Our time in Cornwall is almost at an end, and as it started with a stone circle I thought it only right and good to end with one as well. Time however is, as it usually is, against me, so I decide upon this Nine stones circle, which surprisingly, or not, has nine stones to it. It's reasonably close to the A30, the main road in and out of Cornwall, so I hoped to get to a parking place quickly and easily and get to the stones with enough time to sit and appreciate the place for a while.
Looking at the map it was plainly going to be easiest approaching from the south, I did not read up on any directions, I just went for it. Turned off the A30 onto the B3257 towards Callington, at Congdons Shop (That's what the village is called, honest) turn right onto the B3254 then right again and head for Trebartha, the road, if memory serves, kind of takes you straight to the quick and easy parking place.
Now I'm home I know this is the way Mr Hamhead suggests and the route Sanctuary took 18 months ago. The kids decided that it was too far for them so they stayed at the car and mucked about with their bows and arrows bought from Restormel castle the day before, (I knew they'd come in handy) whilst I yomped up and over the hill at double speed. I noted the stone cross , but didn't go over, instead I followed the wall up the hill, until it ran out, someone with more time might have been able to go over the wall and perhaps search out two hut circles the map says are there, not me though its stone circle or bust.
Cresting the ridge that is seemingly known only as Ridge, again someone with more time might have gone to look for the tumulus at the east end of the ridge, I however ignore it utterly and trot down the hill towards the stone circle that is easily spotted from the ridge, I fail to see another hut circle in between the ridge and the circle, but ho hum, I'm just here for the circle and what a good one it is.
There are indeed nine stones, sometimes when they get people naming these sites they are clearly not able to count, but he was bang on the money here, although the ninth stone is the center stone, but I wont split hairs. There is a wide stoneless gap at the north east, one stone is down and one is going, slowly, down. But the others are holding up their end of the circle well. When I saw the triangular stone, I was reminded of Sanctuary, and when I saw the center stone I was reminded of a, well, lets not put a name to it, suffice to say it rules the world, or thinks it does.
A very good circle is this, blue skies, no clouds, it's only detractor is the sheep worn ditches around the stones, usually full of water but in the hot summer of 2013 it is medium to hard baked mud, and a small puddleit's not very good is it ? I do detest sheep, a little strong I know, but I just don't see the point in them. Extinction beckons, don't fight it.
On my way back I'm fairly sure I found a couple of hut circles that aren't on the map, there is much more in the vicinity, ring cairns, cairns, tumuli and hut circles galore, but i'll leave those for someone with more time, there are TMA'ers in Cornwall too arent there ? If I lived down here Id have been to every single one by now.
Following Mr Hamheads directions I visited the Nine Stones of Altarnun yesterday. Although I only live about 3 miles away as the crow flies I’d never seen them before, always finding something else to see or do at the time. What a mistake that was for it is one of the most charming and charismatic circles I have ever seen. Set in a wild Cornish windswept moorland landscape you can be forgiven for believing you are the only person alive when stood amongst them.
Mr H’s directions are completely accurate from North Hill but I will direct you initially from the A30 between Launceston and Bodmin where I guess most ‘outsiders’ will be approaching from if choosing to take his preferred route.
You leave the A30 on your left via the B3257 alongside the Bodmin Road Service Station near Plusha signposted Callington and Plymouth if approaching from the east. After about 3 miles you come to Congdon Shop crossroads. Turn right here onto the B2354 signposted Liskeard. About half a mile on the right is a lane signposted Trebartha/Bastreet. Take this and continue (past my house) until reaching a crossroad a further mile on. Cross straight over (gatehouse to Highpark Lodge on the left far corner) where two signs tell you the road will come to a dead-end. Just continue and you’ll come to signs directing you to Bastreet. You will pass a sawmill on the left then up the rising ground until you cross over the cattle grid and you are nearly there. After a couple of hundred yards you’ll see North Bowda farm on your left and shortly afterwards on your right the Stone Cross as described by Mr H midway up the rising ground. Park up here on the sides of the moorland road although it can be somewhat boggy in the Winter months.
And so I began my walk. My aim had been to only actually ascend Ridge Hill as the weather when I left home was very wet and windy so I thought I may make the circle on a better day. I still had my cameras but left the tripod behind as I didn’t expect to be using it. I reached the stone cross, took a couple of photos and moved on up to the top of Ridge Hill. I don’t know the history of the cross and wondered if it marked the position of a grave. As you get higher up the hill, the granite stones lying around increase until you realise you are in a world of stone circles/dolmens/cairns paradise for the builders of such things. No mystery here as to where the building materials originated from. On reaching the top I took a right for 100 yards and visited the cairn (marked as a tumulus on the OS map) on the eastern side of the hill. A wonderful thing to see 22.7m in diameter but sadly much abused with granite blocks strewn all around the site where removed. Not being a person that approves of standing on stones used to build monuments with such as this, but on this occasion one can’t really avoid it because you can’t tell them apart from other such stones lying around. Partial excavation of the cairn in the nineteenth century revealed a central slab over a cremation burial, surrounded by concentric rings of slabs in the cairn's mound. At the present time it appears to have been utilised (for sheep possibly) with a central standing stone and stonework built off it. I wonder if the central stone is original.
Looking northwesterly you have East Moor laid out beneath you with Fox Tor in the distance. It was at this point that I was about to return to my car but suddenly the dark threatening clouds parted and a huge shaft of light lit up the whole of the moor beneath me. And there it was…the Nine Stones lit up like floodlights on a stage! That was it, I just had to go the whole mile and complete the journey while the weather was relenting even though I was only wearing a semi-waterproof jacket. On approaching the stones as you descend the gradual slope from the cairn you become aware that the entire flat area around the circle has been cleared for some distance around it and sits there in the most wonderful of settings. Remote to the eye, atmospheric, lonely, almost forgotten were my first thoughts, but somehow welcoming on arrival. My Border Collie Chief who is my constant companion on walks is very receptive to ancient sites and often shows a ‘mistrust’ to some but not here. We never saw another person or animal and it was so healing to the soul to just take it all in and reminds you why we do what we do. The stones on this occasion were individually and collectively set in water and probably are most of the year as the area can be quite boggy in parts. Stones reflecting in surrounding water always adds to the magic for me although on this occasion the surface of the water was very disturbed by the wind thus knocking out the reflection effect. I stood in the centre and phoned my cousin in Jersey on my mobile to tell her where I was and she said…’Blimey that site must give off good vibes as you sound like you are stood next to me’!
I stood there looking around and wondered what on earth our ancestors saw out here to encourage them to build in such a desolate but on the other hand beautiful looking place. So bleak, lonely and windswept but obviously of great importance in its time. I shot a video but the wind was so ferocious that it is spoilt. Fine if you turn the sound down but as I tend to speak for England on my vids it spoils it somewhat!
Heading back I took the same route directly to the cairn on Ridge Hill as I had taken on the way down and midway up the northern slope I discovered an unmarked standing stone broken off about 18” above ground level. It was virtually on a dead straight line between the circle and the cairn which are about ¾ mile apart. Leading up toward this broken stone were the signs of a slightly raised revetted stone curb earthwork revealing itself out of the turf. This was not shown on the map either yet continued for about 80 yards as far as I could determine.
On reaching my car, guess what? Yep, down came the rain so I reflected on how lucky I had been as I’d not taken full waterproofs with me as I wasn’t expecting to attempt the whole walk.
A moderately easy walk with just the first stretch beyond the stone cross offering any sort of challenge due to its length rather than its steepness. Visit the Nine Stones if you possibly can, you won’t regret it I promise you.
Using Mr Hamhead's wonderful directions I finally found this circle after many false starts in the past.
I cannot read maps so this makes my life looking for stone circles very difficult!!
However this one was well worth the wait. On a beautiful day in mid July as I came up over the ridge and saw the circle before me it was like coming home.
I ran down the hill calling out to the stones as I went. We spent several happy hours together in the sun before I made my way back to the car.
So thank you Mr Hamhead you helped me achieve an ambition.
Not going to go into too much detail as these are hopefully temp notes whilst Ed tries to find the original site.
There are several ways of finding the circle but i think (after using different routes) that the easiest way is to drive up the moorland road signposted Bastreet just north of North Hill. The road climbs up through woodland, goes over a cattle grid and levels out just past a farm. Here you can park on the side of the road. Make for a small stone cross on the moorland to your right and carry on up the hill marked Ridge on maps.
Once on the ridge (large tumuli to the east) descend onto East Moor. The stone circle should come into sight between yourself and Fox Tor.
This route is reasonably easy and avoids the marshy ground that lies between the circle and Fox Tor.
The stones themselves are nearly all sitting in pools of water, caused by countless animals using them as rubbing posts.