Picture 1.0 Stanton Drew, six miles south of Bristol.
The monuments adjacent to the village of Stanton Drew are built on different levels. The monuments have been carefully positioned so as to be part of a crafty scheme to bring the sun, the moon, a star or stars - and water - together in one place.
The above picture is a modified photograph of Stone Close. It was taken from the higher ground on which the South-west circle is built. The South-west circle is the southernmost of Stanton Drew's three stone circles. Stone Close gradually slopes down until blocked by the river Chew. The Close holds two of Stanton's three circles, the Great Circle and the North-east Circle that John Wood called a 'Lunar Temple'.
The picture shows how the Great Circle probably looked in 2,500 BC, albeit with many more stones inside it. But this is not how the Great Circle started its life.
This first picture shows the more complete NE Circle as appearing through the causeway gap in the Great Circle's bank and ditch. John Wood called the NE Circle, a 'Lunar Temple', because he considered that an alignment between it and the SW Circle, points at the southernmost setting moon. It does not! Todays astronomers claim to have proved John's moon-alignment to be correct. This is bullshit.
A TV programme, aired in 2001, told of the time when early people at Stanton Drew, selected 450 of the largest oaks and used them to build a massive circular fire. As I recall, this programme failed to mention a similar but smaller fire built in the middle of what would become the SW Circle, perhaps because it had not yet been discovered. These were no ordinary fires; the largest at over 300 feet in diameter, and built in the middle of what would become the Great Stone Circle, consisted of nine almost perfectly circular rings, each ring succeeding the other, like Russian Dolls.
The equally important fire, built in the middle of the SW Circle, consisted of three rings, and was positioned relative to the Great Circle perhaps to form an alignment which aimed at the fast disappearing stars of the Southern Cross. These fires are thought to have been built around 5,600 years ago, well before Stonehenge's sarsen stone circle was built.
Present day. It was the 18th June 2016, and the forecast promised a clear sky in the Bristol area in what was an otherwise overcast Britain. This clearing presented a photographic opportunity too good to miss. So, with packed lunch, flask of tea and cameras packed away in the boot of the car, I set off to spend the night at Stanton Drew.
The village of Stanton Drew has only one public house - the excellent and highly recommended, Druid’s Inn. This inn has a spacious car park from which I planned to conduct operations, and where I could get some overnight shut-eye. The car park is also conveniently situated alongside Stanton Drew’s Neolithic stone cove, as my photos will later show.
On reflection, I am not entirely sure why I chose to photograph the rising sun from the most southerly of Stanton Drew’s three stone circles, but I’m glad I did!
Join me on a couple walks as we attempt to prove what Stanton Drew was all about.
3.0 This ground-plan-view of Stanton Drew’s three stone circles and Cove should help. Walk 1 starts at the SW Circle and follows the archaeologically accepted 'Alignment A' to take us into the middle of the Great Circle. From there, we pick up the accepted 'Alignment B' to take us into the NE Circle, what John Wood called a Lunar Circle.
The SW Circle is built on elevated ground known colloquially as the ‘Orchard’, and it overlooks the Great and NE Circles when looking roughly northeast.
After capturing Picture 2.0 I returned to the car and spent a fitful night worrying if I would wake in time to get the rising summer solstice photo I was mainly after. But as it turned out, I need not have worried.
4.0 Sunrise 19th June 2016. This picture, out of necessity and due to offending hedges, was taken from the pathway leading from the ‘Orchard’, a little to one side of the SW Circle. Here the sun is seen exiting the 123-metre-high Publow Hill, almost three miles away. The altitude of Publow Hill, compared to the altitude of the SW Circle, (54 metres) causes us to look up-hill at the sun by about three-quarters of a degree.
The solstice sun, when the circles were built, rose about one-degree further north as seen here. So, with the solar disc about half-a-degree across, the sun in 2,500 BC was two diameters further to the left of that seen above. Also, and weather permitting, the Major Moon will be seen rising even further to the left of the sun in 2024.
Having got photographs of the sun at it's summer solstices, and with no obvious reason to stay, we make our way downhill along Alignment A, to stand in the middle of the Great Circle - noting how a dip in the walk causes the sun to disappear.
5.0 But first we take a look at what the fire in the middle of the Great Circle looked like from the SW Circle.
We are making a temporary holt at the centre of the Great Circle, now that the fire is out! and we turn around and face the way we came to see where the stars of the Southern Cross could once be seen skimming the horizon, some five to six thousand years ago.
6.0 The Arts and Crafts of Neolithic folk. Splitting the horizon into two parts - one near and one far.
Photographed from the centre of the Great Circle, you can see how the horizon on the left is distant and the horizon on the right (the Orchard) is a matter of a few yards away. The overall result - whilst not perfect - presents as being level. The difference isn't much: The 160-metre high peak of Roundhill has an altitude of 2.4-degrees, as against a 3-degree altitude of the Orchard.
And I'm truly sorry that the SW Circle and Orchard is just out of camera shot.
We know that the Great Stone Circle, where we are presently standing, is oval, not round. And, ovality gives a stone ring an axis. This axis points 20-degrees from south and at the very peak of Roundhill as seen above. So, the Great Circle obeys the 10-degree rule set out at such places as Godmanchester and the Arminghall Henge.
Conversely, The Orchard and the centre of the SW Circle is 20-degrees the other side of south and is a mere 190-metres away.
It was as if the builders considered this reduction in the distance to be a way of 'reeling the stars in'. First into the fire of the SW Circle, and then into the fire of the Great Circle.
Now I know this all sounds very highfalutin, but Stanton Drew is not the only place where Neolithic folk split the horizon in two. Deliberately, and probably, by the same people. The same technique of 'splitting' was applied to the Stoney Littleton long barrow, some eight miles away from Stanton, as a way of giving precedence to the southernmost setting sun. More on this, later.
7.0 Sunrise 19th June 2016, seen from the Great Circle.
Having arrived in the middle of the Great Circle we can now continue our walk into the centre of the NE Circle - John Wood's 'Lunar Temple'.
This alignment starts at the Cove, passes through the centre of the Great Circle and the NE Circle, and ends at Publow Hill.
The beauty of Alignment B, lies in the fact that the sun surpassed it by three degrees to rise exactly 50-degrees from north, when viewed from the middle of the NE Circle.
So, it was the summer solstice sun that obeyed the Stone Age 10-degree rule at Stanton Drew, in 2,500 BC.
It was not the sun at Stonehenge that obeyed the 10-degree rule, it was Stonehenge's axis!
Of equal importance, is that as well as being aligned on the moon, John Wood's 'Lunar Temple' pulled in the sun as well!
8.0 Alignment B runs from the Cove to the the peak of Publow Hill, passing over the centres of the Great and NE Circle on its way.
If it were possible to walk the line these days, by the time we arrive at the Great Circle at B, Publow Hill would have disappeared behind rise F. The further we walk the line, the greater 'F's' altitude becomes and this has the effect of producing a more accurate summer solstice.
Nor is full accuracy of the solstice obtained from the middle of the Northeast Circle at C. That has to be viewed from the middle of the River Chew, at D.
That's because the designer/surveyors wanted to bring the sun down for a drink! Some party!
10.0. THIS IS NO ALIGNMENT! The Cove is behind the church, and the sun is much too far south for Alignment A to point at the winter solstice as Alexander Thom and others have claimed.
11. No doubt encouraged by archaeologists who cast doubt on the Tyning Stones having anything to do with Stanton Drew's stone circles, encouraged a farmer to take them for use to bridge a brook. This photo shows how one has been broken into slabs to support the other.
The Tyning Stones once stood alongside a spring that fed a short rivulet that added to the River Chew. The original position of the Tyning's is still marked on OS maps which prove them to have been aligned with the Equinox when viewed from the centre of Stanton Drews NE Circle.
So the Tyning's and the NE Circle once formed a fourth alignment, which we will call: Alignment D.
Alignment D westward, was extensive, when tree-less, ending some seven miles away near the high plateau on which Bristol Airport is built.
With the sole intention of bring the sun and moon together, these two stones are important and should be put back where they belong. Because if they are not deemed important, then nor is the Stonehenge Great Cursus, which operated with a similar purpose.
12.0. This is how the Great Circle started its life as a 300 foot diameter of timber posts set in nine almost perfect circles. The South West Circle from where the previous picture was taken, had three such timber rings.
13.0. This is a view of the timber structure in the middle of the Great Circle but this time looking south and in the opposite direction.
The view south to someone standing in the middle of the Great Circle in the shallow valley known as Stone Close is partially blocked by rising ground except where it gives way to expose a 150 metre-high hill, some 2540 metres away that forms part of the horizon. This hill goes by the name of Round Hill because its north-eastern end presents as a spherical-shaped knoll. The southernmost moon exits via the peak of Round Hill every 18.61 years and after skimming the horizon will set into Knowle Hill. The stars of the Southern Cross skimmed the southern horizon 5,500 years ago too, before finally disappearing below the horizon around 3,000BC. While they were still visible, one or two stars of the Cross would surely have exited via the notch through the hill.
With Round Hill's altitude of more than 2-degrees from Stone Close, every star of the Southern Cross, at one time or another, was clearly seen from here.
Whist it's anybody's guess which one, or all four stars of the cross were Neolithic man's object of interest, all were gradually disappearing due to the fact that the earth and its axis has been falling backwards for many thousand of years. Don't worry, it will come back again, as it always has done. But we won't be around to see it!
So this fire took in 40-degrees of the southern horizon to watch this star, or stars, as they left Round Hill and came to ground in-line with the South-South-West-Circle where it could be caught. This small circle also had a circular fire of timber at its centre.
So started the monuments of Stanton Drew.
13.0. So far, we have discovered that Stone Close held two timber fires. The fire in the middle of what would later become the Great Circle of stone, was made up of nine circles using about 450 timbers and had an outer diameter of some 120 megalithic yards.
The smaller SSW Circle had only three circles, three being Stone Age man's most important number.
A television programme, aired as long ago as 2001, told of the remains of this massive fire that archaeologists had found in the middle of the largest of Stanton Drew's three circles. And it was that very programme that got me interested in trying to solve Stonehenge in the first place.
To reiterate: Around 5,600 years ago, and well before Stonehenge was built, people many miles to the west of the Stonehenge site, constructed a monstrously large bonfire in what later became the second largest stone circle in England after Avebury. Known as the Great Circle, it was not alone, but accompanied by two others around one-third its size.
The remains of these circles can still be found at Stone Close in the valley of the River Chew, next to the village of Stanton Drew, some 5-miles south of Bristol.
So, far we have been looking south.
2.0 STANTON DREWS COVE.
Archaeologists believe that the cove may once have been the portal of a long barrow whose mound disappeared long ago. They also say that, if it was a long barrow, it would make the cove 1,000 years older than the stone circles. Personally, I don't believe that the cove was once part of a long barrow, but either way, I would still date it to around 3, 400 BC.
The side slabs of the cove are not parallel, but splay out towards the south. In order to discover exactly what the cove aims at, it was necessary measure the amount of splay, and from it decide, as closely as possible, what each slab aims at.
To this end, a contraption of wood was made along the lines of a parallelogram. The device helped to show that the side slabs have a splay of about 9-degrees. Determining what each slab points at was another problem again. Especially, as you can see from the above, the view south, (or south-east, actually), is largely blocked in summer. Fortunately, I already have some photos on file which were taken in winter.
9.0. And this is the result. Previously thought to face too far south to be aligned on anything of importance, Stanton's cove was built bring the moon and at least one of the fast disappearing stars of the Southern Cross together. Most likely date? 3, 500 BC