|When my sprogs complain they're bored, I like to remind them that their mother's passion with big old rocks can feel infinitely more tedious to them than anything they could possibly imagine. And what better way to prove it than dragging them around some of the more obscure sites in north Oxfordshire with vague promises of seeking out a Mr Whippy.
I went to the Cropredy Folk festival a couple of weeks ago when the village was crawling with people and cars. Today we had the place virtually to ourselves and easily found the bizarrely named cup and saucer stone in a street aptly named 'Cup and Saucer'.
This really quite BIZARRE stone is tangled up in the long history of Cropredy and its lost stone circle. On the maps its referred to as a 'cross' and certainly feels as if it had a Christian past, but it seems to me there is *much* more to it than that.
The stone itself consists of a font-type construct with what appears to be a spoon-like appendage sticking out of the top. I can honestly say I've never seen a weirder stone arrangement. (I felt it should have more accurately been called 'mug and spoon'.) The fact that a small close of council semi-Ds has been built around it on what was once common land gives it an even stranger feel. It may be that some part of this monument (perhaps the 'spoon' element?) is the last remnant of Cropredy's stone circle and that rather than discard it (and annoy the Dark Forces) it became Christianised and passed into the local folk legend.
A straight track runs from it to the burial ground on the edge of the village.
This one's a complete mystery. And profoundly weird.
Drive 13 miles west from Cropredy and you find yourself in the bustling, historic market town of Chipping Norton. The area around Chippy reveals tantalising glimpses of what was once a massive megalithic complex featuring the Rollright stones, the Hawk stone, the Hoar stone and many more wonderful, hidden places. The town itself exudes oldy-worldy Cotswold charm, is more than adequately equipped with antique shops and mellow golden buildings and hides a number of secrets. I'll tell you three of them. Ronnie Barker and that silly arse Jeremy Clarkson live here (though probably not together) and the other one involves driving into the New Street long-stay car park. Look down on the right about 20 metres from the junction and you'll see what I believe is the oldest thing in Chippy.
Standing about two feet tall under a large bay tree, this stone has somehow survived in it's position in the very centre of Chipping Norton's genteel urban landscape. Like all the other stones in this area (Goose stones, Hawk stone, Rollrights, etc) it is of oolitic limestone and is very badly weathered. Massive holes are worn right through like a huge piece of sweet gruyere. It screams 'genuine' to me. It's probably the oldest erection in Chippy!Curious cup-marks
Just two miles out of Chippy on the Worcester Road you'll find the village of Salford on your right. In the churchyard stands the remains of an old cross. Nowt unusual about that. Except that I was alerted to the fact that one of the stones used to construct the cross all those years ago may well hint at a past even more ancient: three cup-marks. In Bennett and Wilson's pamphlet 'The Old Stones of Rollright and District' the authors say: 'this is perhaps one of the most fascinating archaeological finds in the whole region...cup-marks, which pre-date the erection of standing stones... are unknown in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and attendent counties.' They go on to say they were doubtful as to whether they could possibly be cup-marks, but the subsequent discovery of the sites of four stone circles in Cornwell, only two miles away, gave them an albeit tenuous, but not impossible prehistoric link. When I took the photo below, the light was completely flat so my daughter, son and treaclechops point out the cup-marks for you....here, here and here...
And only a mile and half hence is Chastleton Common, home to a rash of tumuli, earthworks, ancient limestone quarries and the elusive Goose stones, which neither me nor treaclechops had ever managed to find before.
Following baza's careful and precise instructions (below) we drove down beyond the 'Private Road' sign. Nervously we proceeded, aware that not only were we trespassing (and therefore not setting a good example to the children!) but there were some mean-looking bullocks lurking around. We spotted a pile of what were clearly (to us!) fallen megaliths - the ones hamish had seen - and jumped out to take pics. Were these the Goose stones? The longer we proceeded down the lane, the more we saw! Were they 'erratics' or something else? There were tons of them! As we reached the end of the lane, we saw the one Celia Haddon had pointed out when she was taken there by Bennett and Wilson (authors of 'The Old Stones of Rollright and District'). Which ones were the Goose stones? Had we seen them at all? Driving back towards Oxford on the A3400, we thought we'd see if we could find the Cleveley marker stone just to the east of Enstone, close to the Hoar stone. We found the field in which it is meant to stand but couldn't see it from the gate. We daren't go in to investigate further as there were a lot of expensive-looking equines grazing there in direct line of sight of a number of Expensive People's houses. Another day, maybe. Onwards to Woodstock to find Mr Whippy. But instead we find....
It was only afterwards it occurred to me that maybe ALL of them are the Goose stones...
The Oxfordshire Museum is a great place! I'm not quite sure why I've never been before. I've walked, staggered, driven and danced past it numerous times. It was the sign outside saying 'teas' and 'ice creams' which finally persuaded us in today. Not only did we feast upon ice creams and teas, but we feasted our eyes in wonder at a morsel of bread 5,000 years old, no bigger than a walnut, which had been unearthed at a dig in Yarnton just five miles to the south. It was underwhelming and overwhelming all at the same time! I'm delighted to report that it was one of the museums first exhibits and clearly important to the curators given it's sparkling display. And in a case next to it was a remarkable and beautiful bronze age funerary beaker, terracotta red with wild zigzag embossed patterns on it, dug up from somewhere in the county. Sadly it didn't say from where. We could've stayed so much longer and would love to have done, as it really is a corking little museum (great disabled access and superb toilets, too), but Rupert had to get back to go to cub camp. Dib, dib, dib, it's bound to rain tonight then.
Posted by Jane
30th August 2003ce
Edited 25th November 2005ce
Jane's TMA Blog
1-10 of 108 Posts |