I have fond memories of this place – Castlerigg stone circle, in the hills above Keswick in the northern Lake District. In warm summer time I have undertaken long walks, and short rest walks, then come up here in the evening to round off the day. I had some food with me once but it’s a bracing place, very exposed, not really suitable for a peaceful rest. I prefer to have food down by the nearby lake of Derwent Water. It works quite well. You can buy salads, nut roasts and Chinese or Indian food in Keswick, then enjoy a mellow outdoors evening.
Another time, more particular and memorable, I came here to view the scene before driving down to Borrowdale for the start of a trip of a few days. The forecast was for minus fifteen with the wind chill and I couldn’t stand here for more than a few minutes without getting extremely cold. This was alarming and I wondered about the feasibility of my trip. What I subsequently found was if I kept moving it was OK. Five minutes was about the stationary limit, and five minutes was what I needed for food or drink.
In the hills I like to forget complications and the cares of life. Several times I’ve had a book with me or tried a newspaper but it started to engage a thinking process from which I wanted release. The mind is soothed and calmed in the hills and you have a direct experience of nature unmediated with thought. For that reason, I sometimes feel I don’t want to stimulate thought.
There are however some complex but interesting ideas you can associate with Castlerigg. Research it and you find historians and archaeologists admit they don’t know for sure why it was built. It’s not a high vantage point in relation to the panorama but it’s a remarkable central location with views to Helvellyn, Causey Pike, Skiddaw and Blencathra. The stones were probably aligned with solar, lunar, or stellar configurations. The meaning is therefore obvious. These ancient people sought a connection with the heavens and the land, based on their meaningful location within it. It may well have had a pagan or religious dimension, but in psychological terms it was entirely coherent. We need to feel a sense of place and meaning in the cosmos. We still have that need today, just as people did thousands of years ago.
Contemporary so called psychogeography rests on this impulse. It’s sometimes dressed up with strange ideas tracing back to French Situationists. That is how contemporary psychogeography began: with people walking around the city while reconfiguring it in their imagination. But this mapping of the land, wherever you are, is a primordial and constant impulse. I think it’s part of the reason why we walk the mountains. It is, in some psychological sense, a way of gaining knowledge and meaning, living as we do on inert geography. The fun, refreshment and solace that we feel traces back to something a little deeper concerning our place in the universe.