Day out: Rollright Stones and Pi=yum

6 Jan

Stonehenge is the famous circle, of course.  Or Avebury.  But north and to the east, along the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, another late neolithic stone circle sits just a few feet from a winding B-road:  the Rollright Stones.

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These are the King’s Men.  Legend has it that a king and his army were walking around (or marching, whatever) when they came upon a witchy woman with the power of prophesy.  The king asked the witch if he would be king of England and she replied: “Seven long strides thou shalt take, and if Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be!”  As his faithful knights waited in a circle — and a small band of faithless traitorous knights whispered off to the side — the king strode boldly forward, declaring: “Stick, stock, stone As King of England I shall be known.”   Seven strides later, a hill obscured his view, and the witch laughed: “As Long Comptom thou canst not see, King of England thou shalt not be!  Rise up stick and stand still stone, for King of England thou shalt be none; thou and thy men hoar stones shall be, and I myself an elder tree!”

IMG_3388The witch is still there.  HOW HOLY CRAP COOL IS THAT?  Above we see the King stone and a modern art form of the witch, gesturing.

IMG_3393This is Harry Potter level of awesome.  Tolkein style stupendous.  I still haven’t seen the new Hobbit movie and I don’t even care, now that I’ve seen this.  The sculpture is made from steel wire and  local Wellingtonia limbs which were ‘dead’wooded’ and donated to the project.  The artist is David Gosling, who is known for his environmental art.  (Check out his page: he’s pretty cool.)

You can read a series of poems about the stones online, in the 1900 publication The Rollright Stone: history & legends in prose & poetry by F.C. Rickett.

IMG_3334Although this is an outdoor site with no guides or tour office, it is well marked and very well maintained.  There is a limited amount of free parking in a lay-by to the road.  Informative signs like this one greet visitors near each area of the site.

IMG_3340Here are more of the King’s Men.  Legend says you won’t count the same number of stones in this circle twice — or legend says it is bad luck to touch them — or legend says if you do count the same number of stones twice your wish will be granted — or legend says you’ll be cursed.  Legend is basically completely psycho.

IMG_3349These are still-living stones.  Apparently this circle is now more known for healing and positive energies of some kind or another — here see one of the King’s Men crowned with a holly wreathe.  I’d love to come back here on solstice and see what I could see.

IMG_3381The stones are smoother on the inside face of the circle than the outside, but all appear to be eaten by cosmic worms and covered in ancient lichen.  (Actually, I’m not kidding about the lichen — it is speculated that not only are the stones over 2,000 years old, the very lichen on the stones may be up to 400 years old!)  Many of the stones are hollowed with peep-holes.

IMG_3353A short (but today, chilly) walk down a well-kempt path takes you to the Whispering Knights — remember them?  The disloyal knights who were plotting against their king.  The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, according the the witch — she turned them in to stone, too.

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Another version of the legend suggests these gentlemen may have been off to the side praying.  For what, who knows.  The more scholarly information signs describe this as a portal dolmen.  If you check out that link above to the book of legends and poems, you can see a photo of this grouping from over a hundred years ago — the stones were slightly more upright, then.

IMG_3359This would have been the lintel at the top of the dolmen (I think), since fallen.  A hollow in the top face now collects offerings from visitors.  (Reminding me of Odda’s Chapel and Trumpan church in Skye.  Always have your pence handy if you’d like to honor the local gods in the UK.)

IMG_3358Here are three knights, frozen forever.

IMG_3364I think this one is a Nazgûl.

IMG_3396Way back over by the King Stone, the remains of a smaller dolmen sit peacefully.  Someone has been scattering seeds in the center.

I could have easily spent more time here, but it was a bit chilly this early-January day.  The kids had a great time running in circles around the King’s Men, trying to count the stones.  For some reason I have a different version of the legend of the stones in my head, but I have no idea the source (I told it to my kids, anyway).  In the version in my head, an arrogant king and his court refuse to give proper courtesy to a Fairy queen.  When the king turns his back on the queen, she turns them all to stone.  Whatever the legend, I remember the poem:

Go visit the Rollright on such a night
When the Stones are lit by the pale moonlight.
Softly tread so that none may hear,
Speak not a word there is naught to fear.
Thou shalt see
Fairies wee,
Elves that ride on the Bumble Bee.
Pixies free
Full of glee,
And a Witch that looks like an Alder Tree.

Now, what could be better, before or after a visit to the Rollright stones, than a visit at one of my all-time favorite English pubs?  puddingface at the Crown & Tuns in Deddington is just 20 minues away from the stones by car, and serves the most amazing pies you will ever eat in your life, anywhere.  Seriously.

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This is a venison pie with a shortcrust crust.

20130105_125536Here a pork pie with sage stuffing and apple sauce and puff pastry.  No, really, it’s all in there.  Hook Norton is brewed just up the road a bit.  Nom nom nom.

20120513_150821If you can possibly stuff anything else in your body, try an apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top.  One apple pie can easily serve four.  They make a nice cappuccino, too.

So what I’m saying is: it’s all in the circles.  Circles of stones, circles of puff pastry, circles of pie, circles of ale.  Here at the circling of the year, it all seems to make sense.

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17 Responses to “Day out: Rollright Stones and Pi=yum”

  1. Sarah January 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    See – you did fun things during your break! We wore pajamas. I want. I want this trip in its entirety!

    • Monique January 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

      Would love to eat pies with you and then go count stones. Or go on your ownsome and then go again with me. 😉

  2. Zazamataz January 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Sounds like a great trip – added to my list. Thank you for sharing, I can almost feel the place through your photos.

    • Monique January 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      🙂 I love your list.

  3. Sally January 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    Could just down a half of Hook Norton now. I’ve never heard of these stones but making a note to visit this summer…and the pie pub. Happy New Year

    • Monique January 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

      Can’t believe I’ve found something in the area you hadn’t heard about before! Not sure how the pies will compare to a champagne cocktail made with gold, but they are certainly delicious. 😉

  4. haitiruth January 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Sounds like so much fun! I love your blog.

    • Monique January 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

      Oh, thanks so much Ruth! I love that you come by to share it with me! Yay for bloggy friends!

  5. thebookgator January 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    love the photos. makes me feel like i was there.

    • Monique January 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

      Sweet. Mission accomplished.

  6. Denise altman January 11, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    So did you touch the stones?

    • Monique January 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      My camera did. Wonder if it is cursed now. Some kids did and some kids didn’t. I’ll just need to keep a log and see what happens to them all …

  7. satnavandcider January 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    If I had only read this before yesterday I would have had two questions answered before they were even asked. I LOVE this post! I must walk in your exact footprints so that I can experience it all in person. To say it in the words of a master, “Nom nom nom.”

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