A couple of rocking stones (logans!) and a possible prop on the Isles of Scilly

Having just returned from a trip to St Martin’s on the Isles of Scilly. I thought it would be worth mentioning a couple of interesting rocks that we came across while walking around the Island. I’m always on the look out of these with my partner and enjoy finding natural erratic’s which move (logan stones), or seem to have been propped up by a smaller rock. On this visit there were two of these worth mentioning from St Martin’s and then I also came across another logan earlier in the year on Bryher, while searching for the perfect place to watch the sunset.

The St Martin’s rock which moved when stood upon is found to the northern side of Chapel Downs, a short distance away from the Day Mark and just off the well trodden pathway leading around the eastern coastline. It was positioned near the coastline and a rocky outcrop, large enough to be significant in the landscape, but on a small enough pivot that it was easy enough for one person to rock back and forth.

Rocking stone found on St Martin’s

The propped stone was a mile or so away on the Burnt Hill promontory fort, this one was spotted by my partner as I was looking at a possible entrance grave and a couple of hut circles. A large boulder had what seemed to be a natural split down the centre and one half of the rock had been propped up by a smaller boulder making a gap underneath. Whether this had happened naturally is unknown but a number of props which have had a human hand playing a part have been identified on the mainland.

The final stone worth mentioning was noticed on a trip earlier this year while visiting Bryher. Looking for a perfect place to watch a sunset, this large boulder was on the western side of Samson Hill, overlooking the entrance grave and island of Sampson. The boulder was a large and most likely natural feature about 1/3 of the way down the hill and it seemed to be the perfect spot to watch a sunset from. Climbing onboard the rock itself didn’t noticeably move, but when a second person also scrambled onto sit on the top the stone began to rock back and forth. Not only does the boulder have a great view of an entrance grave underneath it, it also has a wonderful view of the sunset, and I liked to think that people have been visiting and rocking this stone for millennia.

Some Bodmin viewing frames and propped stones

Wandering around Bodmin Moor there are a number of well known viewing frames and propped stones. Positioned on the hilltops and slopes of the better known tors a large number were identified by Roger Farnworth. Articles about aome of these appear in Meyn Mamvro issues 63 and 85. (meynmamvro.com).

Some of them appear to have an astronomical alignment such as the Leskernick Propped stone which has a summer solstice alignment. Many of these frame other hilltops and significant rocky outcrops. Here are two which have not been mentioned by Rogers in the articles.

Garrow Tor prop. Found of the western slopes of Garrow this propped stone frames Alex Tor. Initial assessment shows this to be orientated to the west and Alex Tor would be in the position of the midpoint (equinox) sunset. Prop found by Jamie Ashley.

A second prop on the southern slopes of Brown Willy. This one frames Hawks Tor to the south. There does not seem to be any obvious astronomical connection and the frame points in a just of South direction. Thanks to William Arnold for pointing this one out.

There are lots of props and framing stations to be found in both Penwith and on Bodmin Moor. Other blog posts on this site about these include; Little Galva framing station and Carn Kenidjack propped stone.

Walking the Trelew Line

On May 29th as part of the CASPN’s annual day of walks and talks I led a walk from Boscawen-ûn following the Trelew line visiting a number of standing stones on route.

The Trelew line was first identified by Sir Norman Lockyer who was considering astronomical alignments from Boscawen-ûn to local features. He suggested the Trelew standing stone was in a November setting position when stood at the circle. Since then John Michel identified an intervening menhir, called Chyangwens, this is found in a local farm hedge. Visible from miles around, it is an impressive piece of granite. Another stone Toldavas extends the line further on from Trelew towards the Lamorna gap on the south coast of Penwith.

When I considered the Trelew line in my work at Boscawen-ûn I felt that it was less likely that it was used as an accurate marker of a solar position. Instead I consider that the stones radiating out from the circle were positioned to lead people either to or from the circle and the Lamorna gap, used as a route for people to travel between the two sites. A similar set of stones also radiate out from the Lamorna gap to the Merry Maidens!!

Why would people want to go to so much effort to mark a way between these two locations? If you are standing at Boscawen-ûn on the winter solstice the sun would rise out of the sea, from a cut in the horizon which the Lamorna gap makes. It is a nice idea to think that people would walk between these locations, maybe in and around the solstice itself. I don’t believe they stopped there, I think they could have continued their journey to Tregeseal to watch the winter solstice sunset in another sea gap. This time one that frames the Isles of Scilly. But that’s a longer story and for another time!!!

Anyway here are some pictures of the Trelew stone and Chyangwens.

Please follow CASPN on facebook or look at their website to find out more https://cornishancientsites.com/

Old style photography

I’ve started messing around with an old analogue Canon camera with a battered lens, shooting in black and white film then developing the film myself using caffenol techniques. Caffenol.org/recipes. I’m liking some of the results and thought I would share.

Fernworthy Stone Circle Dartmoor
Grey Wethers Double Circle. Dartmoor
Grey Wethers Double Circle. Dartmoor
Merrivale Complex. Dartmoor
Boscawen-ûn Stone Circle, Cornwall
The Hurlers, Bodmin Moor

Archaeoastronomy workshops and walks

Please contact me through this website to save a spot on any of these events.

Part of the Tin Coast Events Programme. Commissioned by the Tin Coast Partnership and Cornwall 365.

Archaeoastronomy Workshop and Field Practice Day

If you have ever wanted to learn some of the techniques used in archaeoastronomy, here is your chance. This workshop day will be in two parts and start with an introductory morning talk, followed by discussion of techniques and software which can be used to look at how the ancient skies around Cornwall would have differed to today. The afternoon will be out in the field and allow people to put into practice some of the techniques that they have learnt in the morning. Carolyn will lead both sessions.

First workshop (20th April 2021) – SORRY NOW FULL

20th April, Online 10-1pm (morning session)

Introductory talk and workshop – techniques which can be used in the field

20th April, Tregeseal. 2-3.30pm – putting ideas into practice. An outdoor workshop (afternoon session)

Putting ideas and skills to use In the field landscape around Tregeseal

THIS IS NOW FULL

Second workshop (18th May 2021) SORRY NOW FULL

18th May, The Knut St Just. 10-1pm (morning session)

Introductory talk and workshop – techniques which can be used in the field

18th May, Tregeseal. 2-3.30pm – putting ideas into practice. An outdoor workshop (afternoon session)

Putting ideas and skills to use In the field landscape around Tregeseal

Walking Tours

The Ritual Landscape around Tregeseal and its Connections to the Sky (21st May) – SORRY NOW FULL

This walking tour will take people on a 2.5 mile tour of the ritual landscape around Tregeseal. It will visit a stone circle, barrows, and a stone row. Carolyn will lead the walking tour and talk about each of the sites visited and if they relate to the night sky, how they do this.

There will be lots of opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the ancient landscape within the Tin Coast area.

The walk itself is easy-moderate, the ground is uneven in places and can be muddy at times.

Friday 21st May 2021 10am – Guided walk through the landscape around Tregeseal

Booking essential as number limited

The Ritual Landscape around Boskednan and its connections to the Sky. (23rd April) – SORRY NOW FULL

This walking tour will take people on a 3 mile tour of the ritual landscape around Boskednan. It will visit a stone circle, barrows, menhir, and a holed stone. Carolyn will lead the walking tour and talk about each of the sites visited and if they relate to the night sky, how they do this.

There will be lots of opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the ancient landscape within the Tin Coast area.

The walk itself is easy-moderate, the ground is uneven in places and can be muddy at times.

Friday 23rd April 10am – Guided walk through the landscape around Tregeseal

Booking essential as number limited

Please contact me through this website to save a spot on any of these events

The Framing of Sperris Quoit

Sperris Quoit is located in West Cornwall and is an example of one of the earliest stone monuments found here in the UK dating from the Neolithic. A type of megalithic burial chamber, this Quoit is not as impressive as its neighbour Zennor, with only one upright it is completely missing its capstone. Although excavations found a cremation pit which gives evidence for its purpose.

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Sperris Quoit

Just above the quoit are a number of interesting moor stones, some of these are capstone shaped and you can see where the inspiration for the design of some of the West Cornwall quoits came from. One collection of rocks on slightly higher ground to the quoit has a square gap through which you can look.

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Framing stone

In one direction the quoit is framed and in the other direction a local headland.

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Framing of Sperris Quoit

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Framing of headland

If you clamber on top you will see one of the stone has some deep etchings into the surface, whether these are natural or manmade is hard to tell, but the position of the stone and orientation of the etchings are of interest. Forming a T shape, the top of the T runs from 230 degrees in the direction of the headland to 50 degrees in the direction of the quoit.

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Etchings

Underneath the frame seems to follow the same orientation. This would mean that the winter solstice sunset would fall over the headland and shine through the framed gap onto the quoit. Giving an illumination of the stone at this most ceremonial time of the calendar.
This has not been tested and would need to be tried out observationally before confirmation of this alignment could be verified.

The framed headland itself as a position for winter solstice is a great choice as it is a liminal location. The level of the sea horizon changes with the Moon phase, meaning that you may get the sunset onto a high sea horizon above the headland, or just onto the headland itself. If it set into the sea, you would have the added opportunity of seeing a green flash while looking through the framing stone.

Watching the Sun

Watching the Sun much in the way that many people have in the past…..

At equinox the daily displacement of the Sun is at its greatest. moving past this towards the solstice sees a slow decrease in its rising and setting positions along the horizon. One question is how noticeable a change does this make from day to day, particularly with a long and distant sightline?

The following images have been taken from the summit of the Iron Age hill fort Castle Pencaire looking towards west Cornwall and Penwith.

There will be an image for many of the sunsets during isolation, I will try and update regularly,  with the intention of demonstrating how visible the daily displacement is to someone making observations and watching the Sun. This is inspired by mayescreative.com  #seventeensuns #watchingthesun HLF project which is revisiting the seventeen years that Schwebe made solar observations, which lead to his discovery of the solar cycle.

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March 29th sunset at 19.50 BST, 277 degrees. One week past spring equinox the Sun now displaces to the north
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March 31st sunset at 19.53 BST, 278 degrees. Sun has moved one degree to the north
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April 1st sunset at 19.54 BST, 279 degrees. Sun has moved one degree to the north
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April 2nd sunset at 19.56 BST, 279 degrees. Sun has moved less than one degree to the north
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April 3rd sunset at 19.57 BST, 280 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 4th sunset at 19.59 BST, 281 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 6th sunset at 20.02 BST, 282 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 7th sunset at 20.0 BST, 282 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north
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April 8th sunset at 20.05 BST, 283 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 9th sunset at 20.07 BST, 284 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 10th sunset at 20.08 BST, 284 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north
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April 11th sunset at 20.10 BST, 285 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 13th sunset at 20.13 BST, 286 degrees. Sun has moved more than one-degree to the north
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April 14th sunset at 20.15 BST, 286 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north
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April 15th sunset at 20.17 BST, 287 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 16th sunset at 20.18 BST, 288 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 21st sunset at 20.26 BST, 290 degrees. Sun has moved two-degrees to the north in four days.
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April 22nd sunset at 20.27 BST, 291 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north.
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April 23rd sunset at 20.27 BST, 290 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north.
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April 28th sunset at 20.37 BST, 295 degrees. Sun has moved 5 degrees to the north in 5 days.
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May 8th sunset at 20.52 BST, 299 degrees. Sun has moved 4 degrees to the north in 10 days.
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May 11th sunset at 20.56 BST, 300 degrees. Sun has moved 1 degree to the north in 3 days.
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May 12th sunset at 20.58 BST, 301 degrees. Sun has moved 1 degree to the north.
May 30th sunset at 21.21 BST, 307 degrees. Sun has moved 6 degree to the north in 18 days
May 31st sunset at 21.22 BST, 307 degrees. Sun has moved 0 degree to the north
June 1st sunset at 21.23 BST, 307 degrees. Sun has moved 0 degree to the north

Little Galver and the Midpoint Sun

I first visited Little Galver’s viewing station on an excellent Pathways to the Past (CASPN) walk lead by David Giddings. I was amazed by this wonderful hidden spot on the West Penwith moors. A triangular collection of stones frames the impressive Carn Galver. While there I took a quick compass reading which said approx. 270 degrees and since then I had wondered how the framed Carn Galver would interplay with the equinox setting sun. I finally had an opportunity to go check this out on Saturday night (Equinox) and took some images during the event. The sun did not just set quickly but surprisingly it rolled down the spine of the hillside, creating a spectacle which lasted nearly fourteen minutes. Towards the end, it dipped in and out of the nooks and crannies which made up the uneven spine. What a solar extravaganza, such a sight to behold and who knows who had seen it last, maybe no one since prehistory.

Dark skies and astro tourism

A lovely writeup from Sophie Lam in the Inews about finding dark sky spaces. Obviously, I’m biased but Cornwall has some wonderful stargazing spaces. Including Bodmin Moor which is a IDA Dark Sky Park and West Cornwall which is currently applying to be a Dark Sky Reserve.

Here is a link to the article which includes a quote from me about the wonders of the Cornish night sky.

How to book a stargazing trip in the UK and further afield _ inews

 

Measuring the Universe with The Tate St Ives at Porthmeor Beach.

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We have been having lots of fun down at the beach in St Ives. As part of Mayes Creative Measuring the Universe Heritage Lottery funded project we have been celebrating the 250 year anniversary of the Transit of Venus. During the Tate St Ives Winter Festival we braved the elements to head on to the beach to walk the relative distances between the planets. At each location, we played sounds of the planets and placed a flag to represent a planet. As part of the day, we were interviewed on the project by Jack Murley on Radio Cornwall.

Here is a link to the radio interview with BBC Radio Cornwalls Jack Murley

Thanks to Justin for the sounds and this video pf one of the flags blowing down the beach.

Here is a link to the work that artists Joanna Mayes and Justin Wiggan have been making during the project http://www.mayescreative.com/mtu.html