This magnificent stone circle is the first that we ever shot serious footage at for ‘Standing with Stones’. Sadly though, Scorhill does not appear in the final film. Why? Well, Rupert and I first shot ‘serious footage’ for Standing with Stones way back in 2001 – and then we were not filming for the DVD as we know it, we were filming for the original 10 minute pilot film that we conceived as a try-out for a broadcast series. You can see the pilot in the ‘Extras’ section on the DVD. Since filming there though, we discovered that the owner of the part of Dartmoor on which Scorhill stone circle stands is particularly touchy about people visiting the site, let alone photographing or filming it. As the land owner lives in estate right next to the walk up to the site, we thought it best not to push our luck when it came to making the DVD and therefore removed it from our plans.
However, if you click on the image below you will be treated to the opening sequence from the 2001 pilot – all shot at Scorhill stone circle.
“A pagan couple who moved into a suburban estate in Dorset brought with them their own prehistoric stone circle.
John and Suky Burton imported the 13 prehistoric stones from their former Weymouth mansion when they downsized to a detached house in Dorchester last weekend.
The stone circle megalith was originally erected in the grounds of Abbotts Court by Burberry fashion house founder Thomas Burberry in the early 1900s.
The Burtons bought the mansion in the 1980s and could not live without the monoliths when they downsized to Dorchester.
Neighbours watched in bewilderment as druid John and hereditary witch Suky used a crane and a huge truck to transport the 6ft stones to their new abode. The couple – both antique dealers – aligned the stones at special points along a powerful ley line around the garden to encircle themselves with positive energy. Suky, 60, then invited 20 witches from her coven to dedicate the stone circle during a special night-time ritual.
Mrs Burton – whose mother and grandmother were witches – said: “We had a blessing of the stones and we brought the energy back. ”You could feel the energy circling the stones. We feel they are a place between worlds. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you are near these stones – but it is something extremely powerful. ”You can feel the energy pulsing around you, moving inside you, you feel at one with nature and get a real high.”
The full history of the 13 ancient stones is unknown, however, they are reputed to have originated from Portland, Dorset.
They were purchased early last century by fashion giant Thomas Burberry – who placed them outside his Abbotts Court mansion, in Weymouth.
The couple – who teach magic and witchcraft – uncovered the stone circle shortly after they bought Abbotts Court in 1980 and planned to leave it as an historic landmark when they downsized. But the property developer who bought the mansion threatened to dump the monoliths if they were left behind.
The couple employed a specialist removal firm – who used a crane and a fleet of trucks – to transport the 13 large stone to their new home. Each one was placed along a powerful ley line which runs from runs from Maiden Castle through to Muambury rings.
Mrs Burton, who has five children and 12 grandchildren, said: “It was a really big job bringing the stones with us. We had to employ about a dozen rather burly men and a crane to transport it all – but it was well worth it. ”Although I think a few of the neighbours were a little surprised, on the whole I think it’s been really well received. ”We are so happy to have finally have it all sorted. We were very upset at the thought of these stones just being dumped – but couldn’t think of how we could get them with us. ”They’ve made such a difference to our lives we were delighted when we realised we would be able to take the stones with us.”"
“It looks like a target to me!” So says Rupert of the Yellowmead quadruple stone circle in the South West of Dartmoor. Not that he or I seriously suggest in the film that it was for Neolithic hunting practise (“Nearest spear to the middle wins!”), but this is one of the first times in the film that we hint that playing and having fun with ideas around Neolithic and Bronze Age sites can sometimes unlock thoughts that are well worth pursuing.
In this case, Rupert’s seemingly off the cuff remark sparked off a train of thinking that informed a number of Rupert’s observations and conjectures that appear throughout the film. The lesson though, is not that we can derive any definitive answers from allowing the mind a bit more freedom when trying to interpret these sites, but that sometimes the evidence can yield valid alternative explanations when queried from “outside the box”.
We would have to wait until we got to Stanton Drew before our convictions became strong enough to follow through with the fruits of this line of thought, and I’m afraid Yellowmead remained mute in the face of Rupert’s half joke.
The astonishing thing about Yellowmead (apart from its quadruple concentricity, that is!) is that it is still there after all these years. Or that any monument remains standing on Dartmoor. Whatever its popularity with the folk who assembled it, it is certainly very popular with the animals of Dartmoor, especially the Dartmoor Ponies who seem to derive enormous pleasure from backing up to the stones and using them as a good scratching post. You can see the stones rocking in their sockets as they do so - quite alarming.
“Tourists who complain about the fence put up around Stonehenge in the Seventies should spare a thought for their Neolithic ancestors… they couldn’t even see the site because of a huge wooden barrier.
Archaeologists have found traces of the 20ft-high timber fence that snaked almost two miles across Salisbury Plain and hid sacred ceremonies from unworthy locals more than 5,000 years ago.
Now trenches have been dug along the line researchers believe the palisade took as it stretched from the east of the ancient stone circle, past the Heel Stone, to the west before heading south.
And experts believe that the time and energy taken to construct such a barrier, which has no other practical or defensive use, meant that it was designed to hide religious ceremonies from prying eyes.
Dr Josh Pollard, of Bristol University, who is co-director of the dig, said: ‘The construction must have taken a lot of manpower.
‘The palisade is an open structure which would not have been defensive and was too high to be practical for controlling livestock.
‘It certainly wasn’t for hunting herded animals and so, like everything else in this ceremonial landscape, we have to believe it must have had a religious significance.
‘The most plausible explanation is that it was built at huge cost to the community to screen the environs of Stonehenge from view. Basically, we think it was to keep the lower classes from seeing what exactly their rulers and the priestly class were doing.
‘Perhaps we should call Michael Eavis in from the Glastonbury Festival as a consultant because the huge metal fence erected there every year is the nearest modern equivalent.’
Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology Magazine and author of the book Hengeworld, said: ‘This is a fantastic insight into what the landscape would have looked like. This huge wooden palisade would have snaked across the landscape, blotting out views to Stonehenge from one side. The other side was the ceremonial route to the Henge from the River Avon and would have been shielded by the contours.
‘The palisade would have heightened the mystery of whatever ceremonies were performed and it would have endowed those who were privy to those secrets with more power and prestige. In modern terms, you had to be invited or have a ticket to get in.
‘We hope to learn more about the structure, which we lose track of on the other side of the main A303 trunk road because any remains were obliterated by the construction of a wartime airfield.’
Meanwhile, another team of scientists led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University is working on a collection of partly cremated bones found at Stonehenge in the Thirties by amateur archaeologists”.
Read the whole article at the Daily Mail here …
It was a grey day when I filmed at The Hurlers for Standing with Stones. An amazing site this – it doesn’t immediately impose itself on the visitor – it’s only by slow absorption that you get alerted to the grandeur that is laid out here across Bodmin Moor. Not one, not two but three large stone circles in immediate proximity to one another, more exquisitely defying the visitor to decipher its meaning than many other monuments. It’s a sleeping giant of a site. All the more pity that it did not feature more in the film. I suspect that if we had begun to scratch the surface even a little, we could have easily added half an hour to the DVD. Someone with more time on their hands might be inspired to write a novel.
As with the settlement at Roughtor to the North, the scene is dominated, not by a work of man, but by a curious work of nature – in this case named: ‘The Cheesewring‘. About 1 Km to the North of the rings and high up on Stowe’s Hill, The Cheesewring is a natural outcrop of granite that has been weathered into marvellous stratified shapes.
The interesting thing to note here is that again, as noted in the entry on this blog about Roughtor, we missed the encircling structure of a man made stone rampart. It seems that there is a class of structure known as a ‘tor enclosure‘. The example at Roughtor was previously dated to the Iron Age and therefore interpreted as a defensive structure. However, it is now dated to the Neolithic. What is curious is, that in an age when defensive structures are unknown (certainly as distinct from Iron Age hill forts), that encircling stone walls such as this are reserved for what it is hard not to interpret as naturally formed ‘sacred’ sites.
Fortean Times is (to quote from it’s own website) “… a monthly magazine of news, reviews and research on strange phenomena and experiences, curiosities, prodigies and portents. It was founded by Bob Rickard in 1973 to continue the work of Charles Fort (1874-1932).” You can visit the website here.
In the October 2008 edition of the magazine is a wonderful review by David V. Barrett of ‘Standing with Stones’. I have been given permission to quote it in full:
“There are thousands of prehistoric sites around Britain, including nearly 1,000 stone circles, says Rupert Soskin at the start of his journey around these enigmatic monuments left by our ancestors. Even in the two-and-a-quarter hours of this stunning documentary he can only include a selection – not just of the well-known sites but also many which are hidden away and far less known.
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