Dating back to around 2500BC, Arbor Low consists of an outer henge embankment enclosing an inner ditch, which in turn surrounds a recumbent limestone circle. The outer circumference of the embankment is about 75 meters, rising to a height of approximately 2 meters. The earthwork is breached in two places by entrances - one in the South East and one in the North West. The centre of the circle contains a group of larger stones which are believed to be the remains of a cove.
Opinions are divided over whether the stones were originally upright or whether they were laid flat as they appear today. Archaeological evidence is inconclusive. However when seen in context, it seems impossible to imagine that the monument was designed this way. It's all too easy to imagine the stones standing upright in a circle - an image that seems to fit naturally with the shape and design of the site. Also, the stones appear very clearly (to the casual observer) to have been toppled. At least one of them appears to have been broken in the process. The best guess is that this is a site that was 'Christianised' through the levelling of the stones.
Whatever the truth, the site is constructed on a grand scale and is certainly the most significant megalithic feature in the north of England. The encompassing of the stone circle by the outer earthwork delays the full visual impact until cresting the rise. Like Avebury, this is another site where the the layout seems intentionally designed to affect the senses on a number of levels. Whether the intention was simply to inspire awe, or whether it was intended to created a ritualistic, otherworldly space, the early visitors to Arbor Low must certainly have been deeply affected by the experience.
The weather will undoubtedly influence your experience of this site. When I came to visit, the weather was initially blustery, but by the time I reached the henge, the wind had already transformed into an epic gale, and driving rain and freezing temperatures weren't far behind. Fortunately, I was staying in the area, and was therefore able to retreat and regroup before a fresh assault the following day.
Happily, the new day brought new weather, and blue skies provided the opportunity for a few photogaphs. With the sun shining, Arbor Low offered a very different experience from the previous day, and the seclusion created by the enclosing henge made it a pleasant location for relaxed contemplation.