April 30th, 2016

Walpurgis night is little known here in Britain but is celebrated in other Northern European and Scandinavian countries on 30 April. In Germanic folklore it is known as 'Hexennacht', literally 'Witches Night'. Legend says that during Hexennacht, evil ghosts represented by cold weather, snow and darkness meet with witches and demons at Blocksberg Hill in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. Here they make mischief before taking off on broomsticks, pitchforks and billy goats at midnight. Customarily, children and teenagers play tricks on neighbours, similar to the night of 31 October here in Britain. Witches Night seems to have originated in distant times, when people believed that evil ghosts attempted to prevent the "Queen of Spring" ... Read More

April 18th, 2016

The bluebells are almost in full bloom and on Sunday 17 April 2016, we decided to visit a bluebell wood in Dorset discovered by chance some years ago. Most bluebells are found in ancient woodland where the rich habitat supports a whole host of species and some perhaps remnants of the original wildwood that covered Britain after the last Ice Age. Nowhere does the bluebell grow in such profusion as in Britain. In Scotland the flowers are known as wild hyacinth.  During the Bronze Age, people used bluebell glue to attach feathers to their arrows.  Folklore suggests that a field of bluebells is intricately woven with fairy enchantments.       Bluebells carpet the woodland in late spring creating a shimmering azure haze and to have them in your ... Read More

Part 1 My first memory of Hengistbury Head is a childhood school visit and I recall huge banks of large pebbles on the beach, not unlike those on Chesil Beach further west along the south coast. I have visited the site probably thousands of times over the years for walks and occasional jogs along the seafront. I have also researched the archaeology of Hengistbury and its environs a little over the years, especially during my visits to the excellent Red House Museum who kindly allowed me access to their archives some years ago, before my local studies took a backseat to my Stonehenge-related activities and other projects from December 2013. Sometimes it is easy to overlook the history on one's own doorstep, and to date ... Read More

April 6th, 2016

On Monday 4 April 2016 I visited the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. This visit was first inspired last year on viewing a photograph of the above object, which is on display at the museum. The chalk carving is described as 'found in the south ramparts of Maiden Castle, Dorset. The spiral -- a common decoration in prehistoric art -- suggests a human face.' The carving also incorporates a primal solar form into the 'eyes' of the face, hinting perhaps at observations made by man of the apparent movement of the sun across the skies and horizon between midsummer and midwinter solstice standstills. One of the most iconic displays in Dorset County Museum are the mosaics inlaid on the floor, which came from Roman townhouses ... Read More

March 27th, 2016

As a child, I enjoyed many family summer holidays in the West Country, particularly in the area around St Merryn, Trevone Bay, Constantine Bay and Harlyn in Cornwall. Living on the south coast of England in Bournemouth, Dorset, the drive across the 'green and pleasant land' of Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall was unfailingly an inspiration.  In recent years, I generally visit Glastonbury in Somerset three or four times a year, and to this day, driving west from Bournemouth somehow naturally lifts my spirits, perhaps in echo of those halcyon days of sunshine, seaside, innocence and childhood. My first drive to Glastonbury in 2016 was on Sunday 13 March, accompanied initially by a perfect early spring blue sky. By mid-afternoon, as I walked from the town ... Read More

The sarsen stones of Stonehenge represent the principal building material used in the monument's construction, of which 53 stones remain, from around 85 in the original structure. Sarsen stone is a silicified sandstone found as scattered blocks on the chalk in southern England. There is no significant geological source of sarsen stone in the immediate vicinity of Amesbury, only  a few scattered single sarsens, such as the Cuckoo Stone and at Bulford, but no sarsen drifts. Interestingly, my friend Pete Glastonbury, the Wiltshire Antiquarian, has indicated that there is also a collection of sarsens at a long barrow near Robin Hood's Hall that must have originated from a local source. The lack of a local geological source for the main building material appears to have been ... Read More

February 10th, 2016

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow is a Neolithic chambered tomb with multiple burial chambers, dating from approximately 3500 BC. It is 30 metres long and located near the village of Wellow in the English county of Somerset. I visited it for the first time on a leaden-skied Sunday afternoon on 13th December 2015. English heritage state, 'Although usually considered to have been tombs, it is possible that many long barrows were in fact shrines -- places where the presence of the ancestral dead helped the living to contact their gods, much as a medieval church contains graves while being primarily intended for the living community that built it. Some barrows have provided evidence that use continued even after burials were no longer made.'   [caption id="attachment_1914" ... Read More

February 7th, 2016

I visited Stanton Drew Stone Circles and Cove in Somerset for the first time on a leaden-skied Sunday 13th December 2015. 'Although this is the third largest complex of prehistoric standing stones in England, the three circles and three-stone ‘cove’ of Stanton Drew in Somerset are surprisingly little known. The Great Circle, 113 metres in diameter, is one of the largest stone circles in the country and has 26 surviving upright stones' - English Heritage 'Stanton Drew Stone Circles and Cove comprise a large regular stone circle ('the Great Circle'), two large irregular stone circles, two associated stone avenues and 'the Cove' a closely spaced group of three standing stones. These Late Neolithic monuments are situated in close proximity, near to the village of Stanton Drew, ... Read More

Carol Druce recently kindly sent me the above image of one of the resident rooks of Stonehenge, adding, 'There are three that sit on my hand for food now -- one in particular. This one follows me around quietly and prefers to take food from my hand. (I work there).' The jackdaws have nested under the lintels for centuries. The real guardians of Stonehenge! In his Natural History & Antiquities of Selborne, a series of letters written following visits around the area, the famous ecologist, Gilbert White, recorded in 1788 that "Another very unlikely spot is made use of by daws as a place to breed in, and that is Stonehenge. These birds deposit their nests in the interstices between the upright and the impost stones ... Read More

On the morning of Monday 28 December I witnessed sunrise and moonset at Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire. I took the above photograph of an ethereal waning gibbous moon over Stonehenge setting to the west on arrival. This was a few days after the lunar minimum standstill point, which won't happen for another 18.61 years. The preceding days were typical of the often relentless mild grey gloom of what now forms much of an English winter here in southern England. Driving up in the dark from Bournemouth early that morning, as soon as I was north of Breamore I could see from the first inkling of light in a perfectly clear sky that the sunrise that morning might be something special. I arrived at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre ... Read More

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