Cornwall is blessed with a long and fascinating history. Although visitors are often drawn to the county by the so called ‘Poldark effect’ many more are also seeking out our enigmatic prehistoric monuments. I wanted to take a look at the hidden threat to this precious heritage.
Cornwall has some of the oldest prehistoric sites in England. The rolling landscape is dotted with hundreds of stone circles, cairns and quoits, some predating the Egyptian pyramids. Continue reading →
In Cornwall the landscape around us is alive with stories. As a people we seem to have always formed a close relationship with the natural geology that surrounds us. Here it is nearly impossible for a rock to be just a rock! There is always a tale attached and sometimes more than one!
Men-amber rock is a large natural granite outcrop on the summit of a hill near the hamlet of Nancegollan. It’s name probably derives from the Cornish men-an-bar meaning ‘stone on top’. Continue reading →
Goodaver stone circle is one of those places. Hidden on an peaceful area of Bodmin Moor between Goodaver Downs and Smith’s moor this circle is rarely visited, mostly because it is so hard to get too. Continue reading →
The connections between ancient man, the stones structures they built and the natural rulers of the skies – the sun and the moon – are overwhelming. It seems to me impossible to understand what mattered to our ancestors without taking into account the struggle they faced with the elements and their battle to understand their often hostile world.
On the top of Leskernick hill hidden in a little visited part of Bodmin Moor lies a simple yet wonderfully intriguing pile of stones. This stone construction pre-dates all the others that surrounded it and there are many! Close by you can find the remains of numerous hut circles, a stone row and 2 stone circles. Continue reading →
It has taken me far too long to get around to writing this article and it is only the thought of getting back out on the moor again in a few days time that forced my thoughts to turn once again to this unwritten story.
It actually began with this blog. A piece I wrote many months ago led me to meet a group of strangers with whom I would spend many a happy hour in the vast emptiness of Bodmin Moor.
Since I left home aged 20 and flew to Germany on a complete whim my long suffering parents have been used to my often rather impulsive behaviour but even I questioned whether I was thinking straight on that first morning. We had never met before, not even spoken on the phone but when Roy, Stuart and Colin arrived in a beat up old truck full of tools I, with no hesitation climbed aboard, and set out across the moor with 3 total strangers!
When I try to explain to people what we did this summer they usually fall into two camps: the intrigued and the confused. In short we were uncovering large pieces of granite on a wild and windswept moor.
If you were going to build a monument, perhaps in commemoration of someone or for some religious purpose, you would build it to last wouldn’t you? And when you designed it you would make sure that it was beautiful and that it stood out from its surroundings. After all you would hope that your monument would last for a long time. That it would be admired for generations to come, that passers-by would pause and contemplate what you had created.
I like to think that perhaps that was part of the thinking behind the Nine Sisters stone row at Winnard’s Perch or the wonderful stone circle at Duloe. That the builders planned to create something not just beautiful but something to also span time and space.
You see there is something quite special about these two particular structures that makes them stand out amongst the many other Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Cornwall. It’s quartz.
Both the Nine Sisters, Naw Voz in Cornish (also known as the Nine Maidens) and Duloe circle are constructed using monoliths with a high quartz content.
You could argue that this was because that was the material that was most readily available in the area at the time but I think that underestimates the resourcefulness and the true desires of the builders. It also underestimates just how many rocks there are lying around in Cornwall that could have been used instead.
These structures took a great deal of hard work and planning and not just by individuals but by whole communities. Quartz stones of that size aren’t readily available to anyone! These particular stones must have been sort for. The tallest monolith in the stone row is just over 2m high while the largest stone at Duloe is 2.6m high, 2.3m wide and weighs in at a whopping 12 tons. Someone selected each individual stone and transported them to where they wanted them to be placed without the supervision of Health and Safety or a JCB.
Lets not forget the stones for Stonehenge in Wiltshire were transported hundreds of miles from Wales before they were settled in their present position. The choice of stone must have had some importance to those ancient people.
Quartz quite clearly must also have had a symbolic importance as well as an aesthetic one. The mineral has long been associated with the moon and the white stones are said to shine brightly in the moonlight. Excavations at other sites have found large concentrations of smashed quartz in the ground and Boscawen-un circle has one white stone in its ring.
Why those people who built these monuments used white quartz we can only guess at, unfortunately going back and asking them is not an option. Whatever their reasons I am very glad that they did choose this precious mineral. I think it only adds to the impact and beauty of these dramatic sites, not exactly Stonehenge I know but just as wonderful to me.