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(an alternate version of an article written for Dunmanway Doings Volume VI – 2014)
Gordon J.R. Kingston
It’s early morning. The earth breathes out a heavy mist and the dew gathers on the spines and the cobwebs on the furze. The fog seems to hang over Lough Atarriff, leaving a void that mirrors the shape of the surface below. A car engine sounds in the distance. You think that it’s just you (and whatever creeps and crawls unseen through the wet grass) that’s moving. But you’re not alone. Four grey figures stand, one fallen, in relief against the whiteness, as if all else; hill, valley, present, past, has been carved away from around them. They are static, but filled with a hovering tension, in which verticality and circularity combine; to form the illusion of movement, or life, or the quality of art.
The stone circle at Lettergorman is set…
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Craddock Moor stone circle to undergo a complete clearance and re-exposure of its buried stones where detected.
Text and images © Roy Goutté.
Living as I do on the eastern edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall I spend as much time as I can tramping about visiting everything it has to offer, which archaeology wise, is a great deal!
Quite often one comes across a site that has suffered at the hands of those that should know better or wandering livestock, or in fact the very land itself that it is built upon!
One such example is Craddock Moor stone circle (SX248771820), just a stone’s throw away from Cornwall’s iconic triple stone circles the Hurlers at Minions. Erected on peaty soil during, it is believed the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze-Age, it has slowly but surely been returning to Nature and is now a totally recumbent circle of stones due no doubt to a combination of that peaty soil and wandering livestock pushing them over or using them as rubbing stones. Also subjected to nearby quarrying activities and intensive peat workings it has not had an easy ride.
Many of the fallen uprights have totally succumbed to the peaty soil and are now lying buried whilst others are gradually becoming strangled and covered by the chain-mail type gorse, turf and other vegetation that proliferates on this part of Craddock Moor and extremely difficult to work your way through. (See main photo above).
This of course is a huge problem for those responsible for the upkeep of these circles and because of a shortage of funding, not something that can be attended to as regular as they would wish to.
This is where we can and should help out whenever possible. This is our heritage and if we want future generations to have the pleasure that we ourselves are having, then we should offer our services and ‘put something back’ in appreciation of what our great ancestors left behind for us to wonder at.
With this in mind I have been working quietly with our excellent Heritage at Risk officers and reporting back to them when I see damage being done to a site or the likes of a fence needing repairing or environmental problems during my tramping about over the moor. As many of the sites I visit are way off the beaten track I always carry a small hammer/nails/staples/saw in my rucksack to make emergency repairs then report it back on my return in case it needs further work.
This has been very much appreciated and a trust gained. Personally, it has led to me being invited to take part in archaeological excavations and surveys, something I thought I would never do, and recently, with a small team of equally dedicated friends, carry out a clearance of discovery at Louden stone circle.
The work we were trusted to do at Louden was very successful and appreciated and we were able to reveal far more about this Scheduled Monument than was previously known (see here).
I and the team have now been granted permission to carry out similar work at Craddock Moor circle and feel very privileged and thankful for the opportunity.
The approved plan is to firstly carefully remove all the turf/gorse/general growth off the now recumbent stones so that those above ground are clearly visible to the public who at the present time give up the will to live seeking the circle out! Once done, the ‘missing’ or buried stones that we have detected will be neatly exposed to their upper surface (not below) so that they can be recorded. If no more than an inch or two beneath the surface they will be left exposed, but if much deeper and a danger to livestock and walkers alike, will be re-covered on the completion of the work once a full survey has been carried out. The important thing is that we will then know far more about this circle than we previously had.
I have already photographically recorded the site prior to work commencing with digital stills and a video and yesterday (the 3rd October) made my first working visit in preparation and anticipation of our start next week (weather permitting).
Whilst I was there I just had to reveal a stone not fully seen for years. For me, that moment when an apparently shapeless stone just breaking the surface also sees the full light of day is rather magical as it turns from being ‘just a stone’ to a stone that was once selected by our ancestors some 4,000 years ago to fulfil a purpose that we may never get to fully understand!
As I mentioned earlier, the chain-mail type gorse/turf mix covering many of the stones is a devil to cut through and quite time consuming but well worth the effort if we can once again have something worthwhile to see and learn from. As they say… watch this space for updates…
In the meantime…
If you would like to get your hands dirty and join our small team during our work on the circle before winter really sets in you would be most welcome. Just leave your details on the Comments page and I will get back to you ASAP.
Just a word of warning though for the faint hearted. Before any work can be done we have a half-mile walk with our tools to get there… and back again, with no shelter if the weather turns foul on us, so our working days will be carefully selected!!
Last year Northampton Council sold an Egyptian statue of Sekhemka for a lot of money. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has deferred a decision on the export licence application for a second time, now giving themselves until March 29 2016. It seems there is a realistic chance that someone will buy it back for Britain. The DCMS has received “notification of a serious intention to raise funds to save the Sekhemka statue for the UK,” and thus “ensure there will be public access to the statue.”
This apparently good news came a few days ahead of the launch of the new British Archaeology, which has two features on the statue (see above, available online on October 7, and in shops on October 9). Stephen Quirke and Alice Stevenson review the sale and future implications, and I ask about the man thought to have brought the statue to…
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