Standing stones are my other passion. Most people know about Stonehenge and perhaps Avebury, but few realise just how many stone circles are still visible in our landscape. And as well as the stone circles there are the stones of long barrows and a large number of single standing stones, some quite modest in size.
Some of these single stones may have been christianised, with a cross carved into them. Others were used as parish boundaries, even milestones, used as markers in the same way as rivers, tracks and Roman roads were used when parish boundaries were established.
Many of these stones will have preceded the parishes by thousands of years. Perhaps they were track markers for prehistoric people moving through, rather than over, the landscape. Perhaps they were sacred spots like the wayside shrines of later Christianity. So what looks like, and indeed is, a parish boundary marker may be much older than the parish that it marks.
Here are details of those I have visited in Berkshire, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire. In Oxfordshire I had immense help from “The Old Stones of Rollright and District” by Paul Bennett and Tom Wilson, a booklet now out of print. In Gloucestershire, “Old Stones of the Cotswolds” by DP Sullivan, (Reardon Publishing –www.reardon.co.uk) was helpful. Buy these if you can get your hands on them.
In spring 2000 I went to Co. Cork, Ireland, to hunt for stone circles. There are said to be 86 out of 145 Irish stone circles in that one county. I photographed about eight of them, and caught a far off glimpse of about six more. Wellies, waterproof clothing, binoculars and zoom lenses will help those making the same visit. The difficulty is two fold – finding them on the ground in the first place and then getting permission to look at them. You will need two essential books – A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany by Aubrey Burl and The Stone Circles of Cork and Kerry by Jack Roberts (Bandia), both booklet and map. The latter can be bought at the Clonalkily tourist office. I have labelled my photographs with the numbers given in these two books.