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Witches, kings and whispering knights!

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My favourite place in the world is only minutes from my home and has always been a place of extreme importance to me. The Rollright Stones. A haven of peace , magic and calm  in this busy difficult world.

Set in a field next to an ancient ridgeway nestled in a beautiful wood  these prehistoric stones exude an air of power and mystery. Strong yet friendly, calm yet buzzing with life and myth they lie shrouded in trees, obscured from the busy B road that passes by as if in another time altogether.

Visit at any time of day and in any season and you will find offerings adorning the stones themselves, in the centre of the circle or draped from the trees.

Holly, berries, flowers and ribbons,  ivy, pine cones, ,feathers,  all are evidence of some sort of ceremony  both public and private, proving how special this little site is to so many from so many walks of life. 

People find themselves walking the steps of countless ghosts of the past around the inner circle of the King’s Men and then visiting the Whispering Knights and the King Stone.Each peron on his or her own journey but collective in their peace and tranquility the area exudes. 

 The stones are actually made up of three groups which were all built at different times between the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. The largest group, known as the King’s Men were erected in 2,500BC, whilst the solitary King Stone was placed some 1000 years later and finally the three Whispering Knights, are the eldest of all, believed to be erected in 3,800BC. 

They are made of the same honey colour Jurassic oolitic limestone that many Cotswold villages are built from and it is believed the boulders used to create the site were probably collected within 500m. 

 

The unhewn stones are all different sizes and shapes each with its own little hole or crevice ,often stuffed with an offering ,with some being only a few inches off the ground and some standing 7 feet high.

There are many theories of the reason for The Rollright Stones, perhaps a religious significance or connected with the changing seasons or astronomy, a place to exchange goods for tradesmen, or a location to seal tribal agreements or perform marriage ceremonies. 

As with any stone circle, the Rollright Stones are steeped in local legend and myth, to see the man you will marry run naked around the stones at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve!  To aid fertility, visit the stones at midnight and give any stone in the circle a hug.In the 18th centuary local women believed they could help fertility and would touch the King Stone in particular with their breasts.

It is said that if you walk round the Rollright Stones three times, you’ll never count the same number each time. But if you do manage it – you’re entitled to one wish. Be careful what you wish for however! The Fairies that are said to emerge at midnight and dance among the stones are said to be tricksy and might grant you something with a twist!

The most famous story as to the presence of the stones is that a king and his army were marching over the Cotswolds when they met a witch who challenged the king saying,

 

 

“Seven long strides shalt thou take,

And if Long Compton thou canst see, 

King of England thou shalt be.”

 Obviously confident and eager to take all of England the  King stode off saying 

“Stick, stock, stone, 

As King of England I shall be known.” 

 On his seventh stride the ground rose up before him in a long mound obscuring his view.  

The witch cackled and declared: 

 “As Long Compton thou canst not see,

King of England thou shalt not be, 

Rise up stick and stand still stone, 

For King of England thou shalt be none,

Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be, And I myself an elder tree.”

Legend has it that one day the spell will be broken and the King and his men will return to life and continue with their conquest. 

My special place is so wonderful because the stones are completely accessible – there is no Visitor Centre, no ticket office. They are there, in the field, as they have been for thousands of years, and anybody can visit them at any time. 

The Stones are looked after by an independent trust, so a donation to the charity either via the handy QR code tacked onto the entrance signpost into the tin on the post. Suggested donations is £1 per adult and 50p per child

Dogs are allowed on a lead 

How to get to the Rollright Stones

 Address: Rollright Road, Little Rollright, Chipping Norton OX7 5QB

 Parking for the Rollright Stones is limited – it includes two wide official laybys along the main road. The entrance to the path to reach the Stones is situated about half way along the laybys. 

 And please abide by this sentiment 

Take nothing but photographs and memories. Leave nothing but footprints.

I'm a slightly deranged middle aged widow, living in the Cotswolds with two fabulously funny little dogs. A mother, grandmother, sister and friend. Determined to survive by writing to remember, to forget and to cope with grief. the memory of my husband supporting me, guiding me and probably laughing at me if there is a ‘somewhere’

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Melrose Abbey in Scotland with lots of Gothic charm

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Melrose Abbey in Scotland is  in the town of the same name in the Scottish Borders. Virtually all historic buildings found in the Borders (the border area between England and Scotland) have been destroyed numerous times by the English. Melrose Abbey is no exception.

What makes it important is that despite being destroyed and now only ruins remain, many decorative parts still remain. Like the gargoyles and the Gothic rose windows.

One of the many reasons why this abbey is famous is because it is said to host the heart of Robert Bruce, the famous king of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Other medieval Scottish kings were buried here.

The history of Melrose Abbey

Let’s start from the beginning, the abbey was built in 1100 by Cistercian monks under the order of King David I. It was located in the same place as another monastery, this one dedicated to St Aidan of Lindisfarne. The Cistercian abbey was followed by the town of Melrose, being an important religious centre, there was no lack of trade.

The abbey was almost destroyed by the English king Edward I in 1322 and then rebuilt. It was later set on fire by Richard II and its reconstruction lasted over 100 years.

In 1544 it was again damaged by English troops when the British wanted Mary of the Queen to marry the son of Henry VIII. After this event the abbey was never restored and was never a functioning monastery again.

It suffered further damage later from the cannon fire of Oliver Cromwell’s army. In the end, the poor abbey never managed to stand up for long.

In addition to visiting the ruins, you can also start from here St Cuthbert’s Way, a path that goes up to the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumberland. It had been the route taken by St Cuthbert himself in 650 from the old monastery of Melrose. In all it would be about 100 km, but you don’t have to do it all. However, it crosses some very beautiful landscapes. Melrose itself is a nice little town even if it doesn’t have much of a memorable one.

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Exeter Cathedral; interesting things you can see

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In England there is certainly no shortage of cathedrals, some splendid. Among the most beautiful are undoubtedly the Cathedral of Exeter or St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is located in a place of prayer that is over 1500 years old. The current cathedral, however, dates back to around 1100 after the arrival of the Normans, although now of that date we have practically only the two towers.

Another part of the cathedral dates back to 1270 when Exeter Cathedral was refurbished in a typically English Gothic. The cathedral was unfortunately hit by a German bomb in 1942, St James’s chapel was completely destroyed along with several medieval objects, some of which have been rebuilt piece by piece.

Fortunately some important historical artifacts had been taken away, in fact an attack on the cathedral had been foreseen, probably all these churches and cathedrals were hit in an attempt to demoralise the people.

What can you see at Exeter Cathedral?

You can still see the 50 mercies or genuflexors which are small shelves leaning against the wall that supported those who had to stand a long time to pray. These date back to the 1200s and are the oldest complete group in the UK. Also in this group is the figure of an elephant, the oldest in the United Kingdom.

There is the famous astronomical clock which dates back to 1484, the ancient library which dates back to 1100 and the gallery with 12 statues of angels playing different instruments.

The towers also have bells, the north tower contains a bell called Peter which however is no longer rung completely and the south tower has 12 bells which are among the heaviest in the world.

When you are at the cathedral you can be taken to the top of the roof and the North Tower, you have to climb 251 steps so you have to be fit but the views are spectacular. You must book in advance and here you will find the instructions.

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Amersfoort in the Netherlands, a mini Amsterdam you should visit

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Amersfoort in the Netherlands

Amersfoort in the Netherlands has a long mercantile history, in 1500 and in the following centuries it owed its wealth to the tobacco, wool and beer trade. Now you can still find some of that wealth, and there are several major merchant houses left.

The city has about 200,000 inhabitants and is therefore not a very small place, but it has the advantage of having almost everything you should have in a historic centre that you can walk around safely. In fact, in the old town, in addition to the canals, you can also see about 300 old buildings, all very characteristic of the period of the economic boom in the Netherlands.

Like other places in the Netherlands and Belgium this is a mini Amsterdam. We know with certainty that the area was inhabited since 1000 BC but we know it as a city only from 1100 onwards. Similar to the English ford, foort means ford on the river and in fact here is the Eem river which was once called Amer. There are therefore no mysteries about the origin of the name. 

In any case, before becoming an important city for international trade, it was a medieval walled city and you can still find many traces of this past. Of the old medieval walls three gates still survive, all from the 1300s and 1400s.

The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk was once an important Gothic church, part of its importance was that it marked the exact centre of the Netherlands. The church was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1700 but the tower still remains and even today it is still used as the geographic centre of the town. If you want to take the 346 steps to admire the view, the tower is still open to the public.

In Amersfoort there is also another old church the Sint Joriskerk or St. George’s church. A medieval church from the 1200s and the 1400s, you can also climb the tower here and every hour in front of the facade you can see a mechanical Saint George coming out to kill the dragon.

Amersfoort has several museums including a major art gallery, where you will find many temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

Amersfoort in the Netherlands is also famous for being the birthplace of the painter Piet Mondrian and it is remembered with a museum located right in the house where he was born.

Part of the pleasure of visiting Amersfoort is wandering around the historic centre, strolling along the canals and sitting down for a drink in one of the many bars. There is obviously no shortage of restaurants.

How to get to Amersfoort in the Netherlands?

Very easy to reach from anywhere in Holland by train, it is close to Utrecht and only 35 minutes by train from Amsterdam.

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