Ancient sites and artefacts near Chesterfield
Words & Images: Colin Harrison
The circle is shown on OS maps (Landranger 119 or OS Explorer OL 24, map
reference is SK 2803 6853) but isn't named.
Useful web sites: Megalithic Portal: www.megalithic.co.uk
Derbyshire Heritage: www.derbyshireheritage.co.uk
We know about many stone circles to the west of Chesterfield, although not all are in good condition - rather wonderfully, there's one near Eyam that consists of a single stone. Park Gate, on the far side of Beeley Moor (about 6½ miles from Storrs Road), is in relatively good condition, at least for something built in the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age (so about 5000 years old) and on an exposed moor. Most of the stones are visible, but like a lot of these sites, some are hidden by vegetation; it's about 14 yards across, and not particularly circular, which is around the normal size and shape for local circles.
To get there, leave Chesterfield on the Chatsworth Road, going up the hill until you reach the turning for Holymoor Road, turn left and head towards the junction with Loads Road, opposite the park. Here you have a choice of two challenging climbs, Loads Road or Harewood Road both of which are usually fairly quiet.
Turn right to start the climb up Loads Road. You will eventually descend to a bridge over the start of the River Hipper, continue to climb beyond this until a small road crosses the one you're on, where you need to turn right again.
OR: going straight on at the park in Holymoorside, up the hill past the Bulls Head will take you up Harewood Road until you meet the crossroad junction as below where from Harewood Road you go straight across.
This road joins another one coming from the left; turn right and, a few hundred yards along, where the road turns sharp left, there is a clear track on the right (there are often several cars parked there or on the left of the road). This track is very rough in places, with deep potholes that can be full of water; mountain bikes should be fine, those with road tyres definitely not and intermediates OK with care.
Go along the track for about 500 yards, to the second wooden gate on your right. There are steps in the wall next to it; climb over these and walk up the stone surfaced path for about 350 yards, looking for some vehicle tracks on the right (just before the very brow of the hill). Go along these for about 100 yards and you'll see, on your left, some of the larger, more upright stones of the circle – there are some paths through the heather to it (the trees to your left also form a line pointing roughly to the circle). Although this is open access land, in spring and early summer there might be ground nesting birds in the area, so please don't leave the tracks.
Given the number of stone circles - over 20 are currently known about within 10 miles or so of Chatsworth House - it's possible that the actual act of building them was of importance, as it's not unusual to find several close together. Larger circles, such as Arbor Low, a couple of miles from Youlgreave, might have had more spiritual or ritual significance. The fact is, for all the speculation about such places, including well-known sites like Stonehenge or The Ring of Brodga in the Orkneys, we really don't know what they meant or were used for. Stone circles are found widely across Europe and in parts of Africa, so may have had different significance for different people and cultures. What is sure is that many of those nearby are in wonderful landscapes, accessed by quiet roads with few obstructions by way of hedges or fences, allowing far-reaching views and providing a link to a mysterious past and beliefs we can hardly start to imagine.