For the second time longhorn cattle introduced as part of a Higher Level Stewardship conservation grazing scheme onto Carnyorth Common near St Just have destabilised a stone of the ancient Tregeseal Circle.
A recent episode of BBC Radio 4's Open Country reveals that a controversial grazing scheme is blighting the sacred and spiritual landscape of West Penwith and that cattle have destabilised the Tregeseal Stones:
BBC Radio 4 Open Country - Conservation grazing in Cornwall
[Could be making a mountain out of a molehill if the stones are just sooty? There's no mention of them being cracked. It's surely likely the heather has been managed with fire for centuries.... continues...
Since we’ve been in Cornwall on this trip we’ve been stuck under a grey murk of low cloud, but this morning looked as if it might hold something different, with scattered cloud, and yes unbelievably some blue skies to be seen. Since we’re based in St. Just it seemed a good time to search out the nearby circle at Tregeseal.
We left the car in the town square at St. Just and decided to walk, taking the footpath at the side of the church which led to the village of Tregaseal, and then with the help of an O.S. map and the unmissable natural landmark of Carn Kenidjack guiding the way, we followed the lanes up toward Hailglower Farm, having to negotiate some very muddy lanes as we neared the gorsey moorland where the circle was situated.
It’s a walk of two miles, but pleasant in the warm sunshine. Although you could drive up the lanes to get much closer to the circle, I much prefer having a bit of a walk in to a site. It makes it feel a bit more of an adventure, or like a pilgrimage, and allows you to get much more of a sense of the landscape around you, and the monument's situation within it. In this case the dominant feature of the granite tor of Carn Kenidjack, providing the focal point.
The circle must be West Penwith’s best kept secret, a fine ring of 19 stones, and I’m pleased to see they look in a pretty robust state with none of the erosion visible which was present on some of the earlier pictures posted, and also no barbed wire or nary a cow to be seen, something which greatly puts at ease Ellen’s bovinophobia.
It’s lovely and peaceful here high above the town, the sea just visible in the distance. The circle exudes an aura of peace and tranquillity and I sit within its precincts to write my fieldnotes. It’s not long though before grey clouds start to mass behind us, and within minutes they sweep over the moorland, the temperature dropping dramatically, and making it too cold to just sit around, so we press on to look for some of the other sites on the moorland, on our way up to Carn Kenidjack.
From the higher aspect of the rocky outcrop of the tor the circle can be seen on the edge of the moor, and the stones seem to have a sense of movement to them, the varying lean on the stones around the circle bring to mind the myth of a circle of swaying maidens dancing in a ring.
The wealth of sites which once were, or still are spread across this moorland only emphasize how sacred the area once was to the people who lived here, and the Dancing Stones are the jewel in the crown. It’s a shame the western circle no longer remains, but the monument doesn’t seem diminished by its loss, the stones merely dancing on proudly in their fine landscape above the mundane world, enticing you to join them for a turn.
This wonderful circle remains an absolute favourite, no matter how many other places I get to between our visits here. Its location offers a feeling of space and solitude, with views stretching away to the unmistakable Carn Kenidjack outcrop to the north. We rarely see anyone else here, although it's easy enough to get to. Tregeseal has somehow escaped the tourist trail that takes in Men-an-Tol, Lanyon Quoit and Merry Maidens.
The summer bracken is much lower than usual and the stones are surrounded by large numbers of (thankfully dry) cow pats. The cows themselves are not in evidence. I can't really say whether any of the stones are leaning more than in previous years. Although it's nice to see the stones without the depth of bracken, it still seems that other ways of achieving this are available. I desperately hope that sense is seen and that a solution can be found to the issues presented by the longhorn grazing. This place is far too special to be mired in controversy or surrounded by barbed wire.
Tregeseal stone circle, or more properly the eastern circle, is the first stop-off today. Almost always deserted on our visits, today is no exception and we can sit undisturbed in the sunshine, breathing in sea air and generally chilling. I mess about in the bracken looking for the remnants of the western circle and g/f lets me get on with it – she has more sense. It's only just gone 11 o'clock and it's already shaping up to be scorcher, so sun-cream is liberally applied. I love this circle. If it wasn't for one other (more of which later) it would be my favourite of all.
Following the lanes through Tregeseal the circle is signposted near a farm. I parked at the sign and followed the path pretty much straight to the stone circle. You could drive further up the lane but the track becomes very bumpy and is possibly only suitable for 4X4s. The last section of the path, just as you approach the circle, is very muddy. It took me 15 minutes to walk from the sign to the circle. Despite the pressence of a couple of farm buildings in the distance this site feels very desolate and remote. I lioked this circle a lot. There is a certain 'satifcation' when you have to put in a bit of 'leg work' to get to a site. There is a handy horizontal stone on a bank next to the circle from which you can get a good 'birds eye' view. This stone circle is well worth the effort.
16.6.09: Our first visit since the decision to fence and graze the common (see West Penwith news item and forum discussion). Approaching from Tregeseal village, the first signs of the new policy was an ugly looking barbed wire fence crossing the landscape. However, once past that, there was no other sign until we reached the circle itself.
At the circle there were a few cow pats around the stones, but no cows. It was ironic to note that the cows had obviously cropped the grass around the circle, but had left the bracken in the centre - the whole reason for the grazing policy!
Oh well, at least we weren't knee deep in dung or trampled.
I love this circle, along with Nine Maidens of Boskednan this is my favourite of all the ones I have visited.
For the first time I sought out the remains of the detroyed western circle - the high bracken growing all over the hedge made it difficult to see anything, but I did find one of the remaining stones of this circle (see photo). Obviously something to look for in the autumn.
All the photos of the circle after the fire made me quite worried about the possible state of these stones. Thankfully all seems to be well, indeed any signs of there having been a fire are gone. There don't seem to be any cracks in the stones nor does there seem to be any shifting of them.
Yet another fabulous Cornish setting, fairly easy to get to, but remote enough not to be a casual place to visit.
Carn Kenidjack stands on the hill to the north of the site and the Scilly islands can be seen to the south west on a clear day, which it was when I was there.
Drove up through village to the end of the tarmac. parked and followed sign up track rather than cross fields on footpath. Passed the farm and hit the mud! Once out onto the open moor it is a short walk to the right to find the stones. There is now no sign of the burning from a year or so ago, infact the stones are now surrounded by a good covering of bracken. The sky over Keninjack was ever changing from gray to blue as the sun threatened to come out...I waited patiently and finally got my rewards. Behind me from atop of the wall the Scilly Isles stood out proud whilst St Just church tower gleamed in the sunlight...I would have loved to have walked up to the carn but time was against me...perhaps next time.
It's a stiff old walk up from the bottom of the village, but just over a year on from the unintentional scorching the stones received (see News), they appear to be healing well. Most of the burnt lichen has been removed, and the stones look in good condition. I didn't notice any obvious cracking on the stones I inspected closely.
I parked in the lane below Hailglower farm,it was a lovely day and the walk was most enjoyable.I was wondering how to find the circle but just past the farm on the right is a plaque with an arrow pointing the way.It is a beautiful place,the air was humming with insects and swallows and martins were swooping ,I found it very difficult to leave.
About half-a-mile to the south of Carn Kenidjack is an ancient stone circle, about sixty feet in diameter, consisting of twelve upright stones, which are on the average three feet in height above the surface of the ground. The country people generally call this circle of stones the Merry Maidens.
Lots of different fairy and devil tales for this one. One story tells of a local miner finding a Fairy Feast at the circle and was bound in gossamer thread and left there all night.There is another involving pixies enticing passers by and hosting "Little Folk" parties with dancing! There are stories of actual encounters with the Devil on nearby Carn Kenidjack, which dominates the horizon.
"I should not choose to walk the moor at night; but a neurotic modern would have had nothing to fear on that sunny September morning. Nevertheless, it was with a sensation, not entirely pleasant, of passing from the land of humans to the land of shades that I left the last farm behind and crossed the moor, near the barrow where the famous Tregeseal urn was found, now in the British Museum, in search of the Tregeseal stone circles - two circles seventy-five feet apart. In one, sixty-nine feet in diameter, eight stones are erect and five prostrate; in the other only two are standing, but three more may be found upright in the hedge.
The outlying landmarks or sighting-lines from the eastern Tregeseal circle, probably used by the astronomer priests, are, Sir Norman Lockyer suggests, the Longstone, a monolith ten feet high, on a hillside one and a half miles to the north-east, the apex of Carn Kenidzhek, barrows and holed stones.
He gives the following table as "the meanings of the various alignments":-
Decl. N. Star
Apex of Carn...42d.33'0" Arcturus 2330B.C.
Barrow 800' dist..40d.29'0" Arcturus 1970B.C.
Two Barrows 900' dist. 25d. 20'21" Solstitial?
Holed Stones..23d. 2'20" Solstitial?
Longstone......16d.2'0" May Sun
Stone.............9d. 15'0" Pleiades 1270B.C."
After going to see Discover Odin on 4th/ 5th Oct 2001, British Museum there's another state of affairs. The king stone is the World Tree and the nine stones either side represent the nine moons that Odin hangs on the World Tree looking for answers/ powers.
A note on the 19 stone type scenario that is so common in Penwith. I've heard tell that each one of these circles has a 'sun' stone or 'king' stone (quartz and set in the West it seems to me). Two crecents of nine stones representing waxing and waning moon and triple goddess type scenarios (virgin, mother, crone) advance on the sun/king stone. Some kind of ceremony. Hmmmm.
Following our recent story about the damage being caused to Tregeseal Circle by the cattle being allowed to roam on the heathland, video evidence of the instability of the stones has been posted on YouTube. We think the video speaks for itself: