Picture 1.0 Stanton Drew, six miles south of Bristol.
The monuments next to the village of Stanton Drew are built on different levels, but every one has been carefully arranged and positioned to be part of a crafty scheme to bring the sun, moon, stars - and water - together in one place.
Picture 1.0 was taken from the higher ground on which can be found the remains of the SW Circle - the southernmost of Stanton Drew's three stone circles. The lower level pictured, is known as Stone Close, and this continues on downhill until blocked by the river Chew. The Close holds two circles, the Great Circle, and the NE Circle that John Wood called a 'Lunar Temple'.
Picture 1.0 shows how the Great Circle probably looked around the year 2,500 BC, albeit with many more stones inside a surrounding ditch and bank. However, this is not how the Great Circle started its life.
Conveniently, 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 an alignment between it and the SW Circle, points at the southernmost setting moon - a Major Standstill.
Modern astronomers have since proved John's moon-alignment to be correct to within half a degree - Not bad for the year 1740 when John surveyed the place!
A TV programme, aired in 2001, told of the time when people in the Stanton Drew area 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, 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 a Russian Doll.
The equally important fire of the SW Circle consisted of three rings and was positioned relative to the Great Circle to form an alignment 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 cloudy 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 setting and rising of the 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.
2.0 Photo taken on the evening of the 18th of June 2016 from the SW Circle. The most northerly sunset, seen here, can be thought of as a kind of terminus where the sun abides a while before returning south from whence it came. This photo shows it setting to the south of the distant 233-metre-high Dundry Hill. The sun set one-degree closer to this hill in 2,500 BC when the stone circle was built.
Taken from the centre of the SW Circle, this picture shows two of its stones in the left foreground as fallen, as all of them are . But where am I. Where is the SW Circle From where this picture was taken? The next picture tells us,
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 Few have recognised that Alignment B runs from the Cove to the the peak of Publow Hill, passing through the centres of the Great and NE Circle on its way. But Publow Hill can only be seen - or could be seen from the Cove when first built. A good reason to build a hedge at F, and a few buildings at A, don't you think?
9.0. It's said that John Wood called the NE Circle a 'Lunar Temple' when noticing that a tangent between it and a tangent with the SW Circle made an alignment that aimed at the southernmost setting moon. I'm not so sure he wouldn't have worked from centre to centre. But no matter, he was accurate enough either way.
This is a view of those tangents as John saw them.
The jumble of stones in the foreground belong partly to the NE Circle and partly to its Avenue. And I don't suppose that anyone knows which is which. The stumpy stone in the middle is regarded as being Number 1 and is where John is supposed to have stood when looking towards the SW Circle on top of the 'Orchard'.
From here, where the photo was taken, the centre, not the tangent, of the SW Circle is marked by the dead tree.
The tangents in question, therefore start on the left side of Lunar Stone 1, and to the left of the dead tree, which has now been cut down.
One thing is certain: John's Lunar Temple is aptly named!
Let's finish this first walk by returning to where we started.
10.0. The Cove is behind the church and the sun in this photo is much too far south for Alignment B to point at the winter solstice as Alexander Thom and others have claimed.
Coming soon. The Cove and, what happened to the Equinoctial-aligned Tyning Stones?
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 away to use as a bridge over a brook. This photo shows how one of them has been broken up to build a pair walls with which to support the other, which appears to be in good condition.
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.