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Way back in the mists of time (2005!) I took a week’s holiday in the Lake District, and had my eyes opened to the plethora of prehistoric sites still remaining there. Of these, there are probably more stone circles than any other major monument type – over 50 (including cairn circles) have been recorded although I saw only a small proportion of those on my travels.

Screenshot courtesy of the Megalithic Portal

These circles date from the Neolithic through to the Bronze age, a period of over 1500 years. Generally speaking, the larger the circle and the larger the stones included, the earlier it is likely to be.

In 2011, we ran a short series here on the Journal, a ‘Focus on: Cornish Stone Circles’. Ten years on, a look at stone circles in other areas is well overdue, and so we shall be looking in the coming weeks at some of the stone circles of Cumbria, Lancashire and Westmorland that were visited during that trip sixteen years ago.

As well as our usual culprits for source material: the Megalithic Portal, the Modern Antiquarian and the Heritage Gateway, we’ll be using the following books for background material:

Stayed tuned…

…my true love gave to me:

Twelve drummers drumming

Yet more noise! This time, drumming up the stones at Avebury stone circle.

…my true love gave to me:

Eleven Pipers piping

Eleven pipers would be a bit too much for my sensitive ears! So here’s a lone piper, among the stones at Callanish. Imagine the ten stones shown are also pipers, to make up the number.

…my true love gave to me:

Ten Lords a-leaping

Our ancient sites are often used as venues by the Morris, particularly around the Solstice and Equinox dates. Here, Wake Robin Morris – a mixed side with both Lords and Ladies!- are dancing Nutting Girl at Stonehenge.

…My true love gave to me:

Nine ladies dancing

Situated just off the A75 about 5 miles from Stranraer, Castle Kennedy Gardens are beautiful landscaped gardens created in the early 18th century by the 2nd Earl of Stair. 

​Used as a shooting location for the original 1973 version of The Wicker Man, the standing stone circle and the May Day procession were filmed in the gardens.

Sadly, the standing stones used in the film were props but the mound on which they stood can clearly be seen today – it sits at the bottom of the long green running down from the Castle Kennedy ruin. 

…My true love gave to me:

Eight maids a-milking

This cow (with Long Meg and her Daughters in the background) looks as if the maids have already paid her a visit!

Meg and her Daughters of course were not milkmaids in the legend, but a coven of witches, turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath – a common story!

The last 12 months have been strange, worldwide. Certainly here at the Heritage Journal, several of us are classed as ‘vulnerable’ and our excursions have been seriously curtailed due to the pandemic. As Father Time marches on and none of us here are getting any younger, it is likely that will continue to be the case. With that in mind, next year we hope to bring some retrospectives to the Journal – looking back upon some of our past field trips as a reminder of the wide range of our prehistoric heritage. 

In addition, as most readers will be aware, our self-imposed remit in the past has largely been focussed upon the pre-Roman monuments of the Uk. From the New Year, we hope to be widening our scope to include Post Roman and Early Medieval topics and even to delve (lightly) into the subject of ‘Earth Mysteries’ – but all the while keeping a scientific eye on the evidence. After all, no ancient aliens are involved in the production of the Journal!!

This is therefore an appropriate moment to thank our loyal readers, and all those who have interacted with the Journal in the past. We certainly hope that you’ll stick with us, and maybe even consider contributing an article or two in the coming months ahead.

If you’d like to write a piece for the Journal, please contact us. Even if you have no idea what to write, we have plenty of topics in our ‘ideas bank’ just waiting for someone to volunteer their time!

Happy New Year! (or Bledhen Nowyth Da! as we say here in the deep South West)

…My true love gave to me:

Seven swans a-swimming

‘Swans at Carahunge’ by Nadya Johnson

Here, we have an artwork by Nadya Johnson of swans swimming through the stars above the megalithic site of Carahunge in Armenia, entitled ‘Swans at Carahunge’. It’s interesting to note that “car” means “stone” in Armenian, while “hunge (or henge) refers to “speech”. These talking stones, also referred to as the Stones of the Powerful are believed to be the remnants of the world’s oldest known astronomical observatory, built to mark the movement not only of the sun and moon, but also the stars. 

A number of the huge standing stones bear smoothly angled spy holes 4 to 5cm in diameter, each one angled toward a different point on the horizon or an ancient target in the sky.

Most significant to some, is that Carahunge’s principal stellar alignment is towards Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation of Cygnus the swan….not as it exists today, but as it did 7,500 years ago. Cygnus contains six named stars. The proper names of stars that have been officially approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) are Albireo, Aljanah, Azelfafage, Deneb, Fawaris, and Sadr.

…My true love gave to me:

Six geese a-laying

The beach at Porth Nanven in Cornwall looks as if it’s been visited by a few more than six geese! The beach, and the stones, are protected as a site of special scientific interest (SSI). Similar stones can be seen protruding from the nearby cliffs, and are know locally as ‘dinosaur eggs’ (rather than goose eggs).

We conclude our review of the hell that has been 2020, focussing on the autumn and winter months. Although we have largely omitted our coverage of both Stonehenge and metal detecting issues from this review, both featured larger than usual in this latter part of the year .

Through September and October, with the easing of lockdown, commercial metal detecting rallies once more reared their ugly heads across our landscape. However, with COVID still rampant, some communities were concerned about the prospect of rallies being held in their area

Many of these rallies were held on a commercial basis, with detectorists paying to detect, and the consequences of the pandemic  be damned! Thankfully, some were banned by the authorities, but that didn’t stop the organisers from putting together alternatives at very short notice, an indication of their priorities: money over public health. A petition was even raised to object to the banning of such events during lockdown2!

In November we reported the news that everyone had dreaded:

The Stonehenge Alliance team WON the argument against the combined forces of English Heritage, Historic England, and the National Trust so that the Planning Authority recommended permission should be refused. What happened was that the Minister, Grant Shapps said he would grant permission anyway! So was it a “decision” or a pre-planned Government agenda? There seems little doubt.

…but at the end of the month an appeal was launched to appeal the decision through the courts.

And so we come to December, and  a tale of wanton damage at Stoney Littleton. And speaking of damage, we began to give examples of the type of damage to be inflicted upon the Stonehenge landscape.

Which, apart from fighting the propaganda being espoused in the national press, brings us pretty much up to date. 

Keep reading in the new year for more items about our ancient sites, some of their history, and the threats posed against them.

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