Protesters' Trek Through Sacred Vale To Retrace Ancient Footsteps

By David Prudames | 19 October 2004
shows an aerial shot of the Thornborough Henges.

The henge complex at Thornborough in Yorkshire was constructed in the Neolithic age © English Heritage.

Members of campaign group Heritage Action are set to recreate a 5,000-year-old ceremony this weekend when they carry an axe through Yorkshire’s 'Sacred Vale' to Thornborough Henges.

The group are hoping to raise awareness of its campaign to prevent further gravel extraction around the ancient triple-henge monument, as reported earlier this year on the 24 Hour Museum.

"The area between Catterick and Boroughbridge can claim to be Britain’s first great religious and ceremonial centre," said George Chaplin of Heritage Action.

"It contains Britain’s largest concentration of prehistoric henges, vast circular earthworks that were used as ceremonial meeting places."

Shows a black and white aerial photograph of the area of Thornborough Henges - the three circular monuments run diagonally from top left to bottom right.

The henges measure 240 metres across and stretch over 20 miles of Yorkshire countryside. Courtesy Friends of Thornborough Henges.

Building materials supplier Tarmac Northern has been quarrying at nearby Nosterfield for some time and in June this year lodged an application with North Yorkshire County Council to extend its operations to the adjacent Ladybridge Farm.

As Scheduled Ancient Monuments, the henges are protected by law. But both archaeologists and local campaigners say that they are set in a ritual landscape and can only be properly understood within this context.

Heritage Action is not only anxious to prevent further gravel extraction at the ancient site, but also wants all present quarrying to stop.

Taking place on Friday October 22 and Saturday October 23, the Sacred Vale Trail will take in the ancient ritual landscape in its entirety, including seven henges, a giant stone row and various other monuments that line the way.

Shows an aerial photograph of the central henge at Thornborough. It is a grassed over circle with a clear raised outline on which there a trees dotted around.

Now little more than grassy banks, the henges are considered to be among the most important prehistoric sites in the UK © English Heritage.

As well as celebrating the significance of the area, the trail will pass through the mile-long triple henge monument at Thornborough.

"We are staging a march through this Sacred Vale to highlight that the area is an immensely important part of our local and national heritage and that plans to quarry the surrounding archaeology are akin to vandalism," explained George.

The marchers will carry a prehistoric stone axe that last travelled the route some 5,000 years ago. Originally brought from Scotland, the axe was deposited in a ritual location close to Thornborough.

"We believe it’s vitally important that the Sacred Vale is recognised for what it is," said George, "it’s not just important to Yorkshire, it’s important to Britain."

Shows a graphic of an aerial map showing the site in 1850.

The henges were once at the centre of an intricate and highly-important ritual landscape. Courtesy Friends of Thornborough Henges.

The trail has been organised by George Chaplin with the support of local businesses and is aimed at increasing tourism in order to raise awareness of the need to protect the area’s ancient monuments.

"If the destruction of the surroundings of any of these monuments is allowed to continue it would be a national disgrace, not just a Yorkshire one," added George.

"We hope that by setting up this heritage trail people can be given the chance to explore this little known but supremely important landscape. The more people that get to know about it the more chance there is that it will be saved."

To find out more about Heritage Action and its campaign, visit the organisation's website.

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