"Keen historians are being invited to help a team of Exeter University archaeologists uncover secrets of an ancient Bronze Age and medieval site.Members of the public are invited to the dig to investigate the remains of a medieval building near an old manor house... continues...
Ramblers have held a mass trespass on one of Dartmoor's most popular landmarks to protest over its closure. Vixen Tor at Merrivale (Cornwall, England) was shut to the public when a new landowner bought it earlier last year... continues...
The farmer who closed Dartmoor's (England) Vixen Tor to the public has been charged with carrying out land improvements without an environmental impact assessment. Mary Alford, who owns the site at Merrivale, near Tavistock, Devon, will appear before Plymouth Magistrates in the New Year... continues...
A Devon farmer has realised his dream by building a Bronze Age burial chamber on his land. He transported four huge pieces of granite from Dartmoor to his estate near Ivybridge to carry out the construction... continues...
There is a series of books well worth looking at for the serious antiquarian who is going to visit Dartmoor and look for the many sites there.The books are by Jeremy Butler and are called Dartmoor atlas of Antiquities and come in five volumes.Volumes one to four are the main books dealing with, volume 1, The East. Volume 2 ,The North. Volume 3,The South west and volume 4 The South East.Volume 5 is an over all cover of The Second Millennium B.C. and also contains an index.
All the books contain maps and extensive text along with line drawings and the grid references to all the sites mentioned.
From the church we walked up to the Roman encampment of "Cadbury Castle," which is most interesting. It was partially excavated in 1848, and on the previous evening we had been shown many interesting relics taken from it. The most valuable of these is a large ring of debased silver. On an intaglio of a light green antique paste is engraved an object supposed to be connected with the sacrifices of Apollo or Hercules. There are, besides, some smaller rings, some armlets, reminding one singularly of the present fashionable bangles, and making one remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Both the workmanship and design of these are singularly delicate. There were glass and enamel beads, horses' teeth, fragments of pottery, &c.
All these had been taken from a well in the centre of the camp. There has been an attempt to fill up this well, but it persistently sinks down in the centre. There is a tradition that there is an underground passage from the top of Cadbury Castle to Dolberry Hill (Killerton). Risdon gives us the following couplet:-
"If Cadbury Castle and Dolberry Hill down delved were,
Then Denshire might plow with a golden coulter and eare with a guilded sheer."
From the same source we learn "that a dragon, forsooth!" is supposed to guard these treasures.
The views from Cadbury Castle are both extensive and beautiful. The Dartmouth Tors were all plainly visible, and we saw Cawsand white with snow. Farther to the left our eyes rested on Exmouth and its Bar, and on the other side we saw the range of hills at Wellington, in Somersetshire.
By 'Volo non Valeo' in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 29th May 1885. Tristram Risdon wrote his 'Survey of the County of Devon' in 1632.
It’s getting on in the afternoon, so looking for an ancient site that was a) easily accessible, with no massive hike required, and b) somewhere we’d never been before, limited the options somewhat. However a cursory look at the OS map seemed to show a likely candidate in the temptingly close to the road form of the Soussons Common cairn circle.
Heading south from Moretonhampstead on the B3212 we initially missed the turning, which probably in hindsight was a good thing, as it’s a very sharp left turn, which almost doubles back on itself. So turning around in the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ village of Postbridge, and back up the road, we headed down the lane signposted towards Widecombe.
Within a couple of minutes the circle was visible off to our left in a clearing screened by forestry. There’s plenty of space to pull in, and I scamper out of the car and into the perfect little circle of twenty-three stones.
It’s almost too perfect here but I’m immediately struck by the atmosphere, it feels so welcoming and homely. Sheltered but not overpowered by the trees, seemingly remote but accessible on the quiet moors, pristine but not over-restored, there is just something about the place. An old camper van is discretely parked on a forestry track nearby, and the smell of wood smoke emanating from its chimney, along with the sound of wood being chopped for the fire, somehow just adds to the cosy air of domesticity.
It’s too damp for sitting, but I stand in the circle and ponder, surrounded by the sounds of the wind in the trees, birdsong, and the aforementioned crusty’s axe work. The central cist is well grassed over now, with only the top edges of the cist stones remaining as a faded outline, such a shame that people fail to treat these places with the respect they deserve, but at least this part of the monument is now protected as it slumbers beneath the turf.
Another of Dartmoor’s many gems, the circle is intimate in size, yet still gives a feeling of the specialness of the place. Once cairn stones would have filled this space, but today instead it feels a place of life, a small posy of heather placed by one of the stones showing it still holds a significant meaning for some, of which I am one.
There's surely nothing better than a pasty, a pint, and the prospect of seeing a hitherto unvisited stone circle. So as we finish up our lunch in the Tors Inn in Belstone, and I peruse the O.S. map, I couldn't feel more content.
Leaving the car at the pub we head off up the road past the old chapel/telegraph station (honestly!) towards the moor. It's been a while since I've tried to track down a new site with a map, and I'm hoping my navigational skills are not totally rusty, particularly if I'm looking for somewhere on a trackless moor, but at least the Nine Stones looks reassuringly close to the village.
Soon we reach the gate which opens on to the moor, there's space to park here if you want, but it's only a couple of minutes closer than where we left the car. Now checking the map I can see that we just need to head south-west to find the circle. It's been so long since I've been out in the field that I couldn't find my compass before setting off, but never fear, with modern technology to the rescue I turn to the compass function on my phone, only to discover that I first need to 'calibrate' it, which of course, requires a phone signal. Drifting between half a bar and emergency calls only, I manoeuvre the phone around as if attempting to signal by semaphore or perhaps deter a particularly persistent wasp, until just enough connection is made that the compass will now work.
Striking off across the moor we pass several walkers coming the other way, and quite a distinct and well-trodden path to follow. It's a crisp cold day, but blue skies soar above us, and the horizon is given a gauzy, soft focus look by a lingering vague mist in the distance. It's not long though before the stones of the kerb circle make themselves visible to our left, and I realise I probably didn't need the map and compass after all, so close are they to the path.
The first thing I'm struck by is the setting. The granite tops of Belstone and Higher Tors commanding the view as they overlook the circle, the landscape seeming very ancient indeed as you stand here amongst the stones.
Although called Nine Stones there are at least twelve by my count, and probably at one time even more. Nine I'm sure relates more to the sacred trinity of the number three in Celtic myth, as I'm sure does the etymology of the name Belstone itself, after the Celtic god of fire and the sun. Inside the circle there is an obvious depression in the centre, probably the remains of a cist, but it's really the setting and sense of place that affect me here.
Dramatic and windswept it feels remote, but is actually only about a ten minute walk from the village, hidden atop the moor, with the only sign of life a remote farmhouse to the west, a small stream and waterfall glistening as it cuts across the deeper green of the fields below us, and then of course the huge tors, like the fossilised remains of ancient leviathans as they dominate the moor.
Sadly I note that I must have missed the stones capering's, as it's 1pm now and everything is still, but you can't be too disappointed. It's a perfect place on a perfect day, the sky remains, dare I say it, a hazy shade of winter, but Bel must be pleased someone is taking an interest in his stones, as standing in the circle, the gentle warmth of the sun reminded me that the first stirrings of spring are at hand, and as life returns to the land, so I too feel alive here, such is the power still of 'old stones'.