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by Alan S

We last featured the stone circle on Stannon Moor here about 9 years ago! So a revisit was long overdue. Especially as I’d heard of a 4-stone ‘setting’ close to the circle that I’d not noticed on my last visit. I arranged to meet up once again with Dr. Sandy Gerrard along with Gordon and Janet from ACE Archaeology Club in Devon for a return visit to the circle and environs.

The stone setting is enigmatic, consisting of two pairs of stones, roughly aligned to the south-east with Stannon Moor and Louden Hill stone circles (although the circles are not intervisible). The setting is a staggered linear arrangement of four small end-set granite slabs.

The stone setting, with Stannon circle on the horizon

The northern two slabs of the setting are 1.25m apart on a north-south axis, the greater width of each of these northern slabs is set transversely to the axis of the pair. The southern two slabs are 2m apart on a NNW-SSE axis, with their northern slab 1.8m south-west of the southern slab in the northern pair. The southern two slabs are smaller than those to the north, with their greatest width roughly in line with the axis of the pair.

Taking a look around, we espied a small stone on the horizon to the south, which appeared to be in direct alignment with the two southern stones. Without the recent dry weather, I doubt we would have spotted this stone from the setting.

The southern stones of the setting, with the horizon stone arrowed.

Leaving a ranging pole as a guide we walked south where further stones, 10 or 11 in total, also appeared to line up, for a distance of around 150m. Did we have a row?

The southernmost stone appeared to have the attributes of a ‘blocking’ stone, a common feature of Neolithic stone rows. Looking roughly north-east, the blocking stone lined up with a large moorstone to point directly at the notch on Rough Tor – was this our first landscape treat? Is it an astronomical alignment?

View from the southern blocking stone toward Rough Tor.

Walking up and down the row, several other treats and tricks immediately became apparent:

  • From the north walking south, Brown Willy appears on the south-east horizon as soon as the stone setting is left behind, a view which grows the further south you travel.
  • Around 2/3rds along the row, Alex Tor to the south-west dips below the horizon, disappearing from view.
  • Walking north, there are three ‘sea triangles’ to be seen to the west, which disappear one by one as you move north.
  • From the southern blocking stone, the viewer appears to be in the centre of a landscape bowl, an omphalos moment perhaps?

This row, if that is what it is – and all the signs point that way – is not currently listed on the HER, but once the survey notes have been analysed, with field notes and measurements properly written up on our sister site: The Stone Rows of Great Britain we shall almost certainly be taking steps to ensure it is included.

Many thanks to Sandy, Gordon, and Janet for an interesting day out on the moors!

By Alan S

I recently had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Sandy Gerrard on a field trip to visit two possible stone rows in West Penwith, Cornwall. Below is a short report of our visit.

The first row visited was Treveglos at Zennor. This purported row consists of three uprights.

Having scoped out the site a couple of weeks previously, the row was found easily enough, due to the large stone at the SE end of the row acting as a gatepost, above the level of the surrounding fields.

The other two upright stones were on field boundaries heading to the NW in adjoining fields and were easy enough to spot. A recumbent stone was also found in the field near to the gatepost, looking as if it had fallen to the west from a position just slightly out of alignment with the other three. However, the area has many earth-fast stones, and this alignment could well be a co-incidence.

Sadly, upon closer inspection it appears that the NW-most stone is erected upon an Iron Age field boundary, the middle stone bears characteristic tare and feather drill marks suggesting that it must have been erected sometime after 1800AD, and is erected upon what seems to be medieval field boundary. The large stone to the SE has been drilled for use as a gatepost, but given its height may well have Neolithic origins as a standing stone.

We then moved on to the holed stones on Kenidjack Common, near the Tregeseal stone circle. I was last here a couple of years ago and reported on them then.

Sandy confessed that they resembled nothing he’d seen on any other row, and was quite nonplussed. The fact that all of the stones are set at differing angles to the line of the ‘row’, and that none of the holes in the stones are targeted at anything specific only added to his confusion. The outlier appears to be set upon a bank – either a field boundary or possible dried-up watercourse.

This particular row requires further investigation, the Rev. J Buller having described them thusly in 1842:

Each has a hole perforated through its centre of about six inches in diameter. The edges of the holes are rounded as if they had been intended, and had been used, for a rope to pass through ; and had they lain near a sea beach it might reasonably have been concluded that their use was to moor a boat. They lie in a straight line nearly E. and W. There is a space of about twelve feet between the two western most, thirty three feet between the two centre stones, and nine feet between the two eastern ones, by which also it will be seen that one of the two last is broken in half, and the violence which effected it probably caused it to be removed three feet further towards the east. Originally there was in all probability a space of twelve feet between those at each end, and thirty feet between the two centre stones. They are from five to six feet long, four feet wide, and about one foot thick…

The spacing of the stones has been changed in the intervening years, and doubtless their orientation has also changed. Given this fact, it is unlikely that a definitive interpretation will ever be obtained.

The conclusion on the day was that neither row is likely to be Neolithic in origin, but Sandy will publish the full results of his analysis on his Stone Rows website in due course.

Figure 1. The stone row excavation. The large hollow beside the nearest stone was formed by flowing water, probably in the period immediately after the last glaciation (Scales 1m and 25cm).

In January 2012 a long line of small stones was identified amongst the prehistoric cairns on the southern slope of Bancbryn in South Wales. Survey work revealed that it led for 717m from a small cairn and terminated in a now recumbent boulder (Figure 2). In all 173 stones were identified and whilst many were recumbent most were edge set. The stone row was discovered just as the work on a new wind farm started and it was cut in two places by access roads. The timing of the discovery was unfortunate and rescue excavations carried out at the time predictably failed to reveal any dating evidence. The report produced by the excavators suggested that the feature was more likely to be of post-medieval date, but the evidence cited to support this contention was inaccurate, selective and just plain wrong.

Figure 2. Plan of the stone row showing the position of the excavation trenches.

Over a period of years, the arguments deployed by the excavators have been successfully dismantled, whilst at the same time detailed characterisation of the site and extensive research into stone rows nationally has resulted in a strong case to support its prehistoric origins. It was possible to demonstrate that this form of row is found only in SW Britain with examples recorded on both sides of the Bristol Channel (Figure 3).

Perhaps the most exciting discovery at Bancbryn was the very precise visual relationship with Hartland Point in Devon.  Work elsewhere has now demonstrated that precise visual relationships with prominent natural and broadly contemporary artificial sites is commonplace and indeed a characteristic of the longer rows.

Figure 3. Distribution of long stone rows greater than 100m long consisting mainly of small stones.

So, from the fiasco at Banbryn some good has come as it has spawned both renewed interest in this enigmatic type of site and provided a new focus permitting a better understanding of the rows.

In 2017 there was an opportunity to have another look at the Bancbryn stone row. Funding from the Section 106 wind farm agreement provided resources for an examination of a small number of sites on Bancbryn and as well as the stone row, two cairns and a solitary stone were partly excavated. A report on the work is now available and can be downloaded here. A shorter guide to the archaeology on Bancbryn and vicinity is available here. Both reports are published by Dyfed Archaeological Trust who organised and carried out the excavation work.

One of the cairns was found to have a kerb and is probably of Bronze Age date, another was probably early medieval in date, had ard marks below and surprisingly contained some Roman glass. No dating material was found associated with the stone row, but it was possible to refute the previously suggested historic interpretations and demonstrate that the surviving evidence was entirely consistent with a prehistoric date.

The lack of dating evidence, whilst disappointing, was not a surprise as stone rows are notoriously difficult to date and it is worth remembering that none of the Welsh rows have been dated either. Indeed, only the row at Cut Hill on Dartmoor has been dated with any degree of precision. Most importantly nothing was found to disprove the prehistoric interpretation, whilst at the same time the form, character and context of the row is entirely consistent with a prehistoric date. Hopefully this work will now mean that this incredibly fragile and enigmatic monument will receive the care and consideration that it deserves.

Dr Sandy Gerrard’s ongoing series of posts concerning stone row alignments, and their associated landscape tricks and treats have been generally well received here on the Heritage Journal.

StoneRowsLogo

Such has been the reaction that a decision was made to give his articles and associated research a more permanent, focused home. To this end we are delighted to announce the creation of a sister site for the Journal, and new web resource: ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ which goes live today.

The site includes a gazetteer of known and accepted prehistoric stone rows, along with a list of those rows whose antiquity or veracity is in doubt. Many of the gazetteer entries show not just basic information such as location, characteristics and so on, but many are accompanied by links to other web resources, photographs, and each region can be investigated via an interactive map.

The ‘Research’ area of the site will be of interest to many people, and many of Dr Gerrard’s articles which have appeared on the Heritage Journal to date, and more, are included here.

There will still be a great deal of information to be added as further research sheds light on possible uses of the enigmatic monuments, so please pay ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ a visit, and leave us your comments.

Dr Sandy Gerrard’s ongoing series of posts concerning stone row alignments, and their associated landscape tricks and treats have been generally well received here on the Heritage Journal.

Such has been the reaction that a decision has been made to give his articles and associated research a more permanent, focused home. To this end we are delighted to announce the creation of a sister site for the Journal, and new web resource: ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ which we are working to make public in March 2016.

StoneRowsLogo

This new web site will eventually include a full gazetteer of known stone rows covering the length and breadth of Britain, organised on a regional basis – Dartmoor is the first gazetteer area to be completed but other areas will be populated in the coming weeks and months.

gazetteer

There will also be a full analysis of rows by type, length and number of stones available at launch. As time goes on, further information will rapidly be added, including links to other resources, and it is hoped that this site will grow into a major resource and focus for stone row-based study in its own right.

Research

A further announcement (and working link) will be made available closer to launch date, but we wanted to give an early ‘heads-up’ to all those who are interested in this area of study, so watch this space!

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

TWMap

The double stone alignment at Trowlesworthy includes two roughly parallel lines of stones aligned north east to south west leading for 127.5m from a kerbed cairn (SX 57644 63985) on the lower slopes of Great Trowlesworthy Tor. The alignment is far from straight and several minor shifts in its orientation give it the sinuous character found at many rows. The row is built mainly from medium sized orthostats (average 0.37m high) although at least one more substantial stone (now recumbent) lies a short distance above the Old Bottlehill Mine Leat which cuts the row in two. There is no blocking stone at the south western end and it may therefore have originally been longer. A detailed plan of the row together with details and discussion is available the “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume 3” by Jeremy Butler.  A second row is situated to the north of this one and will be considered fully at a later date. At this stage it is perhaps worth noting that the second row includes a single line of stones and despite its close proximity has no views to the sea, a situation paralleled by the second row at Hart Tor. Analysis of sea views from the Trowlesworthy rows is to some extent hampered by the nearby china clay works at Lee Moor which have undoubtedly altered the local topography, but despite this the character of the sea views is still obvious and have not been significantly altered.

The Trowlesworthy double stone alignment in common with many Dartmoor stone rows is built across the sea view/no sea view interface. This means that views to the sea are visible from parts of the row but not from others.  In this instance the sea is visible from the upper part of the row and not from the lower length.  The largest stone (now recumbent) together with a significant shift in alignment denotes the point at which the sea view appears and disappears depending on the direction of travel. The presence of the largest orthostat and alignment shift suggests that this was a significant point along the journey denoted by the row and its precise correlation with the sea/no sea view interface is consistent with the familiar pattern being found at many stone rows. The observation first made at Bancbryn of a close and measurable visual link with the sea is one that is repeated time and time again. The construction of rows across the sea/no sea view interface is too common to be a coincidence and strongly supports the hypotheses that the siting of many rows was influenced by a need to acknowledge this phenomenon. A programme of statistical analysis is underway to establish and quantify the precise character of this relationship and demonstrate the degree of correlation between the Dartmoor rows and the types of sea view that exist. An initial pilot has suggested that the distribution of Dartmoor rows correlates with particular views towards the sea but also that other types of view and reveal are of significance. Cumulatively the evidence that is being gathered illustrates that the rows were erected in particular locations to enable particular types of view and reveals to be “experienced” by those walking along them and it would therefore be surprising if these experiences were not reflected in the activities being carried out.

Simplified plan showing the row and cairn. Views to the sea exist from the stones coloured  black, but no sea views are available from the part of the row coloured red.

Simplified plan showing the row and cairn. Views to the sea exist from the stones coloured  black, but no sea views are available from the part of the row coloured red.

The cairn at the top of the stone alignment. Note the way in which the row’s orientation shifts to ensure that it reaches the kerbed cairn. The orthostats denoting the cairn are larger than those used to build the row.

The cairn at the top of the stone alignment. Note the way in which the row’s orientation shifts to ensure that it reaches the kerbed cairn. The orthostats denoting the cairn are larger than those used to build the row.

The sinuous form of this row is obvious when viewed along its length from the south west. The large stones at the top of the photograph surround the cairn. The form of the row strongly suggests that perhaps it was an established path that was subsequently denoted by stones. The large recumbent stone is indicated by a red arrow. This is the point where the sea becomes visible for the first time as you walk up the row.

The sinuous form of this row is obvious when viewed along its length from the south west. The large stones at the top of the photograph surround the cairn. The form of the row strongly suggests that perhaps it was an established path that was subsequently denoted by stones. The large recumbent stone is indicated by a red arrow. This is the point where the sea becomes visible for the first time as you walk up the row.

View from the south east of the row.  The hillside is littered with substantial blocks of granite but the builders of the row selected smaller more manageable stones.

View from the south east of the row.  The hillside is littered with substantial blocks of granite but the builders of the row selected smaller more manageable stones.

The lower length of the row has no views to the sea. View from south west.

The lower length of the row has no views to the sea. View from south west.

Views from the alignment

Three images derived from Google Earth are presented below to illustrate the character of the reveal. As you walk up the hill towards Great Trowlesworthy Tor a view to the sea appears at the point where the largest stone once stood.

From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by rising ground. Only a modern china clay tip is visible beyond the immediate horizon.

From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by rising ground. Only a modern china clay tip is visible beyond the immediate horizon.

The sea is suddenly revealed when you reach the largest stone.

The sea is suddenly revealed when you reach the largest stone.

Although now partly obscured by a china clay tip originally a thin slither of sea would have been visible from the cairn at the top of the row.

Although now partly obscured by a china clay tip originally a thin slither of sea would have been visible from the cairn at the top of the row.

TWarc

Map showing the arc of visibility from the upper (north eastern) end of the alignment.  The view to the sea is most impressive in the middle of the day during the winter months.

Source: Butler, J., 1994, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume Three, 169-71 and 205.

Previous articles in this series:

Three years after it was written the report on the work carried out at the Bancbryn stone alignment has been released. You can see it for yourself here and a response to it here. Despite promises that only 10m of the alignment would be destroyed and that it would be treated as if it was prehistoric, this does not appear to have happened.   Around 35m of the stone alignment was finally destroyed and of this only 5m was excavated, the rest being lost with no record being made at all as a result of a mix up regarding its course. As if this was not bad enough the report’s conclusions are consistently contradicted by a catalogue of mistakes, exaggeration and the use of blatantly biased carefully selected information. Much has been made of the fact that the excavated stones were not associated with sockets, however in at least one photograph a large stone appears to sit within a cut and another one is on top of an unexcavated hollow.

The reasons for doubting the prehistoric interpretation are remarkable. Apparently the Bancbryn stone alignment can’t be prehistoric because the stones are of variable size, small, embedded into the subsoil and the alignment itself is sinuous in form. So there we have it after years of waiting we have finally been told that it can’t be prehistoric because …. well err…. it shares precisely the same characteristics as most of the scheduled stone alignments in the United Kingdom. This would be laughable if it was not so serious.

The Erme Valley stone alignment can’t be prehistoric after all it has a sinuous form and stones of variable size, many of which are small.

The Erme Valley stone alignment can’t be prehistoric after all it has a sinuous form and stones of variable size, many of which are small.

Whoops! The report failed to mention the size of the stones in the nearby Cerrig Duon stone alignment, instead implying they were between 1.5m and 3m high. (Scale 1m.)

Whoops! The report failed to mention the size of the stones in the nearby Cerrig Duon stone alignment, instead implying they were between 1.5m and 3m high. (Scale 1m.)

Perhaps this alignment was “overlooked” because it did not fit the storyline. Stones of very different sizes at the single alignment at Maen Mawr. (Scale 1m.)

Perhaps this alignment was “overlooked” because it did not fit the storyline. Stones of very different sizes at the single alignment at Maen Mawr. (Scale 1m.)

Even the classic site at Hingston Hill would have failed this particular prehistoric test. Different sized stones, many of them very small combined with a sinuous character means that this row too can’t be prehistoric!

Even the classic site at Hingston Hill would have failed this particular prehistoric test. Different sized stones, many of them very small combined with a sinuous character means that this row too can’t be prehistoric!

A guest post by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Over the past few years the sorry events at Bancbryn on Mynydd y Betws have featured frequently in the Heritage Journal. For some time now the local County Council have been asked to answer three simple questions.  They have steadfastly refused to do so. If the job had been done properly they would not be difficult to answer, but sadly after months of asking the questions remain unanswered. The three questions were:

  • Why was Cadw not consulted on the scheme of works used by the developers?
  • Why did the scheme of works regarding the stone alignment fail to mention the site and instead refer to a Roman site in Gloucestershire?
  • Why has no excavation report been produced?

Having failed to get answers from the council the Ombudsman was approached and their response might surprise you.

“The Ombudsman considers complaints of maladministration on the part of public bodies which causes hardship and injustice to members of the public. We normally take this to mean that an individual has suffered personal hardship or injustice as a result of the maladministration by the body. It does not appear to me, from the information available, that you have suffered personal hardship or injustice as a result of the matters you complain of. Therefore, the original matter you complain of is not one that the Ombudsman can consider under the restrictions imposed on him by law under the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005.”

So next time you uncover dodgy goings on at county hall remember unless you are going to personally suffer hardship or injustice they simply don’t want to know and they would prefer it if you walk on by.  You would have thought this country would have had enough of this type of attitude by now – but apparently not.

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

yartor1map

The Yar Tor triple stone alignment includes three roughly parallel lines of stones leading for at least 250m, aligned NNW to SSE up a saddle between Yar Tor and Corndon Tor. Although the row now apparently stops about 70m short of the Money Pit Cairn (SX 6816 7385) there is broad consensus that it once extended as far as this cairn. The stones forming the row are generally relatively small and Jeremy Butler notes that the average height is 0.16m high.  This row has something to tell us about the attitude of the Middle Bronze Age farmers who lived here in later years. Destruction and desecration is certainly not a modern phenomenon.  Over 2,500 years ago a new generation of farmers set about enclosing substantial areas of Dartmoor with fields.  Many of these still survive and illustrate land development on a colossal scale.  The field system laid out over the Yar Tor stone row was truly massive with over 3,000 hectares surviving to this day. The builders of this field system had no use for the Yar Tor alignment and built three lengths of field boundary over it. We can therefore be certain that by the Middle Bronze Age stone alignments were no longer being revered and even by this time their purpose had probably been forgotten. This indicates a significant shift in belief and is likely to reflect radical changes in cultural and ritual practises. Areas previously set aside for ritual activity were now being incorporated into the business of living.  Whatever was originally special about these places had been forgotten or perhaps the needs of the present had rendered them obsolete. They were built by communities, used by the same communities and abandoned when they were no longer required. One need not look any further than the modern church for an analogy.  Long after the Bronze Age fields had been abandoned farmers returned to the area and built new enclosures again incorporating the earlier row in their fields.  The later use of the area has undoubtedly damaged the row but despite its relatively delicate form consisting as it did of mainly small stones it thankfully survived.

Simplified map showing the position of the Yar Tor stone alignment relative to the high ground of Yar Tor, Corndon Tor and Sharp Tor. As you walk up the row from the north views to the east and west are restricted whilst those to the south are constrained by rising ground.

Simplified map showing the position of the Yar Tor stone alignment relative to the high ground of Yar Tor, Corndon Tor and Sharp Tor. As you walk up the row from the north views to the east and west are restricted whilst those to the south are constrained by rising ground.

Simplified plan showing the row leading to the Money Pit Cairn. The Bronze Age reaves (red) and historic fields (green) show no respect for the row and both will have caused damage.

Simplified plan showing the row leading to the Money Pit Cairn. The Bronze Age reaves (red) and historic fields (green) show no respect for the row and both will have caused damage.

The topographical position of this row has much to offer our current research and the manner in which the row relates to the surrounding landscape is remarkable.  The row sits within a valley between Yar Tor on the west and Corndon Tor on the east and leads upslope from the north to the saddle between the tors. The effect of the disposition of the tors relative to the row is to restrict views to the east and west as you walk along it. It is also unlikely to be a coincidence that the northern end of the row marks the precise point from which restricted views start.  The view westward at this point may also be of significance. An eye catching view of Longaford Tor framed by Laughter Tor is visible and should certainly be described as a visual treat.

yartor4

This eye-catching view of Longaford Tor is available only from the northern end of the stone alignment.  Longaford Tor is framed perfectly by the nearer Laughter Tor. It seems very unlikely that the myriad of distinctive visual relationships like this can all be coincidences. Furthermore it is possible at the summer solstice sun may set behind the tor. Certainly something worth checking out.

The three roughly parallel lines of stone can be traced up the hill towards the saddle.

The three roughly parallel lines of stone can be traced up the hill towards the saddle.

The shift in the alignment at this point is obvious. Like most Dartmoor stone rows this one is not absolutely straight.

The shift in the alignment at this point is obvious. Like most Dartmoor stone rows this one is not absolutely straight.

The Money Pit Cairn would have originally formed the upper end of the row.

The Money Pit Cairn would have originally formed the upper end of the row.

As you approach the Money Pit Cairn on the route of the row Sharp Tor slowly emerges from behind the cairn.

As you approach the Money Pit Cairn on the route of the row Sharp Tor slowly emerges from behind the cairn.

Yartor8

As you reach the cairn Sharp Tor looks as if it is sitting on top of the cairn. This visual trick and treat may of course have had considerable significance for the row builders. We have seen several reveals like this already but this one is particularly special enhanced as it is by the appearance of the sea on the distant horizon further to the east. Most artificial structures both past and present are built where they are for particular reasons and it would therefore be most surprising if stone alignments were not sited to take cognisance of their surroundings.  Here the visual treats are very obvious but the chances are that all the rows were built to acknowledge their surroundings.  Their linear form suggests that special routes were being denoted. It was clearly important that a particular path was followed and that the reveal was an important part of the ritual. The repeating pattern of links between the landscape and alignments provides a powerful indication that the rows played some part in connecting these people with their world.

The juxtaposition of the Money Pit Cairn, Yar Tor stone alignment and Sharp Tor is just too perfect to be a coincidence.

The juxtaposition of the Money Pit Cairn, Yar Tor stone alignment and Sharp Tor is just too perfect to be a coincidence.

Views from the alignment

Four images derived from Google Earth are presented below to illustrate the character of the reveal. As you walk up the hill towards the saddle views to the west and east are restricted by the neighbouring tors and the view to the south by the saddle itself. This is the case for much of the length of the row which of course emphasises the reveal when it happens.

From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by the saddle between Corndon and Yar Tors.

From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by the saddle between Corndon and Yar Tors.

After 100m the view remains restricted.

After 100m the view remains restricted.

Finally a sea triangle appears on the south eastern horizon 25m from the Money Pit Cairn

Finally a sea triangle appears on the south eastern horizon 25m from the Money Pit Cairn

And grows rapidly in size by the time you reach the Money Pit Cairn

And grows rapidly in size by the time you reach the Money Pit Cairn

ytv5

Map showing the arc of visibility from the upper (southern) end of the alignment.  It might be significant that the rising sun at the mid-winter solstice appears out of the sea triangle. Either end of the row appears to be closely related to celestial events – the top in the winter and the bottom in the summer.  A convincing body of evidence is developing that there is a correlation between the rows and celestial events although not in a manner that had been envisaged when this research began. The links with the sea are undoubtedly important but they are clearly only part of the picture and it is the complex visual relationships between the sky, water and land that seem to be being celebrated, acknowledged and sign-posted by the rows.  Each site is unique in form and location but the common thread that is developing is that they were each built to provide a special route between places with extra-ordinary visual relationships with the landscape. The stone alignment at Yar Tor is particularly informative and I would like to thank the Dartmoor Preservation Association for their recent clearance work which has revealed this extraordinary alignment.

Sources:

Butler, J., 1991, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume One, 126-7.

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into the stone row monuments of the South West. This time we are looking at the second of a pair of alignments north west of Sharpitor on Dartmoor. Last time we looked at its neighbour.

SNW1-1

The two stone alignments are situated close to each other on a spur of high ground leading north west from Sharpitor. This time we shall look at the southern row which is of the single variety – last time we looked at the associated double row. Both rows stand immediately next to the public highway (B3212) leading from Yelverton to Princetown near a car park next to Goatstone Pool. They have seen considerable damage but despite this their form is still discernible. The single row includes at least thirty stones forming an 82.5m long row standing between 0.1m and 0.4m high leading a low spread mound at its western end. Unsurprisingly a walk westwards along this row provides nearly identical views and reveals to those experienced at the nearby double row although in this case the row is not aligned on South Hessary Tor, but instead points directly at the cairns at the top of the Hart Tor stone rows.

SNW1-2

Idealised sketch plan of the Sharpitor stone alignments showing what they may once have looked like based on Google Earth and field observations

 

View from the north eastern end of the row looking south westward.

View from the north eastern end of the row looking south westward.

Most of the stones in this alignment protrude only slightly above the ground surface.

Most of the stones in this alignment protrude only slightly above the ground surface.

Row leading towards the low cairn at the south western end. View from the north east.

Row leading towards the low cairn at the south western end. View from the north east.

Views from the alignment

The character of the reveal achieved by walking south westward along the row is very similar to that experienced along the adjacent double row. So instead this time the view revealed as you walk north eastwards is examined. A case is being built that the alignments were built to denote movement and that a megalithic character was not necessary. Indeed this row could have been built by a single family group in an afternoon. The stones were capable of being easily handled but this does not detract from their importance or the information they have to tell us. In this instance as is probably the case with many of the rows other visual treats are on offer, but the most obvious is the relationship between the row and the stone rows at Hart Tor. This row points directly towards the Hart Tor rows which are partly revealed as you walk up the hill from the cairn at the south western end. The Hart Tor rows are framed and partly obscured by the lower slopes of Leeden Tor which effectively block the view to the lower parts of both rows. It is anticipated that further work will reveal more examples of this type of particular precise visual inter-relationship and  these taken together with the links to the sea will allow analysis of patterns and convincingly demonstrate how these monuments were used even if we never understand why. Each row is unique in appearance and it should therefore not come as a surprise to find that they were each placed very carefully within the landscape to take full advantage of a myriad of different visual treats.

View looking north east along the row from the cairn at the south west end. The views in this direction are restricted by the rising ground leading to the blind summit.

View looking north east along the row from the cairn at the south west end. The views in this direction are restricted by the rising ground leading to the blind summit.

SNW1-7

As you walk up the hill the stone rows at Har Tor appear framed by the near ground and the lower slopes of Leeden Tor. The fact that this row is aligned on these rows and they are revealed as you proceed along the row seems deliberate particularly when one considers that the slightest difference in the orientation of the row would mean that this visual treat would not happen.

SNW1-8

Finally at the end of this row the Hart Tor rows are peeking out behind the lower slopes of Leeden Tor in the foreground.

Previous articles in this series:

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