This image is derived from a photograph of part of the Boscawen Stone Circle in Cornwall. It seems incredible to think that these stones were paced in situ in Neolithic times – that is, between two and four thousand years BCE.
Tag Archives: Cornwall
‘Quoit’ is the Cornish word for a dolmen. A dolmen was constructed using three or more large stones supporting a huge capstone, as seen in this photo. The dolmen (quoit) formed the entrance to a tomb or burial chamber and was covered with earth and small rocks for protection
The Lanyon Quoit was probably originally built around 4000 BCE, but it was rebuilt in 1824. The original earth covering had already disappeared over the centuries and the exposed stone structure had collapsed during a particularly severe storm on 19 October 1819
Prehistoric monuments, such as stone circles, megaliths or menhirs (standing stones) and quoits, provide interesting features in the landscape of the British Isles. The best known examples (Stonehenge and Avebury) are familiar to most, but they are not alone – more than 1300 stone circles have been recorded in the British Isles and more than 10000 standing stones.
The monuments have their origin in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages (broadly between 4000 and 1800 BCE). Precise dating is notoriously difficult because they do not respond well to carbon dating techniques and there is an absence of artefacts that might be used for guidance. Similarly there is doubt about their purpose(s). Specialists in many disciplines, but with a shared interest – eg., geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, antiquarians, experts in folklore and legends etc – now pool their knowledge to shed light on a distant age.
Not surprisingly, over the centuries these intriguing phenomena have often been explained through legend and folklore. In the case of the Merry Maidens stone circle the nineteen stones were once innocent girls who were encouraged to dance on the Sabbath by two evil spirits in the guise of pipers. A sudden bolt of lightening from an otherwise clear blue sky transformed the girls and the pipers into their present state.
The image below is one of the pipers.
In my introduction to Scilly Rocks 1 I mentioned the extraordinary granite outcrops on the Isles of Scilly. This photo provides yet another example. I recommend that you click the above link and, indeed, look in on the related images. It is scarcely necessary to comment on the similarity of this rock formation to a giant tortoise.
A little less than thirty miles off the tip of Cornwall lie the Isles of Scilly. The Isles comprise approximately 140 islands, only five of which are inhabited. Many of the others are little more than small rock formations which have been the cause of many shipwrecks over the centuries, giving rise to the building of the Bishop Rock Lighthouse.
The total population is just over two thousand, more than three quarters of whom live on St Mary’s. The smallest populated islands are St Agnes (population 73) and Bryher (population 78). The other two islands are St Martin’s and Tresco.
Each of the smaller islands (the ‘Off Islands’) has a single track road stretching from one side to the other or, occasionally, looping round to rejoin the main track. None of them has any semblance of a pavement with curb. The only motorised vehicles are those essential to the livelihood of the residents – tractors, buggies, the odd ancient van or landrover.
In many ways these islands belong to a world that time forgot. Income Tax was not introduced until 1954 followed by Vehicle Tax in 1971. Vehicles are exempt from MOT regulations. Law and order is maintained by a police sergeant and two PC’s, a Community Support Officer and a Special Constable. The Isles have the lowest crime rate in England and most residents routinely leave their doors unlocked.
The Scilly Isles are reached either by boat (the Scillonian III) from Penzance, by small fixed wing Skybus planes, or by helicopter. Travel between the islands is provided by local boat services.
These islands are the southern most part of the UK and the climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream. Frost is rare – a factor contributing in the past to the growth of the early Spring flower trade with the mainland. Each of the Islands has its own distinctive character. All have white sandy beaches – especially Tresco.
Unsurprisingly, the Isles of Scilly are officially designated an Area of Outstanding Beauty.
This channel separates the islands of St Martin’s and Tresco. At the time of the extreme Spring tides intrepid walkers wade through the shallow waters from one island to the other, and similarly from Tresco to Bryher. The sheltered turquoise waters and near-white sands are breath-takingly beautiful and evoke a mood of calm and tranquility.
For a novel set on St Agnes read Narwhal by Margaret Gill