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Quoits, whores and hawks

06 Mar 2006 / 0 Comments / in stone hugging

It really must be spring because yesterday Moth and I went out to look at prehistoric monuments. We eschewed the charms of Oxfordshire’s famous Uffington White Horse and the Rollright stones in favour of a bunch of big old obscure rocks that we wanted to show some cyber-friends.

Much of our ancient heritage is being quietly trashed, neglected, ploughed out and dug up. The Devil’s Quoits, near Stanton Harcourt, OS Ref SP411048, is an ancient henge and stone circle dating back to around 3,500BCE. It suffered appallingly in the 1940s when a runway was built over half of it. The runway is now gone and the Quoits is a rare thing among prehistoric monuments – it is being sensitively and carefully reconstructed. I have been observing its phoenix-like resurrection for four years and although there has been no further progress since my last visit in November 2005, it still makes me happy to witness the rebirth of one of Britain’s premier ancient sites right on my doorstep.

Photo: Moth Clark
Our cyber-friends gasped the size of the earthwork and were thrilled at the re-erected original ‘Quoit’ stones standing alongside locally sourced new megaliths.

Please note there is no public access to this site.

We then took our cyber-friends the giant Hoar stone at Enstone, OS Ref SP378237.

They had had some trouble locating the giant stone despite ‘Old Soldier’, as the largest megalith is known, being nine feet tall.The Hoar stone is actually a number of very large stones which once made up a neolithic burial chamber. They now lurk under some trees.
This part of north west Oxfordshire has a few other prehistoric goodies to enjoy, too. Just two miles from the Hoar stone the Thorstone at Taston, OS Ref SP359220, is all that remains of what was once, perhaps, a stone circle. Medieval Christians erected a cross nearby to ward off any nasty, dirty pagan evil that the stone may give off.

Photo: Rebecca van der Putt
Outside the tiny hamlet of Dean, just a mile from the Thorstone, the Hawkstone, OS Ref SP339235, stands proud and isolated at the top of a field surveying glorious views stretching west over rolling countryside.

The Hawk stone and the Hoar stone may get their names from the pagan goddess Hoeur, from which the words ‘her’ and ‘whore’ may be the etymological derivation. Scholars say that the Thorstone is more likely to have been named after an ancient British deity Toar. It is from Toar we get the word ‘tor’, meaning rocky outcrop. His divine descendants include Thor and Taranus, Keltic thunder gods. It may also be from Toar we get ‘altar’, a ritual stone.

Our ancient heritage is not in a history book. It is in the landscape we inhabit and language we speak. That’s very exciting if you stop to think about it for a moment.

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