, and given the effort required must have been important to them. We’re accustomed to the British landscape as it now is, but at the time these carvings were made it was probably very different. Land for farming would have to be painstakingly cleared by hand, with only the most basic of tools, so the siting of the rock may have been significant in that context. To understand how important these carvings must have been, try imagining how you would even start to make them – with no modern tools of any sort. It’s quite possible that among the rocks piled behind the large one are others that have been carved but that were simply thrown aside when they were moved from their original place in the nearby fields.

To get there: leave Chesterfield on the Chatsworth Road, then take the Holymoorside road. In just under a mile, where the road bears left, take the clearly marked right hand fork (signposted Beeley and Darley Dale). Follow this road around to the right and then go straight up for just over a mile, looking for a footpath sign pointing left, by a 6 bar metal gate; it’s just after a drive to ‘Home View’. Follow the path that goes uphill (at right angles to the road), with a wall on your right, until you reach the bottom of the third field where there is a waymarker sign. Turn left (so the wall is on your left) and just the other side of the next wall is a large rock with it’s surface carved into a series of hollows (cup and ring marks), as well as some deep, straight lines.

It’s at the edge of large piles of smaller stones, cleared from the surrounding fields over time; it’s probably not in it’s original location, but, given it’s size, it’s unlikely to have been moved far. Although the surrounding area is now largely farmland it was the original Holy Moor.

The site isn’t shown on OS maps, but the relevant ones are Landranger 119 or OS Explorer OL 24 (map ref: SK 321 687).