The interim report on this summer's geophysics work at Stanton Drew by the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society is now ready. Stanton Drew is the third and least known of the Wessex threesome of major stone circles.
The formal report will follow, but these were the highlights... continues...
Its about ten years since I first came to Stanton Drew , that first visit I didnt come here, cant quite remember why, perhaps the size and breadth of the stone circles shone too brightly, the second time I made sure of a visit but I was decidedly not alone, this third time proved the charm, untill a German couple came through the gate, I sat at a table and fiddled with my camera for a few minutes then they left.
So is this not a cove then? moss' longbarrow news makes a lot of sense, the only other coves that come to mind is at Arbor Low and Avebury and they are decidedly inside the circle, but here at Stanton drew theres a big enough gap between circle and cove they could fit a church in, also at Avebury there is a big long barrow nearby,so are they stones from the chamber and always have been or were they reused as a cove?
With late afternoon sunshine dappleing the stones through the leaves of the trees, and swallows pelting by every twenty eight point 3 seconds (approx) it was my best cove moment so far, just then I heard a shout from the carpark they had cleaned the dog sick out of the boot and were ready to go.
I spotted the Cove stones in the 'pub garden' as the bus had pulled into Stanton Drew and my first impression was that they were in the churchyard. We bought lunch and a drink at the Druid Arms just before it closed though the landlord said we were welcome to stay in the Cove Garden for as long as we wanted. Probably the best pub garden I have ever sat in; I found the relationship of the Cove Stones and the nearby church very interesting – the Cove Stones feel as though they belong to the same 'site' as the church as are really quite separate from the pub, there are steps leading up to them from the road. It felt once again like a church superimposed on an ancient site.
Note: the pub closed at 2.15pm though there is access to the garden at all times from the road.
After visiting the Circles and a brief stop at the (largely uninteresting) church, it's off to the Cove. Tucked away behind the (sadly closed, even though it was Monday lunchtime) Druid's Arms, the Cove consists of three enormous megaliths, one lying flat, the other two very much upright.
Despite the somewhat surreal beer garden setting, the Cove is magnificent. Sadly the intervening buildings and hedges make it difficult to fully appreciate as part of the wider landscape and associated sites, but even so it's a cracker. Be nice to know when the pub is open though!
Access Going south through the village, when the circle is signposted left keep going. (It might even be signposted too.) As you reach the far end of the village there is a bend left with the Druids Arms on the left. Immediately after the pub there is a small car park. Park here.
If you can resist going straight for a pint, there is a gate from the car park to about 5 fairly steep steps up to the beer garden. When the back door of the pub is unlocked you can also get through that way, but it still involves steps. The stones are set in well kept grass on a gentle-ish slope in the beer garden.
Tuesday 16 September 2003
Well, when we arrived the beer garden was deserted and the setting seemed fine. (Sorry Oci!) We had a look at these BIG old rocks and stood on walls at the top of the beer garden working out the relative position to the Great Circle etc and the SW Circle.
This was relatively easy. We orientated ourselves by the tops of the trees in the Great Circle's field, the Church - which lies between the Great Circle and The Cove (...hmmmm!), and, less pleasantly, a farmer's huge stockpile of old tyres that we'd noticed not far from the SW Circle!
This gave useful visual support to John Wood's observation a couple of centuries ago (related by Burl) that The Cove would align on a straight line through the centre of the NE and Great Circles. (He also says that Hautville's Quoit aligns on a line through the centres of the SE and Great Circles.)
Curiously none of this is mentioned in English Heritage's little info sheet, though it does give loads of interesting info about a geophys survey of the main site. (Once you've waded through the usual woolly 'what stone circles were for' and 'folklore'.)
Anyway, nice Cove! Inevitably a little reminiscent of, but very small in relation to, the Avebury one(s) - but still big stones in comparison to an awful lot of megaliths! Wonder what coves were? (I've read a few theories of course.) Pre-dates the circles according to Burl.
Have to say being sited in a beer garden quite appealed to us. (Ahem, what a surprise!) So, better to enjoy the ambience, we grabbed a pint of Wadswoth 6X each and drank to the glorious Mr Stanton Drew....
Visited 21st June 2003: As our Solstice morning progressed I dragged everyone up to see the Cove, promising William that we'd have breakfast afterwards (I neglected to mention Hautevilles Quoit at this stage).
I've got to disagree with Ocifant's impression of the Cove. I think there is something special about these stones, and it's made all the more remarkable by the fact they're in a pub garden. Obviously the garden was deserted when we visited, so it was relatively quiet, but I've been there before when it was crowded and there was still a zing to the place then. On this occasion our visit was brief because we were all hungry and tired, but we'll be back as soon as possible (during opening hours).
These megaliths must have contributed to the building of the church on it's current site, between them and the South West Circle. Their part in the wedding legend also suggests that they have been considered as important elements in Stanton Drew group for a considerable time. The fact that's they've ended up in the garden of a pub is perhaps not wholly inappropriate, because in this way they remain part of the day to day life of the village in a way that the other megaliths don't.