The Propped Stone of Leskernick Hill

The connections between ancient man, the stones structures they built and the natural rulers of the skies – the sun and the moon – are overwhelming.  It seems to me impossible to understand what mattered to our ancestors without taking into account the struggle they faced with the elements and their battle to understand their often hostile world.


On the top of Leskernick hill hidden in a little visited part of Bodmin Moor lies a simple yet wonderfully intriguing pile of stones.  This stone construction pre-dates all the others that surrounded it and there are many!   Close by you can find the remains of numerous hut circles, a stone row and 2 stone circles.


The Propped Stone as it is known at first glance resembles a partly fallen quoit or dolman, a kind of leaning stone table with one large stone propped up on 3 smaller ones all standing on a huge earth-fast slab of rock.  The angle of the top stone creates a little window through which the western horizon can be seen, hinting at it’s intended purpose.


The axis of the long top stone points in the direction of Rough Tor, the huge stony hilltop that dominates the moor.  But more importantly the small window created by the positioning of the stones creates a little portal through which the setting sun at mid summer can be viewed.


The Propped Stone was first recognised in 1995 and consists of a large flat stone nearly 3 metres long, scientific examination of the weathering of the stones beneath it suggests that it has been like this for a very . . .very . . .long time.

Although the alignment with the setting sun doesn’t work as well as it should now due to ‘wobbles’ in the earth’s axis it has been estimated that the window would have provided a perfect view between 7627BC and 1400BC.  However the most likely date for it’s construction, taking into account all the other structures in the area is about 3600BC, so I think after standing on a hilltop for more than 5000 years it’s hardly surprising if it is a degree or two out by now.


Propped stones are not unique to Cornwall they are found as far north as the Yorkshire Dales and as far away as Sweden where they are usually associated with ancient burial sites.

Midsummer this year will fall on 24th June with the sun setting at around 21.30pm, maybe I’ll go and view it through my ancestors ancient window . . .  watch this space!

Thanks for reading!  For other ancient stories try: The Stones of Leskernick Hill or Forgotten Places or maybe Tregiffian Barrow & the Cup-marked Stone


Those Ruined Places: Garrow Tor’s Lost Village

At the beginning of the year I wrote about the Cornish word Hireth, meaning a longer for somewhere, and I discussed how many people can feel a deep affliation or connection to a place.  For me Bodmin Moor with its wide skies, open space and jutting horizons is one of those places.

Canon Elliott-Binns’ 1955 book Medieval Cornwall contains this description – “The hills . . .  are very rugged, having been scored by the torrents of innumerable winters, and ravaged by the rays of summer suns . . . These wild tracts, stretching lonely and inhospitably beneath vast spaces of sky seem to have changed but little since first the eye of man fell upon their bewildering undulations.”


The Canon makes the moor sound slightly grim and unpleasant which it is I guess on a cold rainy day but it is also so much more.  Garrow Tor in particular speaks to me.   I think often about the walking there, memories flit through my minds-eye. The rustle of the grass against my legs, the summer heat rising from the granite or the trickle of the De Lank river, the only sound apart from the wind. I even wrote a short story about it.


But in this post I have a different story that I want to tell about the ruin of a cottage and a village that has vanished under the turf.  A cottage carefully built beside a slow running steam, with a hearth and a tidy garden wall and now it’s a cottage with no name and no roof.

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There was once a little medieval moorland village here, known I believe as simply Garrow (sometimes Garrah).  From the 13th to the 15th centuries the community thrived but by 1841 it had been reduced to just one farmstead occupied by shepherd Thomas Green, his wife Elizabeth and their 6 sons.


When my cottage was finally abandoned I am not really sure.  The state of it’s decay indicates that it was a fair while ago.  There is no sign of glass in the windows and nettles grow out of the fireplace.

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No one has tended this garden for many years, although the sheep seem to love the richer grass that you find around old habitations.  I find other peoples memories in what remains – an old metal gate hanging still attached to its granite post, the view from a window of the horizon, the sound of the wind in the leaves of those beech trees planted for shelter and shade.

Bridge made of solid granite crossing the river to the cottage

The stone bridge, the weedy hearth and those stunted beech trees are all that remain of the last owners hard existence out on this moor.  Their cottage’s shell still stands, but only just, beneath the looming shadows of Cornwall’s highest hills – Brown Willy and Rough Tor.  Still one of my favourite places to be.

For more ruined places try: Those Ruined places: Merther or Those Ruined Places : The Vacant Farm