Mayburgh Henge, Penrith
We park in a tiny road running along near, very near the motorway.
The constant thrum of Logistics Solutions nearly wipe out the pathetically tiny birdsong of those who have survived a long long winter and still hungrily hope for spring.
It is country and it is not. There are snow topped peaks not so far away, possibly covering the frozen corpses of lambs who never wobbled, causing brief consternation to those looking at the national papers showing these shocking deaths whilst eating their breakfast or lunch, killed in an abattoir, packaged neatly in cardboard in a supermarket where the recipe was found in the same newspaper that sobbed sad tears over the tragic death of a baby animal that never had the chance to be marinated or fried.
It is also hard to think of something ancient and mystical being here, right near this small empty car-parking slot near a bland gate and where across the fields a suburban estate lies where you imagine the owners glint suspiciously at your tiny figure whilst they wash their Kia.
You become blase about mystical and ancient things living in the UK. There are so many that one that is not in an aesthetically pleasing situation can be sneered at before staying in the car and going to get a Meal Deal at the nearest Moto which clearly isn’t far away from this site before then going to somewhere where you can’t see the car you drove there in or hear the sound of the traffic you were previously part of.
Where you might have a small tantrum if you can’t instantly find a place to park before you can look at some relics of history conveniently, quietly and accommodating situated.
There is a small sign, a gate, and a hillock. It beats staying in the car with the snoring toddler and the appalling nappy for which a bin has not yet been found so I step out and scrabble up a shingly hill.
It is astounding.
An enormous ancient amphitheatre lies down before me, made out of a million stones. A huge grass space is its arena and only one standing stone remains, the last sentinel. There used to be more. Standing stones disappeared quickly and unromantically in a religious or agricultural past.
A Newcastle Brown Ale Bottle twinkles. People still come here to gather.
It is an utterly awe inspiring site, the better for it being so little excavated, talked about and theorised. But as this site lies off a ring road near Penrith, people don’t want to think about the present when they travel in their cars along the motorway to look at a past not near a motorway in the way they don’t want to think about cute animals being in attractively packaged ambiguously labelled paninis.
We are divorced from nature and history but revel it it. We diet and watch food programmes, stay indoors, watch nature, eat nature and watch it slowly vanish.
We are shocked at weather being weather but never shocked at our own nature.
And in looking at a past we can project our own happy ideals on.
Would those who gathered at Mayburgh so many thousands of years ago want to be us though?