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Fieldnotes by postman

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Elva Plain (Stone Circle)

Its been a really long time since I was last here, so long that I have no digital photos of Elva Plain, it must be near twenty years. As I remember I parked right near the farm and asked permission to park there while seeing the stones.
This time I parked on the road just outside of the little Rake Wood, walked up the road, turned left and up to the farm, at 6.15am there was nothing doing so I walked on through to the field with the stone circle, and applied myself to the seeing of stones.

The weather had been very favourable for the last few days, so standing at a stone circle on the spring equinox with a clear blue sky, I was cock of the rock, twirling in absolute splendor. On the western horizon the near full moon sank into a pink haze, it reminded me of a spring equinox at Ystumcegid in north wales many years ago, funny the effect a sky has on ones mind.
While I was zooming at the full moon the sun broke into song behind me, I twirled once more and hurriedly crossed the circle, photo photo photo. At last, a successful equinox sunrise, you, me and the stones, it's not as good when one of us is missing.

During the sunrise there was much birdsong, except for a skylark and blackbird I'm pretty ignorant of most of natures calls, but one stuck out in particular, it wasn't a bird, it was a Gibbon, it was doing it's morning territorial whooooooing and wowwwwwwing, a welcome addition to whats shaping up to be one of the good stony days out.

The sun burst out of a notch on the horizon, made from a shoulder of Skiddaw and another hillside further away. The hills frame the whole western view, it made me wonder whether the sun used any other notches at either end, for solstices.
But then looking behind me to the west it looked more of a sunset oriented site, a clear sight line to the sea, not ten miles away.

The stones are low, possibly all knocked over, a couple of stones are mostly underground just breaking the surface like a small stone whale. By the biggest stone, half a dozen smaller stones huddle together for security, as if the bad man might come back again and another stone would go astray. If they could all be spread out once more the aesthetic of the circle would be much improved, but it is what it is.

Bewildering sunrise dealt with I set about adequately photographing the circle, it's about now I should mention the rocky protuberance on the top of Elva plain hill, like Fitzcoraldo before me I saw it and thought "oooh proto temple". Should such things exist, that could be one.
With camera on tripod and extended to it's fullest I wander round hoiking it up in the air for an elevated picture of the stones. It works well.

On my way back to the car I surprised a small child in the farm, he wasn't expecting to see me that was for sure, his two dogs didn't seem to mind me and I tipped him my disarming smile, perfected over several decades of trespassing, I do it for a living you know.

Four Stones Hill (Standing Stones)

All previous posts have no positive words on getting there, so I put it off for years and went elsewhere, until today, its the spring equinox today, and after a successful sunrise at Elvaplain stone circle I felt today was the day to go.
I did what the previous posts seemed to suggest and approached from Drybarrows farm. I couldn't park near the farm because of all the signs written forbidding me from doing so, so I had to squeeze the car in on the little east to west road north of Winder hill. It was precariously parked, but with what looks like a long walk (just over a mile)to the stones I wanted to get as close as I could. Walking through the farm was the worst bit, trying to get by without bumping into angry farmer (they're all angry, they may not always show it, but they're all angry on the inside) all those negative signs on the road made me feel unwanted. But got through the farm I did, and out onto the open moor. There are lots of paths going this way and that, trying to stay on the one that would take me to the stones proved impossible. It wasn't long before I was well off the right path and climbing Little Birkhouse hill, the view over Haweswater was pretty good, and I was sure I hadn't passed the stones yet so I carried on, up Great Birkhouse hill, from there I skirted round the south side of Fourstones hill, and there they were, to me they were in profile and looked like one stone, so I still wasn't convinced I was there until I was right upon them.

Standing at the stone pair the view is joyous, on the nice scale it stands somewhere between very nice and I need to sit down. The reservoir is an imposition on the landscape, there would have been a river down there in the past, it's just a lot bigger now. The way the sunlight speeds across the countryside, lighting up the distant hill sides, I sat down.

So what happened to the other two stones?
Was this a four poster? or a four stone row?
Or were the four stones the remains of a bigger circle?
Answers on a postcard to.......
The stones are quite different, the smaller one sits in it's eternal pool and is kind of triangular and leans towards it's partner, the taller one is a long robust pillar. From the stones about 100 meters north east is the cairn, the two are not intervisible.
I get back up and start circling the stones, after many many photos, I go for a little walk about, get some height and perspective change. I drop back down right onto the cairn, it's quite a good one, large and stony and with a shallow scooped interior. Its time to go, with my car parked where it is I've spent too long here.
On the way back I follow the footpath more correctly and miss the farm out altogether passing by to its south and east by several hundred meters, I wish I'd gone this way first.


If you intend to see all of the lake districts ancient remains (A list) the two stones at Fourstones hill are a definite must see, the view will astound and the stones will confound.
But getting there is still a pain in the......

Towtop Kirk (Enclosure)

It's been a long time coming but it's finally happened, Tow top Kirk and me, together at last.
I've been waiting for a considerable while and it's taken a sunny equinox Sunday to get my act together, but together it is, and here I am.

Parking is easy, the road has a wide flat grassy verge between it and the wall, room for a dozen cars, but today there's just two, ones mine and the other, well lets just hope they're not going where I am.

The footpath is on the south side of the road and leads one south west towards Cawdale beck, an interesting big stone cantilevered looking bridge crosses it. Then on the other side it's up the high steep bank and onto the open moorland, the circle is visible from the top of the river bank, about 50 yards distant.

So, this is another of the lake districts possible henges, I saw another last year on Halloween, Dovedale Henge/settlement, it's hard not to compare the two and all the other henges I've seen. The circular....ish bank isnt high, its only a few inches higher than the surrounding ground, like Dovedale there is an entrance at the west end, I could not see the entrance at the east side as it's much more worn or the grass was too long. There's a giants handful of small boulders inside the enclosure in its north west corner?

Apart from the west entrance this site is nothing like Dovedale henge, it's in an unremarkable position, the bank is very low, and there's no big stones. But I think this site has more going for it as a henge than the other. Talk of it being an old Christian enclosure I can only echo Wideford and Fitzcoraldo, Whats a christian enclosure, when have churches ever been circular, makes no sense to me.
Because it lacks the interior ditch of a henge, it had the feeling of an unfinished henge, maybe, in short I dont know what it is but because I'm a supporter of prehistory I lean somewhat automatically towards a ritual site, a Henge.

Dovedale Henge (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

After a quick look at a sodden Kirkstone it's a short drive down the road into Hartsop, the car park is on the left. It is about a mile long walk along the lake that is not a lake, (there are no lakes in the lake district) Brothers Water, covered mostly by trees, it was in this autumnal beauty spot that I saw my second ever Red Squirrel. I've only seen two, both seen while out stone hunting, a movement off to my right drew my eye, but it was only a grey squirrel, but there half way up a tree behind the grey was a bright red Red Squirrel, I even got a photo of it, not a competition winner, just proof it happened.

After passing Hartsop Hall its into a field and over a river, thankfully bridged. From the Dovedale Beck you cant see the henge, just some big rocks over looking the river, but from these rocks you can see the henge.
What a site !
The biggest facet to this hidden gem of a site is High Hartsop Dodd's northern sloping ridge, formidable and ominous it keeps an enduring eye over the whole site. The big rocks, some are on the henge and some are seemingly set into the bank, some are small, some are huge, some are confusingly in the henge itself. The henge has half gone, only the west side remains, there is an entrance.

I now have to do that thing that I have to do, not that, climb up the hill of course. With such a big hill right next to the henge I'd have payed to go up that hill (shshushsh!).
The view was really something, on the nice scale it nestled nicely somewhere in between not bad and very nice, plenty of scope for numerous superlatives there.
I went high, high enough for it to occur to me that if I went higher I would be more technically mountain climbing than stone hunting. So I sat and watched the world, it wasn't doing very much so I looked long and hard at this henge of ours.
Just a few yards outside of where the north east sector would be is what looks like a round cairn, ruined but observable.
But the henge, was it really a henge? where has the other half gone? why are the stones where they are? some in some on the bank, some in the enclosure, it makes no sense. But if it was just a settlement why are they mucking about with these big stones? The placement of the site seems hengish, cornered in as it is by rivers and hills, but were the Neo's as occupied with water as much as the bronze and iron ages?

I left the place puzzled and uncertain, I want it to have been a henge, I wouldn't be surprised to find that out that it was, but I found myself coming down slightly more on the side of settlement in the end.

The Kirkstone (Natural Rock Feature)

I don't get out as much as I used to, for a variety of reasons, I've gone from twice a week every week, to maybe half a dozen times a year. But there are days and there are special days, when a special day comes round I have to go out and see some stones, this special day was Halloween, if you're going to see something, shall we say, "a bit spooky" its going to be today. My true destination is the Dovedale henge down the road, but seeing as I'm passing and there's a car park and all.....be daft not to.

I parked in the actual car park just north of the stone and began my arduous trek back up to the Christian meeting house monolith (trying to limit my use of the word church) It's not all that far but up here today the weather is a touch on the wild side, strong winds and sideways stingy face rain. Slipping and staggering I get to the stone not a second too soon, just as I got there the rain really poured, had I not been on the dry side of the stone I'd have been soaked to the skin in seconds.

The Kirkstone is a big natural monolith, not as big as a worshipers holder though, and only from the north does it look like a chapel type building. Today's congregation of one beholds the Kirkstone with a weather beaten jaundiced eye. Yep big stone looks like a church from over there. On to the henge.

Mardon Down Cairn Circle

There are plenty of parking places, three that I can see on Google earth, I parked on the west side and followed the obvious and worn path straight to the top. Passing the flattened ring cairn to the junction of paths, right takes us to the stone circle, the biggest on Dartmoor. Left takes us past the often disappointing Giants grave and friend. Keep going, past confusing mortar pits until you get to the cairn circle. Bosh, done.

Apparently this site confuses some people, is it a small stone circle? a cairn with a stone circle or even a hut circle? an enlightened chap called Jeremy Butler said this "it is unparalleled among the numerous cairns on the moorland massif only a short distance to the west, emphasizing the very localised nature of some cairn designs". The confusion arises I think because of peoples need to pigeon hole all monuments, everything has to be of a type, it's all got to be named, give it a name and we can add it to the list of known things.
Mardon down doesn't care about your wants or needs, it is what it is, but, what is it?
It's a wondrous thing, that's what.
Big stones in a small space.
Looking north away from Dartmoor the views are long, sit around and wait for the sun to come back out and the whole scene is just brilliant.

In the end, I think it's a cairn with some very pronounced circle stones, it reminded me of the very distant Bryn Cader Faner.

Mardon Down Cairns (Cairn(s))

There are loads of cairns up here, some are more cairnish than others, the ring cairn type one the big stoned kerb cairn, the grassy bump type and the stone rubble with a pit in type. But, the latter is not a cairn, there is one on the circumference of the stone circle, that's not a cairn, there is one by the Giants grave, that's not a cairn either. They are both in fact mortar pits dug by practicing soldiers waiting for D day in WW2. Perhaps a more poignant type of monument than most cairns, or perhaps not.

East Lowton settlement (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Just south of the Metherall settlement there is an east west running stretch of road, nice and straight, with a parking place on it's south side and a gate leading to a track into the forest.
Walking south west along the track it bends to head in a more southerly direction, immediately the trees on the left open out into a clearing, there are two hut circles here. The first one is quite good, short grass neatly trimmed, a few big stones, lounging in the shade of some fine Beech trees. Turning we find the second hut circle, this one is definitely a house not a hut. West facing entrance, big stones all the way round, with a weird shelf like thing inside the wall, possibly a second inner wall?. Then back to the track.

Just thirty meters up the track a clearing opens on the right, there are no hut circles here but there is a big oval of knee to waist high stones, I followed it round wondering what it could be, I could only come up with the remains of a pound. Back to the track and in another clearing across the track are the other two hut circles. The lower of the two is the vaguest of the four huts, not much to get excited about. But the fourth is quite the looker, made of big stones, next to a small drift of big stones. Map says one of these circles is a cairn circle but this is another hut, I think they got it a bit wrong, there are just the four hut circles, but they are good ones and should be sought out if nearby with time to spare.

Metherall Settlement (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Please note, only the hut circles in the reservoir are from the Metherall settlement, all the others are from East Lowton settlement four hundred yards away to the south. Park in the car park just west of the Heath stone and head towards the reservoir looking for a building on the shore by a jetty. The partially submerged hut circle is just east of the jetty under some trees. At the time I didn't know there is another three or four totally submerged hut circles, but the one we can see was enough to generate my interest in all the hut circle settlements around here.
Whilst I was sitting and wondering some ponies came over for a look at what I was doing, one of them was seriously suffering from joie de vivre, it was prancing about the place like a right nutter.
If you look down on the place on google earth you can see another hut circle right next to it but mostly under water, some stones are poking above the water, but you cant tell theyre from a hut.

Fernworthy Round House

I've seen the hut circles on the map, but largely ignored them, like almost everyone else, so after a lengthy trip in and around Fernworthy forest I head off to find them.
As I approached the parking place I looked up to the right and saw the stones of the front wall of the hut circle, why haven't I spotted that before? Because I wasn't looking!
Car parked, it is barely a minutes walk to the hut circle. It is actually just one of at least seven hut circles all within a hundred yards of each other, it is also by far the best of the seven.
All the stones used in the hut are big, bigger than Fernworthy stone circles stones. Like the stone circle somebody with a strimmer has been around here and meticulously tidied them up. But not all of them.
The big 'n' best hut circle is built into a presumably later wall, if you follow the wall round you'll be brought to the next hut circle, its not as good as both it's nearest neighbours. A round platform cut into the slight hillside with stones showing only on it's south side, a small standing stone is just outside the hut, I assumed it was an entrance stone with a fallen partner just feet away in the rubble of the wall. A bit further up the hill is the third and fourth, both good examples, neatly trimmed, lots of stonework. A bit further on is the fifth, less lovingly cared for but still quite good, the sixth is barely recognisable and the seventh only a slight dish in the heather, you'll need to get your eye in if your going to find number seven.
I really liked it here, the biggest and best one closest to the road is an epic place to sit and ponder things like the distant past the shapes of clouds or the rumbling of tummies, I'm hungry!

Carreg Wen (Standing Stone / Menhir)

I've been aware of this standing stone for absolutely years, but Kammers words of recommendation seemed to ring loudly for me, he said he had to cheat to get there by driving up a forestry track, he didn't like it. Instead he advises on a walk across the mountains to get there. So that's precisely what I did. It's been bloody hard work and I've yet to retrace my steps in order to get back to the car.
Coming down off the "other plum" I could see that some tree felling had occurred since Kammers visit, now the whole place would be harder to navigate and the little stone in a big landscape would be all the more harder to pin down. My one crumb of hope was the stone is near to a meteorological station which would I hope be easier to find. After more walking (ugh, wheres my electric mountain bike) and less height I fancy I can see a place that might be that long word place, fixing my zooooom lens and having a look I can see a large white thing and a tall slim pole like thing. That'll do, I make for those, and when they go out of view I make for the lake behind them.
It is at least all down hill, so pretty soon I'm standing right beside the standing stone of my dreams, and it is gleaming.

The large white thing is indeed Carreg Wen, the tall pole thing turned out to be a dead tree, the meteorological station is actually very low and all but out of view.
Going through a gate the stone is on the left, standing beside it is an information board, I was fair gobsmacked to see that all the way up here. Not much information though, it glistens, it was erected by bronze age miners who are buried on the hill tops, not much.

The stone is no longer surrounded by beautiful life, growing, breathing, wondrous living life, instead is a scene of destruction, all the trees are gone and replaced by a war like scene, death and destruction. Despite that extreme negativity the stone is still vibrantly alive and gorgeous to the eyes and the hands, it was all I could do to refrain from lying down with the damned lovely thing.
Thing?she is a lady, and I will refer to her as such throughout.
She stands a little over six feet tall, depending on which side of her your standing on, squarish, her southern side flat, straight and with a mottling of lichen. All around the rest she is smooth perfect white quartz, smooth except where the crystals angularity juts out unfairly this way and that.
Have you seen that Giant crystal cave deep underground in Mexico somewhere, Carreg Wen has a micro version on her east face, get up close and see the crystals sparkle and twinkle. She is a beauty.

I sit for a while, back against the information board, then I start to hear things, first voices then an engine, I stand up and peering over the broken forest I can see men, men on motorbikes, strewth how long have they been here? It's a good job me and the lady didn't get intimate, they'd have heard her for sure, then it would have quickly turned into a Pink Floyd song, I sit back down and roll a fat one. They soon put-put back off down the forestry track and we're alone again, I had thought we were alone already, but no matter, because I just felt a rain drop on my arm, I am not dressed for rain in the mountains so I pack up and give her ladyship a big hug and bid her a fond farewell. My what an attractive stone, it's like the Earth gave birth to a star, go there and see her twinkle, no don't look at her twinkle just be amazed at her beauty. A stone like that is worth a dozen hill top cairns.

The long walk back to the car was torturous and murderously long and slogging, I've never wished for alternative transport more than then, just thought I'd put that out there. Jeeves send for the helicopter.

Pen Pumlumon-Arwystli Cairns (Cairn(s))

Pen Pumlumon-Arwystli, fits in the mouth nicely, doesn't it, I just called it the "Other Plum".

So..... heading east down off Pen Pumlumon Fawr, highest peak in the Cambrian mountains, one firstly comes to a large walkers cairn that sits on level ground on a saddle between two peaks. Leaving the cairn for the unnamed peak that sits just north of Pen Lluest y Carn, I carry on over it and come into view of the mountain I've yet to climb.
The path takes you up and behind the big hill and will go right on by unless you leave the path and purposely seek out the top, just keep looking left for the top of a cairn, it was about fifty yards from the path.
The first cairn I get to is the southern of the three cairns. It has a hollowed out interior, and is comparable in height (about 6ft)to the central cairn it's nearest nieghbour. But the central cairn is bigger in square feet I think. A shelter has erupted out of its eastern lower flank, making the whole thing look like a stone octopus tentacles draped over the hill top.

Darker clouds are growing in the sky, I eye them with disdain, I've definitely not dressed for rain, getting a move on.
The third cairn is again the smallest of the three, two mountain tops next door to each other, both with three cairns, both with the northern most cairn the smallest, can't be a coincidence, surely?
Mountain top done I start to look for the way down to Carreg Wen the white stone of infinite clarity. I see the way, and go that way.

Pen Pumlumon-Fawr (Cairn(s))

Pumlumon, seemingly one of Gladman's favourite places, I've never been up myself, I've only ever driven by en route to somewhere else, and there are plenty of other places to see, places that don't require a £5 parking fee or an eight mile round mountain walk. Doing the job that I do which necessitates vast amounts of walking I am well and truly turned off by walking, it is I feel massively overrated, so Pumlumon wasn't really in my targets, or on my list, I got over my mountain addiction in Snowdonia, it took some time, there was cold turkey for sure but I got over it in the end.
But once a site is on my list, then it's on my list, there is very little I can do about it, I have to go, I need to see it all. You cant just watch one Star Wars film, if you liked Encounter at Far point, you'll love All good things, you may not know what I mean, but in short I want to see all the places I want to see, and if I don't I'll be really disappointed, and there are still a few places round here I want to see, one of which is Carreg Wen, a lovely big pure white quartz standing stone, an albino menhir. It is not easy to get to, so I decide quite uncharacteristically, to walk over at least two mountains to get there, fortunately for me they are not bland "just another mountain" mountains, they've both got multiple cairns upon them, the rivers Severn and Wye both rise in the vicinity, and Gladman really seems to like it round here, so here I am, trying on the Cambrian mountains for size, and getting to a place I've longed after for ages.

There was a lot of traffic on the roads, everyone seemed to be making for the coast, it was a nice day, so hopefully i'll have the mountains more or less to myself. Getting to the car park I find that it is a privately owned car park and costs five pounds, in cash, and I've only a card, who carries cash nowadays. So I have to go back to Llangurig to look for a cash point, there isn't a hole in the wall, but guess who came to the rescue, the Post Office. Money attained, a quick drive back to Eisteddfa Gurig, car parked, old lady payed. I'm on my way, up.
It starts off quite easy, a gravelly track is followed all the way to the old mine, you'll know when you've got to the old mine, it rather sticks out. Just after the dirty git that is the old mine, the footpath veers off the gravelly track left heading straight for the summit of Pen Pumlumon-Fawr, though it is hidden from view for a while yet.
This is the part of the walk that I like least, it's not all that steep, it's just the uneven ground, it makes it all soooo much more taxing, I found myself wishing for one of those electric mountain bikes, I'd really like one of those.
But after not too much grumbling and staggering along like a drunkard I attain the summit, yippee I'm at the top, and as predicted, I am alone.

The big main central cairn is heavily eroded, sadly, by the hand of man, the trig point is erected on its northern side, and two wind breaks have been made out of the stones, one of which is quite far from the original structures position. I crumple into a heap, sat with my back against the trig point, and just sit staring at the views and the cairns all about me. Then I take food and drink, and sit for a while longer. Then I set about photographing. The southern cairn doesn't have a hollow interior, it is all quite together, which is a massively nice surprise. Right now three men also attain the summit, but they soon move on, do they not know they've just climbed this ranges tallest peak, they really don't hang round long at all, just two minutes and they've gone. With the wide summit ridge back to myself I wander slowly over to the third cairn, it is much smaller and lower than the other two. Something I was about to find mirrored in the sister hill across the way at Pen Pumlumon Arwystli. So, another mountain to climb, with cairns, until I can get to my true destination, Carreg Wen..... the Albino stone, off I go.

Kingston Russell (Stone Circle)

From the Grey Mare and her colts go back to the bridleway over the stile then turn left and keep going on a north westerly heading, when the track takes you to two hedges either side of the track and there is two gates on your right look for the Kingston Russell information board. The stone circle is through the gate away from the information board. Pretty easy, what went wrong Carl?
Hopping over the gate I stroll as nonchalantly as I possibly can, i'm even typing this carefully because that is one big herd of cows over there, and I'd appreciate it if they stayed there. During my nonchalance I extended the tripod for another bout of hoicking. So a hoicking I go, walking round the outside of the circle clockwise, noticing as I go, my only companion, Hardy's monument.

It looks like none of the stones are still standing, the largest stone has erosion marks on it like none of the others, like it was pulled out of a river. The immediate area is very flat, which is why I'd chosen this site as an equinox sunrise for this morning, but I'd have gotten here too late. Which is a maddening shame because it is a perfect site for a sunrise, or sunset, someone closer should get onto that.

It's not a great stone circle, but it is a good one and having been there gives me a warm feeling inside, it's now half past midday and I'm behind schedule, and very hungry, it's time to seek out another sort of warm feeling inside, en route to site number seven, strangely in the middle of the town of Dorchester.

The Grey Mare & Her Colts (Long Barrow)

From the Valley of stones, a very aptly named place, I head south west on Bishop's Road until the road forks and I go right, and park at the gate with cattle grid. Take the right hand path to the Grey Mare and her Colts, a very inaptly named place.
Follow the path with the hedge to your left,in the corner of the field go through the gate for another twenty yards then left over a stile follow the hedge that's right in front of you until you get to a gate, go through it and there she is, looks nothing like a horse.

I immediately take shelter behind the stones away from the biting cold, I am no longer using the dog blanket as a cloak but instead have wrapped it round me then put my hoodie over that, it's more practical and less stupid looking, still cold though, wish I'd brought my coat.
Sat behind the tallest stone i'm right next to what is left of the chamber, one stone is still in situ as it were, the rest is a bit of a jumble, I was unable to tell if the larger stones were chamber side stones or capstones or a dollop of both. Also right next to me in my hunched up position is a low stone with a hole in it, the significance of which utterly evades me.
Out of the cold I extend my tripod to its fullest, then emerge from the comfort of the nook I'd found and circle the tomb a couple of times taking photos from 11 to 12 feet in the air, it's not easy and may take a few tries and if anyone sees you you might look a berk, but it is I think worth it. The pursuit of a new angle and all that, speaking of new there's a stone circle a little over half a mile from here that I've never been to, Kingston Russell, lets go.

The Valley of Stones (Natural Rock Feature)

After having been to the Hellstone and Hampton down stone circle I drove north and parked at the space by the junction of Bishop's Road and National cycle route 2 Road. Not as eloquently named that one.
Passing through the gate, or was it a stile? I can't remember, just get into the field with an information board then head down hill following the most worn path you can find. The Valley of stones is on your left just another stile and your there, you are entering the valley from it's north east.

I mostly pass by the drift of stones passing the curious circular structure higher up the east slope until I cant take it anymore and dive straight down into them,
Among the most notable stones in the meander are large flat boulders with cup like erosions on the surface, boulders with coffee or rose coloured flint extrusions, a stone with a hole in it, and a stone circle, of sorts.

I've not been here before, clearly my one and only trip to Dorset twenty years ago was a bit of a rush job, a cursory glance at best. I passed the Valley of stones by in favour of the Grey Mare and her colts.
This is much better, time to wander and time to ponder, and the wind cant get me down here, but the dog blanket is still being my cloak 'cause it's still cold. After having sat and stared at the "stone circle" I get up and walk the stone arc back and forth, in the end all's I can say is one stone in the circle is a boulder practically bristling with rosy caramel flint, it's just about the prettiest stone I've ever seen, and I didn't get the stone circle feel from it, more of an enclosure of some sort, it has an entrance, and no where for the western arc of stones to go. I guess it could be Iron age.
Also, this is the place people came to to take stones away to build stone circles, it would be like going to B&Q and building your patio right there in the shop. Or perhaps not.

Hampton Down (Stone Circle)

After having retraced my steps from the Hellstone back to the car, it is straight across the road following the footpath sign saying Abbotsbury hill fort. Unfortunately the fort isn't on my itinerary but this is also the way to Hampton Down stone circle. Improvised cloak wrapped fully round me and with the hedge to my right acting as wind break this is as pleasant as walking has been this morning. Following the hedge on my right, leads to a gate with a sign on it, the sign is for the stones which are now at my feet. That was easier than I anticipated.


Most of the stones are pretty low but hefty boulders, made of the same flinty stone as places I've yet to see, the two at the south are largest. In past years summer growth drowns the site completely, so I'm pretty lucky to see it in such good apparel. The view south reveals Chesil beach again, and north once more to Hardy's monument.
With less wind because of the close by hedges, I remove my cloak and get the tripod out. I've not yet been to a stone circle that didn't benefit from an elevated photo of the site, so I hoick it up and try to keep it still in the wind, not easy, but always yields good results. This was site three out of the hoped for twelve, and my first site of the day that I haven't been to yet. I liked it.

The Hellstone (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

The path to the Hellstone has indeed changed, I parked in the aforementioned layby, left the road opposite the farm going through a gate, there were cows in the field so I kept to the left side of the field. This leads to a stile, which in turn leads to a path between two fields, when one whole field has passed on your right, turn right, over the fence at a makeshift sort of stile. then it's up the gentle hill to the stones.

Even though it looks like it's been restored by someone who clearly didn't have a clue what it was supposed to look like, the Hellstone is still a pretty awesome thing to see. From on the mound by the stones you can see Chesil beach, Chesil means shingle, pebbles, it is the longest shingle beach in Britain. In the other direction a heath covered hill has a tower on it, Hardy's monument, Nelson's mate, not the poet, the monument is a handy orienteering wotsit, you can see it from almost all the sites i'm getting to this morning.

My coat hasn't magically appeared before me and it is terribly exposed on these hillsides so I have wrapped the dogs blanket off the back seat round me in an effort to fend off the icy winds. But it really is too much so I retreat into the dolmen and take a seat huddling for warmth. Boy do I not like the cold.

After having a long look round the tombs interior, there is nothing else for it but to brave the weather outside, I didn't spend more than ten to fifteen minutes here, I really am a plonker. The wind is making a mockery of my improvised cloak, whipping it up and over my head, rediculous.
But the Hellstone is awesome.

The Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas (Stone Circle)

It's surprising how quickly three months can pass, it's already equinox time again and I thought I'd make a proper long old day of it. Twelve sites in twelve hours, a touch ambitious possibly, but I've neglected to bring either of the kids, which will help, and the car though small and slow has been faithful so far.
The plan, such as it was, was to witness an equinox sunrise from Kingston Russell stone circle. There's just two small problems with that, the actual equinox was yesterday, and I'm apparently a slow driver, because i'm not going to get there in time, I blame the poor state of British motorways, roadworks for mile after mile. Poop!

So I pull over early at the Nine stones, I haven't been here since before the big tree came down, it is not the only difference.
I parked at the farm building fifty yards down the road, walked back to the stones down the not dangerous at all road, and found no way to get to the stones. The stream was too wide to jump easily, the bridge is gone and the gate, there's no way in this way.
Back to the car and I drive a bit further down the road away from the stones, there is some new work going on, a housing estate possibly, I parked by the road. Passed through the fence with the red sign that says something like footpath closed and made my merry way off through the field.
It's about now I should make note that I have once again forgotten my coat, it is windy and cold, I really don't like being cold.
Having crossed the two fields, I arrive at the stones, here among the trees it is at least less windy. The circle is as lovely as I remembered it, with not much deviation from the original I reckon.
The two big stones, being entrance stones perhaps, meaning the stone between them is not in it's proper place, are two simply stunning stones, with huge amounts of chocolate rose flint showing, and a small colony of Harlequin ladybirds. Nice.

It's not easy to get the moment of sunrise and all the stones into the picture, first of all you have to be on the other side of the enclosing fence and there is a hill side in the way as well. So, not good for equinox sunrises, or winter ones, the hill would be even more in the way, but summer solstice would be fine, if you can cut down a few trees. I did say I was going somewhere else for the sunrise.

After failing to see a sunrise, staring closely and intently at the tall flinty stones, and walking round in at least a dozen circles, and this and that, it was time to go get my next stoney fix. So off I go to Hell, there is a stone there.

Knowlton Henges

It's been a long time since I was last here, I find myself saying that quite often these days, it was before my digital camera era, my daughter was in nappies and my son wasn't even real yet. So, with daylight waning I headed to Knowlton Henge for an equinox sunset, which was yesterday, some things never change.
I managed to find my way to it without the comfort of an O.S map, it's marked on my road map and that was just about enough. Only two cars were parked at the entrance so I easily squeezed the mobile isolation unit in and I hastened to enter the site.

Twenty years ago this summer was my last time here, with my wife and small daughter, it was a warm late afternoon, swallows swooped, bees buzzed, small daughter toddled around half naked chasing the dog, we sat in the grass, partaking, wondering at the perfectness of it all.
A million years later.....
I'm here on my own after one of the longest stoning days ever, i'm very tired, and core blimey it's cold. The occupants of the two cars have taken up residence on the henge bank with tripoded cameras, waiting for the sunset. I was shouted at once by a fat crusty woman for walking on a henge, I wonder how many henges she's been to.
The memories of an old man are the deeds of a man in his prime, some one once said, I often wonder if my obsession with seeing stones is born out of those few perfect summers with small children and love in the air, with all these new places to visit with fewer worries. Maybe.

Having wandered slowly about the church I was naturally drawn to the pair of Yew trees by the eastern entrance to the henge, I'm guessing they're about the same age as the church, Yew trees are awesome, they're practically immortal, the church can collapse and the henge wear down, but the Yew trees would still be there. The trees are close enough together to form a kind of plant cave who's walls are covered in cloots, if that's what we're calling them, coloured ribbons, often with messages written upon them, I have no strong feelings about them one way or the other. But I do like Yew trees.

I stand upon the henge bank with the other photographers, keeping further apart than two meters I can tell you, I've been practicing social distancing for decades, I'm very good at it.
Watching the sun slither down in the sky shining brightly through the dappling cloud, it was quite nice. Still cold though. As the sun got lower all manner of folk turned up to share the spectacle, most notable was a bloke with five, yes five Red Setters which he then let off the lead to charge around uncontrollably.
One of the photographers, with prolonged use of the F word, was audibly upset.

But it was all water off a ducks back for me, i'm not expecting bucolic yesteryear flawlessness, i'm not expecting anyone to take my wants or needs into consideration. I'll just be glad to have a better sunset than this mornings sunrise and a safe and uneventful and uninfected drive home wouldn't go amiss either.
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After visiting literally thousands ancient places and driving between fifteen to twenty thousand miles every year I can only conclude that I'm obsessed with these places, and finding this website ten years ago only compounded that obsession, at least I'm not alone anymore.

My favourite places are:

Ring of Brodgar
Callanish
Balnauran of Clava
Torhouskie
Swinside
Nine stones close
Bryn Celli Ddu
The Druids circle (penmaenmawr)
HafodyGors Wen
Gwal y Filiast
Grey Wethers
Boscawen Un
La Roche au Fees
Drombeg
Uragh
Talati De Dalt

and these are only the ones that immediatly spring to mind, so many stones and not enough lifetimes.

My TMA Content: