Friday, November 5, 2010

Moorland Close Part One - Castlerigg

Article written for Norfolk on Line:


During my recent trip to the UK on my quest to visit museums holding barkcloths made by the Polynesian women of HMS Bounty (see earlier editions of Norfolk on Line), I found myself drawn to exploring the places some of the mutineers lived. I was surprised because I have always resonated to the untold women’s story, having lived in Polynesia for so long. What a rounding experience this was for me.

I have some good friends in England, Chris Gaskell and Bernadette Kilroy, who are confirmed Bounty buffs. We met during their cruise years ago which included stops at Tahiti and Huahine, and we’ve been in contact ever since. They were kind enough to take me to my appointment with the curator at Liverpool World Museum. The next day we went on a discovery tour of The Lake District and to the town of Cockermouth where Fletcher Christian lived in his youth. Unbeknownst to me, this would end up being the highlight of my stay in England.

We left Chris and Bernadette’s house at the crack of dawn and drove north for a couple of hours on the M6 highway toward Penrith. We skirted the south west area of The Lake District and turned onto the A66 where the landscape folds gently into rounded fluorescent green and rust coloured fells (hills) dissected by ancient stone walls.

Heading toward Keswick, I saw a small and discreet road sign ‘Castlerigg Stone Circle’. I was blown away. I’ve always been fascinated by these structures, and had hoped one day to see this particular one. I excitedly asked Chris if it was too far out of his way. He chuckled, ‘you should have told me you wanted to see it’ in his broad accent. We turned down an empty narrow road and not five minutes further along, arrived at the Circle. Given the many tours a tourist can take to the impressive Stonehenge, (which one can hardly approach, let alone touch or photograph alone), Castlerigg Stone Circle is amazingly accessible. We were the only car to pull up on the side of the quiet road, alone apart from some young campers in the next paddock strumming guitars.

For such an inconspicuously marked area, the circle is vastly impressive. Positioned on the plateau of Chestnut Hill it is cradled in an amphitheatre of surrounding fells and the highest peaks of the area of Cumbria. The circle itself is made up of 40 principal stones, probably erected around 3200 BC. Much like the marae of Polynesia, the stones are aligned to the sunrise during different times of the year and lunar positions.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge visited Castlerigg with William Wordsworth in 1799 and he wrote,

… a Druidical circle [where] the mountains stand one behind the other, in orderly array as if evoked by and attentive to the assembly of white-vested wizards …

And who are we to know exactly what took place over the years in this fabulously mystical place?

The reason I write about it here, is its proximity to Moorland Close, the birthplace and childhood home of Fletcher Christian. Breathing in the extraordinary beauty of the place, I began to think about him. He would certainly have visited this place, in all its glory long before the swinging gate and laminated explanation board were erected.

In this ancient place time seemed to stop for a moment … if this stone circle was built in 3200 BC, then the 246 years since Fletcher was born at Moorland Close are infinitesimal speck in the grand expanse of time …

The story continues making our way to Moorland Close next week …


You may wonder why we called this blog 'Tattoo and Tapa'. Tihoti's passion is design using the ancient symbols used by his tupuna or ancestors. Mine is the same, but applied on a different surface.

The designs used by Tahitians in 'tatau' (tattoo) often crossed over into the designs used in 'ahu (tapa) decoration. Some of the deep symbolism used in tatau today in Tahiti is lost, although Tihoti feels that by using nature as our inspiration we can come to understand these designs again, and from there evolve those designs beyond our misunderstandings. But that understanding has to come from a Polynesian perspective.

I am fascinated by the designs and colours used in the ancient 'ahu - everything was symbolic. Much of this knowledge is forgotten today: but not entirely. For me it has become an exhilarating adventure of rediscovery.