|13 September 2008
Yesterday the Devil's Quoits stone circle in Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, was officially opened after more than 15 years of planning and effort to make it happen.
People who have been involved in the project of reconstructing it were all there: archaeologists, engineers, surveyors, land managers and people from the waste disposal site whose land it is on, to talk about what they'd achieved.
Moth and I tracked down a number of people who had been instrumental in the project from the start. George Lambrick, now of the Rollright Trust, and Gill Hey and Granville Laws from Oxford Archaeology excavated the site. They carefully plotted the position of original socket holes and the profile of the original ditch and bank so that the reconstruction could be as faithful as possible.
The eight remaining original stones re-erected earlier this summer have been joined by new ones of the same type, ironstone conglomerate if I remember correctly, sourced and donated from Smith's quarry just a mile away in Ducklington. Happily the largest stone of the circle is an original, weighing in at six and half tons, thrillingly back in its original position.
Since I was last at the Quoits a few weeks ago when I had to sneak in via the bottom of the lake, the grass and weeds have been mown, and much of the litter dropped by crows and gulls wheeling over the neighbouring landfill has been removed. As well as the litter, they streaked the bright orange stones with ugly guano. A local falconer is being employed to keep the scavengers away.
A new gravel path has been laid, fences erected and trees planted. There was even an information board and signs. It all looked great. This massive henge, the ritual centre of a landscape once dotted with barrows, burials, enclosures and settlements restored to (an interpretation of) its former glory.
A new old stone circle. Weird! We're so used to seeing old, weathered stones, incomplete circles, fallen stones, banks and ditches denuded and trashed, sites which you have to imagine and 'read'. No need to do that here. It's here on a plate. But for me it still has magic and power – this is how the ancients would have known it.
It was marvellous to see people milling around the henge – enjoying it, marvelling at it, wondering about it. Places like this are, after all, all about people.
There seemed to be some confusion about whether the site was now officially open to public or not. Different people told us different things: yes it is, no it isn't, yes it will be soon. I guess the site owners are a bit wary of having visitors traipsing over their land and getting perilously close to what is in truth a dangerous landfill site. If in doubt, just ask at the waste disposal site office.
Posted by Jane
14th September 2008ce
Edited 15th September 2008ce
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