"The Duddo Stones consists of five Neolithic sandstone monoliths describing a circle 8.5 by 8.8 metres in diameter. An account, written in 1811, records a circle of six stones here but, at some time before Canon James Raine's investigation of the site in 1852, two of the stones toppled over and one of them broke.
"Around 1890 Robert Carr discovered and excavated a pit in the centre of the circle which he describes as being 'six to eight feet in diameter'. Here he unearthed charcoal and fragments of burnt bone suggesting a cremation burial. In 1923 a fragment of pottery was found here though the type was not recorded but this could have been the remains of a cremation vessel. Carr also discovered two empty stone holes in the north west section of the site. The intact fallen stone was re-erected sometime between 1903 and 1934. In 1935 J. Hewitt Craw produced the first plan of the stones and noted the positions of the stone holes discovered by Carr."
(From the Ad Gefrin website).
The Duddo Stones are also known as The Singing Stones, this describes the sounds sometimes produced by the wind blowing across the deeply eroded channels in the stones.
Another local name was The Women, alluding to the narrow waists of the stones.
Many years ago they were called Duddo Four Stones, until a toppled fifth stone was restored to its place in the circle.
Duddo Five Stones, looking north.
© Don Brownlow Photography.
Stan Beckensall, the sage of Northumbrian rock art, describes it as, "One of the most attractive monuments in Britain, with a setting that looks towards the Cheviots and to Scotland, including the Eildon Hills."
Duddo Five Stones, looking south to the Cheviots
© Don Brownlow Photography.
Weather has eroded the stones into fantastic shapes, but a much greater threat comes from man.
In the Victorian period, the interior of the stone circle was ploughed and, until the recent arrival of more considerate landowners, tractors ploughed to within a metre of the stones.
In recent years, the setting of the stones has been threatened by proposals to build arrays of massive, industrial wind turbines on sites at Felkington ('Moorsyde') and Toft Hill.
Both schemes were eventually rejected at appeal, after a long and costly battle by local people. The Planning Inspector who advised the Secretary of State to reject both schemes, described Duddo Five Stones as "a serene and remarkable place".
Since the threat of major turbine arrays was defeated we have seen a continuing threat from speculative wind developers pushing so-called 'farm turbines'.
Local people have not opposed farm turbines that are in scale with the landscape, farm buildings and farm consumption such as the 20m Felkington Farm turbine, visible from the Stones. But some landowners want to install much larger industrial turbines. The now refused 74m Shoreswood turbine typifies the problem.
Fine Energy Ltd had applied for two 34.5m turbines at Felkington Farm, less than 600 metres from the existing 20m farm turbine.
NCC unanimously refused this application on 4 March 2014, following the officer recommendation to refuse on the basis of adverse cumulative impacts (with the Shoreswood turbine), after trying to approve it at a previous planning meeting, but having to postpone a decision because of procedural errors.
The Parish Council objected to this planning application on the grounds of its adverse impact on the local landscape, its impact on the amenity of local residents and on the setting of Duddo Stones.
Fine Energy Ltd appealed the refusal on 27 March. The appeal was dismissed on 8 December, 2014. The Planning Inspector went beyond the opinion of NCC officers, finding that the small benefits of the proposal did not outweigh the damage that would be done to the setting of the Duddo Stones.
NCC Application Ref. 13/02691/RENE.
Appeal Ref. APP/P2935/A/14/2215293.
The setting of Duddo Five Stones has been threatened for several years by an application for a 74m wind turbine at Ewe Hill, Shoreswood Farm. This turbine would have been the same model as that operating next to the A1 at Folly Farm, in Berwick.
Previously, a planning inspector had overturned the unanimous refusal of the scheme by Northumberland County Council in 2012. This refusal followed the advice of officers and heritage experts.
When the decision was challenged in a claim to the High Court, it was conceded that the Planning Inspector had failed, in considering the appeal, to give “great weight” to the conservation of designated heritage assets and to the fact that any harm to such assets “should require clear and convincing justification”. The appeal approval was quashed.
The appeal was then returned to the Planning Inspectorate for redetermination. The decision was then 'recovered' to the Minister. The refusal of the appeal was announced on 30 September, 2015. It agreed completely with the findings of the Planning Inspector on the unacceptable impacts of the proposal.
NCC Planning Ref. 11/02725/RENE
The Defra scheme for permissive access expired at the end of September, 2014.
The landowners have generously agreed to continue with permissive access from the south, from the minor road between Duddo and Grindon Rigg. The access gate is clearly signed (Google map).
Please be careful not to hinder access for large farm vehicles when parking on the verge.
Northumberland has some of the most impressive hill forts and prehistoric Rock Art in the country.
From Duddo Stones you can just see Yeavering Bell, a massive hill fort on the edge of the Cheviots, overlooking the ancient royal site of Ad Gefrin. The hill fort is well worth the climb, an added bonus is some of the best views in North Northumberland (see the National Park website for more information).
See the Northumberland Rock Art website for more information on prehistoric rock art.
Guardians of the Stones is an unincorporated community group formed by local people.
It is dedicated to protecting and preserving the integrity of the Duddo Stones and their landscape setting from industrial development.
The group is not currently active, after the refusal of the Shoreswood wind turbine appeal.
See the Guardians' page for more information.