Country diary: beauty and hidden meaning in stone age artists’ work

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Lordenshaw, Northumberland: There are many layers of history on this site, home to one of Britain’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art

From Rothbury our path runs steeply uphill, the view opening out with every calf-pulling step. The sun is shining, a church bell chimes the quarter and a farmer on a quad bike is feeding sheep and lambs. We walk past Sharpe’s Folly, a round tower built by the 18th-century rector as an observatory and to relieve unemployment. Then it’s out on to the moorland, where latticed heath moths flicker past and skylarks sing.

The first sign of something unusual is a jagged upright rock like a molar, with deep grooves running down from its apex. It is speckled with lichens in grey, silver and pewter, and echoed by further tooth-like forms. Across this flat spur of land known as Lordenshaw, more than 100 carved stones are scattered among the heather, one of the largest assemblages of prehistoric rock art in the country.

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