Eighteen Stones Speak

CONTEMPORARY COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

EIGHTEEN STONES SPEAK

Kate Learmouth reports on how one Derbyshire community created a beautiful and lasting legacy.
Embracing the Parish of Middleton-by- Youlgrave in the Derbyshire Peak District are a series of carved stones, part of a millennium project undertaken by the residents of the village.

Sites of Meaning consists of seventeen boundary stones, marking the village entrances and each inscribed with words selected by local people. The stones range from a carved seat inscribed with a verse from Isaiah, to kerbstones featuring the poetic words of local school children, to a historic clapper bridge decorated with the words of Alexander Pope.
An eighteenth stone has also been erected in the centre of the village, celebrating the achievement of all those involved and signposting to the seventeen markers.

The project was the brainchild of local resident and artist Charles Monkhouse. He cites the village's triangular boundaries, (one snaking along the river, one an old Roman road and the third making an old mining rake), and an interest in text on stone as the inspiration to this community project.

In all, some 200 people worked on Sites of Meaning. The community were involved from the start; a strong, but varied team of local people formed that included planners, farmers and artists, who set about the task of engaging others and making Sites of Meaning a reality.

Other sub-projects were also devised to engage the community further, such as Other Stones - Other Meanings, which explored local history and archaeology and won a Derbyshire County Council Greenwatch Award in 2005.

Now that the project is complete, Charles Monkhouse believes the overall response has been very positive. "Visitors seem fascinated and we get quite a lot of questions and queries. It's fantastic to see people engaging with the stones: photographing them, climbing on them and so on."

Those who took an active part in its making gained a lot too, from the local school to the drystone wallers, and indeed, the project team itself. " We saw our ideas become tangible. And we learnt just how much we can do," reflects Charles. "It'll be great for the kids whose text was used when they look at their stone in fifty years time."

By its very nature Sites of Meaning is open for all to visit, all year round. A number of walks and cycle routes around the stones can be found together with more information on the project at www.sitesofmeaning.org.uk.