The Nine Ladies stone circle lies on Stanton Moor, between Stanton in Peak and Birchover.
We parked at the roadside on Birchover Road and started a lazy wander along well-trodden paths. Within moments you find the Cork Stone – an oddly shaped stone, often said to be cork shaped, hence the name.
The stone itself is sandstone and bears hundreds of pieces of graffiti, dating back to the 19th century. Endless names are carved into the rock – not just here, but all over Stanton Moor.
Steps have been carved out of the rock with iron handles added to allow people to climb up on top, should they wish.
The moors are covered with heather, thick swathes covering most of the ground in places. Our boys took great delight in hiding amongst the heather, shrieking with delight as they played hide and seek.
Nine Ladies is so-called as legend tells of nine ladies dancing on a Sunday. The King Stone, which lies roughly 40 metres to the south-west of the circle was said to be the fiddler. They were all turned to stone as a penalty for daring to dance on a Sunday.
The children loved the story.
The nine ladies are no more than a metre high, made of local millstone grit and positioned in a crude circle. The King Stone at one point was taller, but was broken when a car collided with the stone. It is covered with graffiti. There is a tenth ‘lady’, although the stone does not sit upright. It was discovered in1976 when the ground had dried out and it became visible beneath the dirt.
From nearby trees hang endless gifts from passing Pagans. Sticks woven together with colourful wool, dried flowers, ribbons and bells dancing in the breeze. The camp is divided…are these trinkets offerings or are they essentially litter?
The boys climb in an enormous Rhododendron, not yet in flower. The branches make an impromptu cave, perfect for a small boy’s imagination. They search for the King Stone, knowing only that it is close and meandering in every direction until they choose the right one.
It is peaceful as we follow the grooves through the heather back to the car. The paths are well-trodden here, the cairns smooth to the touch from thousands of feet climbing upon them, hands smoothing over them. The boys play in what was once a quarry but is now nothing more than an overgrown dip in the landscape. They climb for hours, upturning rocks and collecting millipedes to scuttle across outstretched palms. They fill their pockets with small chunks of gritstone.
Theres a tranquility here allowing an unrushed walk. Next time we’ll go alone, without friends and we’ll be able to walk further afield, exploring more of the landscape.