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Stone circle enthusiasts sometimes wish they could have places to themselves rather than having lots of people round them. There’s often not much chance of that at the Rollright stones….
On the other hand, since the purpose of the Heritage Journal is to raise awareness of such places to promote their conservation, we can hardly complain. The more people that know about them the less likely they’ll be daubed with yellow paint or have the visitors’ hut burned down.
We were also going to add that more money would be available for upkeep but in fact that could be fixed very easily. The admission charge is £1 and that’s simply not enough – most people would surely think £2 or £3 would be appropriate and would be happy to pay that even if a surplus went to charity. Perhaps the odd misery guts would refuse on the grounds entry should be free, but they’re hardly a majority and the truth is the Rollright Stones are so good they’re probably Giffen goods – the higher the price the more people see them as valuable.
Having visited the Rollrights last weekend we thought we’d show a few changes, good and bad, that have happened there since the previous articles we did in May and June 2005.
On the downside the visitors’ hut has gone, burned down by a vandal. But on a happier note there is now a superb witch near the King Stone…..
In 2005 a unique new pram and wheelchair-friendly pathway had just been laid from the King’s men to the Whispering Knights…
Now, it has matured and blends in. (Note, it remains grassy not muddy despite it being winter. Might something like it be suitable for use at places such as Stonehenge and Avebury?)
In 2005 the previous year’s catastrophic paint attack was yet to be addressed…
now, there is scant evidence of it. Even the largest lichen, reportedly many hundreds of years old, now looks relatively unscathed….
In 2005 a number of notable people attended the opening of the new facilities including George Lambrick and Aubrey Burl, as shown in this photo by Heritage Action’s Jane Tomlinson
Also in attendance that day were Morris Men, King Arthur Pendragon and the local MP, one David Cameron. Sadly we don’t have a picture of the latter. If we did it would be kind of unique and we could caption it “Cameron supports heritage preservation” and everyone would laugh heartily!
In the end though we can report that thanks to the Rollright Trust, not Mr Cameron, the stones remain in good hands and good shape….
The Rollright Stones. Image credit and © Chris Brooks
Robin Smitten of The Rollright Trust writes:
Hello to all supporters of the Rollright Stones. Just to update you all on the progress at the Rollright Stones and to let you know of up and coming events.
Since re-starting the Wardens at Easter we have been able to cover most weekends with a Warden on site for a greater part of the day which has resulted in an exceptionally positive reaction from the public who appreciate someone to be able to talk to about the monuments. This has also increased our income through the sale of pamphlets etc. Whilst we have a core of people we are still looking to expand our number of Wardens over the summer – if you are still interested in becoming involved please get in touch or come up to the Stones on a dry day and have a chat. It may be that you might prefer to help out as a volunteer, to this end we have scheduled in a ‘site clearance’ weekend on Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th July. We plan to clear the site of rubbish including the wooded areas, get rid of any barbed wire on the fences, repair some fencing by the lay-bys and any other jobs that need doing. We will supply everything from gloves to food. If you think you may be able to spare a couple of hours or more to come along , either as a Warden or a Volunteer, you will be most welcome – and it is great fun.
Two major jobs which have been outstanding for ages have been completed, Warden Pete Egan closing the gaping gaps in the hedging where people were pouring through on sunny days to avoid paying a quid to get in. We also have a fully functioning money box – I say fully functioning – we purposely leave it unlocked and empty at night after someone broke the locks and stole the outer cowl about a week after it was installed. They only got away with about £5.00 worth of scrap but pointless, especially as there was a notice on the box which says it was empty.
Despite that minor setback the site is beginning to look good after the grass was cut (although it will not take long to grow back) and the prospects look exciting for the summer and autumn.
You can contact Robin to talk about becoming either a part time warden or a volunteer via email@example.com
Not for the first time a local astronomy group has adopted a stone circle as an appropriate observation site. The Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group http://www.cnaag.com/ now often meets at the Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire – as well they might. In the words of the Reverend Percival Oakley Hill in 1894: “The top of Rollright hill was so admirably suited to the purposes of the Druid astrologers, that our modern astronomers might profitably select it as the site of a great Midland observatory.”
And actually the first use of the circle may well have been 2,000 years earlier than that – and not by Druids and not for astrology but for pure observational scientific astronomy – which maybe makes the Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group the oldest local astronomy group in the world…
Anyhow, they’re holding an interesting open event at the Rollright Stones from midday to midnight on Saturday, 7th May; a Spring Moonwatch. Activities include a Telescope display, solar observing, kids drawing competition, Black Knights Model Rocket Society (launching if weather allows) plus George Lambrick talking about the Rollright Stones followed by observing in the evening.
The Rollright Stones and The Men Who Erected Them
By T H Ravenhill
First published in 1926 (second edition 1932) The Rollright Stones by T H Ravenhill packs into a mere 63 pages a wealth of information on the Rollright Stones. From historical references, the origin of the name Rollright, its folklore, a description of the circle itself, through to information on the nearby King Stone monolith and the 5000 year old Whispering Knights dolmen. The booklet also contains a black and white photograph of the 14th century manuscript (thought to be the earliest known account of the stones) in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a map of the area, as well as a line drawing of the King Stone, several poems about the stones, and three appendices.
For further information on the stones visit The Rollright Stones website.