Exploring Dod Law

Goodness, what a long time since I last posted!

It’s not that I haven’t thought about it – or been without topics to write about. It’s more that I have questioned the whole raison d’être of personal blogs …. the internet seems so crowded … who am I to add to the general digital busyness ….

I have sort of resolved this in my own mind. I can’t resolve the problem of internet busyness, but I do really love blogging when I get into my topic.  And right now, that seems a good enough reason …

So here I am,  with a wonderful wonderful walk from last week,  in one of our very favourite parts of North Northumberland – the lands about the Cheviot Hills and the Milfield Plain.view over to the CheviotsWe were looking for something, something that we had looked for before and not found.  Would we be successful this time …. ? Hmm, you’ll have to wait and see!

Our walk started from the village of Doddington, parking not far from what appeared to be a Holy Well. I would guess this was an ancient sacred spot, Christianised perhaps  in the 19th century with the addition of the cross …Doddington's holy wellA trickle of fresh water running gently at the foot of the cross … this is a mysterious and elemental place – a good start for a walk into mystery …water trickling out of holy wellNot far up the road we found a worn and shabby signpost, barely legible for the lichen … but it’s definitely pointing the way to Dod Law … just half a mile up the hill!waymarkerSo up we go! You’ll remember that I’m always behind …
Stephen leading the wayInto the gorse …Stephen leading the way through gorseWhere pretty soon it becomes clear that this path isn’t walked often …. the gorse so overgrown even the sheep are finding it tricky to get through … almost impassable gorseBut then it opens out, and really this is the best sort of walking, the ground springy underfoot, the bracken too young and freshly green to give anything but pleasure …Stephen walking up the pathAnd the flowers! Foxgloves looking statuesque amid the gorse …foxgloves at their bestLittle white starry flowers underfoot … I wish I knew what they were!
young bracken around pathEven more delightful when mingled with small blue flowers, some of which are Speedwell (thank you, we will) but I can’t identify the others. Any ideas?
starry white and blue flowers underfootAnd the bell heather is just coming into bloom …bell heather coming into bloomJust when it all seemed to be going so well, we hit a problem … This stile has collapsed.  As I said earlier, this route no longer seems to be much walked.  The path over the stile takes us onto Access Land (private land where permissive walking is granted but no right-of-way footpath exist).  The unrepaired stile is probably  a reflection not of landowner disinterest but austerity.  Footpaths such as these were once the responsibility of local authority councils but their budgets have been so heftily slashed that footpaths must be bottom of their to-repair list.

Never mind – I did get over it, but only just. Lucky there’s no barbed wire on top!
broken styleOnwards and upwards … you can clearly tell which way the prevailing wind blows …no doubting which way the wind blowsExposed they may be, but these trees clearly offer welcome shelter to sheep …
sheep sheltersOnwards and upwards again … track leading invitingly upwardsAnd then up to scrubbier ground – with providentially a bench for respite …
happy benchmanWith what a view!a great place for coffeeThe land stretching down and round over the Milfield Plain …new growth on the hillsideGaps in the bracken show clearly where the farmer has burnt back growth – so much preferable to treating the bracken with herbicidal sprays …evidence of scorching down the brackenJust a little further and we find ourselves at the hill fort – that’s Stephen ahead, just entering it. This hill fort is thought to have been constructed about 300 BC.entering the hill fortSadly it’s very difficult for an amateur photographer such as I am – and on the ground too – to give a real impression of the magnificence of these remaining earthworks. But the farmer’s trackway gives an idea as it runs through the inner and outer ramparts.modern trackway running through hill fortOver on those hills in the distance were many many other hill forts … An almost unimaginable world …walking through the hill fort rampartsJust as we are immersing ourselves in the magic of this place, we look back to see somebody spraying the adjoining golf course! Aagh! is not even a spot as wild and beautiful as this safe from the common use of pesticides?!spraying the golf courseThe hill fort is a magnificent distraction, but it’s not what we’re really here for … We’re looking for rock art!  Some of the most intriguing and fine specimens are to be found on Dod Law.

Well, apparently so.  But last time we visited we couldn’t find them.  On that occasion we approached Dod Law through the golf course (a route almost parallel to the more circuitous one we had taken today), and we walked round and round and round and round – and found nothing.

You see everywhere – all over Dod Law – there are stone slabs lying exposed to the elements … there are stones everywhereYou can ramble around here, through the golf course, over the hills – and find nothing .. wandering through golf course looking for rock artDespite having Ordnance Survey maps, mobile phones, and hand-drawn maps from the master, Stan Beckensall’s Prehistoric Rock Art in NorthumberlandStephen at the trig pointOK, we did find the trig point – and were pretty pleased with that.at least we found the trig pointAnd – just above the Shepherd’s House – we found some very moving modern rock carvings …
the Shepherd's houseBless you, Sadie and Tom Young – what a place to be remembered!  You must have loved it very much up here …
modern rock artAnd then suddenly it clicked!  And the maps made sense, and I found the three clearly exposed pieces of rock art on Dod Law!

This is the first we found, and probably the most indistinctive of them all.  The problem isn’t just that my iPhone wasn’t really up to the task.  A June day – even if cloudy is not a good time to see the markings clearly.  Best days to see the rock art are in the low light of autumn and winter.

However, if you look very carefully you may be able to make out the cup and ring marks near the top.cup and ring marks on the rocksYou can see the engraved spiral much more clearly on this slab.circular rock artAnd it’s not too difficult to make out the patterns on this so called Main Rock. These are the most distinctive and unusual patterns.unusual rock art on Dod LawI can’t quite tell you how mind blowing it is to see these carvings, worked so many thousands of years ago (latest thinking is that they were made by Neolithic people between 6,000 and 5,000 years ago). But to stand on Dod Law with these very ancient rock messages and the Cheviots in view and a lark singing takes you, I reckon, almost as close as it is possible to our very distant ancestors …rock art with the cheviotsNobody knows what our ancestors meant with these rock carvings. There has to be a religious element, surely – some expression of peoples’ relationship with place and nature and life and death?

I’m intrigued to have read recently that a new project, Belief in the North East, has been set up under the aegis of Durham University “to explore the rich archaeology of the belief, religion and ritual of North-East England”. Studying the local rock art will be part of their brief.  I wonder what they will come up with ..

Back down the hill – just as pleasing as coming up, if not more so for mission accomplished – and the views as good as ever!following Stephen down


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Lost - and found.

12 thoughts on “Exploring Dod Law”

    1. Awww – thank you so much, Karen – that’s a really lovely thing to say. Although very reluctant to get started, I have so enjoyed writing this blog so I don’t think I’m going to stop any time soon! And comments like yours make it all worth while … x

      Liked by 1 person

  1. In West Texas, we have rock art that the Native Americans painted up on the walls of rock overhangs along rivers, and the thought is that groups would gather there, and the flickering firelight would make the paintings seem to move and come to life, probably as stories were passed down. But these symbols being on flat ground, so hard to see, seem like they must have been used much differently! I am interested to see what conclusions the new project comes to.


    1. Fascinating to hear about that Native American art and how it had a purpose to the groups who created it. Alas, there is absolutely no evidence of why prehistoric peoples created this Northumbrian Rock Art – it’s part of the intrigue, of course – as well as tantalizing! There are exposed stone slabs all over the top of Dod Law (and many other sites where there is rock art) with no carvings on – but perhaps if a major archaeological exploration took place and the grass and growth was removed, they’d find much much more art – and that might put a whole new slant on the story …. I don’t think they ever will – partly expense, and partly ethical and conservation concerns. The rock art under growth is much better protected than that exposed to the elements. Whatever, we’ll definitely wait to see what the project comes up with – and I’ll post anything that comes up of interest here. Apart from anything else, I want to go back and photograph with a better camera and in better light.

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  2. The views must be amazing – they probably need to be after pushing your way through that gorse. The rock art is fascinating and it’s humbling to think of the tools and hands that carved it so long ago. What a legacy to leave.

    I feel the same way as you about personal blogs and consequently have held back recently like so many others. It’s a shame because there are neglected personal blogs that have migrated to IG, which I miss and would love to read again.


    1. Very interesting to hear what you, a fellow blogger, say about IG and blogging. I do post on IG often (as you will know) but I have always tried to keep a difference between the immediate thought captured in a hopefully interesting pic on IG and the longer story told on my blog. In recent months I’ve left that slip – lazy of me because IG is so easy. But, having written this blog – and enjoyed the composition so much (and the lovely comments too – thank you for your time and effort so taken) – I do want to go back to blogging because it is definitely a better forum for such storytelling. I love your blog posts about your walks – about your farm and further afield too. So – let’s hold ourselves to it, and keep our blogs up!


  3. Kathy I love the detail and care that goes into your blogs, you mustn’t give up!
    This blog was particularly interesting for me being near where I hail from!


    1. Thank you so much, Gilly, for your lovely comment! I did think of you as we walked up Dod Law and wondered if your father ever took you up there? If not, we must definitely take you there – it is a wonderful and most fascinating place and you would love it … make plans to come this autumn and we will head up Dod Law and take some better photos for my blog! x


  4. J > Your blog is amongst the very best that we follow. Your speciality is story-telling – posts with a narrative, in which we join you for a lovely day out, or drop by at your place to see how you’re getting on with that craft project. For


    1. Dear Jonathan and Denise – thank you very much for that lovely comment – I am very touched. It’s been very helpful to have aired my thoughts, – made me articulate some unformed concerns that have bugged me recently – that’s always constructive. And I so very much appreciate the warm and kindly responses I’ve received. Thank you again.


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