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Fieldnotes by tjj

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Boscawen-Un (Stone Circle)

Visited 12th May 2021 as part of what had meant to be circular walk from Carn Euny and Sancreed church. The weather was wet, not blustery showery wet as the previous day but set-in, hanging-around-all-day wet. We approached the stone circle from a pull-in off the A30 and walked along a well trodden track. The circle seemed smaller than I remembered it when I visited in 2010 by bus to St Buryan, then foot. Still a wonderful 'sun-dial' stone circle though with its slanting central stone. The track from the A30 also takes you a high outcrop of flat rocks from which the stone circle and surrounding land can be viewed. Standing up there it felt like it may have been some sort of 'look out' point.
Returning from Boscawen-un we stopped off at the nearby Blind Fiddler standing stone - walking through long wet grass as we did earlier to get to Carn Euny, my feet were now very wet indeed. So it has to be said my first visit back in April 2010 (when the sun miraculously shone in a cloudless blue sky) remained unsurpassed.

Men-An-Tol (Holed Stone)

Visited 9th May - again using Ian McNeil Cooke's great little 'Guides to the Antiquities of West Cornwall'. It had been raining heavily the night before though at the time of our visit it was just very windy and quite chilly. A straight forward walk to the stile marked for Men-An-Tol, as we stopped to climb over we heard a distant cuckoo which seemed to bode well. A fabulous much photographed site and one I wasn't able to get to when visiting by bus and foot a decade earlier.

We also walked over to the Men Scryfa 'inscribed stone' which stood alone in a field on the other side of the track. I believe the inscription (now no longer legible) is a Latinised form of the native Celtic language.

Chûn Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Parked on the A30 at more or less the same place as the previous day when visting Men an Tol and walked along a single track road for about 15/20 minutes. Just as we reached an old farm building a hail shower blew across - we sheltered in the lea of the building seriously considering turning back. The shower blew over; around the corner of the farm house and uphill a bit was the marker pointing up to Chun Castle. A steep uphill climb brought us to Chun Castle which is Iron Age though quite possibly built on an older site given its proximity to the Neolithic Chun Quoit. Reaching the Quoit was a breathtaking experience as it overlooks the sea. Once again I found myself making comparisons with the sites on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork where these ancient sites almost all look westward over the sea. There seems to be something intangible and forever just out of sight connecting these remote south westerly peninsulas.

Carn Euny Fogou & Village

Visited this fabulous site on 12 May 2021 as part of 'postponed from last year post pandemic trip'. The archaeology of West Penwith silently endured throughout - this was one of the sites I didn't manage to get to when I visited back in 2010 without a car. This time fortunately I had access to a car but Ian McNeil Cooke's 'Guides to the Antiquities Of West Cornwall' still proved invaluable and contain a wealth of information.

It is hard to describe the experience of visiting a place like Carn Euny in the pouring rain or the quiet sanctuary of the amazing Beehive Hut contained within fogou. Although Carn Euny is Iron Age there was something about the place that made me think of Orkney (the stone no doubt).

Torhousekie (Stone Circle)

Visited Saturday 18th May 2019: On a different sort of day, one of light and shadow perhaps, this would be a great site to visit. As it was we went there on a dull overcast day more or less filling in time until we went to catch our ferry to N.I. Having said that it was a planned visit. The previous evening we found Cairn Holy by accident and had an almost transcendental experience. I feared Torhouse would be an anti-climax but that is unfair.

Very easy to find from Wigtown, one of the friendly people in their little Saturday Market gave us clear directions. Near a road though suspect mainly farm traffic. Probably Bronze Age, this 'dumpy' stone circle is comprised of 19 outer stones, 3 central stones (the central one being smaller than the other two). There is a set of 3 stones in a nearby field on the other side of the road set on higher ground than the circle. The is also a single stone nearby. From the positioning of the central stones it is easy to imagine sun or moon alignments. The information board said the most likely one was midwinter sunrise. Also that these type of stone circles are most common in N.E. Scotland and Ireland. It suggested that Torhouse may represent movement of migrants or at least ideas.

On a non-archaeo note, this was the only place we heard a cuckoo on this trip.

Ossian's Grave (Court Tomb)

I must start this field note by acknowledging "Monu-mental About Prehistoric Antrim" by Tom Fourwinds
(ISBN: 9781845889210). The archaeology of Antrim seems is much harder to find than anywhere I've been before so this publication was invaluable.
Visited Monday 20/5/19:
A very good day, visited Glenariff in the Glens of Antrim in the morning.
The clouds cleared after lunch so headed for Cushendall in search of Ossian's Grave. We had identified it from the OS map where it is shown by name. No signposts but following the map we walked up a steep track where eventually we came to a small gate. Amazing views towards the strangely shaped Hill of Tievarah on the way up. The grave itself seemed to have been almost wilfully neglected and has fallen into disrepair. What is most stunning about this site is the views on clear day - especially towards the Hill of Tievarah.

Magheraboy (Passage Grave)

Tuesday 21/5/19: I loved this little tomb - perhaps because it reminded me of a smaller version of Devil's Den back home. It is mentioned on an information board at White Park Bay which can be seen as you walk uphill to this site. The information board calls it Druid's Altar and informs us that the bones of three epi-palaeolithic (post glacial hunter gathers) women were excavated there - thought to be aged 16, 20 and an adult.

The site is marked on the OSNI map though not named so the lane leading to it is easy enough to find. A rather magnificent view to be had down to White Park Bay. It took three attempts and a lot of determination to find this site. after the second attempt we asked a local horse rider if he knew of it, he didn't but made a quick phone call - confirmed it existed and gave us some basic directions. So we clambered uphill from the lane again - this time braving our way through the gorse bushes. There was some evidence of people having walked through the gorse before us. My companion fortunately is quite a bit taller than me so spotted the capstone just about at the same level as the gorse.

It was very satisfying indeed to find this site after being disappointed at the first two attempts.

Cairnholy (Chambered Cairn)

Friday 17/5/19: A rather pleasant early evening, after several gruelling hours on M6 we were heading towards Newton Stewart for an overnight stay before catching ferry to Northern Island. Spotted a brown heritage sign pointing towards Cairn Holy and pulled into a lovely woodland parking area. Started to walk the half mile uphill - the woodland was full of spring flowers, the birds were singing, we passed some cairn like stone in a field and a clear flowing spring. Then something happened - the earth tilted ever so slightly, the clouds parted and everything became infused with golden light. We rounded the curve in the lane not really knowing what to expect - before us stood a very fine neolithic chambered tomb, the grassy mound of which was covered in daisies.
The was a solitary man standing by the quite tall stones of the tomb. Initially we thought he was performing some sort of ritual but he was in fact doing some calculations. He came over and introduced himself as Joseph and it turned out he was very knowledgeable about Cairn Holy. He happily pointed out the various solar alignments for different times of the year. And that the low front stone appeared to mimic the distant Isle of Man. We left him for a bit and walked up to Cairn Holy II about 150 metres at a higher point up the lane. Another magnificent chambered tomb though slightly smaller than the first one. The notice board here mentioned spiral rock art so we went back to Joseph who showed one example of a very eroded spiral.
That evening this was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to, as we reluctantly left to continue our journey it felt as if the ancient gods were smiling on us.

Tilshead Lodge Longbarrow (Long Barrow)

Visited 25/1/19:
Walked over to this enormous barrow immediately after visiting the White Barrow. It looks rather unimpressive from a distance as is currently covered in metal chain-link. I learnt that the National Trust undertook badger exclusion work on White Barrow back in 1998 by covering the barrow with chain link so I imagine this is a similar exercise . There is a notice up warning visitors to stay off. Also 'no digging' symbols (I think) on posts around the barrow and nearby the Great Ditch.

Both Tilshead and White Barrows can be accessed from the layby near an army water tower just past the village of Tilshead.

White Barrow (Long Barrow)

Visited 25/1/19:
One of those rare January days that make you think of Spring. Set off from the lay-by just past Tilshead by army water tower. Lots of tracks criss-crossing the landscape, many of them tank tracks (take OS, track to White Barrow clearly marked).
The White Barrow was the first ancient monument to be purchased by the National Trust and has never been fully excavated. Pleased to see sign by the stile into the site enclosure forbidding metal detectorists (site monitored in collaboration with army).
In 1998 Badger Exclusion work took place after the NT obtained a badger exclusion licence. A family of seven badgers lured out of setts and relocated. The nearby Tilshead Barrow is now covered with chain link which is probably badger exclusion work too.
Finds from badger spoil include Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery, struck flints, and red deer antler.
The barrow is 77.5m long and 47m wide including ditch. Wild flowers and rare bees found there in summer.

The Longstone of Mottistone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

As this is the only remaining neolithic long barrow on the IoW it was a must to visit whilst spending a few days there earlier in the week. We accessed it by taking an uphill, woodland hollow-way track from the back entrance to the small old church (also worth a visit for the wildlife churchyard). Road on a blind bend so cross with care.

The now faded interpretation board told us it is 6,000 years old and that the stones had been moved from their original position by the end of the 1800s. The long barrow remained intact until the 1700s when it was disturbed by quarrying and later by excavations in 1850 and 1956.

Leana (Cl. 68) (Wedge Tomb)

Visited 22/5/18: Having just visited Parknabinnia we spotted a small group of people at what appeared to be another wedge tomb on a high point on the other side of the narrow road. It was a beautiful morning so a pleasure to make our way slowly towards them looking at all the wild flowers (mostly orchids) on the way.

I think we were sort of hoping the group would have moved on by the time we reached the wedge tomb but they were engrossed in drawing and measuring the tomb. We could also see it was the same small group we had had a happy chance encounter with the previous day - an archaeologist named Ros and three American students. As with the day before, Ros was helpful and generous with the information he gave us - am very grateful, as our two encounters enhanced our own visits tremendously.

Parknabinnia (Cl. 67) (Wedge Tomb)

Visited 22/5/18: Following on from previous day when we had a happy chance encounter with Ros, an archaeologist, and his three archaeology students, who had told us about Parknabinnia wedge tomb we made our way out there this morning full of anticipation. Close to the village of Kilnaboy, what a wonderful site - easily accessed as well sign-posted near to the narrow road which is part of the Burren Way. The wedge tomb is still in reasonable condition and set inside a stony circular area.
We could see some people on the other side of the road at what appeared to be another wedge tomb on a high point. We slowly made our way towards them taking in the wonderful displays of wild orchids on the way. The people turned out to be Ros and his students again. Ros generously spent some time talking to us telling us where we might find other wedge tombs further back in the fields behind Parknabinnia around a large area of hazel scrub.

We thanked him for his help, went off to examine another collapsed wedge tomb before going back to Parknabinnia. The field behind Parknabinnia turned out to be a bit hazardous as the spongy moss concealed not just limestones but lots of holes too. Although the OS map shows many red dots representing megalithic tombs we decided we wouldn't risk twisting an ankle (or worse) and were unsuccessful in finding any more.

Teergonean (Court Tomb)

Visited Monday 21/5/18: A perfect antidote to the Cliffs of Moher - not that they are anything but breathtaking and spectacular. Dispiriting in the same way visiting Stonehenge is - pay at the carpark for the 'Cliffs of Moher Experience', Visitor's Centre and shops built into the hillside, limestone paved walkways ... and hundreds of people.

To find Teergonean Court Tomb we headed to the seaside village of Doolin and eventually found the right road out towards the sea (road signposted to Roadford House restaurant). Drove along this narrow road until it stopped and then climbed over a small stone stile. In front of us lay limestone slabs, lots of gorse and to our delight quite a few bloody crane'sbill (a lovely deep pink flower, common throughout the Burren but not commonly found elsewhere). We spotted a small group of people by the court tomb and headed towards them. They turned out to be a friendly, knowledgeable archaeologist and three American's doing a course in archaeology. The archaeologist was explaining to them the court tomb was probably of great significance because it was at a crossing point to the Aran Islands. He seemed happy for us to join in and ask questions and went on to tell us about the wedge tombs at Parknabinnia near Kilnaboy.
This encounter made cheered me up no end as felt the Burren was now starting to give up its secrets. Tomorrow Parknabinnia.

Poulnabrone (Portal Tomb)

Visited today Sunday 20/5/18 - am in County Clare exploring the Burren, this trip mainly focusing on the flora and geology. This being the west coast of Ireland, however, while the rest of the British Isles has clear skies and sunshine, it was overcast and windy this morning on the Burren. The weather cannot detract from this amazing landscape though - wild flowers out in profusion. Orchids, violets, primroses are everywhere, also gentian and large patches of mountain avens. Two delicate quite rare alpine flowers I've personally never seen before.

At the car parking area there is a man selling trinkets and another one playing Danny Boy on a tin whistle whilst sitting in a plastic tent. A film crew seem to be there with cameras and a drone. There are lots of people wandering over the the limestone slabs, including a botany group from Germany who managed to find the tiny gentian flowers.

The information board tells me Poulnabrone is a portal tomb situated in a karst limestone plateau 150 metres above sea level. The tomb was constructed from great slabs of lime stone over 5,000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of 30 people at this ancient site.

The Burren is an amazing landscape - have only just scratched the surface of what it has to offer but here for the rest of the week. At the moment of writing this the rain is coming down in stair rods ...

Trethevy Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Visited: 10 Oct 2017

Visited after our trip to the Hurlers. As expected down a narrow single (almost) track road to a small 'island'. From here Trethevy Quoit is well signposted to a field gate. What initially surprises about this ancient monument is its proximity to some nearby houses and to the field entrance. I had read quite a bit about damage being done to the base of the monument by cattle and farm vehicles though could see no evidence of animals or any recent damage on this occasion.

It is an enormous monument which can't help but impress. Oddly though, I was strangely unmoved by it - perhaps I missed viewing it from a distance on the skyline first as with other monuments of this nature I have visited. Didn't have to walk through a bog, or jump a stream, or circumnavigate farm animals. Perhaps it was just too easy.

Very glad to have seen it though.

The Hurlers (Stone Circle)

Visited: 10 Oct 2017.
Part of an 'archaeology day' while visiting east Cornwall for a few days last week (also on same day walked by Golitha Falls, took in an early Christian stone cross, Trethevy Quoit and an ancient well).

We were turned away from the first car park as you drive into Minions as it had been taken over by a film crew for filming "The Kid Who Would Be King" (to be released 2018). So we parked at the second car park which had a horse transporter lorry carrying stunt horses parked up in it. We walked across the moorland towards the Hurlers and spotted a large fake trilithon, about the same height at Stonehenge. it did seem surreal especially when a friendly man in a high viz jacket told me not to take photos. I'm not very good at doing as I'm told these days.

It was a bit of a grey day with mist hanging low threatening to turn into rain and the whole experience seemed to be coloured by the bizarre nature of the background activity though I wouldn't go as far as to say it distracted from my first impression of the Hurlers. We wandered over to the Pipers - two comparatively large lichen covered stones, then had to choose between walking over to the Cheesewring or going to have a cream tea in a friendly looking cafe at Minions. The cream tea won.

A bit later we watched some of the filming taking place on the other side of Minions and perhaps more dramatically one wild pony chase another off into the distance then gallop back again across the road. Heart in mouth while watching.

Duloe (Stone Circle)

Visited: 9 October 2017.
Last week spent a lovely few Cornish days based in Fowey. Took a slight detour on route to visit Duloe stone circle. Not that easy to find using a road atlas and we were almost in Looe before we realised we had gone too far. Find it we did though as I have wanted visit Duloe since first reading Julian Cope's impressions in the TMA book.

Dated 2000BC, it is unique for being Cornwall's smallest stone circle with the largest stones. There is a (now much faded by the elements) information board which gives quite a lot of information if you able to read it. The circle is less than 12 metres in diameter and consists of eight quartz rich stones which contain ankerite. This suggests they were obtained from Herodsfoot mine, although similar stones are found at Tregartland Tor, Morval.

A nearby farm is recorded as being named Stonedown as far back as 1329 but the circle was not officially discovered until 1801, probably because it was bisected by a hedge and stood half in an orchard and half in a field. The bisecting hedge was removed in 1858 by Rev T.A. Bewes of Plymouth and 1861 the fallen stones were set up although the one broken in the process now lies prostrate. At the same time an urn said to be full of bones was discovered at the base of the largest stone but broken accidentally by the workmen and now lost. In light of this it is thought be a bronze age burial mound.

Llety'r Filiast (Burial Chamber)

Visited 13th Sept 2017: my second visit to the Great Orme. The first two and half years ago was specifically to visit the Copper Mines. This time we went went up to the top of the Great Orme by the tramway from Llandudno - which is a recommended and enjoyable experience. As before, however, there was a fierce wind blowing along with daunting rain showers sweeping in over the Great Orme headland. Wonderfully dramatic but not really walking weather. Had a look around the Visitor's Centre and learnt about Cromlech ar y Gogarth or Cromlech on the Great Orme (Llet y'r Filiast). The helpful volunteer told me it could be found about 150 metres below the Great Orme Mines so we used our tramway return tickets to take us back down to the Halfway Station. From here we found our way down to some houses on the higher edges of Llandudno - and asked a local resident. The cromlech was actually in a field at the end of Cromlech Road with a good stile into the field. In the great scheme of magnificent restored portal tombs this one was quite small but none the less very satisfying to find on that wind swept chilly North Wales day. The cherry on the cake of a memorable day.

Kintraw (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited Friday 26/5/17:
The most perfect day and, unfortunately, our last full day in Argyll. Kintraw standing stone and cairn can be seen clearly at a sharp bend as you drive towards the village of Ardfern and Loch Craignish and there is a small pull-in parking area opposite the site. This particular day the sun shone, the sky blue and it was warm - the best of sort of summer day. Kintraw is probably the tallest standing stone I've ever stood next to. It is also in the most fabulous location overlooking Loch Craignish and the loch-side village of Ardfern. I did wonder what its purpose was as it was unlike any of the other standing stones we had seen in the Kilmartin area - being almost cylindrical in shape. Although Loch Craignish was visible from the site I don't think the standing stone or cairn could been seen from the loch.
Made a bit of a mistake here though as my companion-in-charge-of-map-reading told me that Kintraw and the Clach an t-Sagairt Cairn were in the same place so we made the assumption it was the cairn next to the standing stone. Have since found out it wasn't and we've missed it.
Anyway after a leisurely lunch in the Crafty Cafe Tea Room in Ardfern we spent a peaceful afternoon visiting the ruined chapel of Kilmarie (Kilvaree) -
which is dedicated to the 7th century Irish monk St Maelrubha of Applecross - and then exploring the remote coastal area nearby.
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Passionate about:
Nature; stone circles and all ancient sites that involve walking through unspoilt countryside/being near the sea; islands around the the British Isles, especially those with ancient monuments.

My TMA Content: