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Day 5 of the holiday and time for more heritage sites. I’d heard on the grapevine that discussions are under way concerning plans for a fairly major archaeological project in West Penwith. Chun Castle being the main focus of these plans, I decided to pay the site another visit. We parked on the north side of Chun Downs Nature Reserve and I made the ascent (a 150 feet climb over a third of a mile) in less than 10 minutes, despite my knees!

One thing that immediately strikes me about Chun Castle is that you don’t see it until you’re right on top of it. And the converse is true. Due to the shape and slope of the hill, it is unlikely that any attackers would be seen by lookouts on the ramparts until they were almost at the castle gates. So what was its function? The ditch and double banks with offset entrance suggest a fortification, and there is certainly enough granite in the walls to withstand an attack, but the location and siting seems all wrong to me. Discussion with Craig Wetherhill a few days later enlightened me: at their peak, the walls may have been at least 20′ high, affording good all-round visibility. The castle would have been intervisible with several other hillforts and rounds in the area: Caer Bran, Lesingy Round, Faughan Round, Castle an Dinas etc. Chun Castle itself may well have been used as a fortified ‘warehouse’ for the tin traders.

A few hundred yards away from the castle entrance, and barely inter-visible at ground level is the much older Neolithic site of Chun Quoit, a chambered tomb which we’ll be covering in more detail in future…

Chun Quoit

Returning to the car, we drove the short distance to the hamlet of Bosiliack, and I walked the old Tinner’s track up to Ding Dong mine. I have visited Men an Tol many times, but have frequently been foiled trying to get up to Boskednan Downs, by flooding. Starting from the old mine workings avoids the flooding in the valley below, and is an easy walk through the scrub.

The first site I reached was an old Kerbed ring cairn, which has been cleared (by CASPN?) since I was last here, and is therefore much easier to see.

Boskednan kerb cairn

The (restored) Nine Maidens stone circle is a short distance further on, and gives good views in all directions, with Carn Galver, Hannibal’s Carn and Little Galver dominating the views to the north and north-east. There is a Standing Stone marked nearby on the map, but I’d never previously identified it myself. This time, with the help of my trusty ViewRanger app, the GPS showed my exact location and I was surprised to find it’s just a short stump of a stone, directly on the main path!

Boskednan Outlier

I moved on to the last target of the day, another kerbed barrow a few hundred yards away. This has been extensively cleared by the CASPN stalwarts, and the central cist is plainly marked by a wonderful Quartz stone just to the west of the cist.

Boskednan Cairn Quartz

When I was last here, shortly after the stone was uncovered, it was difficult to make out the details of the barrow, but the further scrub clearance has now made the layout plain to see.

Whilst here, I met a couple of gentlemen who asked if I knew anything about the monuments. I imparted what little I knew, and pointed out that we were amidst a packed landscape of ancient features, with the remains of settlements at Chysauster, Bodrifty, Bosiliack, Bosullow and Chun surrounding us. They were continuing down the hill to the Four Parish stone, so I warned them of the possibility of boggy ground there, wished them well and retraced my steps back to the car to complete the day’s excursion.

Day 3 of our holiday was packed with ‘lumps and bumps’, and a major disappointment. Those who follow our Twitter feed may have noticed the picture below, taken during a mid-morning visit to the stone circle at Boscawen-Un, my favourite site in Cornwall.

not fair

I had seen the tent during my approach from the A30, but had assumed it was pitched in the adjoining field. Imagine my anger and surprise when I realised the tent was actually within touching distance of the stones! Some of the guy ropes were staked within the area of worn grass immediately outside the circle. The tent flap was completely open and the occupants were fast asleep. I’ll never understand the mentality of such people – the stones are there for us all, and to ruin the ambience in such a way is totally selfish behaviour.

I don’t know if they had, or even asked for, permission, but I made a call to the CASPN hotline to inform them of the proximity of the tent to the stones, and the site manager was subsequently informed – on my return the next day the tent was gone, with flattened grass the only evidence. But I wonder how many others had the ambiance of their visit spoiled by the thoughtlessness of that couple. I left the site reluctantly, and walked across the A30 to the Goldherring settlement which I last visited 2 years ago. I was pleased to see that the clearance has been maintained and extended – even the small tree which dominated the centre of the site previously has now been removed.

DSC_0020

Back to the car, and passing through St Just, I parked and started on the long walk uphill to the remaining Tregeseal stone circle. There were originally three circles here, but two disappeared in antiquity. I always approach this site with trepidation now, as long horn cattle are used on the common, and have been witnessed causing damage to the stones, as well as being somewhat frightening in appearance, especially to a bovinophobe like myself! However, on this occasion I was in luck, with no cattle to be seen. But my visit was unfortunately timed to co-incide with a group of over two dozen walkers from the West Penwith Footpath Association who decided to stop at the stones for their lunch break. I therefore continued across the common to look at the the two major barrows, and the group of holed stones which sit within the shadow of Carn Kenidjack. There are five stones here in total, four in a rough E-W line with the fifth a short distance off to one side at the western end of the row. None of the holes are aligned with anything obvious in the surrounding landscape, and the single stone was recently damaged (and poorly repaired)

DSC_0051DSC_0061For those who are following Sandy Gerrard’s series on Stone Rows here on the journal, I tried to see if a sea triangle view was possible at the Western end of the row, looking toward St Just, but the sky was just too hazy on the day to make anything out.

IMG_0746

The walkers having concluded their lunch stop, I returned to the circle just as they were leaving, and finally managed to take some more photos of the circle for my collection, just as the sun decided to put in an appearance. The clouds above Carn Kenidjack seemed to be mimicing the shape of the carn below. Grateful that I’d had some time alone in the circle, I thanked the spirits of place, picked up an empty food wrapper, and made my way back to the car.

tregeseal

2 stone circles, a stone row, barrows and a settlement. Not a bad day’s work!

The first day of a two week holiday, and (purely co-incidentally, honest guv!) the day of a guided walk organised by the Cornwall Archaeological Society.

We had been warned that if the weather was inclement there may be a last-minute cancellation, so it was with some trepidation that on a very cold, but importantly, dry day 7 souls plus our guide gathered in a small car park at Balwest, prepared for an attack on the heights of Tregonning Hill. A multi-period walk had been promised by our guide, Steve Hartgroves, covering Bronze Age barrows, an Iron Age hillfort and accompanying settlements, medieval field systems, right up to comparatively recent China Clay quarries and workings. All of this was delivered, and more!

Tregonning Hill stands some 6km West of Helston, and rises to the magnificent height of 194 metres, overlooking Mounts Bay to the SW. It is surmounted by Germoe War Memorial, and an OS trig point. The hill is a SSSI, and the major importance of the site is the occurrence of an extremely rare liverwort, Western Rustwort Marsupella profunda, which is found growing on bare outcrops of weathered granite within and around the old china clay workings. Tregonning Hill is the only known British location for Western Rustwort and internationally it is restricted to this site in Cornwall and a few locations in Portugal and Madeira. (source: Natural England)

Steve showed us several aerial photos and old maps of the area (which would be referenced throughout the day), pointing out the various barrows and features that we would be visiting, and then we were off! The main track from Balwest is metalled, and gave no difficulties other than the incline, and we soon came to a side track at which point we paused. An old (parish boundary?) wall was our first marker and an obvious kink in line of the wall, along with a couple of suspicious bumps, marked our first Bronze Age barrow. Continuing on, we soon found ourselves clambering down and up across a wide banked ditch – the fortifications of the Castle Pencaire hillfort at the summit. It’s difficult to actually make out the fortifications on the ground, as quarrying has impacted upon the defenses, much stone has been robbed out, (some of which was apparently used for the war memorial which stands within the fort) and what remains is hidden in the extensive undergrowth. We moved on up to the memorial, and sheltered from the biting wind in its lea. A short geology lesson ensued, Steve taking us back to the pre-Cambrian and explaining how the rocks below our feet were formed. Informative, but a little over my head, I’ll admit.

The views from the summit are extensive, but unfortunately there was a haze to the day, and the distance views were not as clear as they could have been, though the field patterns all around, and particularly to the north could be easily made out. Our prehistoric geology lesson over, we retraced our steps back across the ditch to the track. We continued south for a short distance before bearing off to the right, to an area with an information sign, ‘The Preaching Pit’. Our lunchtime stop, the ‘pit’ is the site of an old quarry, which provided a much needed break from the wind, and commemorates John Wesley’s visits to nearby Kennegy Downs and Breage in the mid-1700s. The pit was used extensively for Sunday School meetings on Whit Sundays, and is still apparently used at Pentecost for multi-denominational services.

After a picnic lunch, we moved further south to look at the main quarry, site of a plane crash in the war. A commemorative plate is apparently in place, quite near to the edge of the quarry, but we didn’t look too hard for it! The quarry was an early China Clay site, having first been discovered here in 1746 by William Cookworthy. There was some discussion around the quarry, but I was personally more interested in the prehistoric aspects of the walk. We continued to the south-east, toward a lookout house which dates to the Napoleonic era, until we reached an area marked ‘cromlech’ on the old map. This was actually a rather nice kerbed cairn dating from the Bronze Age, which I would guess is around 40 metres across. Many of the surrounding kerb stones are still visible, and there is an obvious mound in the centre. This was an undoubted highlght of the walk for me. Retracing our steps a short distance, we turned to the north, where alongside the track was yet another BA barrow. No real distinguishing features, but an obvious ‘bump’ in the landscape.

Finally heading downhill, discussion turned to the landscape of fields below, and an obvious progression from Iron Age enclosed fields, to medieval strip farming, and finally the much larger fields of today was presented to us. We passed an (inaccessible) Iron Age settlement area, or ’round’ near the base of the hill, but attention then switched to the ground to our right, which was the site of an old brickworks, with one of the kilns still in place, but the rest left as faint traces on aerial photographs.

As we moved across the north base of the hill, a field boundary was examined – a double bank and ditch identifying it as a partial boundary of another Iron Age Round. All too soon, the path started to incline again, and we knew the end of the walk was not too far away now. I’ll admit to struggling on the final climb back up to the summit, and our small band split into two groups – one lagging to discuss the mine workings between Tregonning and Godolphin Hills, and the rest of us eager to finally get to the top once more for a final look at the views before returning to the cars to make our way home.

TregonningMap

So what were my impressions of my first CAS walk? I was impressed with the extent of knowledge shown and imparted by Steve the group leader – from the Pre-Cambrian to Napoleonic times, he covered it all with good humour. The other participants were not slow in coming forward if they had something to add to the discussions, and there were questions aplenty at all stages of the walk. If others are like this, I’ll make sure to coincide my holiday dates again in future!

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the third of the three stone alignments at Drizzlecombe on Dartmoor is examined.

Driz1Map

On the lower slopes of a pronounced spur leading south west from Higher Hartor Tor is a remarkable prehistoric ritual complex including three stone alignments and at least 22 cairns. The rows are set close to each other and all of them have a cairn at the upper end. The terminal stones at the lower end of two alignments tower above the others which look tiny by comparison. In common with many rows the size of the stones varies considerably with many just protruding through the turf. All three terminal stones were re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1893 following excavations to identify the sockets.  Several other stones within the rows had also fallen but these remain recumbent.

However you define special the Drizzlecombe area must surely rank amongst the best.  There is something for everyone. As well as the prehistoric ritual monuments there are several well preserved Bronze Age settlements and from later periods there are fields systems and tinworks. Whichever way you look there is archaeology starring back at you inviting exploration and discovery. There is plenty to keep you occupied, so much to see and ponder. It is therefore with some trepidation and at the risk of overload I am going to suggest that as well as looking at the archaeological around your feet that (weather permitting) you look towards the south west for views of the sea.  The location of Drizzlecombe means that these views are tightly focussed but as elsewhere they would seem to suggest deliberation. In common with several other sites the alignments sit within a valley location and are nearly surrounded by hills. It is as if the site has been chosen because of the particular views where the sea appears and disappears as you move around the area. This article will deal with the south eastern alignment which is described by Jeremy Butler as Row 3.

DrizPlan

Simplified plan showing the relative positions of the stone alignments at Drizzlecombe. Associated cairns are shown as circles. (Source: Google Earth and Butler, 1994,136).

Row 3

This stone alignment measures 149.5m long and includes a single line of at least 69 slabs. The length of this alignment is exactly the same as Row 1 which is unlikely to be a coincidence and will have been important to their builders. The cairn at the top of the row is only 20m away from the one at the top of Row 2 and the view towards the sea is therefore only very slightly different. The row is far from straight and has a number of subtle changes in alignment along its length. This point is worth stressing because there is a popular misconception that these rows are absolutely straight. The lack of alignment precision indicates that an absolutely straight line of stones was not a necessary requirement for the builders and users of these places. Indeed given how easy it would have been to create a perfectly straight line this could not have always been seen as important.

Driz3-1

The stone alignment is far from straight and curves towards the terminal pillar. The alignment in background is Row 2. View from south west.

Driz3-2

The sinuous character of this alignment is clear. Could it be that the stones were erected beside an existing path?  The plan form is very reminiscent of paths leading between two points. The stones may therefore be waymarking a ritual route which had already become important to the people who lived here in the Late Neolithic. View from the north east.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the cairn at the top of the row, the second from the point mid-way along the length of the row and the third from the terminal pillar.

Driz3-3

The view from the top of the alignment is very similar to that from the cairn at the top of Row 2. Despite the close proximity of the two viewpoints it would seem that the western sea triangle might be entirely closed with the closure being provided by the Cornish coast leading south from St Austell. The precision of this visual inter-relationship is of considerable interest and potential significance and certainly merits further exploration.

Driz3-4

As one walks downhill along the alignment all three sea triangles shrink, being seemingly swallowed up by the land. The closed sea triangle on the west may have been of particular interest. If one accepts the hypothesis that prehistoric peoples had a particular interest in the boundary between land and water this phenomenon which we have seen at many sites provides a strong, albeit circumstantial, case that this interest may have influenced or indeed determined with a degree of precision the positioning of their alignments.

Driz3-5

At the point where the alignment ends the very last vestiges of the eastern sea triangle are visible. Effectively the terminal pillar denotes the point at which the sea views disappear. Again the precision of this relationship really does imply a strong correlation between the row and the sea.  The frequency of such precise relationships supports the idea that stone alignments were sited to acknowledge, denote and celebrate the  boundary between  the land, water and sky.

Driz3-6

The stone alignment leads away from the cairn in the foreground. View from north east.

Mapping the Sea Triangles

Driz3 Profile

The views from the top of the row are almost identical to those from row 2 and the same map is used to illustrate the arcs of visibility. The eastern arc also includes the Shaugh Moor alignment cairn as well as the sea. Each sea triangle would have been spectacularly illuminated in turn by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to any ceremonies. The eastern arc should glisten for about 5 minutes at 3.25pm, the central arc for 20 minutes from 3.45pm and the western arc for about 30 minutes from around 4.15pm (all times are modern!).

Source

Butler, J., 1994, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume Three – The South-West” 135-142.

The wealth of evidence keeps building! As ever, we are indebted to Dr Sandy Gerrard for his ongoing research on this story. Previous articles in this series:

Having asked Cadw if they would keep us in touch with developments at Bancbryn there was no news. Instead the only snippets emanating from the organisation were a few tweets from a Cadw officer who had been copied into internal correspondence and who clearly despite having never visited the site felt confident enough to announce to the world:

The Mynydd Y Betws wind farm stone row fiasco – a field boundary not neolithic but hey what do I Know? dlvrit/17rD8J

and

Mynydd y Betws stone row is conveniently placed next to a sheep track—- Mhmm those sheep must like neolithic archaeology!

These comments provide a window into Cadw’s  “balanced” approach  to heritage protection whilst at the same time illustrating a total failure to understand basic fundamentals of field archaeology. Cadw now accept that there is no evidence to support the field boundary interpretation and even after all this time there is actually no evidence to support the position that the alignment is not Neolithic. These tweets clearly indicate that even before the assessment process had started that some sort of uninformed biased consensus had enveloped Cadw’s mind set. The second tweet provides the clearest indication that the officer concerned has no field experience or they would have known that most stone rows are “conveniently placed next to” sheep tracks. This is because sheep respect ancient features in the landscape whilst Cadw…

Ringmoor Down track

The Ringmoor Down stone row on Dartmoor is conveniently placed next to a sheep track—- Mhmm those sheep must like neolithic archaeology!

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the second of the three stone alignments at Drizzlecombe on Dartmoor is examined.

Driz2Map

On the lower slopes of a pronounced spur leading south west from Higher Hartor Tor is a remarkable prehistoric ritual complex including three stone alignments and at least 22 cairns. The rows are set close to each other and all of them have a cairn at the upper end. The terminal stones at the lower end of two alignments tower above the others which look tiny by comparison. In common with many rows the size of the stones varies considerably with many just protruding through the turf. All three terminal stones were re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1893 following excavations to identify the sockets.  Several other stones within the rows had also fallen but these remain recumbent.

However you define special the Drizzlecombe area must surely rank amongst the best. There is something for everyone. As well as the prehistoric ritual monuments there are several well preserved Bronze Age settlements and from later periods there are field systems and tinworks. Whichever way you look there is archaeology starring back at you inviting exploration and discovery. There is plenty to keep you occupied, so much to see and ponder.  It is therefore with some trepidation and at the risk of overload I am going to suggest that as well as looking at the archaeological around your feet that (weather permitting) you look towards the south west for views of the sea. The location of Drizzlecombe means that these views are tightly focussed but as elsewhere they would seem to suggest deliberation. In common with several other sites the alignments sit within a valley location and are nearly surrounded by hills. It is as if the site has been chosen because of the particular views where the sea appears and disappears as you move around the area. This article will deal with the south eastern alignment which is described by Jeremy Butler as Row 2.

DrizPlan

Simplified plan showing the relative positions of the stone alignments at Drizzlecombe. Associated cairns are shown as circles. (Source: Google Earth and Butler, 1994,136).

Row 2

This stone alignment measures 83.2m long including at least 11 slabs. The cairn at the upper end is surrounded by a circle stones and at the lower end is a 4.2m high granite pillar. The amount of effort involved in erecting this stone suggests that it denotes a special place at the end of a significant linear feature. The placing of large stones at the end of alignments is a recognised feature of many rows, but is epitomised at Drizzlecombe where all three alignments terminals are denoted in this way. Another characteristic of stone alignments is the variable size of the stones used to form the row. This row includes stones of many different sizes.

Driz2-01

A mixture of tiny, small and large stones lead towards a particularly impressive terminal stone. The alignment in background is Row 1. View from north east.

Driz2-02

The alignment approaching the terminal pillar. The large mound in the background is the Giant’s Basin cairn. A ring of rushes around the foot of the cairn suggests the presence of a buried ditch. This is an unusual feature of Dartmoor cairns. It is perhaps worth emphasising that none of the rows at Drizzlecombe are aligned upon this most impressive of cairns and are instead intimately associated with smaller less dramatic examples. This is a phenomenon that has been noted at other places. View from north.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the cairn at the top of the row, the second from the point mid-way along the length of the row and the third from the terminal pillar.

Driz2-03

The view from the top of the alignment provides views of three sea triangles. The triangle on the left would also be framed by the cairn at the top of the Shaugh Moor stone alignment.  The triangle on the right includes distant views to the Cornish coast.

Driz2-04

As one walks downhill along the alignment all three sea triangles shrink, being seemingly swallowed up by the land. If one accepts the hypothesis that prehistoric peoples had a particular interest in the boundary between land and water this phenomenon which we have seen at many sites provides a strong, albeit circumstantial, case that this interest may have influenced or indeed determined with a degree of precision the positioning of their alignments.

Driz2-05

At the point where the alignment stops the western triangle has disappeared and the remaining two are much smaller. The disappearance of the western sea triangle may correlate precisely with the end of the row, but unfortunately Google Earth is not detailed enough to provide this degree of resolution. If field observations can confirm that the third triangle disappears at this precise spot another powerful piece of evidence will have been obtained.

Driz2-06

The stone alignment approaching the terminal pillar. Could this pillar have provided further fine tuning for the special views towards the sea. Standing in one spot both sea triangles would be hidden and the slightest shift in position would reveal first one and then the other. This type of reveal seems to be a characteristic of the alignments and may have manifested itself in different ways. View from north.

Mapping the Sea Triangles

Driz2Prof

Three restricted views to the sea are visible from the cairn at the top of the alignment. The eastern one also includes the Shaugh Moor alignment cairn as well as the sea. Each sea triangle would have been spectacularly illuminated in turn by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to any ceremonies. The eastern arc should glisten for about 5 minutes at 3.25pm, the central arc for 20 minutes from 3.45pm and the western arc for about 30 minutes from around 4.15pm (all times are modern!). So should you be lucky enough to be at Drizzlecombe on a fine day in the late afternoon in December or January have a look for yourself and let the Heritage Journal know what you saw.

Source

Butler, J., 1994, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume Three – The South-West” 135-142.

As ever, we are indebted to Dr Sandy Gerrard for his ongoing research on this story. Previous articles in this series:

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time one of the three stone alignments at Drizzlecombe on Dartmoor is examined.

Driz1Map

On the lower slopes of a pronounced spur leading south west from Higher Hartor Tor is a remarkable prehistoric ritual complex including three stone alignments and at least 22 cairns. The rows are set close to each other and all of them have a cairn at the upper end. The terminal stones at the lower end of two alignments tower above the others which look tiny by comparison. In common with many rows the size of the stones varies considerably with many just protruding through the turf. All three terminal stones were re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1893 following excavations to identify the sockets.  Several other stones within the rows had also fallen but these remain recumbent.

However you define special the Drizzlecombe area must surely rank amongst the best. There is something for everyone. As well as the prehistoric ritual monuments there are several well preserved Bronze Age settlements and from later periods there are field systems and tinworks. Whichever way you look there is archaeology starring back at you inviting exploration and discovery. There is plenty to keep you occupied, so much to see and ponder.  It is therefore with some trepidation and at the risk of overload I am going to suggest that as well as looking at the archaeology around your feet that (weather permitting) you look towards the south west for views of the sea. The location of Drizzlecombe means that these views are tightly focussed but as elsewhere they would seem to suggest deliberation. In common with several other sites the alignments sit within a valley location and are nearly surrounded by hills. It is as if the site has been chosen because of the particular views where the sea appears and disappears as you move around the area. This article will deal with the south eastern alignment which is described by Jeremy Butler as Row 1.

DrizPlan

Simplified plan showing the relative positions of the stone alignments at Drizzlecombe. Associated cairns are shown as circles. (Source: Google Earth and Butler, 1994,136).

Row 1

This stone alignment measures 149.5m long including at least 86 slabs. It is unusual in that for part of its length it is formed by a double row of stones, but at either end by a single row of stones. Despite this anomaly there can be no doubting its prehistoric credentials. Regular readers of the Heritage Journal will know what is about to happen next, but for those of you who may be new to this series a sequence of Google Earth ground level view images are now going to be presented to illustrate views towards the sea from different spots along the alignment. Fieldwork at several locations has demonstrated that this technique is valid and whilst obviously there will be a need to confirm each “remote sensing” exercise in the field the results to date have indicated that it is a reliable method of rapidly identifying sites with observable links to the sea.

Driz1-01

The southern alignment at Drizzlecombe has a cairn at the upper end and large terminal pillar at the far end. The valley below has been scoured for tin from prehistoric times. View from the north east.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the cairn at the top of the row, the second from the point where the row changes from a single row to a double row and the third from the terminal pillar.

Driz1-02

The view from the top of the alignment provides a clearly focussed view of a pair of sea triangles. The larger triangle on the left would also be framed by the cairn at the top of the Shaugh Moor stone alignment. Sadly the cairn has been very badly damaged and even with powerful binoculars will no longer be visible. However when fresh someone standing at the top of this alignment could have seen the Shaugh Moor cairn apparently protruding into the sea beyond. Another of Dartmoor’s visual treats and perhaps further evidence for the importance of visual links between the natural and the artificial.

Driz1-03

At the point where the double alignment commences, the sea disappears behind Shaugh Moor in the background and Eastern Tor in the foreground. As you walk along the row towards this point (a distance of only about 30m) it will look like the sea is being swallowed up by these two hills. In a culture where the boundary between land and water was significant this would have been seen as special and worth denoting by raising stones to mark the route to be followed.

Driz1-04

There are no views towards the sea along the entire lower length of the alignment and at the south western end the view is now dominated by Eastern Tor. The journey is complete and its end denoted by a massive granite pillar.

Driz1-05

A huge pillar denotes the south western end of the alignment. The row can be seen leading away into the distance. The second pillar visible in this photograph forms the lower end of Row No. 2. A large cairn known as the Giant’s Basin is visible protruding from behind this large standing stone.

Mapping the Sea Triangles

Driz1Prof

Two very restricted views to the sea are visible from the cairn at the top of the alignment. The eastern one also includes the Shaugh Moor alignment cairn as well as the sea. This might imply some sort of sophisticated planning or could be a coincidence. The frequency of such special relationships is however worth emphasising and even if a coincidence it would have been something that they were very aware of. Each sea triangle would have been spectacularly illuminated in turn by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to any ceremonies. The eastern arc should glisten for about 10 minutes at 3.40pm and the western arc for just a few minutes at around 3.55pm. (all times are modern!). I do hope one day to see this for myself.

Source

Butler, J., 1994, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume Three – The South-West” 135-142.

Previous articles in this series:

An internal Cadw e-mail written three days after they were asked to consider the Bancbryn stone alignment for scheduling provides an insight into much of what followed.

“I think we know the answer to the questions raised – although if it does prove to be schedulable it might prove awkward. But we are under pressure to do something. At present the line is that DAT are keeping it safe and assessing the feature. Should we though bring it to a head by arranging an urgent inspection so that we can discount this for scheduling (or otherwise), as the pressure to do something will not go away in the meantime.” (Cadw official, 19 January 2012).

This item of correspondence written at a time before anyone from Cadw had visited the site acknowledges that it would be awkward for them if the site was of national importance. The suggested remedy would on the face of it seem somewhat prejudiced. The (or otherwise) reads very much as an afterthought and there is an implicit assumption that the site will be discounted for scheduling – and all of this before they have even seen it. Some might think this approach lacks balance.

bancbrynturbine

An awkward feature that should be discounted for scheduling (or otherwise)

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the Ringmoor Down stone alignment on Dartmoor is examined.

RingmoorMap

Leading up a gentle north facing slope of Ringmoor Down at SX 56336 65805 on Dartmoor is a single stone row. The row is aligned approximately NNE to SSW and is at least 369m long. Walking along the row from its lower NNE end the nearby sea is hidden from sight. At a distance of 100m from the top of the alignment the sea starts to appear and as you proceed it seems to emerge out of the ground. On a clear winter afternoon a beam of reflected white light should be visible extending westward from the cairn at the top of the row when viewed from a particular spot on the alignment. This is clearly something that can be checked in the field and the next stage will be to record the precision and character of this phenomena. The incorporation of natural phenomena in this way would have surely enhanced the appearance of the row and added a temporal element to its use but proving an element of deliberation is obviously going to be more difficult to accomplish. The strongest evidence for deliberation is provided by the considerable number of instances of observable inter-relationships between alignments, the surrounding topography and the daily ever changing lighting conditions.

As visitors to these monuments we appreciate how the seasons and time of day influences the ambience and quality of any photographs we may take. The stone alignments in particular regularly alter their appearance with constantly shifting shadows being amongst the most obvious daily changes. The stone alignments were not built in splendid isolation they were created for a reason by a society who we know were interested in the astronomical cycles, seasons and the complex  form of the world they inhabited. It should therefore not come as a surprise to find tangible evidence of these interests expressed in their alignments. The sheer number of visual links that are being identified means that the likelihood of these being random coincidences rapidly diminishes and instead it is much more likely that they form part of a broad pattern of shared relationships with special places and natural events in the landscape. Visual associations between sites of this period are accepted as significant with the siting of many monuments being the result to some degree of particular topographic features. We are dealing with a society where ritual played an important part in their lives and it is perhaps interesting to note that often it is evidence of their rituals that survive whilst domestic sites remain difficult to identify.

 RingmoorDowntop

Kerbed cairn at the top of the stone alignment. View from north.

RingmoorDownlower

The lower end of stone alignment. View from north. This length of the alignment has no sea views.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the lower (NNE) 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.

Ringmoor01

Looking south from the northern end of the row. This spot lies within a natural basin and there are limited views in every direction.

Ringmoor02

200m from the top. As one proceeds along the alignment more and more of the surrounding landscape comes into view but still there is no view of the sea.

Ringmoor03

100m from top the sea becomes visible. At mid-day during the winter months it might look like a beam of light shining from the cairn at the top of the row.

Ringmoor04

50m from top more and more of the sea becomes visible. The relationship between the sea and the cairn at the top will be worth investigating in further detail.

Ringmoor05

A pair of sea triangles are visible from the cairn at the top.

RingmoorArc

Map showing the arcs of visibility from the cairn at the top of the alignment.  Each sea triangle would have been illuminated at a different time by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to the ceremonies. The eastern arc would have been illuminated from about 1.15pm until 2.30pm and the western arc between 3.20pm and 3.35pm.

Previous articles in this series:

Old Oswestry hillfort has inspired a national call to show heritage some love this Valentine’s. Campaigners are staging a symbolic hug of the 3,000 year old Iron Age monument on February 14 while a decision is awaited on proposed housing in its shadow. See HERE!

Now the social media campaign #hugyourheritage is calling for the nation to join in the spirit of the event by tweeting selfies with the ‘I love heritage’ logo.

hugheritage

Launch details reveal: “History and heritage are important. Support Old Oswestry Hillfort and hug your heritage on Valentine’s Day! We are urging as many people as possible to take part in person or online and demonstrate their support for an iconic and nationally important hillfort.” Participants are being asked to reserve their tweets at Thunderclap, the crowdspeaking platform which will mass-share the message on Valentine’s Day.

Meanwhile, the live hug on Old Oswestry, organised by Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH), will take place at 1pm, meeting first at Gatacre playing field. Anyone interested in helping to steward the event should contact HOOOH on 01691 652918 or go to http://www.facebook.com/OldOswestryHillfort

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