Having witnessed the sun rise over Stonehenge earlier, which in turn gave rise to the most beautiful of summer days, we thought it fitting to complete our experience by visiting another site in the premier division of Britain's Stones in Fields, the Neolithic Stanton Drew complex. The stones are signposted south of Bristol, just-off the B3130 in the village that bears their name. There are three circles: The Great Circle, second in size only to Avebury, The North East Circle and The South West Circle. In addition there are three giant stones known as The Cove in the beer garden of near-by pub The Druid! All this amounted to a mouth-watering anticipation for a fantastically chilled afternoon. Indeed I had long wished to see these stones having tried and failed to see them some years earlier. Imagine my surprise then, when after the shortest of strolls from the little car-park I was left ...completely underwhelmed!
The Great Circle is indeed massive but the stones that make it are just not big enough for its girth. Somehow the aesthetic just doesn't work. A circle this size (113m across) demands some pretty big stones and although large, these stones just don't quite cut it. The architects should have looked to Avebury to see how circles this size should look. If not Avebury then at the very least the stunning Cumbrian circle that accompanies Long Meg. At the far side of The Great Circle lies the North East Circle and the remains of a processional path joining the two. However, these stones are also just a bit disappointing. The South West Circle is a short uphill walk from the Great Circle but as the stones are located on a private farm they seem to have lost their place in the landscape, separated as they are by assorted farming 'stuff' (I'm very knowledgeable in this area) and an electrified fence! This little circle, although pleasing is very enclosed by field boundaries and all the stones are fallen, nevertheless this is perhaps the best spot for a mellow moment.
It was so hot when we visited Stanton Drew that Debs was forced to fashion her own sun-blocking shoulder pads from spare English Heritage leaflets acquired at the gate! On inspection of these we noted that a recent archaeological survey had revealed some astounding results just below the surface of the Great Circle revealing post holes and an elaborate arrangement of concentric ring patterns. All very well, but little use to your average chill seeker. Now don't get me wrong Stanton Drew's stone circles are impressive, just not that impressive. It's certainly chilled and very close to the car-park, I just think that with a little more effort they could have done better. Indeed you get the feeling that the ancient builders were almost apologetic when they positioned three bonus stones in a spot that would one day form the beer garden of the local pub. Now that is impressive!