"On the 16th April I joined a working party from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) of Cornwall to clear some of the gorse off the banked enclosure known as King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down, a part of Bodmin Moor... continues...
This mind visit will be a pleasant memory of the moors plus friends and unexplained enigmatic stuff, no ghost stuff of course, just a rectangular megalithic enclosure that defies explanation sitting in a bowl of hills.
Where to start, we met at the Trippett stone circle and followed Roy (Sanctuary) in the car and we kept turning right, again and again through tiny foxglove filled Cornish lanes slowly circling the moor, until we came to a track way that reached up to a ridge. The cars bumped up this disintegrating road, just below the ridge was a scatter of rocks, and here we later found Bronze Age cists, and apparently settlement sites according to the map.
Reaching the top of the ridge, we looked down to a small hamlet of three houses, crossing the small rocky beck that tumbled down, the cars were parked on a small green plateau, next to a land rover sporting the title Cornish Heritage and we were to meet the foreign tourists and their guide at the site later on. Even the vast empty spaces of the moor have life and visitors.
Walking uphill past the inevitable cattle, sheep and ponies with foals, we could see the grassy outlines of KAH in the distant a short walk of about 15 minutes. Climbing the stile and the first feeling is enclosure, you are surrounded for three quarters of the way by the rise of hills, and over in the distance behind a thick swathe of dark green forestry firs is the Stripples stone circle/henge monument which we did not see but is the only henge monument to be found in Cornwall at this time.
The large untidy bank that surrounds the stones, causing many of them to keel over, and the walking path below the bank is difficult with great tussocks of grass and hidden stones. The theory is that this large enclosure was dug out maybe for water. (who knows) and the central area is boggy, reeds outline the boggy area and cotton grass was in 'flower' blowing gently in the wind, and just at the centre of this area a darker green patch of vegetation which meant deeper ground and water, the dogs drank from here.
A few words from the rather scant Wiki; "The monument consists of fifty-six stones arranged in a rectangle with a bank of earth around them and measures approximately 20m by 47m. The interior fills with water and a contemporary ground level has not been established. It has suffered damage by cattle in the past and is now protected by a gated fence. It can be reached by footpaths east of St Breward."
There is a report by an archaeologist that gives the theory that in actual fact this is a medieval pound for the cattle up on the moors, and that two manors whose boundaries met here would have problems with straying cattle and they would be impounded, of course one would ask would it not be difficult with boggy ground and water to keep cattle there.
Feelings tells you that this is a ceremonial prehistoric monument, surrounded by stone circles on Bodmin Moor, there is a certain timelessness, stones cluster at the corners, there is a similar rectangular enclosure in Brittany, and apparently also at Lough Gur in Ireland, but until archaeological excavation proves the point one way or the other there is no answer, only that wild moors and megalithic monuments have a symbiosis that is magical.....
Visit date 8th May 2012.
Every now and again you come across something really special and for me, today, I did...King Arthur's Hall on King Arthur's Downs, an area of Bodmin Moor. We have stone circles coming out of our ears down here in Cornwall but this stone-lined lowered ‘enclosure’ is a one-off and as far as I know the only one of its kind in the UK but I believe there is a similar structure in Brittany. It was only meant to be a stopping-off point for me along the way to the stone circles at Leaze but turned out to be the highlight of my day and probably my year!
What is it? No idea, and neither has anyone else it would seem!
Basically, to the eye, it is a lowered rectangular flat-bottomed 140’ X 60’ bowl formed by digging out the topsoil (down to bedrock I wonder as a 'paved' area in a corner has been noted?), banking it up and being 6m wide, then lining the interior with standing stones on all sides and is today protected by an enclosing fence with a gate and stile access. Very little archaeology seems to have been carried out here and if I had the way, means and authority I'd be out there tomorrow carrying out a full sympathetic survey as this site smacks of great importance to me!
With stones up to around 2 metres in height sticking up, prostrate or angular, it is believed to be Late Neolithic/Early Bronze and has 56 stones showing and many others now buried by the collapsing sides. It is believed there were as many as 140 in total and I was blown away to see this in an area famed for its stone circles and amazed that it has not created so much more interest in comparison. How can this be so overlooked?
As you can imagine the ‘bowl’ created is of course a great collection point for water but there was an outlet point to the south-west corner which, because of the lack of research and archaeology carried out here, undecided if it was part of the original build or more recent.
We’ve had a fair bit of rain recently over the moor in this area but the base was remarkable dry for this time of the year I thought. I had my usual partner Chief the Border Collie with me and showing his total disrespect for the site he was splashing about in the central area which did have a small amount of lying water showing but he was not sinking into it which surprised me somewhat. I stepped onto this central surface a couple of times to negotiate fallen stones and it was just a tad soft but I’m sure gets much worse after prolonged and heavy rain.
Throughout my visit and whilst in the bowl, I had a wonderful feeling of calm and security like I was in a sanctuary and amongst ‘friends’. In look it reminded me of an un-kept churchyard where the headstones had been removed and placed against the perimeter walls but were now tumbling and often lying buried. Without a doubt it personally gave me a feel of the ancestors and a shrine to the dead whose remains may well still be lying here undiscovered. Either way this is without doubt a special place which in my opinion should be sympathetically investigated and equally sympathetically re-instated to its former glory before it succumbs to nature further rather than the moorland animals that it did previously. I would recommend a visit here at your earliest opportunity. A wonderful, wonderful place that I will re-visit over and over.
I came onto King Arthur’s Downs via Candra Hill (enough stones lying around here to build all the stone circles ever discovered) and descended to Casehill over the ford crossing where I parked up on a grassed area to the left on the bend leading up to the farm house. Don’t park on the deeply rutted open moorland to the east as you may well block entry onto it by farm machinery.
From here I walked up the rising open moor to the east which is walled and wire fenced to the left and right of you. I swerved off to the right halfway up as I bumped into these ‘locals’ and wasn’t about to chance my luck :-) https://picasaweb.google.com/100525707086862773355/HighlandCattle?authkey=Gv1sRgCOWHlYybmNSu1gE#5740437560420852578
On reaching the top which is a reasonably easy walk, you will see the King Arthur’s Hall enclosure down beneath you to the south-east and beyond that in the distance the area of farmed land where the two stone circles I was also heading off to at Leaze are to be found (separate fieldnotes submitted). Entry into the KAH enclosure is via a stile or a wide gate which on my visit was secured.
At this time of the year, sheep, horses and cattle abound on the moor and as many have lambs, foals or calves at foot, be sensible and give them a wide berth if possible because if you get injured on the moor it can be a very lonely and desolate place!
After a long drive down I squeezed in a couple of hours of fitful snooze in the car , then I started the long uncertain trek into the fog.
I had a map and a compass but it didnt take long before the footpath petered out and I was left guessing when to turn, the fog got so thick that I had no visual reference to go on at all and I began to mutter to myself " bloody sunrise, what AM i doing" and such. Later rather than sooner a thin tarmac surfaced road came to my rescue, I followed it east hoping that it lead to where I thought it would ( ie a farm) it did and I breathed a sigh of releif mixed with a long groan, I had gone too far north and not enough east, from the farm it should be easy, mercifully it was, a wall soon came out of the fog, I followed it to some cows, who to a moo completely ignored me, which was nice. After the cows I could see a slight uneveness to the horizon, as there was nothing else to aim for I staggered on untill King Arthurs hall had fully realised itself before me.
I had absolutely missed the equinox sunrise, infact the sun didnt show up for another hour or so and then high in the sky, but I did find my target in the end. Had it been clear the big orange globe would have risen in line with the southern short arm of the rectangle. It would have been cool I'm sure.
As to what this thing is, I have no clue, it is rectangular in shape but is a million miles from the one in Carnac Brittany, perhaps its best to see it as being the same as most stone circles and henges only rectangular, I feel sure thats cleared all that up.
With the fog holding back the outside world it was just me and the ghosts of Camelot and a s**t load of busy spiders, outside the hall it was barren dead countryside but it seemed that nature still hung on inside the henge if only in a very small way. A warm evening visit would be best suited to veiwing the equinox sunset and the henge in its sterile surroundings.
We would not have found King Arthurs Hall without a GPS. From where me and Griff parked our motorbikes near a stone circle we had to climb over 2 barbed wire fences and cross over a bog to reach the earthworks. It was worth the effort.
A fire had burnt the surrounding field but the ancient site was left unharmed. Inside was peace and tranquility. We could only wonder at what the site was used for but felt it was a meeting place for the ancients. The weather was overcast but warm on this spring day.
After photographing and videoing the place we made our way back to our bikes, this time avoiding the barbed wire fences and bog.
A wonderful site, and totally unique in my experience, not to mention one of the most mysterious, enigmatic prehistoric sites in Britain.
Not a typically contrary Cornish variant upon a circle-henge.... since there's no ditch. Plausible suggestions I've heard range from a mortuary enclosure [i.e. where cadavers were left to be de-fleshed by wildlife before burial] to M'lud Yatesbury's own 'tribal meeting place' scenario in the paper version of TMA - perhaps the site name reflects a long-standing folk memory of political activities being held here?
Although there are (apparently) parallels in Brittany, my understanding is that archaeologists have yet to come to any agreement whatsoever as to what King Arthur's Hall was actually used for. Well, archaeologists do tend to be a rather conservative bunch, don't they? Having said all this, isn't it great that such enigmas still exist in today's society of information overload. Less is more, anyone?
I approached the site across Treswallock Downs, parking at Casehill Farm. Follow the wall (roughly) eastwards to join the line of a footpath coming in from the right. The path leaves the wall (where the latter veers southwards) and heads towards the site. Watch out for mist.......
I visited this on a lovely spring day about 18 months ago after seeing it on the OS map and thinking it looked unique. It was very pretty filled with bog cotton dancing about in the breeze - but also frustrating and puzzling.
I am a (reasonably) well read amatuer pre-historian and there is really precious little about this monument in anything I have read, which is suprising for if it really is a neolithic or bronze age monument then it would seem to be almost unique and not correspond to any of the standard categories of monument. It has both henge and stone circle characteristics laid out in a way which is unual in itself, but its rectangular shape is the real mystery - can't think of anything else in the UK that is similar (although maybe there are similar monuments on the continent?).
I would be very grateful if anyone could direct me to any further info about this monument and/or advise if any excavations have ever taken place. It is difficult to know whether monuments that do not 'fit in' to the standard classes should be dismissed as oddities or may be able expand our knowledge. Certainly the recent Time Team programme featuring the possible 'ceremonial cuaseway' at nearby Rough Tor demonstrates that Bodmin is capable of turning up a few surprises - I for one would be very fascinated to know what a dig here might reveal.
Visited this time from the road to the south...passing by the leaze cist on the way. Despite the wet spring that we have had, the hall is reasonably dry. Myself and Karen, a friend from Canada, decided to walk out into the centre of the hall. At one point I stuck my trusty stick down into the ground. After it had gone in about 4 feet I decided to pull it out...Karen stuck hers...then tried to pull it out. It broke and now remains sticking out of the "bog" like excaliber!
Has anybody ever put forward the idea that this could have been a pool?...the high banks and stones used to keep the animals out.
After scrambling to the top of nearby Roughtor, we decided to visit King Arthur’s Hall. Easily found, but not too accessible for anyone with trouble walking, this is situated about ¾ mile from the road. One of my party had recently undergone knee surgery and found the undulating moor land too difficult to proceed. Parking is strictly a haphazard affair and the opportunity to end up stuck in the mud must be avoided.
The site is visible quite soon after commencing the walk, but as it comes into view the feel of gravitas surrounding it, and its location, become more and more apparent. In the film ‘Excalibur’, knights and druids are seen in ceremony on a hill top henge – this is such a site, but set low, in a shallow bowl. It reminds me of the landscape that encircled Culloden for some reason, more suited to clansmen.
As a meeting place this must have been impressive. Neutral territory that required a concerted effort to reach, the location making skullduggery and ambush a huge difficulty. Anyone attending a meeting here was on their own.
Of course, this is the part of Cornwall where the chance to buy ‘King Arthur pasties’ and ‘Lancelot fishing nets’ tend to colour any site which referes to the legends, but for atmosphere and spectacle, this is a hidden gem.
I have been wanting to get out here for years....So, seeing it is my 40th birthday and I felt like doing something special I decided to walk up Brown Willy taking in King Arthurs Hall, Garrow Tor, Loudon Hill and Middle Moor Cross.
Loaded up with lots of goodies I set out from Casehill (I have never had a problem parking there), first stop KAH. What a site, the sun was shining like it only does in Cornwall and in the middle of the hall the reeds were all topped with cottony blossom. Overhead Skylarks kept up what would be the soundtrack to the day and everything was perfect.
Must geta picture I thought........got camera out focused everything with Roughtor standing proud in the background......click......something don't sound right.....the shutter has not closed.
Well it wasn't going to spoil my day but I am afraid i will have no photos of my birthday walk to share with you.
I had a great day, didnt make Loudon or Middle moor but I can reccomend using the Garrow route to climb Brown Willy. It took me 2 hrs each way...but I do stop and look at things.
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).
If you want come by car, we managed to park near the end of the road at Casehill or if you want to come from the south you should be able to pull over on the road that crosses Emblance downs leading towards the water works.
The route from all directions is quite dry under foot.
(Mind you, the footpath from Lower Candra looked a bit sticky)
Never seen anything like this before! Took lunch here (corned beef butties and lucazade) before carrying on to Leaze and beyond.
A rectangular arrangement surrounded by a earth mound and full of marsh plants.