I’m sorry, ye old weather gods, I’ve come to the realization that I have taken you for granted. I have paid the price of this negligence; the result of a mighty fine summer 2014 spent mostly indoors writing and trying to meet copy deadlines. I am truly sorry. This atrocious winter you have precipitated on me at high velocity if I dare set foot out of doors has reminded me that I have taken you for granted, and I solemnly swear I shall not make a repeat of my negligence again.
I hearby declare that should the sun actually shine and wind speed drop down into single figures, I will take the day off work. I will go outside and bask in your glorious vitamin D inducing rays. I will explore the islands I am fortunate enough to call home, and I will photograph my adventures and share them with my readers.
This week we had one of those sunny days. For the first time in what feels like forever the BBC Weather App showed little pictures of sun, in succession – not sun obscured by a cloud with two giant drop of heavy rain, or lightning, or a wind speed of 59mph, but sun, and single figure wind speeds too!
So, after some pacing at my kitchen window wondering where I could go outdoors to enjoy this brief moment of sunshine, I decided to venture out to some nearby standing stones. Leaving the OS map open on the table for my husband to see when he returned home with an arrow and “I’ve gone here, if I’m not back by dark come looking for me!” message scrawled on a sticky note.
My eldest son and I had found these standing stones on a hike several years ago. We’d been reading our OS map and saw ‘standing stones’ marked on it (HU 325 558). So we plotted the co-ordinates into our GPS and went walking, the long way – as the crow flies from our door step. It was incredibly boggy that route, so the path I took this time was somewhat shorter. A quick drive over the hill to Clousta, hopping a few fences and trekking through a few sheep fields and I was there.
This ewe was all by her lonesome in a field. Initially I thought she had been forgotten about when the rest of her flock was moved to another field, but upon observing her bizarre behaviour (see my Instagram video here) I came to realise it was ill and that’s why it was isolated. Nonetheless, she was my only companion on my adventures, and I developed a fondness for her.
The ruins of an old croft can be seen in the distance. When my eldest and I first explored this area we came via this direction and we had a good old gander inside this house, mostly used these days by sheep to shelter from the harsh winter climate.
Before you get to the standing stones there are the remains of a chambered cairn structure – a late Neolithic/Bronze Age homestead. A quick poke through the rocks in the hopes of finding a bit of treasure which might have been missed by previous excavations yielded nothing but a few feathers and some sheep poo, so I moved on.
There are two standing stones in this area, but only one remains upright. I’m five foot four and three quarters inches tall, and standing on my tiptoes I still couldn’t reach the top of the upright stone.
I sat for ages on the fallen standing stone, enjoying finally feeling the sun on my face for the first time in what feels like forever, savouring the peace and quiet and the brief reprieve from the relentless winter gales.
The photo above was taken around 1:30 in the afternoon. The sun is still low on the horizon, you can see, but at least it’s shining!
Searching the internet yields very little information about these Gravlaba standing stones, aka Greflabbas Knowe. Most archaeological text simply states that they exist, but nothing about their history or folklore except for this:
If you visit Gravlaba you will see a cairn and some standing stones. But don’t look too hard just in case. One day some visitors to this site were just too nosy and they saw some Picts (fairies) dancing in the knowe to celebrate the birth of a child. These two people didn’t just intrude and stare, they tried to nick off with a keg of buttermilk that had been laid in for the party! It’s not surprising, but the Picts turned them to stone for their rudeness. The keg of buttermilk got turned to stone too (bit of a mix up with the curses I think). So there used to be three stones there, but now apparently there are only two. Perhaps the Picts eventually worked out how to get their buttermilk back.
(very likely in Grinsell’s ‘Folklore of Prehstoric Sites in Britain’) [source].
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