Monday, November 7, 2016
Great Rollright, Oxfordshire
A few weeks ago the Resident Wise Woman and I decided to grab an hour or two out and go over to the Rollright Stones, a prehistoric* stone circle that we’ve visited a few times before. I don’t know what it is about this place. Some say it feels spooky, others that it recharges their energies. I find it atmospheric – but very hard to photograph. My pictures of it seem to show expanses of grass with some tiny stones in the distance, or close-ups of stone that look like just…stone. My best effort was probably on a misty morning† when you couldn’t see the stones very well at all – at least there was atmosphere, even if it was mostly made of water vapour.
Once we’d had a walk round, imbibed the atmosphere on this much clearer day, and admired the way people had been decorating the hedge with coloured ribbons, we decided to walk around the neighbouring field to look at a smaller, associated group of stones, the Whispering Knights. They’re probably the remains of the inner chamber of a neolithic burial mound. The earth mound has long gone and the stones now form a tight cluster. Huddled together against a background of the gently undulating Oxfordshire countryside they make it easy to see why people imagined them as a group of conspiratorial figures speaking to each other sotto voce.
The Knights hold people’s attention just as magnetically as the stone circle. On approaching we saw that visitors have tossed coins that have gathered in a shallow depression in one of the lower stones; they have also left little twists of straw and a bunch of flowers. Offerings to the gods? To Mother Earth? Memorials to loved ones who loved this place? Or just encouragement to the people who look after the stones? Maybe all of the above. Evidence anyway of the ways in which people today still connect with this fascinating and haunting place.
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*The stones have their own website, here, which gives approximate dates of 2500–2000 BC for the stone circle and 5000 BC for the Whispering Knights.
† My previous, misty encounter with the Rollright Stones is remembered here. The comments section to this earlier post includes accounts of various legends associated with the stones.