Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Nine Maidens at Belstone

I was staying in Okehampton for a while recently, doing a bit of cat sitting and catching up on some odd jobs. I had some spare time one morning so I decided to have a potter up the East Okment river, around Ball Hill, to get a bit of fresh air and exercise. The weather was rainy and windy, the sort of stuff I like walking in. As I was enjoying myself, I went further and further up towards Belstone and then got the idea that I would walk up to Belstone and have a look for the stone circle, known as The Nine Maidens, that I'd never managed to see there for some reason. I wasn't very well prepared at all, just having my light training shoes on and a small half empty bottle of water, and my camera of course, which I take nearly everywhere with me. I had no map, but I did have a small compass which is always in my bag.

I had a good old stroll around the hill, which I found to be covered in a lot of bullocks, as they have been reintroduced to many areas now, to keep some of the vegetation down I think.

The trouble with trying to find anything like a stone circle in a place like this is that the whole area is covered with stones of all sizes, so it's almost impossible to find anything out there unless you know exactly where it is, and then it always seems obvious. I walked round the east side of the hill, no luck. I walked up to the first tor and saw no sign of it. I went westwards and found some shelter for a bit, but no sign of it. I had pretty much given up and was heading back, when with the help of my 200mmm lens which doubles as a telescope, I spotted what looked like it in the distance. I was very pleased to find the circle, which actually turns out not to be a circle, but the remains of the outer wall of a burial chamber, or kistvaen, as they're also known as.

The legend behind the Nine Maidens is that a group of maidens danced on a Sunday and were turned to stone. As punishment they must dance every day at noon for the rest of eternity. Curiously, there are lots of legends about stones that were once dancers, and that also move at certain times of the day.

One of the things that is often difficult to get into photographs is the wind. The pictures above appear to be taken on a calm, still day, so I have included this short piece of film of the tree and circle to give a better indication of what the actual conditions were like. Volume warning.


reem said...

Stone circle ..I heard about this but I don't know much ,people have few legends more I guess ,It's wide open place ,Iwonder if there're wild rabbits live here ,oh mybe I'm wrong ,I thought it should be hunting land in the past ,so only wild rabbits passed in my mind ..sound of wind much I miss that ,,we've got dry sunny winter four years here ,I miss the smell of rain ,,

Thanks John ,nice photos ..I enjoyed ...have a good time ...

john said...

Yes the smell of rain is very beautiful as is the sound I think. The stones circles are a plenty round here and are maybe four or five thousand years old. We're not sure of there exact purpose, they are often aligned to certain stars or the rising of the sun and moon, though they might have more than one function, no ones sure.

There are rabbits on Dartmoor, though not a lot lives up there. There are many wild ponies that live on the moor. I have met them often and they're no trouble, though I think it's best to eat your lunch where they can't see you.

It was old hunting land for the king in the olden days, it's known as Dartmoor Forest, though it's doubtful if it was ever covered with trees, as the soil is too poor. The term forest is misleading, as it just means a place for the king to hunt, rather than a place that is covered with trees as is generally thought.

Thanks Reem, all the best to you.