I've parked in the carpark at the eastern end of Burrator reservoir as directed and set off down the main path with the plantation on my right. After passing a picnic area with a ruined house there's a path to the left up through the bracken emerging out on to the moor and a steady climb up to the top of Down Tor. The views are fantastic, Sheeps Tor away to the southwest, and the sky's a mix of bright blue and high, fluffy clouds, some darker ones threatening the forecast rain which mercifully doesn't come. I expect to see the circle and row from the top of the tor but then remember the sweetcheat's note and put my disappointment on hold, cresting the next rise and there it is, majestically isolated in this epic landscape.
I'm not big on the tecnicalities of these sites, it's all about atmosphere for me and this place has it in shedloads. The big stone at the end of the row abutting the circle really is a big beast and looks to have been dressed on its south-facing side, so smoothly does it present itself to the circle. I walk to the end of the row and back, a permanent smile fixed on my face and get twenty minutes to myself before someone else hoves into view so I decide to leave it to him, exchanging appreciation as I pass. He echoes Greywether's comment about it being sufficiently remote to deter visits from most of those parked back at the reservoir, but I pass six more people heading towards it as I climb back up Down Tor. The views remain stunning and I face the prospect of the long drive back to London with spirits lifted.
Once I climb down from the top of Down Tor itself, I'm expecting to see the first of today's sites. After all, it's a very well-preserved circle, together with a 350m long row and a terminal stone standing nearly 3m tall. In fact, there's no sign of it until I head further east. Suddenly I'm over a small crest and practically on top of this megalithic wonder. What a beauty this is! The circle itself is lovely, 12m across and surrounding the remains of a damaged but recognisable central cairn. Another cairn sits a few yards away to the northwest. This really is a terrific site, aided by the splendid isolation I get here today.
And then there's the row. It extends away to the northeast, heading further into Dartmoor's magnificent empty space. Clouds race past, drawn towards a convergence over the horizon. At the southwestern end, next to but separate from the circle, the row terminates in a huge upright monolith, almost 3m tall and very thick - it weighs about three tons. Seen from this end, the row appears pretty much straight (which it is). It leads uphill towards another cairn, as well as a small prehistoric enclosure. By the time I reach the northeastern terminal stone, the row appears to curve away back to the cairn circle. This is actually an optical illusion, caused by the gently sloping contours that the row crosses. This weird "not curve" further enhances what is undoubtedly one of the best sites I've been to. I still struggle rather with Dartmoor chronology and don't really know whether the row post-dates the large-scale clearances carried out during the Bronze Age. It's hard though to imagine creating such a wonderfully designed monument in the middle of trees, where the form could not be easily appreciated.
I managed to witness a fantastic sunrise for the Summer Solstice in 2004. But the sun did not rise in line with the row. It came up quite a bit North of it. It didn't take any of it's magic away especially as there was ground frost around. Summer in Dartmoor!
It would be quite interesting to go for the Winter Solstice sunset and stand at the bottom end of the row.
This was my second attempt to witness the summer solstice sunrise at Down Tor, last year my daughter and I camped on a Tor half way between carpark and stone circle/row, but it was raining windy and cloudy so we left it for another time...this time!
Well well well what do you know, despite last nights awsome sunset, I awoke this time to clouds and fog, at least it wasn't raining, so I gave it another go.
The walk to the stones is long and arduous up and down over three rocky tors the last one not so rocky, in good weather a delight to trek over. But this time on the second hill the fog came in really badly and I got turned around and ended up very lost. five in the morning in fog on the moors alone isn't the most happy feeling Iv'e embraced. It wasn't till I stumbled across the cuckoo stone that I realised where I was and with a view to the resrvoir through the fog, I knew which way to go.
Before long the tallest stone could be seen peeping over the low hill, then another and then more, untill my relief must have been obvious even to the small bird that was drawing me on.
Even in the fog this place is cool, the perfect little circle with internal cairn and the stone row, starting of with a whopper of a stone( reset deeper than the original stone hole) but quickly dwindles to knee high stones. I followed the row up to the other cairn, the terminal stone is about 5 ft tall but doesn't go all the way to the cairn, it stops about 50 m away. The pound is still quite well preserved several stones sticking up maybe entrances to huts.
Now it was time to go and find Yellowmead after a long soggy walk back to the car
A local tells me that the sun rises in line with this row at Midsummer...It is not facing due NE but taking in to account the dip in the hills to the east he may be right. The row dips in the centre as it crosses the hillside rising to the cairn (Stone Circle) at the western end. I did not get to look at the cairn as it was full of French people standing bolt upright pretending to be stones...
would this Circle and Row, be similar to the one's mentioned in Uriel's Machine (The Prehistoric Technology that Survived the Flood) by Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, and would anyone check it out on the Summer and Winter Solstice (while i stay in bed) and every month after plant wooden posts in the ground (take them up again) to see if you can measure the months.