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North Yorkshire

The Devil's Arrows (39126650) are three Bronze Age standing stones, giant monoliths ranging in height from 18 feet to 221/2 feet, the tallest stones in Britain apart from the Rudston monolith. There used to be at lest one other stone near the middle one, but that was used to make a nearby bridge a great many years ago. The stones are of millstone grit and were brought nearly 7 miles from Knaresborough. The legend associated with the megaliths states they are arrows fired by the Devil to destroy the nearby town of Aldborough, but have fallen short of their target.

The first, fundamental fact to note about the stones is that they do not stand in a line, Even Watkins was guilty of this over simplification regarding the site. But he is not alone. Jacquetta Hawkes, for example, says that they stand 'in a line running north and south' She is wrong on both counts, Whoever erected these massive stones, and dragged their great weight across mils of countryside, must have used a large, organised labour force and must have been working to a pre-arranged plan. There is no doubt that they had a definite purpose, and when they erected these stones, with obvious skill, they knew what they were doing. If the stones (all clearly intervisible) are not in line, then they were constructed that way.

We have come to the conclusion that one of the functions of the monoliths was to act as a multi-directional sighting or reference instrument. There are a number of cross country alignments impinging on the Devil's Arrows, and we have already discussed one discovered by Norrie Ward in Chapter 3. Before describing another alignment put forward by ourselves, it is worth making reference to Ward's book Yorkshire's Mine., which provides food for thought for any archaeologist in the mood to do a little open-minded listening. After noting the alignment relating to the three Thornborough Circles, Ward goes on the observe that these circles, the other henges on Hutton Moor nearby, a group of three tumuli there also, and the Devil's Arrows as well, all display a west of north tendency, a remarkable uniformity.

Ward points out that it is by no means easy to see how this was done. There is no convenient horizon foresight, and the magnetic variation would have altered the direction of the lodestone; if one had been used, over the period of construction. 'If we in our time', writes Ward, 'Lack the wit to comprehend how they did it, let us not seek as our excuse any lack of capacity on the part of these men...' Ward shows other alignments relating to the Devil's Arrows, and describes an experiment at a stone circle in Cumbria. In conclusion, he states that our prehistoric ancestors may have been rude, but they were not primitive; they knew their astronomy and geometry; they were excellent surveyors and engineers. 'You can dig down into their barrows if you like,' he writes, 'that way you'll find something about the dead.' To know the quick, the living, there is work of another kind to be done.' And that work lies above ground.

Returning to the alignment in hand, the two stones involved at the Devil's Arrows are the southernmost monolith (which is the tallest) and the middle one of the group. To be precise, it is the W side of the S monolith and E side of the middle one that set the course of the line.

G. Bernard Wood states that the Devil's Arrows stand in line ' with an ancient ford across the River Ure' If this is so, it would quite possibly fall on this ley, but we are unable to confirm or deny the statement. The ley proceeds over a junction of Anthony Lane with Moor Lane alongside Chapel Fields and bypasses Marton-le-Moor. At this point the line passes very close to Dishforth Airfield, over which a UFO was reported in 1952.

The next ley marker id Cana henge (36057184), one of the hug earthen circles characteristic of the immediate area. Although now greatly reduced by ploughing, so that there is little to see on the ground, it is an important early Bronze Age Site. The ley passes through the E half of the circle.

A short distance further on, the ley passes through a tumulus (35487296) of Low Barn. Reduced by ploughing, this barrow is probably contemporary with the earthen circles on Hutton Moor.

From the tumulus the ley goes on to another huge henge on Hutton Moor at 35247350, Just N of Harlands Plantation. This time the course of the line passes through the W side of the circle. This 'bracketing' quality to the line is perhaps worthy of note, since the two monoliths at the Devil's Arrows have their opposite sides involved in a similar (but reversed) way to the two earthen circles. It is not a centre-to-centre common line running through the sites, but there dies seem to be this curious, repetitive pattern. It will be recalled that in Chapter 1 we noted Watkin's suggestion that edges of stone circles were often aligned rather than centered. It would seem that other sites were placed in a similar manner. This is another alignment which Robert Forrest has tested statistically, and it appears to be beyond chance.

Depending on the personal opinion of the ley hunter, this line can be extended for a further 1 1/2 miles to set of wells and springs at Hallikeld Spring (34067558), alongside a tumulus.


Length 10.4km