The connections between ancient man, the stones structures they built and the natural rulers of the skies – the sun, moon and stars – are overwhelming. And trying to make sense of what mattered and why to our ancestors without taking into account the struggle they faced with the elements, and their own battle to understand their often hostile world, seems futile.
On the top of Leskernick hill, hidden in a little visited part of Bodmin Moor, stands 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, a cairn and 2 stone circles.
The ‘Propped Stone’ as it is known at first glance resembles a partly fallen quoit or dolman, a kind of leaning stone table with one large stone propped up on 3 smaller ones, all standing on a huge earth-fast slab of rock. The angle of the top stone creates a little window through which the western horizon can be seen, hinting at it’s intended purpose.
The axis of the long top stone points in the direction of Rough Tor, the huge stony hilltop that dominates the moor. But more importantly the small window created by the positioning of the stones forms a little portal through which the setting sun at mid summer can be viewed.
The Propped Stone was first recognised in 1995. The capstone is a large flat stone nearly 3 metres long. And scientific examination of the weathering of the smaller stones beneath it suggests that it has been like this for a very . . .very . . .long time.
Although the alignment with the setting sun doesn’t work as well as it should now due to ‘wobbles’ in the earth’s axis, it has been estimated that the window would have provided a perfect view between 7627BC and 1400BC. However the most likely date for it’s construction, taking into account all the other structures in the area is about 3600BC. So, I think after standing on a hilltop for more than 5000 years it’s hardly surprising if it is a degree or two out now.
Propped stones are not unique to Cornwall they are found as far north as the Yorkshire Dales and as far away as Sweden, where they are usually associated with ancient burial sites.
Midsummer this year will fall on 24th June with the sun setting at around 21.30pm. Maybe I’ll go and view it through the ancient window my ancestors created . . . watch this space!
Thanks for reading!