As a rule, henges are not the most inspiring of ancient places. They often lack the main ingredient of any half-decent Stones in Fields...some stones. I guess that makes them "Fields", which in turn makes them very dull indeed. The Thornborough builders obviously mulled over this knotty problem and came up with a cunning plan to put their henge on the map. They went BIG and boy do I mean big. Not suffice with that, they went big three times. Blimey, what Thornborough lacks in granite it makes up for in sheer size alone.
Thornborough Henge is the Neolithic equivalent of the Number 42 bus! You wait ages to see it; then three come at once. However, unlike the Number 42, you have more space than you could shake a very long stick at. Each henge was constructed to the same pattern: a gigantic earthen bank encircling an arena, with ditches on both sides and an opening at both ends. Originally the banks were thought to be smothered in white gypsum, which must have looked astounding, but this covering has long since disappeared. In fact this is not the only thing to have disappeared, so have the internal ditches, and the external ones, oh and most of the banks. Come to think of it there is very little left to see!
We encountered the central henge first, which is just a few metres from the little road that links Thornborough to West Tanfield. This henge is perhaps the most impressive of the three as it is completely unmolested by trees and there is a substantial amount of the banking still remaining. From the top you get a clear view of the scale of this thing, this really is massive. The most northern henge is clearly visible, covered as it is by mature trees. To the west a lovely landfill site can be viewed and heard as it is only about quarter of a mile away. Nice!* The henge to the south although visible has been virtually ploughed out. Nevertheless, we set off across fields, to take a closer look. It was further than expected and when we finally reached it the poor thing was in a very sad condition and so was I. The outline of the bank and some slight indentations in the soil are all that remain. Even the sheep appeared unimpressed. As we had walked so very far for very little we opted to drive to the third henge, which made far more sense to me. This, as it transpired, was a plan without faults; you can literally drive into the henge but for the trees. These trees certainly are a mixed blessing, on the one hand you can't see the henge for the trees, on the other, this henge is by far the best preserved. The great ditches that were originally present at the other sites are still present here, although they would certainly have been deeper four thousand years ago. That said, you still wouldn't like to trip and fall in one! The earthen bank is also very well preserved but the trees do stop you getting an overall picture of the place. Despite this, of the three henges this is easily the most chilled and is the perfect place for some quiet contemplation. Simply lovely.
If you are in Yorkshire and you fancy a change from looking at bits of old rocks then Thornborough could well be your spot. It's VERY big, nicely chilled and genuinely impressive. Granted, if your mates ridicule you for looking at Stones in Fields then this could well be an ancient site too far, but what do they know?
Oh! Thornborough is in grave trouble right now as those "nice" [insert own word, I don't fancy getting sued] people at Tarmac want to turn the surrounding area into yet more quarries (*remember our land-fill site above?..Old quarry, I don't just throw this thing together!). So I suggest you go sooner as there may not be a later!