When I was 3 and before I can even remember, I visited Stonehenge with my parents while on holiday. I’ve never been back since then, but while at primary school I read quite a few Penelope Lively books, including Whispering Knights. It was all a bit far-fetched to me and not really a genre I was keen on, but was based on a stone circle near us (Lively had lived in the area). I always wanted to visit, so my mum had taken us at some point to see The Rollright Stones.
I find it interesting to read about the history of stone circles, so was keen to go back and show N the stones. On the way back from our Torquay holiday, we dropped in so he could see the stones and try and count them.
The Rollright Stones seem a bit random in location. They’re really in the middle of nowhere, and it’s quite easy to drive straight past them. There’s 3 different settings that you can visit.
The one we headed for was King’s Men which a late neolithic stone circle of around 70 stones. There’s also the King Stone which is across the road and fenced off to protect it, and the Whispering Knights burial chamber which is a short walk away. N was a bit tired after being in the car for a while, so we stuck to the circle.
It was originally believed that there were 105 stones, but there’s now 77 stones remaining. Although oddly, each time you count round the circle, you’ll get a different numbers. We counted twice, and didn’t get anywhere near 77 either time, or the same number. To be honest though, it’s probably my memory not remembering which stumpy stones we counted the first time round!
N loved counting round the circle, and it was a great way of practising his higher numbers. I was really pleased to hear him counting correctly to 20 (it’s hard work usually with a few numbers being missed out, and I’m never sure whether he knows them and is just trying to trick me). He then counted along with me up to 30, when he got stuck and asked ‘what comes next Mummy?’. After that, counting went out of the window and he just wanted to walk or run round the circle examining the stones.
I got some very amusing faces, and of course Jesse the teddy was in tow during his exploration. N was amazed at the size of some of the stones, and we tried to decide what some of them looked like. I was seeing a giraffe’s face in this tall one, but when N started telling me they were like tractors, I gave up on that idea. Obsessed, I tell you!
I don’t think I’ve ever crossed the centre of the circle (it feels a bit sacrilegious), but it didn’t bother N. He and Jessie were straight across the centre. I’m not sure what it was that someone had left in the centre on this occasion, a plastic bag, with a flag or something sticking out the top. I didn’t want to go and investigate, and N just ignored it (probably the only 4 year old who wouldn’t go to have a nosy), so don’t know what was going on with that. It did mean no full stone circle photos!
N was also very bossy about where we could enter and leave the circle. There’s nothing like a bossy 4 year old…’you have to let me go first’, ‘don’t step outside’ and more.
I was able to tell N a bit about why the Rollright Stones were there…supposedly a king who wanted to be king of England got as far as Rollright and a witch popped up, tricked him, and turned him, his men and knights into stone. There’s also fairy myths, and similar traditions about removing chips or the stones and being cursed. Add to that the countless mystery of the stones. If you can count the King’s Men at get the same number 3 times, you’ll have your heart’s desire.
We probably only spent about 40 minutes there, but we enjoyed a break to stretch our legs and it still feels special each time I visit. We popped our donation in the pot before heading back home after our few days away.
Are there any places that you’ve read about in books, wanted to go and visit, and then have done?