We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the Hart Tor stone alignments on Dartmoor are examined.

Hart Tor Map

The Heritage Journal has been to this site before.  On that occasion the remains of the two stone alignments and four cairns were explored. The complex is largely situated on a gentle south west facing slope at SX 57638 71675 and includes a kerbed cairn with a double alignment leading downslope; another cairn with a single alignment and two further cairns one of which is on the western side of the river. The site sits within the Meavy valley is surrounded by hills and seems at first to be an unlikely candidate for views to the sea.

Hart Tor 01

Kerbed cairn at the top of the double stone alignment. View looking towards the south west.

A recent visit confirmed that this was not the case and the sea is visible from much of the lower length of the double alignment and the two western cairns. The small sea triangle is formed by nearby Raddick Hill and slightly more distant Leather Tor and disappears as you move upslope towards the cairns at the top.  The reason for this is that the nearby Raddick Hill blocks the view to the sea from the upper part of the complex. The sub-division of ritual complexes into those parts where a precise and often extremely limited view of the sea is visible and parts with no such views is becoming a recognised feature of many sites.  This developing pattern suggests that the limits of sea view inter-visibility were significant to the alignment builders. A simple explanation would be that these types of locations were selected because this was an important consideration for the alignment builders and that therefore in turn the sea triangle shrinking or growing, appearing and disappearing (depending on direction of travel) is likely to have played a part in the ritual. Simple analogies would be moving from light to darkness or ignorance to knowledge or even the journey of life.  Whatever the reason a very particular, precise and quantifiable relationship between many stone alignments and the sea has now been recognised.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the lower (south western) end of the row and each subsequent image is taken from a point along the alignment with the last one being from the cairn at the top.

Hart Tor GE1

Sea triangle visible from the lower end of the double alignment

Hart Tor GE2

As one proceeds eastward up the row the triangle rapidly disappears behind the blocking hill in the foreground.

Hart Tor GE3

Eighteen metres from the top cairn the last vestiges of the sea triangle disappear behind the hills.

Hart Tor GE4

At the kerbed cairn at the top of the alignment the sea is no longer visible.

 Profile Analysis

An examination of cross-sectional profiles from the row to the sea allows the arc of inter-visibility to be plotted onto a map. The juxtaposition of the nearby hills block other views to the sea and thereby create the small clearly defined triangle of visible sea.

Hart Tor ProfileMap

This map shows the maximum arc of visibility from the Hart Tor double stone alignment. This diminishes rapidly as one moves upward along the row.  It may be significant to note that the western edge is the last to be lost from sight and this coincides with two coastal headlands one of which is Penlee Point upon which the Shaugh Moor alignment is orientated.

Hart Tor Profile 01

Cross-sectional profile along the centre of the arc of visibility indicates that the nearest visible sea is just under 24km from Hart Tor.

Hart Tor Profile 02

Cross-sectional profile of the western side of the arc of visibility.  Note that the upper parts of Redding Point and Penlee Point are visible.

This article is the latest in a series by Dr Sandy Gerard, looking at the commonality of features in a variety of stone rows in the southwest.

Previous articles in this series: