This week Julie Croley from our Customer Services team is sharing with you some of her Dorset ramblings.
Julie has lived in the area since the 1980s so would be classed (nearly) as a local! During that time she has visited some amazing places Dorset’s area of outstanding natural beauty here she will open some of these places to you. I will let Julie continue……
Valley of Stones
“Along the western coast line of Dorset between Weymouth and Bridport is a high ridge formed of chalk and limestone. Just beyond Portesham there is a gap, or valley, in the ridge and this forms the National Nature Reserve called the Valley of Stones. This, according to the Natural England information for the site, “is considered to be one of the finest examples of a Sarsen stone boulder train in Great Britain. Freeze/thaw conditions at the end of the last ice age caused sandstone on top of the nearby chalk hilltops to fragment and slump downhill. The site is not only of natural interest and geological interest but of historic interest too with links to megalithic times.
Having lived in Dorset since the 80s my family and I have enjoyed many walks to this valley, where the stones are scattered as though a row of dominoes just fell. This is just a perfect place to sit in the peaceful surroundings with a picnic.
Kingston Russell Stone Circle
Not far from here is Kingston Russell Stone Circle which is a large irregular circle of Late Neolithic or Bronze Age date, consisting of eighteen fallen conglomerate or sarsen stones situated on a chalk ridge 750 metres north east of Gorwell Farm. In 1815 one stone to the south was still standing. The circle appears to retain its full number of stones, although many of them may not be in their original positions. Two stones of a similar kind to those comprising the circle lie by the side of an adjoining fence. The circle has a diameter of 30 metres and has 18 visible stones. The stones vary in size from 2 metres by 0.5 metres to 1 metre by 0.3 metres, although partial burial may mean some of the stones are significantly larger. It is thought possible that the circle may have been graded in height with the tallest stones to the north.
Head back to the top of Portesham Hill you will come across a layby – park up here and you can take a ten-minute stroll to Hell Stone. The Hell Stone, Neolithic chambered long barrow (SY 60588670) is situated on Portesham Hill, over 600 ft above sea level, on the summit of the south facing limestone escarpment which here forms a flat-topped ridge running north west – south east, the ground falls steeply on the south west to a re-entrant and less steeply on the north east to a dry valley. The long mound is aligned along the ridge (130o), with a reconstructed stone chamber exposed at the south east end. The much-damaged mound is at least 88 ft long and up to 40 ft wide, tapering slightly to north west, it is of rounded cross-profile and rises to a maximum height of 5 ft near the chamber, but further south east it is much disturbed and at most 2 ft high. The chamber, incorrectly rebuilt in 1866, now consists of nine orthostats, up to 5 3/4 ft high and from 1 1/4 ft to 1 3/4 ft thick, supporting a roughly oval capstone, 10 ft by 8 ft and averaging just over 2 ft thick.
A visit worth making on a dry day as there isn’t a clear dry path way to the Hell Stone, unless wellie booted up of course. Once there, sitting on the stone to absorb the superb views across fields to the sea and Portland are clear. This day we visited with a friend from Albequerque, New Mexico . A Native American Pipe Master who shared a pipe ceremony with us next to the megalithic stones. What a Magical day!
From the top of Portesham Hill drive North to the village of Winterbourne Abbas turn left onto the A35 and lookout for The Little Chef car park stop off here and take a five-minute walk out of the village to the West and you will find The Nine Stones. These are a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone circle, located immediately south of the A35 in an enclosure within Nine Stone Wood. This is situated in a valley bottom close to the South Winterbourne stream. The stones are of sarsen or conglomerate and have been arranged in a rough circle with maximum internal diameter of 8 metres. The circle was first recorded in the 18th century by J. Aubrey, W. Stukeley and W. Hutchins and has seen little change since. The stones measure between 1.5 metres to 0.5 metre in diameter and 1.5 metres to 0.45 metres in height. However all the stones are partially buried and their exact dimensions are not known. Two stones, situated within the northern and western areas of the monument, are notably larger than the rest. The Nine Stones are spaced at about one metre intervals however there is a gap of 3 metres on the northern side, which may be a possible entrance. It was alleged in 1872 by C. Warne that there was originally traces of a tenth stone, which may have filled this gap. However on W. Stukeley’s drawing of 1723 the circle is in the same state as at present. The Nine Stones is one of only four stone circles known to survive within the area, and it’s location in a valley bottom is unusual. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
Although set back just a few feet from the busy A35, this is a really quiet spot and has few visitors, I have rarely been there when others have ventured in. The Nine Stones is a great place to enjoy the immense feeling of peace these stones emulate.