Tune in this Friday evening, BBC One Wales, 7.35pm, to see a new episode of Weatherman Walking in Pembrokeshire. I’ll be presenting a piece all about the connection between Stonehenge and the Preseli Mountains in Pembrokeshire.
I’ve visited Stonehenge quite a few times, but not too often because it is just so far away. And that is with a car or a train to ride in. So thinking about Neolithic people doing it is just baffling!
The idea that the bluestones – a number of stones making up one of the stone circles at Stonehenge (yes, there is more than one!) – come from Pembrokeshire has been around for quite some time. But exactly where has been contested for just as long. In episode 2 of Weatherman Walking: The Welsh Coast Series 3, I speak to the person who solved this 4,500 year old mystery!
I’ve been fascinated by stone circles for decades. I even wear a ring with the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, around it after falling in love with and visiting Orkney more times than I can remember from being a little girl thanks to having family there. I have my very own ring of Brodgar!
A few years ago my family all stayed in a beautiful self-catering house near Bristol for my uncle’s wedding and it was right next to Stanton Drew stone circles – there are three right next to each other! So my brother and I woke my sister up just before sunrise and we visited it all together to watch the sun come up on the day of the wedding. It was unforgettable.
My sister and I have also walked the West Kennet Avenue together, during one of our recent annual camping trips. We literally walked in our ancestors footsteps as we followed the series of standing stones, originally over 100 pairs. They create a mile and a half long corridor connecting ‘The Sanctuary’ monument with Avebury – a massive stone circle so big that it actually has part of the village inside it today.
Most of these monuments date to the Neolithic period – a period I have spoken about in my recent vlog on a walk to Gop Hill, near Prestatyn.
Stonehenge is, arguably, the most famous stone circle in the world. But, like many of these sites, it is not just a stone circle. There is a massive complex of so many different monuments, pits, a cursus (if you don’t know what this is, look it up – fascinating!!), barrows, an earthern avenue… And at the actual site of Stonehenge itself, before the stones, there was a henge.
A henge is a massive prehistoric circular enclosure made of a big bank with a ditch on the inside. Although, strangely, the ditch at Stonehenge is on the outside..! We don’t know what they were built and used for, but the ditches (usually) being on the inside does give us a clue that they probably weren’t defensive. For example, fortification ramparts (more banks and ditches), would have a massive ditch first and then a wall, designed to keep people out. If the ditch was on the inside, what use did it have? I’ll leave you to make your own minds up…
Next, at Stonehenge, came the stone circles. There are two types of stones at Stonehenge – the Sarsens (the big ones) and the Bluestones (the smaller ones). Just recently, the exact source of the Sarsen stones has been pinpointed to around 15 miles north of the stone circle, on the edge of the Marlborough Downs. This is breaking news, only published in 2020!
The bluestones were originally placed between the Sarsen stones and then, around 200 years later, were relocated to create their own circles within the monument. They were then later again moved to form a horseshoe-shape. But they had already moved much further than this – all the way from West Wales. Join me on Friday to find out who found out exactly where they were quarried and how this ancient mystery was solved. Filmed in 2020, with a tiny baby in tow and strict social distancing procedures, this special feature is one which will stay with me for a long, long time!
BBC One Wales’s Weatherman Walking airs on Friday night at 8.05pm and is also on iplayer at www.bbc.co.uk/weathermanwalking