The Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire…

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A gap in the hedge, a slip in time…

When I go to old houses, castles or ruined abbeys, I’m usually caught up in the history of the place, but where stone circles are concerned, what matters to me is how they make me feel. There’s something enduringly mysterious about them and each one seems to have its own particular atmosphere.

One of my favourite stone circles is the Rollright Stones, hidden away behind the hedge, just off the A44* between Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Norton.

If you’re not looking for them, you’ll probably miss them, but park in the lay-by,  find the gate in the hedge, and you’ll step through into another place and time.

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There are lots of myths and legends surrounding the Rollright Stones. The main circle is called The King’s Men, whilst a single stone across the other side of the road is called the King Stone, and away across the fields is a small group known as the Whispering Knights. Legend has it that they are the petrified bodies of an invading king and his men, turned to stone by a witch – wonderful stuff.

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looking out from The King

looking out from The King

The other well-known mystery about the Rollrights, is the inability to count the stones in the circle. When we go, we all count them and can never agree on the total. If you try again, you get a different number.

But whatever the stories, the stones always seem to draw you in. You simply have to walk round, it can’t be resisted. The stones are well-known and well used by all sorts of people, (I read once that the actor Mark Rylance got married there – is that true?), but it doesn’t seem to diminish their power to enchant. There were about a dozen other people there when we visited last late on a Sunday afternoon, but it didn’t matter, there was still a hush and a quiet energy.

If any of this has tickled your fancy, please take a look at this video by Jack Reid of the University of Bristol. It’s about 15 minutes long – I was fascinated, perhaps you will be too.

* The actual location of the stones is: Latitude 51deg 58’ 32.68” N, Longitude 1deg 34’ 14.11” W
National Grid Reference: SP 2963 3089

The Rollright Trust has a fabulous website which gives masses of information (and another link to Jack Reid’s video).

 

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Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire.

Desperately seeking autumn…

For anyone interested in the classic eighteenth century landscaped garden, Stowe is a must visit location. Or you might just be like me, desperate to find some proper autumn colours.

If you read my ramblings over at Mostly Motley, you’ll know that the autumn display has been a bit subdued around here, so a couple of weeks ago, we went off to Stowe, because let’s be honest, if they can’t put on a show there, nowhere can.

IMAG3777Now, Stowe is the quintessential eighteenth century English landscaped garden – which means vistas and temples and lakes…

IMAG3695and in many ways you can quickly forget that you live in the twenty-first century (well so long as you avoid the schoolboys on cross-country runs or the gentleman golfers), 

IMAG3764so it probably shouldn’t surprise me, that I often experience a type of time-slip when I’m there. Do you know the story about the two English ladies who visited Versailles in 1901 and thought they’d met the ghost of Marie-Antoinette, sketching outside the Petit Trianon just as the Revolution started. (It’s a fabulous tale, whether you believe it or not) – the ladies said they’d become lost in the grounds of Versailles, and thought they’d found themselves seeing the Petit Trianon as it was in 1789.

Well, when I wander around Stowe, I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time too. It really wouldn’t disturb me at all to see groups of aristocratic ladies and gentlemen strolling along in Georgian dress – enormous powdered wigs, fans and all. Actually I think the National Trust should have costumes available at the entrance, so those of us with unfulfilled dressing-up aspirations could indulge our fantasies.

IMAG3725Imagine taking tea in this temple.

IMAG3708or exploring the secret garden path, with your silk skirts brushing the ground.

IMAG3702Here’s a Chinese house – for adult playtime Georgian style.

IMAG3696Or perhaps you might be inspired to write one of those new-fangled Gothic Romances.

IMAG3718There are plenty of follies to fuel your imagination. And temples galore…

IMAG3727IMAG3759IMAG3781Which is just as well, because, to be entirely honest, the colours were still a little bit disappointing this year – but at least at Stowe there’s so much else to occupy your thoughts and you don’t have to have a riot of colour to stimulate your more romantic tendencies.

Apparently there are around 40 follies in the 250 acres of Stowe gardens. I’m not sure that we’ve ever found them all, but then we’re not really into ‘ticking things off’ – and there’s always a little frisson when you round a bend and find yourself in front of a temple you haven’t noticed before. But then of course the romantic in me wants to believe the occasional time-slip is a real possibility…

Stowe – simply gorgeous – at any time.

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PS: Stowe has new visitor facilities – what a relief, the old ones really were awful – so now if you go on a cold afternoon, you’ll be able to warm up with a hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows) in the lovely new cafe, and thank goodness, the new toilets are fine – phew!

For National Trust visitor information, click here.

The River Findhorn, Scotland.

I’m the daughter of an avid angler, so I suppose it’s not surprising that I have a thing for rivers. The Findhorn has to be a favourite, not only because it flows through some of the most awe-inspiring Scottish landscapes, but also because I love the way its character changes along its route. I was lucky enough to explore a short section while we were on holiday in August – and despite having had very little rain for weeks (apparently), it still managed to give me a thrill.

IMAG2667Our first stop was at the somewhat misleadingly named Randolph’s Leap. (the story behind the name is wonderfully expressed here – do read about it).

My heart was in my mouth as we walked around the banks here, but this is popular kayaking water – that’s not a sport for me!

IMAG2641IMAG2669 The path is well trodden, but I’d still caution taking great care – it’s a long way down.

I tried to imagine what it was like to have leaped across the rocks here, but even thinking about it made my knees turn to jelly.

Further along the Findhorn, is Dulsie Bridge.

IMAG2791On the day we went, a couple of very polite young lads were preparing to jump from it – I tell you this because I thought they were joking, but later, as we were walking along, we heard a tremendous splosh – they were serious – mad I’d call it. (We did see them walk back up the road a while later, smiling!)

There’s something entrancing about rushing rivers on a hot summer day.

IMAG2831 IMAG2814 IMAG2800Although there were small pools of tranquility.

IMAG2834We followed the course of the river to Ardclach (I’ll do a separate post soon about the Bell Tower and church there).

My last visit to the river here was 18 years ago – nothing seemed to have altered.

IMAG2890 IMAG2899What can I say. We all have our own relationships with rivers. This one is special to me.

 

 

 

 

Landscape

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The British Isles may not be very large, but they do manage to encompass some pretty amazing landscapes. Many of us feel a strong connection to certain places, whether it’s inland or beside the sea, high up on mountains, or watching the wide expanse of a fenland sky.

It would be impossible to think about the heritage and history of Britain, without also considering the landscape in which events took place.

Please visit Mists of Time again, and by then I hope to have written more about some of my favourite areas of natural splendour and historic importance.

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