Visited 17 October 2010 on a lovely autumn day of full sun and leaves gradually turning to gold. After leaving Long Stone I walk through Blake's Wood to Staunton, an attractive village with a lovely church, a restored pound and decent pub.
At the western end of the village, a byway leads southwest to Hymens Meend, and the Buckstone is easily reached along this path. The stone is situated on an unexpectedly terrific viewpoint, with great views of the eastern aspect of the Black Moutains across the Welsh border, including the recognisable tops of Pen Cerrig-calch, Pen Allt-mawr, Pen y Gadair Fawr, The Sugarloaf and Ysgyryd Fawr, then south across the Usk valley to include Blorenge. I'm excited to see the top of Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons from here too.
The stone itself is a monster, a wedge-shaped lump weighing serveral tons, supported on a spindly base, which apparently used to allow the stone to rock, but no longer. It reminds me a little of the High & Low Bridestones on the North Yorkshire Moors.
Between the path and the stone are a number of scattered boulders, one of which has been (naturally) sculpted into a basin, the sort of thing that Gentlemen's Magazines would have had lined up for Druidical blood sacrifices. Today it's filled with water, which is cool to my dipped finger tips on this unseasonally warm day.
A quieter and more relaxing spot than the Long Stone, come on a clear, fine day and admire the views. Just don't expect the stone to rock.
What would you like to do for our anniversary? I asked the ever patient Karen.
‘Let’s go to Monmouth for the day’ she replied. So that is what we did.
Monmouth is a very nice town and well worth a visit - it has the only surviving medieval fortified bridge in Britain (built 1270) -you can also feed the ducks from the bridge!
So after a couple of hours rummaging through the many charity shops they have (Karen likes a bargain) it was time for a bit of ‘old stoning’.
We headed east out of Monmouth along the A4136. Just as you enter the village of Staunton there is a turning on the right with a ‘dead end’ sign. Turn here and there is room to park on the side of the road. This is just in front of the driveway to Buckstone Adventure Centre.
From here there is a public footpath sign to the right. All you have to do is follow the ‘path’ up through the woods (pretty walk) for about 10 minutes – keeping the drystone wall to your right. There are many moss covered large boulders you pass along the way. When you get to the top of the hill you will see a covered reservoir on your left and a sign for the Buckstone on your right. Through the wooden gate and you are there.
Apparently until 1775 it was thought that the Buckstone could be rocked.
‘The stone attracted many attempts to topple it until the feat was achieved in 1885 by a party of 5 travelling actors and a Monmouth innkeeper. The stone split into several pieces but at the expenses of the Crown (the landowner) it was cemented back together and secured in place with an iron bar.’
The stone itself is very large – approximately 2.5 metres high x 8 metres long. It has superb views down the valley. It reminded me very much of the Devil’s Pulpit stone overlooking Tintern Abbey. The repair made to the stone with cement is clearly visible as is the rusting iron bar sticking out of one end. It is probably fortunate that this is not an easy stone to climb up. I think only those quite agile (not me!) would be able to do so.
There are two Trig points next to the stone.
Under the Buckstone I spotted a Tupperware dish with a stone on top.
I opened the dish and discovered 3 small numbered stones and a piece of paper asking visitors to identify which of the small stones is made of the same material as the Buckstone? I assume this is something to do with the nearby Adventure Centre?
What I also wasn’t expecting to see were the several large boulders near the Buckstone. One of these looked like a basin (natural?) which was full of water. I could well imagine this being used in ancient times for some reason or other.
Before visiting this site I had some trepidation as I thought it may be a difficult one to access / find. I had no reason the worry. It is quite the reverse. On a public footpath and is actually sign posted near the stone with a new-look gate giving access.
About a mile from the Summer House, to which a pleasant path conducts the visitor, -- in the wood of Stanton Meend, stands a curiosity highly deserving notice, called BUCKSTONE.
This ponderous body of rock, on whose summit many persons might be commodiously seated, rests literally on a pivot so small, that is will scarcely be believed by the spectator, more especially when he is informed that it has remained so for ages. It is generally supposed to be a Druidical relique, of which there are many of the sort in this kingdom.
The Rev. Dr. Booker thus mentions it, in his Poem called the "Hop Garden:"--
The most perfect the Author ever saw, is in a fine wood, the property of Lord GAGE, near Monmouth, commonly called the 'Buckstone;' probably from the Deer having been accustomed to resort to it, both as 'a shadow from the heat, and a shelter from the storm.' The tradition that a BUCK, in order to escape from its hunters, when closely pursued, bounded upon the top of it, -- only merits a place among those marvellous legends which are received by idle credulity.
So exactly does this gigantic insulated Rock seem to equilibrate, that a spectator would almost suppose, he could dislodge it from its narrow base with the force of his single arm, and send it headlong down the steep declivity on which it stands. Such attempts, an aged villager informed the author, he had often seen made, by the united efforts of a number of stout young rustics; and that he had perceived it gently to move in a kind of rocking motion; but invariably settling on its ancient pivot, from which it is evidently detatched.-- Close by it is another Druidical relique, not unlike a small baptismal font, or rather Romish recess for holy water; used, most probably, for some sacrificial purpose.
Mr. KING, in his "Munimenta Antiqua," certainly alludes to this stone:-- [...] "At a small distance, to the east, is a rock scooped into a kind of bason, with a channel, seemingly intended to let out the water after it is filled to a certain height. Whether this was a work of art or nature, may be doubtful; but the whole seems to indicate a Druidical superstitious designation."
From the extravagantly titled 'Descriptive account of the Kymin Pavilion and Beaulieu Grove, with their various views: also, the Naval Temple with new notices of Buckstone, a supposed Druidical relique, near it : to which is added, Lord Nelson's visit to Monmouth, his speeches and conversation at the dinner table, his own remarks on his important victories, with his public reception at Rudhall, Hereford, and other places, on his tour' by Charles Heath. (Hume Tracts, 1813).
The above wonderful mass of old red sandstone conglomerate, which was celebrated all through Britain as a rocking stone and Druidic altar, it will be remembered, was accidentally thrown from its position on the summit of a high wooded hill, about three miles from Monmouth, on the road to Coleford, on the 10th of June last. Not only were the people of the immediate neighbourhood indignant, but the London daily papers took the matter up very warmly, the Standard especially.
The huge mass is the property of the Crown, and is too well-known far and wide to again need description in these columns. As soon as he heard of the catastrophe, Mr. C. H. Crompton-Roberts, of Drybridge House, Monmouth, offered £100 towards its restoration. The Mayor of Monmouth and others put themselves in communication with the Crown authorities, who ultimately determined to restore the celebrated rock at the entire expense of the Crown.
The undertaking was one of great difficulty, the huge mass having its chief block, about 50 tons weight, turned upside down, and partly buried in the earth. The enormous top slab, or stratum, had slipped off and fallen beyond the chief block, but right side up.
Messrs. Payne and Son, stone contractors, of Lambsquay House, Coleford, were appointed to carry out the work. The contractors erected two enormous cranes and a powerful crab on the hill above the fallen rock. Then large baulks of timber were placed with the ends under the chief block, and iron rails were laid on these baulks. About six tons of chains were attached to the chief block for the purpose of "skidding" it up to a position for turning, which, after a considerable time, was accomplished. The top stratum was then hoisted adjacent to the chief stone, and the large corner was also brought to a convenient position. This was the work of months.
A plateau for the stone to rest on was then made, with an enormous iron bar let into the solid rock beneath, a bed of cement made of the best material, mixed with similar stone to the Buckstone ground up, having been prepared. The top slab was then raised into its position, being cemented and cramped on, and the corner was afterwards affixed by the same means.
The result is that the work is now completed in a most satisfactory and highly creditable manner. The rock, when the cranes, &c. are removed, will, as it now stands, scarcely, if at all, appear to have sustained any alteration, especially from the road below. Mr K. Tudor Williams, photographer, of Monmouth, has shown us some photographs of the Buckstone both before and after the overthrow and in the course of being lifted. We understand that the rock will be railed round, to prevent future mishap, and that an opening will be cut between the rock and the road, so as to afford a good view of the Buckstone to those who pass by.
We have, with much regret, to record the destruction of the famous and well-known object called "The Buckstone," [...] it formed a prominent object on the top of a hill 891 feet above the level of the sea, and was one of the attractions to visitors to the Forest of Dean and the beautiful Wye Valley district. This unfortunate event occured on the 10th June, 1885, on the occasion of a visit of some half-a-dozen strolling acrobats possessed of more energy than sense.
[...] According to an account given by Mr. W. H. Greene, of Chepstow, who carefully inspected the remains a few days after the overthrow, it appears that the massive block was pushed off its base and has fallen a few yards below on the declivity of the hill, broken into many fragments, the largest of which lie upside down. The block, however, appears not to have been thrown off en mass, for the lowest portion of it still remains in situ. It would seem that there was a fissure in the stratification, probably beetween the sand-stone and conglomerate, extending half-way across, as shewn by the discolouration of the stone so far, but the remainder is red and fresh.
Hence he says, "these enterprising strollers actually broke the stone off its pedestal! There can be no mistake about it. They must have exerted a force of no common nature." There is however, great difference of opinion upon the subject. Sir James Campbell, crown surveyor of the Forest of Dean, takes a more favourable view of the circumstances. He says, "it would seem to have been more the result of foolish reckless romping than of intentional mischief."
It is not unlikely that the sandstone stratum of the block had, in process of time, become disintegrated from atmospheric causes, and that a slight disturbance precipitated the calamity which, from natural causes, would in no long time have occurred.
[...] In some of the newspapers it is stated to have been undoubtedly a Druidical altar, and some supposed accessories to such altars are particularly described. There is, however, no ground for such an opinion. It possessed rather a geological than antiquarian interest.
We regret to have to record that this curiously poised stone has been thoughtlessly overthrown; and though H.M. Commissioners of Woods and Forests propose to replace it in position, it will never be a rocking stone again.
[...] A correspondent in a local paper thus describes the method by which its restoration is intended to be effected:
"Two cranes will be placed on the hill above where the stone originally stood, and two cranes on the lower level. The chief mass weighs about forty tons, and lies from 20 to 30 ft. down the hill. The top slab (strata) has slipped off, and fallen just beyond the stone, right side up, while the stone is upside down. The projecting corner has been broken off, and is of a triangular shape, about 10ft. wide, and lies but a short distance from its original position. The pivot upon which it rocked is still on the foundation, having slipped only about 2 ft. 10 ins. down the table-rock.
"Chains for the four cranes will be first attached to the chief mass, which will then be 'skidded' up baulks of timber to a position near where the broken corner lies. The corner will be affixed by means of a special kind of concrete, in which glue and wax are used, the ordinary concrete being liable to burst in frosty weather. The stone and corner will then be bound with iron, which will, however, be removed when the concrete has set. While the latter process is going on, a key-stone will be let into the original base, which will then be placed in its original position.
"In order to supply the place of pieces carried away by visitors, and sent to all parts of the kingdom, some rocks lying near, of exactly the same nature, will be ground up and mixed with concrete; and this will be put into the vacancies, in accordance with photographs taken from different points, when the stone stood in its original form."
From 'Archaeologia Cambrensis', July 1885 (p225-7).
Extract from "Old Stones of the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean" by D.P. Sullivan (1999 Reardon Publishing):
A description of this natural rock was mentioned by Louis Jennings in Field and Green Lanes in 1878:
"In the south-east, that curious rocking stone, the Buckstone, can be discerned, and there is a path from the Kymin to it, chiefly through woods or across fields. The site of the Buckstone is marked by a small flagstaff, a stone weighing hundreds of tons, yet poised upon a piece of rock scarcely two feet broad, like a huge top standing upon its peg. The hill runds down a thousand feet sheer below it, and the stone inclines over at an acute angle, and can be rocked by a strong man. An old fellow, whom I overtook on the common, told me that a frolicsome youth of Staunton had one night come up here armed with picks and crowbars, but could not move it. 'It is considered', this old man said to me, 'as it was washed there when the world was drownded'."
It was at one time believed to have been a rocking or 'logan' stone, 'placed in its present position by Druidical agency', and that it was possible, with apparent ease, to push the massive boulder to and fro on its point. The continuing onslaught of the elements, which fashioned this curiosity out of the softer surrounding strata, eventually wore away at the pivot preventing further rocking of the Buckstone. Various attempts, over the years, to get the stone to move resulted in its being dislodged in 1885. It toppled over, breaking into several pieces. Local worthies set about restoring the Buckstone and it was reconstituted and set back on its pivot by the insertion of a steel reinforcing rod. Further movement of the stone has been permanently arrested.