When I was 10, I remember seeing a film called 'The Belstone Fox' starring Eric Porter and Bill Travers and crying all the way through it. Now here I was in Belstone village. No tears this time.
We'd come to see Belstone Nine Stones, a cairn circle of now only 12 stones up on the moor to the south of the chocolate-boxey village and thankfully not a long walk away. Moth had been here before and had taken a while to locate it thinking it was up near the tor. It isn't! Stay close to the field wall and when that runs out, keep walking straight and you'll eventually see it. It's very pretty and has lovely views down towards a waterfall and up towards a tor, but the drizzle was persistent so there was no chance of painting it.
It's size reminded me of a Scillonian cairn or Yockenthwaithe and it felt like it was in the 'wrong' place to be an independent stone circle. I'd guess it was a cairn.
Known as the nine stones, this is a small-ish ring of around a dozen stones. It's hard to tell exactly how many, as there are many fallers, and I suspect that some have been "restored". Yesterday there were certainly two recent additions, both of which wobbled when touched, and one of which had a patch of dead "I've had a stone lying on me, but not for long" grass behind it.
The circle is about 25ft across, and apparently it was originally a ring of up to 40 stones around a central cairn. It's not known whether the ring formed part of the cairn or was a seperate boundary decoration.
If you fancy it (and you should), the directions on the excellent megalithic walks site are spot on. There's a helpful link to the Nine Stones below.
Lunchtime might be the best time to visit - apparently the stones dance everyday at noon.* They're also known as the 17 brothers. That's some discrepancy (especially as they are also known as the nine maidens - they were turned to stone for dancing on the sabbath) - I suppose nine is a rather special number (three times three), and maybe seventeen, as a prime number, also has its weirdness.
(partly from Grinsell's 'folklore of prehistoric sites in Britain')
According to Ruth E St Leger-Gordon, the author and playwright Eden Philpotts wrote this poem about the stones. Philpotts thinks there are only seven. Why is counting stones so difficult, even without poetic license?
And now at every Hunter's Moon
That haggard cirque of stones so still
Awakens to immortal thrill
And seven small maidens in silver shoon
Twixt dark of night and white of day
Twinkle upon the sere old heath
Like living blossoms in a wreath
Then shrink again to granite grey.
So blue-eyed Dian shall ever dance
With Linnette, Bethkin, Jennifer,
Arisa, Petronell and Nance.
Although Philpotts describes them dancing, St L-G favours the idea that if you visit at noon you might see them all just shift their positions very slightly. Don't blink.