At last...in a landscape where any features of interest are hidden by dense forest and unfollowable tracks...a real stone circle!
By the time I got to Fernworthy Circle I had given up on ever finding Assycombe...I navigate by reading the landscape and using an OS map...in forestry nothing ever corresponds with an OS map but I had decided that Assycombe required a climb...and under a baking sun and no wind the thought of climbing along paths that I had no way of telling if they were the right one or not did not entice me.
So I had carried on to Fernworthy hoping that it would be easy to find...and it is. It sits inside a nice clearing which gave me the impression that this might have been how some of these circles were when they were erected all those years ago. (I know many will argue that this isn't so and that they would have been on top of hills so they could be seen..but)
Part of me wanted to climb one of the trees on the edge of the clearing and look down onto the circle...but I feel my days of tree climbing are behind me...and looking at the spindly branches I decided to forgo this fancy.
I had a quick look at the stone rows...mainly hidden by the midsummer grass..and then met up with another walker who offered to lead me through the maze of tracks to Grey Wethers..
The short walk uphill on the forestry road from the car park by the reservoir took me 10 minutes (but then I don't walk fast uphill). The weather was still pretty nasty though the plantation gave us some protection. The circle and rows now lie in a clearing in the trees. This means there are no sight lines or views, but the circle captivated me, nevertheless. It is lovely here - the circle is small but not tiny and the stones are small, too, but in proportion to the diameter. They seemed to spin above the boggy ground and were watched by me and Moth and a battalion of purple foxgloves.
Another 50 minutes walking would take us to the Greywethers, but given the climate today I had no intention of attempting it. It would have to wait.
Like Martin, we drove as far as possible along the approach road, past the official car park. The forest track heads off to the left from this point (don't follow the footpath immediately ahead). The track rises steadily for a way (took me what felt like about 5-10 minutes, but with no watch it's hard to say). Suddenly the clearing appeared to the right. Two large stones proclaimed the entrance, but I think they're there to stop possible vehicles (which obviously use the track) from progressing further. The site opened up from this point on, everything being nicely laid out before me.
There was no fire damage evident within the circle, although there was a fire pit just outside of it. What was obvious to me, was the slant of the circle, with taller stones on the south progressing down to smaller ones on the northern side. I'd seen this effect before, during our trip to Ireland earlier this year. I don't recall seeing this in other circles in this country, but then I don't remember what I had for breakfast this morning!
Later: I saw this Frith photo which shows the site in 1907 - quite a difference!
Access: A fair uphill trek to get to the area of the sites. I wouldn't want to push a wheelchair up here - it's quite a bumpy path.
In a stroke of genius I booked another week in Cornwall for the week the clocks change, and a week of stunning weather! It is early April and Bodmin Moor is tinder dry. Just before I arrived there had been several small fires in North Cornwall nd the day I left there was a large gorse fire at the other end of Cornwall (on the Lizard peninsula).
I stopped off in Dartmoor on the way, the sun was blazing and Fernworthy forest was so peaceful. Although it’s usually only the circle that is talked about Fernworthy is one of these ‘complexs’ with a stone circle , two cairns and cairn circles, two stone rows, and possible others. I was so taken in that I began to think I was an archaeologist for a day and soon I will have to unleash diagrams onto this fantastic TMA site! The south side of the forest also has a stone row. And a brisk walk onto the moor brings you to the Greywethers, a restored and stunning double circle. I also tried to find the Heath Stone on the way out. Does visiting ancient sites get much better than today?
On Sunday I went to the St Breock Downs area, checking out the St Breock Wind Farm Barrow, the colossal Men Gurta Menhir, and peering at the St. Breock Downs Menhir. I then moved south to the China Clay country (sounds like a theme park) to find the moved Menevagar / Roche Longstone and the huge Hensbarrow - this is the highest natural point in the area and the views back across the valley are stunning, with the St Breock Downs wind farm clearly visible. However, if you ignore the nice bit of the view you could just as easily think you are sitting on the moon as the clay works surround you. To round off a pretty lazy day I visited the two sites closest to where I was staying – Headon Barrow and Warbstow Bury, the later being quite stunning and the best-preserved hill slope fort in Cornwall.
On Monday I pleasured myself (steady on!) with a trip to the St.Austell Brewery - http://www.staustellbrewery.co.uk - and onto Mevagissey for sarnies on the harbour. I had forgotten my maps so instead of heading off for some yomping on Bodmin Moor I had to pull Plan B out, which was a visit to The County Museum in Truro - http://www.royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk - I knew that the famed cup marked stone from the Tregiffian Burial Chamber was there, as was a copy of the Rillaton Cup, and other things. There is a huge amount to see and as they are a registered charity it is £4 well spent (and please fill out a Gift Aid form, so they can reclaim your tax!)
I really don’t seem to have got the hang of these ‘holidays’ have I? Not much resting going on, so I only went out on the moors late on Thursday, and spent some of Friday re-reading one of favourite books on the beach at Crackington Haven (‘Life and Times of Michael K’ by J.M.Coetzee if anyone is interested).
The Northern stone rows seem out of alignment with the circle and are incomplete, the Northernmost stones apart from the blocking stone appearing to be missing. Still a nice site though and quite easily accessible.
(SX 65488412) Fernworthy Circle (NAT) Stone Circle (NR). (1)
Fernworthy stone circle is 64 1/2 feet in internal diameter and is very nearly complete, with 26 stones standing and only four missing. The circle was examined in 1898 but no finds were made except charcoal on the surface of the 'growan'. No trace of any burials. (2) Diameter 19.5., the circle now comprises 27 stones, the largest being 1.1m high. (3)
SX 64108320. This cairn is situated in a shallow natural depresion on a gentle S-facing slope at 475m OD. The area has been extensively disturbed by peat cutting activity. It is a turf-covered stony mound 5m in diameter and a maximum 0.5m high. There is no evidence of a kerb or excavation pit. (5)
Centred SX 65488412 in a clearing in Fernworthy Forest is a stone circle currently containing 29 stones (excluding trigger stones). It has an internal diameter of 19.3m (N to S) by 18.6m and is circular for all but an inward-turning kink in the N edge. The stones average between 0.6m and 0.5m tall, although they are generally larger in the S side, being up to 1.1m tall. Two stones not depicted by Butler (7) or Worth (2) visible in the S edge nearly flush with the ground.
Around the stones in the SE, SW and NW areas of the circle are substantial erosion hollows with channels leading away under the adjacent trees. Inside the circle are a number of amorphous hollows, mounds and scarps which are probably associated with the excavation work of 1897 which found little except for charcoal over the surface of the bedrock. (6)