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.