A couple of months back I visited one of English Heritage’s guardianship properties down in Dorset – Kingston Russell stone circle (SY 577 878), a few miles inland from beautiful village of Abbotsbury. This recumbant stone circle doesn’t look very impressive today, but it is one of only four known stone circles in Dorset. According to a local 19th-century vicar, one of these stones was still standing when he visited the site in 1815, so presumably they were all originally standing in prehistory. It’s possible that they were graded in height, but the stones are so fallen and eroded that it’s difficult to tell today.
The stones are an odd type of sarsen conglomerate, which looks a bit like rough old concrete! The stones are thought to have come from the nearby Valley of Stones, which seems to have been used as a source for most of the megalithic monuments in the area. The nearby chambered long barrow Grey Mare and her Colts (SY 583 870) is built of the same stone. Isn’t it a great name? This is a really impressive monument, with a chamber and facade of at least four large upright stones, one of which has now fallen. Apparently it was opened by antiquarians in the 19th century, who found human remains and pottery within.
Interesting the stone circle, positioned on top of the gently rising Tenant’s Hill, is located at the junction of three parish boundaries, and five footpaths also converge here. This south Dorset landscape is packed full of prehistoric archaeology. The chambered long barrows like the Grey Mare must be amongst the earliest of the monuments, probably dating to the earlier part of the Neolithic. There are also huge numbers of Bronze Age round barrows and cairns, the surviving ones scattered on the surrounding hillsides and ridges, but probably once elsewhere too.
I must return to explore this area properly one day!