I spent a couple of hours yesterday photographing both Fernacre and Louden Hill stone circles, including making a 360° panorama of each. It was a beautiful morning and well worth the walk with a heavy camera bag and tripod.
I hope it's OK to put a link to the one of Fernacre here as there's no way to add the panorama. (Admin - please delete this if it's breaking any rules.)
I went to Stannon stone circle just over five years ago and was a bit disappointed that I didn't have time to come here, that disappointment was well founded, I missed a good one here.
The best way to approach this stone circle is from high on Rough Tor, sitting out of the wind in some rocky cranny with a great view of the stone circle and the nearby settlement belonging to those that built and used the circle, Brown Willy is over to the left and just out of view to the right two more stone circles. This is the place, and this is the best way to approach a stone circle, from above, descending upon it like a Vimana, or a watcher from the mountains, or a middle aged man with a bad back, take your pick.
After picking my way down off the mountain and through the ghost town I stood next to the circle, right next to it, I couldn't believe my luck, just two days ago I was limping round work with a suspected broken buttock, now, after showing my car to the problem, I am here in the circle, and even touching the stones if I want, the juxta position of these two experiences separated by just two days always blows my mind.
I didn't count the stones, there are many, or feel the need to touch every one, they are cold and rough, except where they're smooth, I just looked, I gave it my Star Wars face, reserved for only the first viewing of such a film, if your still wondering what face, it's a look of disbelief mixed with one of astonished amazement.
A wandered over to the outlier, wafting gracefully like a tripped out ballet dancer, after picking myself up, it's not a big stone but it's obvious as an outlier, what a place, this would be high on my list of favorite Cornish places, should I ever have one.
Best of all, nearly, I'm leaving here not for the dull and depressing drive home but to another stone circle I've never been to. Nirvana.
Firstly, apologies, as I am including both Fernacre and Louden stone circles in the same Fieldnotes as I visited them on the same day as they are so close, so the route to both will be useful to know.
The original plan was to drive to Middle Moor Cross by Camperdown Farm, park up and walk to Fernacre stone circle via Louden circle, a round trip of about 3 miles, as the road/track from the cross is private. Well that was the plan, but it changed when a friend suggested we take her 4x4 and drive beyond the cross and continue along the private track to both circles. Was this a mistake…read on!
We set out on the A30 and took the turning right signposted St Breward opposite the second turning for Temple on the left. It comes at the end of a section of dual carriageway after passing the Jamaica Inn on your left 4 miles prior to this.
This moorland road takes you passed the Trippet Stones on your right at the crossroad signposted Treswigga to the left and St Breward straight on. Turn right here if visiting the Trippets which can be seen from this point.
Continue on the St Breward road by following the signposts and you’ll pass over Delford Bridge then passed East Rose holiday park/fishing on the right. Straight through the next crossroad which in turn brings you to another to the northern end of St Breward at Churchtown. Church Hay Down is on your right at this crossroad and you turn right here signposted Candra. Follow this road which bears around to the right after half a mile and after another bend, over a cattle grid. You’ll then pass the road to Candra Hill on the right and part of the Treswallock Downs which is littered with huge boulders. No shortage of building materials here! The road then sweeps around to the left but as it does there is a short ‘link’ road to the right that you take and then right again on meeting the ‘main’ road which takes you directly to Middle Moor Cross.
Now it was decision time, because you hit a PRIVATE road which is clearly signed. After consideration we decided to take a chance and go for it. We continued and soon met another private road sign at Camperdown Farm, so now had been warned twice. Rightly or wrongly we again decided to continue because there wasn’t a soul about as far as the eye could see. Within five minutes I spotted on the horizon of the slightly rising ground a dark shape on the moor on the right-hand size of the track. Yep, it was the leaning triangular stone of the Louden circle our first port of call. I loved it and gave me a much nicer feel than I got at Stannon stone circle just over the way by the dreadful china clay quarry next to it! These are big circles in this area of Bodmin Moor but surprisingly the majority of the stones are really quite small in comparison to other Cornish circles and it remains a mystery to me why that should be so. Louden, Stannon and Fernacre all have a major triangular stone and this must surely signify something of significance, but what? No set common point on the compass as far as I could tell, but have no knowledge of any celestial alignments that may come into play as that is not my thing!
I counted 36 stones in total at Louden but three were just under the turf. The triangular stone was almost due south from the centre of the circle with just a slight shift to the west. Most of the stones are virtually at surface level but not broken, so it surely indicates a build-up of soil over the years. In the gapped areas I probed the turf with a dowsing rod which my friend carried and discovered three more stones where they should have been in the ring setting just covered with an inch or two of turf. I didn’t count those that were lying immediately to the sides of a couple of stones as they were quite small and possibly broken off the main stone. I would imagine that later in the summer (this was the 4th May) that other than the triangular stone, Louden could be difficult to find due to increased grass length, but once you have found it there is no mistaking it. One clue is that just yards to the east of the circle on the edge of the track on the southern side is a stainless steel ‘box’ nearly at ground level with the letters PO on it which I assume means a cable had been laid through here. Maybe our great ancestors had a phone-line in and the circle was actually a huge telephone dial :-)
As at most circles on the moor there are always other stones lying around and it is a hopeless task even considering whether they are part of the site or not. Not shown on my OS map but just across the track from the circle and slightly to the east is a lovely stone ring cairn. Close inspection showed it to have been constructed in three stages I thought with three separate rings of edging stones forming it away from the burial area. It was all a bit ‘interfered’ with but that’s what I gathered by close inspection and one is led to believing it may have had a connection with the circle in some way.
Link to photos here:- https://picasaweb.google.com/100525707086862773355/LoudenStoneCircle?authkey=Gv1sRgCJ3b5YqlqK6vBA#5739140100505851778
Next came Fernacre as we continued along the track for about a further ¾ mile. You have to say that it is in the most wonderful setting in a natural bowl sitting between Roughtor to the north, Brown Willy to the east, Garrow Tor to the south and Louden Hill to the north-west. To me it is the jewel in the crown of these large circles and lies on the northern side of the track to the east of Louden circle.
Unfortunately this is where we ran into trouble because the moment we arrived and parked up we were approached by a rather irate guy who introduced himself as the farm manager (gulp!). He began lecturing us on the legality and penalties of making use of the private track and started throwing figures of £20,000 fines for doing so. I’m afraid laughing at that figure didn’t go down particularly well so then he started mentioning SSI directives and how you can’t even ride a pushbike on the track. The saving grace came because I’d noticed he was all togged up for lambing with disgustingly stained hands (which I’m familiar with)…and of course he had a collie with him like I had. When he cooled down a bit I asked him how lambing was going then got onto dogs and all was soon forgotten :-). But a lesson learnt so please take note. He was a nice enough guy just doing his job. Incidentally, the owner of the farm/estate is a New Zealander who resides in NZ and hardly sets foot on the place so the guy informed us!
As for the circle, well what can you say? Just beautiful springs to mind helped along by its setting between the tors and hills. As with the other local circles I’ve recently visited it has the by now familiar triangular main stone amongst the settings, but this time directly to the east. I was stood just behind what appears to be an off-set centre stone and looking directly at the triangular or ‘A’ stone from this point when I noticed an outlier directly behind it to the east. Significant?
Again, in the main, the stones are small in a large slightly irregular circle like at Louden and Stannon. Puzzle puzzle went my brain, why is this? All around the moor are huge boulders yet they used small ones and the circles are not precise. We’ve seen elsewhere that size has not been a problem when it comes to hauling huge stones over long distances if presumably for a special purpose or reason, so is the reasoning or importance different here one has to ask? And three large circles similar in size within a triangulated area of no more than say a square mile must surely mean something important was happening here!
I won’t add to the photos as there seems quite enough already but here is the link to some I took at Fernacre:- https://picasaweb.google.com/100525707086862773355/FernacreStoneCircle?authkey=Gv1sRgCN67maC8-6OF-wE#5739143160903486546
With Roughtor bearing down on you and the wind whipping in your ears, this is a marvelous place, one of the few places in the country where you can imagine the view has pretty much stayed the same as when this circle was built.
Not far from the track, the views here are amazing. The noisy silence of the place strikes you. It is quite a moving place to be. I stayed for 20 minutes, wishing I could know more of why this circle was made.
The circle itself is made up of modestly sized stones, close together. More of a boundary for a leader's hut than a place of worship, I'd have said. But I'm a monkey who leaves his GPS on his car roof to be run over by a lorry so what do I know?
Didn't quite get down to the circle this time. Heavy downpours and the arrival of the local hunt kept me high on Rough Tor. Saying that there can not be many places in the British Isles where you can look down on a circle like this. There it sits, a ring of dots on a golden brown carpet. next time...
From Louden Hill Stone Circle, Fernacre Circle is a pleasant 1½ km walk East. However, on a clear day Fernacre Stone Circle can be seen from quite a distance, and that distance doesn't seem to get much shorter despite vigorous walking!
Once I finally got to Fernacre it just re-enforced what a fascinating area this is - 3 stone circles, Rough Tor, settlements, huts, cairns, a cist....the lot! I counted 59 stones, again rather more than Craig Weatherhill in 'Cornovia: Ancient Sites of Cornwall and Scilly' - Cornwall Books - 1985, revised 1997 & 2000) and The Modern Antiquarian who both count 52, but rather less than Aubrey Burl in his 'Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany' (1995), who counts "over 70". There also seems to be quite a strong ditch/dyke about 40 metres South West of this lovely circle.
As I was leaving the circle I heard a very strange noise, like a moan. With no one else around this entire area this was rather spooky. Logic says it was either a 'moo' carried by the wind from one of the cows about 600 metres away, or my shoe squelching as I turned to leave the circle. But sometimes it would be nice to think that for some things in life there are no logical explanations.......
This area is difficult to understand, there are lots of sites spread out over a large area, it is not very clear where public access is allowed and not allowed. A little investigation and talking to the locals soon establishes what is possible though. I found that travel by bike is suitable as the moor is quite passable and the bike makes the spread out area shrink. It also has the advantage of being almost flat and the few steep bits quite walkable. The large amount of horses, sheep and cows have kept the grass quite short. In adition to the circles there are many ditches and dykes over the moor an area worthy of further investigation. An additional useful bit of information is that the Blisland Inn is worthy of a vist.
A circle with a fantastic backdrop. Such as could be compared to the scene around Castlerigg. Lacking the awesome power of Stannon but having the titanic shoulder of Roughtor to sit on. Has outlying stones and is amidst enough glorious ancient remains to let you wander and wonder for a while.
Fernacre is reached around the back of Rough Tor, just past the settlement at the base of the Tor.
Hard to see at first coming out of the mist and stones confused with cows ans sheep and there it is, Rough Tor behind, Brown Willy in front.
Louden Hill q.v. is just about visible on the top of the hill to the west.
Many stones lie on the floor, others broken but the circle is there.
Follw the path up to Louden Hill and Stannon beyond.