Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Rollright Stones and The Stones of Blood

P1000824 The Kings Men Stone Circle
Tom Baker as Dr Who, a screenshot from ‘The Stones of Blood’
The Kings Men is a nearly perfect circle,104 feet across, made up of 77 stones of heavily weathered, local, oolitic limestone. It is believed that there were once 105 stones with just one entry but, in the 3.500 - 4,500 years since it was constructed, some have been removed, possibly for local building use. Legend has it that you cannot count the same number of stones more than twice. We didn’t try!
P1000839 The tallest stone
The stones range in height from a few inches to 7 feet (see picture above) The circle is (roughly) the same age as the Stone Circle at Stonehenge, and considered the third most important stone circle in England after Stonehenge and Avebury, though an 18c visitor wrote that this is ‘but a molehill to a mountain’.
The circle lies on an exposed ridge towards the Eastern edge of the Cotswolds, alongside an ancient trackway (now a country lane) known as The Jurassic Way.
No one knows why it was built or what it was used for, though theories abound. Religious site, astronomical calendar, astrological calendar trading post – take your pick as many ‘experts’ have done through the years but something about it seems to bring out the mystic in some visitors.
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Across the lane is The King Stone, believed to be of Bronze Age origin, so younger than the Kings Men.
P1000855The King Stone 
The irregular shape is not just the result of weathering but by the tradition of chipping off small pieces as good luck charms to keep the Devil away. It is believed that it was much bigger when it was erected.
As with the Kings Men, it is on the ridge and attracts some religious feelings.
P1000860 P1000856         Long Compton from the Ridge                A wreath left at the foot of the stone
The last in the series of megalithic monuments on the site is The Whispering Knights. The Knights are a group of 5 upright stones about 400 yards away from the Stone Circle.
These are the oldest stones and are a 5,000 year old burial chamber.
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As you would expect, there are several local legends associated with the stones. If you are a young village girl who wishes to see the image of the man you will marry then you must run naked round the stones at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve. It is also said that if a young woman fails to conceive she has only to visit the stones at midnight and give any one of the circle a hug. It has never been known to fail – or so they say.
One story concerns an ambitious king marching northwards with his army. At Rollright he met a witch who addressed him:
‘Seven long strides thou shalt take, and
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England shalt thou be’
The king strode forward confidently, but on his seventh stride the ground rose up in a mound hiding his view of the village below. The witch then went on:
‘As Long Compton thou canst not see
King of England thou shalt not be
Rise up, stick, and stand still, stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be
And I myself an eldern tree.’
And so the petrified king stands rooted to the windswept hilltop with his circle of soldiers and the five knights, plotting treason, behind him.
Despite being ‘a molehill to a mountain’. the Rollright Stones are all the more remarkable for their setting and lack of intrusive tarmac and modern buildings. Managed by The Rollright Trust. great care has been taken to maintain the natural setting in which the stones have stood for so long. Neat and informative signs tell as much as the average visitor would want to know.
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Trees are being planted and a discrete path laid to allow wheelchair access.
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We met other visitors, families, students and people from as far afield as China. Everyone was friendly, quiet and respectful of the site. There was NO litter. Entry is £1; just put the money in an ‘honesty’ box when the site is not manned.
The Stones of Blood was the 100th story in the series, Dr Who and the Rollright Stones were used as a setting – though transferred to Cornwall for the purpose. It was shown in 1978 and was in the series of stories ‘The Key to Time’. A good enough reason to visit even without the history.
More pictures at my Picasa Album

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