While I was in England, I didn’t tour a single stately building. I did, however, spend a lot of time climbing over hedges and stone walls and fences to look at the prehistoric remains of Britain’s past. I love old rocks.
The best part about stumbling around the English boonies looking for old rocks was driving through all the picturesque villages surrounded by rugged, windswept cliffs and gentle rolling moorland. The West Country is truly magnificent and if I’d done nothing in England but drive around Cornwall, I’d have been happy. Oh, wait, I did do almost nothing in England but drive around Cornwall. It was a perfect trip.
Amazing to me was how all these incredibly dramatic relics are just sitting in fields on the sides of remote, narrow country lanes, often without any sign to indicate they are there. Without a guidebook or a helpful “petrol station” attendant, they are hard to find, and I wondered how such unsupervised monuments would fare in the U.S. I imagine ne’er-do-wells in America taking sledgehammers or spray paint to them…..
Following the spectacular coastal road out of Penzance, we managed to find the Merry Maidens just past this hedge.
We climbed over a wooden gate into a farmer’s field to see what is known as the most well-preserved circle in Cornwall. The Merry Maidens circle is believed to be complete, which is rare. Made up of 19 granite stones, the Bronze Age creation is neat and regular, forming a perfect circle.
Legend has it that the stones are the remains of 19 girls struck by a mighty thunderbolt and turned to granite for stopping in the field to dance on their way to Sunday vespers. Presumably, this story was promoted by the early Christian Church to stop the pagan Cornish peasantry from carrying on with their wild ways. Most likely, the circle was used for some long-lost religious purpose, but I like better the explanation of controversial British archaeologist Thomas Lethbridge who claimed to have felt electric shocks from the Merry Maidens stones and theorized force lines beneath the ground served as guidance beacons for UFOs. So woo-woo.
On another country lane, we hunted down the prehistoric chambered tomb of Lanyon Quoit. I just about killed myself scrambling onto the top of this hedge then teetering along it to get to a spot where I could get to the stones….
…….only to discover…..
…..this lovely little stone step entrance. You know, what normal people who aren’t me would use to access the site.
Quoits, also known as dolmens or cromlechs, are typically made up of large standing stones supporting a capstone. It is believed quoits were once covered by mounds of soil removed by time and would have been used for burials and religious ceremonies.
The Nine Stones, near the village of Winterbourne Abbas in Dorset, is a small stone circle thought to have been constructed about 4000 years ago, also for religious purposes.
The circles and nearby barrows may have flanked a prehistoric trackway now followed by the modern road, and the locals seemed quite in tune with the controversial British archaeologist as the first thing our host at the bed-and-breakfast in East Lulworth told us was that it was part of the magnetic grid.
I would tell you about the part where I was kidnapped by aliens and taken to their mothership, but I don’t want to bore you when we are only on Day Two of the trip. Tomorrow–my love affair with English villages!
I’m on vacation. This week, I’m republishing a series of posts from my 2006 trip to England. Enjoy! Keep up with my current trip on the Daily Farm Photo page.
Have a wonderful vacation trip.
Looking forward to your farm posts on your return,
On August 10, 2009 at 4:41 am
The stones are neat. I love the stories behind them. I would be like you driving the country side looking for these and having a blast. lol.
Hope you are enjoying your vacation. Cant wait to hear all about it.
On August 10, 2009 at 5:13 am
Jenni in KS says:
Very interesting! I’ve never heard about these sites. Don’t you just love a good crackpot theory? The truth is out there–as are some people, waaaay out there.
On August 10, 2009 at 6:42 am
Thanks for reposting…since I did not know about your blog then I am enjoying these very much.
On August 10, 2009 at 7:31 am
Thanks for sharing this. It will be like I have been there, well almost…. I was able to go to Poland with my mom several years ago and it is amazing seeing the sites and scenes of another country. Enjoy you well deserved vacation in Florida and just girl time. Blessings.
On August 10, 2009 at 8:06 am
My sister got married in a village from a 1960s TV show “The Prisoner” called Portmarrion, in Wales. We stayed in London, went on a tour of Stone Henge, Bath, and Laycock. We drove up to Sherwood Forest and then to Wales. If I had not had children waiting for me in California, I NEVER would have come home. The people we met were wickedly funny and very nice, and the sheer weight of the history we walked through was breathtaking.
On August 10, 2009 at 9:10 am
Since now I know that you like stone circles- Have you read the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon?
On August 10, 2009 at 10:30 am
.Nancy in Iowa says:
What I loved about my trek through the English country side was that even though many of the stones and ruins were on private land, you were allowed to walk to them, sometimes with just a sign saying, “Please close the gate”. What a lovely idea – sharing your history!
On August 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm
Wow, no wonder my mother once commented that there are ALOT of weird people in England. I also like best the myth that the girls turned to Bronze for dancing on the way to Vespers – maybe they need to do that again, today, to get people back to church. LOL Church attendance in England is PITIFULLY low, I am told. And, last but not least…yes, those monuments would be destroyed here, sadly…even the Bonnie and Clyde monument is all shot up – people did some target practice on it. LOL :dancingmonster:
On August 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm
Beautiful photos, Suzanne. I have never been to England so I’ll enjoy it vicariously through you. Thanks for reposting these for us newcombers to your blog and have a great vacation, wherever you are!!
Best, Barbara :sun:
On August 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm
I’ve always wanted to go to England…it’s my ancestral home. That & the fact that I could pretend I’m Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejuidice.
But very cool to see all the old stones – the ancientness of it.
I would love to own a country home there with sheep grazing on rolling green hills & a pig I could call Babe.
Thanks so much for sharing these old posts!
Much love from an overseas Army wife,
On August 10, 2009 at 5:00 pm
Have to say I’m with you on the stately building thing. My daughter always says if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. I just like wandering about places I visit. I never do official tours they bore me. I like to sit and people watch with a coffee and a cake or whatever the local delicacy is.
I’ve never seen any of these stones in the North and I haven’t been to Cornwall either. I bet next time you come back Suzanne there’ll be a McDonalds or Aldi next to them. Well unless Bill Bryson stops them.
On August 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm
Oops forgot to say I do like visiting churches and cathedrals though. Bliss!
On August 11, 2009 at 12:28 pm