65. The ground plan of Prehistoric Stanton Drew, six miles south of Bristol.
Stanton Drew's three circles of stone and a Cove were carefully placed to bring the sun, moon, stars, water, and spring water together in one place.
Present day. It was the evening of the 18th of June 2016, and the forecast promised a cloudless sky in the Bristol area in what was an otherwise overcast Britain. This clearing presented a photographic opportunity too good to miss. So, with a packed lunch, a flask of tea and cameras packed away in the car's boot, 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 where I planned to conduct operations and where I could get some overnight shuteye. The car park is on two levels, and the upper level leads up to a prominence upon which prehistoric folk chose to build a stone Cove.
Apart from its prominent position, there are two main reasons why the Cove was built where it is. The first is that from the Cove, the mid-June sun could be seen to rise out of the distant Publow Hill every year, as it did before St Mary's church, a wall, and some farm buildings blocked the view, and the second reason is that the Cove opens out south to receive the southernmost rising moon and the star, Gamma Crucis, which at the time was gradually disappearing beneath the southern horizon.
Starting then, from the South Circle, otherwise known as the SW Circle or SSW Circle by archaeologists, come and join me on a short walk so I can show you what Stanton Drew was all about.
66. Sunrise on the 19th of June 2016. This picture was taken from a little to one side of the South Circle and from where the mid-June sun was seen to exit the 123-metre-high Publow Hill without interruption from offending hedges.
Calculations show that the altitude of Publow Hill, where this photograph was taken, is three-quarters of a degree. In other words, we are looking uphill at it. We can also see that the sun does not rise vertically but on a slope. From the picture, we can see that for every degree of increase in altitude, the sun shifts south by about 0.8 degrees.
We also know that Stone Age folk were not so interested in the exact solstice as when the sun was well clear of the ground and shone with far greater power. For instance, on solstice morning 4,500 years ago, the sun lined up with Stonehenge's axis when almost two degrees into the sky!
Having photographed the sunrise from the South Circle and given some thought to its effects, let's make our way down to Stony Close, where lay the other two circles.
67. Sunrise looking northeast along Alignment A on the 19th of June 2016.
Having walked a couple of hundred yards from the South Circle to the Great Circle as quickly as we could, we were amazed to see the sunrise for the second time that day. We also note that the sun is too far north for alignment A. Furthermore, the sun was even further north when the circles and Cove were built. Neolithic folk needed to find a way of shifting the sun south by at least three degrees. And that meant increasing the altitude of the horizon to around four degrees without having to build a mountain!
A. The position and relative height of the Cove.
B. The Great Circle.
C. The North Circle. (John Woods Lunar Temple).
D. River Chew ravine. (exaggerated).
E. An un-named creek that feeds into the Chew.
G. A rise upon which stands the Blackmore and Langdon nursery.
H. An un-named rivulet.
J. Publow Hill.
Assuming tree-less horizons in Neolithic times, the peak of Publow Hill was visible from the Cove but nowhere else along Alignment A.
From river Chew bank at D, to rise at G - altitude 1.5-degree. From E to F - altitude 2.3-degrees.
These horizons foretold the comings of the summer solstice, with first appearance over Publow Hill as seen from the Cove, then from D to rise G, and then from E over F, with the sun rising slightly further south at each stage.
Bringing the sun down for a drink.
Few, since the Stone Age, have seen Stanton Drew’s most outstanding display, and it is dangerous to do so for any length of time, anyway.
The north-western bank of the ravine prevents the sun from casting its reflection into the river until well into the sky. When it does, the solstice is shifted several degrees south, bringing it in line with Alignment A, and will then "walk" the river for a short distance.
69. From sleepy brook to deep ravine. It's said that the stones of Stanton Drew walk down to the river Chew at night to take a drink. How quaint! So, I went to look at this river, and I can say that any stone that went for a drink did not get back! With steep slopes on either side, the river resembles a miniature version of America's Grand Canyon.
I estimate this ravine to be around four metres deep and seven metres wide at the top.
70. Not Stanton Drew, but a brook near where I live. Midday 26/03/2022.
If I had any doubt that the entire orb of the sun "walks" Stanton's River Chew to line up with its stone circles and cove at the summer solstice, this photograph settles it.
71. Alignment A, seen from the centre of the North Circle, passes through the centre of the Great Circle and ends at the Cove hidden behind the church. The centre of the Great Circle is conveniently marked by a group of visitors who are there to pay their respects.
This photo proves the sun is too far south to be aligned on the winter solstice, as Professor Alexander Thom claimed. Furthermore, it matters not where we stand, or at what height, there is nothing that can be done to improve it.
72. A view looking down on Stony Close from the South Circle.
This picture shows how the henge of the Great Circle appeared four-thousand-five-hundred-years-ago, unfortunately, with most of its stones missing. But this is not how the Great Circle started. It started as a massive 300-foot diameter bonfire that replicated the sun.
Also seen in this picture is the more complete North Circle, conveniently framed by the causeway through the Great Circle's bank and ditch. John Wood called the North Circle a "Lunar Temple" because he thought a line between it and the South Circle points at the southernmost setting moon. It does not. If anything, this line pointed at a low traversing star, such as the slowly disappearing Gamma Crucis. This star and others of the Southern Cross disappeared below the southern horizon around 5,000 years ago due to the precession of the earth's axis. Imagine how the inhabitants of Stanton Drew felt having to watch those stars slowly disappear!
73. This is what the fire looked like from the South Circle.
74. A view south from Hautvilles Quoit.
This alignment from the Quoit -- a solitary standing stone, passes through the centres of the Great and South circles to keep watch on the slowly disappearing stars of the Southern Cross. The line is acknowledged as not quite straight, as you might expect from tracing the position of a star constantly on the move. Furthermore, the Great Circle is not circular but a three-megalithic-yard oval.
75. No doubt encouraged by archaeologists who cast doubt on the Tyning Stones having anything to do with Stanton Drew's stone circles and Close -- even though the Tyning Stones marked the equinox and the position of a fresh-water spring. This derogatory attitude no doubt encouraged a farmer to pluck them out of the ground and carry them off to build a bridge over the Chew upstream of the Close. This photo shows how the Tyning stones ended up. One has been broken into handy brick sizes to support the other to sit on.
The original position of the Tyning's are still marked on OS maps, which proves them to have been aligned with the Equinox when viewed from the centre of the North Circle. This alignment is extensive, ending some seven miles away at the high plateau on which Bristol Airport is built.
78. STANTON DREW'S 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 circles of stone. 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, 500 BC.
The side slabs of the Cove are not parallel but splay out towards the south.
To find out exactly what the Cove points at, it was necessary to 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. This device helped to show that the side slabs have a splay of about nine degrees. Determining what each slab points at was another problem. Especially as you can see from the above, the view south (or southeast) is often blocked in summer by bushes that spoil the view. Fortunately, I already have some photos on file, which were taken in wintertime.
79. And this is the result. Previously thought to face too far south to be aligned on anything important, Stanton's Cove was meant to bring the moon and at least one of the fast-disappearing stars of the Southern Cross together. Most likely date 3 500 BC