On Friday morning a package arrived through the letterbox. A friend sent us a CD of music he’d made inspired by his week’s holiday in Dorset. Thanks Squid. As we were listening to the music I said: “I haven’t been to Dorset for years! There’s stuff there I want to see.” Moth replied: “Let’s go then. Tomorrow.”
A spell of dry, cold weather meant glorious sunshine and lemon-coloured winter light. So we pulled on our fluffiest hats and coats, put the roof down on the Little Gold Car and zoomed off down the A34.
Our first stop was The Grey Mare & Her Colts – the remains of a once-mighty Neolithic long barrow.
Sheep were basking like lizards in the winter sun as we arrived. They hardly even budged as we climbed over the gate and over them to get into the field. The Grey Mare & Her Colts is a bit of a wreck but I have seen enough trashed burial chambers to be able to ‘read’ what is left of the stones. The swelling of the barrow is very pronounced and the portal stones are very large indeed. Up here the views stretch for miles and sounds of the countryside quietly seep into your soul…
Just two fields away from The Grey Mare lies Kingston Russell stone circle. The world’s leading authority on stone circles, Aubrey Burl, didn’t put this circle in his definitive field guide to British stone circles which has caused much puzzlement in the amateur antiquarian community over the years. I wanted to see the stones for myself, especially as Moth said he liked it so much.
Sadly not one of the stones stand any more, but there are lots of stones to see, perhaps 18 of them, some really quite big lying on the ground next to the place where they once stood. The circle’s diameter is about 15ms (I’m quite bad at guessing these things). This would have been a real beauty. And actually, it still is. The internal space is still clearly marked out and although the drama and life was destroyed by whoever pulled the stones down, the circle is not yet dead. I liked it a lot. The farmer had just been and mowed carefully round the circle and the place smelled fabulous. Re-erect them stones!
I do love a dolmen. The Hellstone is one I’d wanted to see for some time as in the photos I’d seen it looked so tortured and in a very unusual position. When I actually saw it yesterday it all made sense at last. On a field boundary, near a gate and a pond, this dolmen has been horribly mucked about with during an ill-considered restoration. Stones huddle together like fingers in a clenched fist supporting a single lumpy capstone. It’s all wrong! But it’s all right, too, because at least it’s up. It’s up and someone actually gives a toss. The monument still has power.
Like all ancient monuments with chambers I have to get inside. This one is tall enough for me to stand up in with loads of headroom. Some tosser had scrawled graffiti on one of the stones inside the chamber- a reversed swastika. A pox on them.
As Moth whizzed around taking photos, I made a very quick sketch before my hands got too cold to continue.
The valleys and rolling hillsides of Dorset are punctuated with beautiful barrows, whole chains of them stretching across fields and entire cemetaries: bowl barrows, long barrows, saucer barrows and just yummy grassy lumps and bumps carefully cultivated around. (And indeed probably not so carefully at times). We admired some of them en route to our next stop – Nine stones of Winterbourne Abbas.
We took to the sanctuary of the tiny Nine stones stone circle, sheltered beneath the branches of a spectacular mature beech tree, with massive fungus colonies sprouting from its roots. It’s a very sweet stone circle which was perhaps used by both local people and travellers using the trackway that is now the busy A35.
Some tosser or tossers has chosen to decorate the monument with flowers. One bunch, still wrapped in its sellophane, had been left at the base of the tree. Another bunch had been placed in a log vase in the centre of the circle, around which was arranged some twigs to form the arms of a reversed swastika.
Perhaps the same tosser who did this scratched the graffiti at the Hellstone? Two things: How come the people who apparently have enough ‘respect’ to lay flowers as some kind of offering at an ancient monument, can’t be arsed to respect 1. the environment by taking their sellophane wrappings aways with them? and 2. the feelings of other visitors for who the swastika means nazism and is therefore deeply offensive? You can be sure that the swastika twigs did not stay very long! Moth unwrapped the flowers and took away the sellophane to dispose of correctly.
Next stop Chesil Beach.
I’d been about 20 years ago but wanted to see it again, because it’s a truly fascinating place and I love places with pebbles. And this IS pebbles. Happy Jane.
There was just enough time before sunset to fit in one more place. Lulworth Cove.
I hadn’t been here before and now having spent one short hour there I really, REALLY want to go back for a couple of days to amble across the stripey cliff tops and draw and paint my heart out. We climbed to a look out point to watch the sun set in the west…
…and the moon rise in the east. That’s real earth magic.
Photos: Moth Clark and me