While some people dream of the warm sun of southern Spain for their retirement, David Jones chose high fells, the sharp teeth of a gale and the quest to find 5,000-year-old artwork. "I decided to build a new life when I retired," says the former IT marketing specialist, as a bitter wind whips through his hair. "I wanted the last third to be quite different from the first two thirds. I walk a lot, I work with charities, and I do this.""This" is joining more than 100 other Gore-Tex-clad volunteers scouring the moorland of north-east England, searching for traces of the enigmatic and weirdly beautifulcarvings our ancestors made on stretches of flat rocks and boulders.
The project is a collaboration between English Heritage and Northumberland and Durham County Councils. So far, more than 100 previously unknown carvings have been discovered, featuring a mysterious mix of concentric circles, interlocking rings and hollowed cups. They are broadly dated between 4,000 and 6,000 years old."Sometimes you do need the eye of faith to spot them," he says. "I could come up here seven or eight times and not see anything, and then suddenly, in a different light, a panel would be revealed right in front of me." Together with a group of volunteers we wade knee-deep through the heather of Barningham Moor, Co. Durham in search of one of the volunteer's most impressive discoveries, with the wind tearing in from the west, swirling curtains of fine rain.
real pleasure in finding a new panel," says Richard Stroud, a former
civil servant and now volunteer co-ordinator on the project. "The sense
that you're up on the moor and someone else was up here 5,000 years ago
in the same spot, doing his best work on that rock. It connects you
with the past in an amazing way." Most of the volunteers are united by
a lifelong interest in the past, but the project has given them the
opportunity to engage that passion and genuinely push the boundaries of
The slope in front of us
forms a small plateau and it is there that the moor reveals its secret:
a flat sandstone slab carved with the most incredible designs. As I
look at it from different angles the watery light reveals more details:
dips, cups and carved circles linked by a lattice of rivulets and
swirls. Looking back across theva......
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