Thursday, November 26, 2015
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.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
It's Tar Barrel Night in Ottery again on the 5th, when the people in Ottery maintain their tradition of carrying burning tar barrels on their shoulders around town. It's been going on since the 1600's, possibly even longer. In the afternoon there are the children's barrels, followed by the youths, the women's and then the men's barrels, as the barrels get progressively larger. These photographs are from 2014 and there is also some video that I took linked below. The crowd seems to be better behaved than they used to be these days, which is good, as the insurance for this event gets more difficult each year. It's always a night of barely contained mayhem, which can be enjoyable in these overly health and safety conscious times. Thousands of visitors pack the narrow streets of Ottery as burning barrels are rapidly forced through the crowds. What could possibly go wrong?