“These simple but powerful relics of the past will turn anyone into a romantic.” E. C. Axford, 1975
The moors are my escape. I find contentment there whatever the season, even on the wettest and wildest of days. A few days ago it was one of those sunny days when the fluffy white clouds seem in a hurry to get somewhere. And I sat with my back against the warmth of a stone on Blisland’s Manor Common.
I wasn’t alone. There were five moorland ponies with me and they seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was. We were all soaking up the special atmosphere of the Trippet Stones.
A Bronze Age Circle
“As you walk in the rain across Eastmoor towards the Nine Stone Circle or Manor Common towards the Trippet Stones you can be forgiven for thinking of the fallen Titans in Hyperion:
. . . Like a dismal cirque of druid stones upon a forlorn more when the Chill rain begins at shut of Eve in dull November . . .”
Philip Marsden, Rising Ground, 2014
The Trippet Stones is a Bronze Age ring, it is what is known as a ‘true circle’. A mere twelve stones survive, and only eight still standing, from a monument that once contained at least twenty-six. But this lessening in numbers by no means detracts from the special presence of this place.
The circle is 33m in diameter and the average size of stones, roughly 4m, is larger than usual for Cornwall. In the centre of the circle, a little incongruous, is an old boundary stone.
The circle stands silently between two rocky tors, Carbilly Tor and Hawk’s Tor. To the right of the latter you can just spot the Stripple Stone Circle about half a mile away. And behind, in the distance you can make out the outline of the impressive summit of Rough Tor.
And that is not the only alignment that the builders of this monument chose to incorporate into their ceremonial landscape. If you were lucky enough to be standing within the Trippet Stones circle at midsummer you would see the sunset directly over Carbilly Tor. And on the top of that same tor there is also a cairn, a burial place thought to be contemporary with the circle.
Alignments between ancient sites on the moors are very common. Rough Tor it seems is often the focus and this rocky hill can be seen from many of Bodmin Moor’s monuments, from the largest cairn to the smallest cist.
“To understand the current thinking on ritual landscape the experience of the place is everything . . . A summer of intermittent roaming around the moor, days walking alone and with archaeologists and local experts, had left me attuned to its lines of ‘intervisibility’. My reaction to the first few was sceptical but I found myself constantly trying to line up stones with the skyline. By sheer weight of numbers the alignments had won me over.” Philip Marsden, 2014.
Earthly alignments are not the only ones related to this particular circle. The astronomer Norman Lockyer visited the circle in 1907. He suggested that the stones had been erected here in 1700BC precisely. He established this date by calculating an alignment with the constellation Arcturus over near by Rough Tor.
Tripping the Light Fantastic
Not everyone assumed some celestial reason for these ancient stones. According to stories from folklore the Trippet Stones are, like so many of Cornwall’s circles, former dancing girls. These waltzing maids were turned to stone for ‘tripping lightly’ on the Sabbath.
“This circle, the Trippet or Dancing stones, is one of many megalithic sites in Cornwall whose name stems from a puritan condemnation of sabbatical dances.” Aubrey Burl
Whatever the reasons, the legends or the geological or heavenly alignments these circles are a marvel. For me they reward every visit with a feeling of wonder and well-being. And the ponies seem to agree!
Visiting the Trippet Stones
The Trippet Stones is one of the easiest circles to visit on Bodmin Moor.
From the A30 take the junction signed posted for Temple and St Breward. In less than a mile you will come to a crossroads. Turn right on to the rough track. You will see the stones on your left. You can park here on the grassy verge.