|The ground slopes away to the valley of the nascent River Plym. Between my vantage point and there, an incredible array of monuments and animals is laid out. Cows, sheep and horses fill the space, interspersed with very large upright stones dotted here and there. I've found the rows, at any rate.
But the ground above the "ritual" complex is itself packed with archaeology. Settlement enclosures, round houses and cairns vie for position. One of the first cairns I come across (cairn 15) has some unusual upright stones in its mound, which appear to be in-situ. It's right next to a hut circle. As ever, I don't have the knowledge to really understand the phases of what I'm looking at, which came first and whether the living were sharing their space so closely with the dead. One cairn, much bigger than the rest (cairn 18), is a good spot to view the rest of the site below.
From atop the cairn, the layout of the rows becomes clear, together with their proximity to the even larger Giant's Basin cairn. Three large terminal stones are readily visible, as are three cairn circles in a line at the northeast of the rows. A large herd of cows and another of horses are clustered around the tallest of the terminal stones and other cows and sheep are busy grazing across the site. There are no people to be seen and I get the impression of being an intruder into this primal space.
But the sun is shining and I've travelled a long way to come here, so I'm going to carry on intruding for a while longer yet. The NW of the three cairn circles doesn't have a row of its own, although a low outlier some way to the southwest (which I don't try to find in the bracken today) may indicate an intention that it was to have. This cairn is surrounded by a couple of rings of small slabs, suggesting a complex constructional method.
The central cairn circle has a more obvious outer ring of uprights, and is at the northeastern end of one of the three stone rows that form the complex. The centre of the cairn exhibits the usual central doughnut of excavation. A walk along the row ends in the first (and smallest) of the three enormous terminal stones. This one is a tapering slab, 2.3m high, placed edge on to the row and leaning slightly.
I head towards the southwestern row's terminal stone, but a group of bullocks are getting increasingly lairy around it (once they start trying to shag each other, it's time to back away). So instead I cut across to the Giant's Basin cairn. I do get a good look along the southwest row though, worth noting particularly as it's a double row for part of its length. At its northeastern end is another cairn circle. The slabs at this end of the row have fallen and lie prostrate near the cairn. In addition, there is a small cist between the cairn circle and the Giant's Basin cairn – talk about packed with archaeology! Row 2, well-seen from the Giant's Basin, ends in the largest of the three terminal stones. At over 4m tall, this is the tallest standing stone on Dartmoor. Today, four-legged acolytes, cows and horses, surround it. I don't get too close for fear of upsetting a ceremony of sorts. Its row is the shortest of the three and also ends in a cairn circle, another decent mound surrounded by an incomplete ring of slabs.
I'm awestruck by this amazing place. The primal energies of the animals seem to do it justice and once again I'm filled with the sense that I'm a passer-by, a temporary presence in an ageless space. The bullocks have gradually headed along the southwestern row now, so I skirt their proceedings and make for the now-vacated south-west terminal stone. It's a lovely symmetrical, tapering 3m slab, again facing edge-on to the row.
What a place. I finally leave the complex, heading towards Ditsworthy Warren. I hope to come here again, this is a site to treasure.
This post appears as part of the weblog entry It's a bovine, ovine, equine world - Dartmoor
Posted by thesweetcheat
14th September 2010ce
Edited 15th September 2010ce