The Legend of Coombs Rocks

Cherished Moments at the Summit of Coombs Rocks

Coombs Rocks is close to where I live, in fact so close that I can see the crags from my bedroom window. You will find it off  Monks Road and overlooking the village of Charlesworth in Derbyshire. The walk to the top has the reward of breathtaking views. You can see all over Manchester, Winter Hill, the Cheshire Plain, and as far as the Clwydian Hills.

There is a legend associated with these majestic rocks. You can find the full legend in The Legends Of Longdendale By Thomas Middleton. I often think about the legend when I walk to the rocks with my dad. We sit at the top to eat our lunch and drink our flask of coffee. Sometimes, we enjoy a well-earned bottle of brown ale. It all goes well with a cheese and pickle sandwich and the wind biting our cheeks.

A Convenient Tale of Pagan Sacrifice

The legend of Coombs Rocks, as I see it, is a piece of ancient propaganda. Possibly Roman or Christian in origin—designed to paint the ancient pagan people of Albion as savage and brutal. This tale, when read critically, shows itself as an attempt to denigrate the ancient pagans. Portraying them as people who sacrificed their loved ones on altars to appease their gods. The Romans, after all, sought to justify their conquest, and the Christian Church aimed to eradicate pagan practices through fear and demonisation.

The Roman Conquest of Longdendale

Around 79 AD, Emperor Claudius dispatched his Roman legions to Britain. This was because of its rich resources like tin, lead, and gold. Securing these assets would strengthen the Roman Empire. The Brigantes, a tribe from Lancashire and Yorkshire, inhabited Longdendale along with another ancient tribe, the Cornovii. The Brigantes lived in the northern part of Longdendale, while the Cornovii resided in southern Cheshire and other counties to the south.

The two tribes united to fight the Romans, but Julius Agricola conquered them, taking control of Cheshire and subduing the people of Longdendale. This ancient conflict birthed the legend of Coombs Rocks. Julius Agricola demanded surrender from the people of Longdendale, but they refused. They were proud of their land and heritage and determined to fight for their freedom rather than submit to foreign invaders.

The Legend of Coombs Rocks

Among the tribes a brave warrior named Edas confronted Agricola. He declared that the Brigantes would never bow to the Romans. Agricola, amused, questioned why the people of Albion would choose battle over becoming free citizens of Rome. Edas insisted that they would rather die with honour than live in subjugation.

The Romans advanced through Stockport and the Longdendale Valley, ultimately reaching Coombs Valley. In anticipation of the invasion, warriors from the Cheshire Plains and the northern mountains of Longdendale gathered. Druids performed rituals around stone circles and forest altars atop Coombes Rocks, offering sacrifices to their deities for Albion’s cause.

The Tragic Love Story Of Coombs Rocks

On the eve of battle, the warriors assembled at the summit. The brave warrior Edas stood with his beloved Nesta, his face nestled in her hair, speaking of their future together after the conflict. Caledon, an ancient druid, demanded Nesta as a sacrifice to ensure victory over the Romans. Edas protested, but Caledon insisted it was the gods’ will. He tied Nesta between the upright stones, and plunged a golden knife into her heart, proclaiming that her blood would secure Albion’s freedom.

The next day, the Romans and Brigantes fought at Coombs Basin. The Brigantes were overthrown despite fierce resistance leaving few survivors to tell the tale. The dead were buried under gigantic cairns that still stand today as the oldest monuments to British history in the district. Edas was one of the last to fall, pierced by numerous swords. As he lay dying, a smile spread across his face. “Nesta, my love, I’m here,” he whispered. “The gods are just and will reunite us. We shall dwell together in the land of rest.”

“That was truly a brave man,” said the Roman general. “He could have died a nobler death had he been a Roman.” Upon learning the tragic tale of Nesta’s sacrifice, the Roman general ordered the two lovers to be together in a single grave.

The Eternal Vigil at Coombs Rocks

To this day, at certain times of the year, the ghosts of these ancient heroes gather on the battlefield, axes in hand, waiting for the Roman soldiers. Perhaps they keep eternal vigil over the land they loved dearly. Alternatively, the traumatic events could have left a lasting psychic imprint on the land. A phenomenon known as the Stone Tape Theory where emotional or traumatic events can be recorded in the natural environment. Things such as stones or other inanimate objects can hold the psychic charge replayed under certain conditions. This theory explains many spectral reappearances that occur at the same time over and over. Dramatic events of the past can continue to resonate in the present. Creating a ghostly replay of history, exactly like a cassette tape on a loop

Robin Hood’s Picking Rods

Near Coombs Rocks are several relics of antiquity. The upright pillars on Ludworth Moor, also known as Robin Hood’s Picking Rods, are linked to these legends. Local lore claims Robin Hood and his men used these stones for target practice. Christian accounts claim druids used them for sacrificial rites. The columns were carved around the 9th century AD by Anglo-Saxons. Nobody can determine what the structure was built for. It’s also unknown whether the stones were a single column that broke off into two pieces and then were mounted side-by-side.

The Robin Hood Picking Rods

Coombs Rocks is a beautiful walk with a very atmospheric feel when you’re up there. It’s almost entirely silent, except for the cold biting wind, which even blows on warm summer days due to the elevation. The area is home to many mountain sheep, and it’s quite a sight seeing them climb down the steep face of the mountain to graze. Walking along the precipice, I often feel overcome by an inexplicable impulse to peer over the edge. This sensation unsettles me, as I can’t tell whether it comes from the alleged mass graves below or whether it’s a touch of vertigo. Despite my fear of heights, the temptation to glance into the abyss below feels almost irresistible. It is as though something is daring me to confront the sheer drop.

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If you enjoy fortean and occult topics don’t forget to check out Hocus Focus with myself and Thomas Sheridan. The first Sunday of every month on YouTube at 8pm UK/Irish time.

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