At last...in a landscape where any features of interest are hidden by dense forest and unfollowable tracks...a real stone circle!
By the time I got to Fernworthy Circle I had given up on ever finding Assycombe...I navigate by reading the landscape and using an OS map...in forestry nothing ever corresponds with an OS map but I had decided that Assycombe required a climb...and under a baking sun and no wind the thought of climbing along paths that I had no way of telling if they were the right one or not did not entice me.
So I had carried on to Fernworthy hoping that it would be easy to find...and it is. It sits inside a nice clearing which gave me the impression that this might have been how some of these circles were when they were erected all those years ago. (I know many will argue that this isn't so and that they would have been on top of hills so they could be seen..but)
Part of me wanted to climb one of the trees on the edge of the clearing and look down onto the circle...but I feel my days of tree climbing are behind me...and looking at the spindly branches I decided to forgo this fancy.
I had a quick look at the stone rows...mainly hidden by the midsummer grass..and then met up with another walker who offered to lead me through the maze of tracks to Grey Wethers..
The short walk uphill on the forestry road from the car park by the reservoir took me 10 minutes (but then I don't walk fast uphill). The weather was still pretty nasty though the plantation gave us some protection. The circle and rows now lie in a clearing in the trees. This means there are no sight lines or views, but the circle captivated me, nevertheless. It is lovely here - the circle is small but not tiny and the stones are small, too, but in proportion to the diameter. They seemed to spin above the boggy ground and were watched by me and Moth and a battalion of purple foxgloves.
Another 50 minutes walking would take us to the Greywethers, but given the climate today I had no intention of attempting it. It would have to wait.
Like Martin, we drove as far as possible along the approach road, past the official car park. The forest track heads off to the left from this point (don't follow the footpath immediately ahead). The track rises steadily for a way (took me what felt like about 5-10 minutes, but with no watch it's hard to say). Suddenly the clearing appeared to the right. Two large stones proclaimed the entrance, but I think they're there to stop possible vehicles (which obviously use the track) from progressing further. The site opened up from this point on, everything being nicely laid out before me.
There was no fire damage evident within the circle, although there was a fire pit just outside of it. What was obvious to me, was the slant of the circle, with taller stones on the south progressing down to smaller ones on the northern side. I'd seen this effect before, during our trip to Ireland earlier this year. I don't recall seeing this in other circles in this country, but then I don't remember what I had for breakfast this morning!
Later: I saw this Frith photo which shows the site in 1907 - quite a difference!
Access: A fair uphill trek to get to the area of the sites. I wouldn't want to push a wheelchair up here - it's quite a bumpy path.
Fernworthy Reservoir is a slightly difficult place to get to; whichever way you take it’s pretty much a jumble of country lanes upon country lanes. My starting point was the ‘junction’ on the A382 opposite the road to the Spinster’s Rock - it’s as good a place as any to start. Several kilometres of country lanes further on, and just when I was getting a little tired of map reading, signs started to appear to guide my way. Depending on what you wish to do there are several places to park in the forest although there is only one large main car park, near the entrance. I drove as far as the road would go, and parked at a lay-by (circa SX659839). A sign clearly shows the way up the track to the circle and further onto Dartmoor, saying ‘Footpath and bridleway to the moor’.
Walk up hill, straight ahead for approx 500 metres and suddenly the forest on your right will clear, and the stone circle is just there. When the opening suddenly appeared, after constant forest, an amazing feeling of freedom came across me; a sort of liberation from the oppressive trees - so much more light suddenly floods your vision.
The circle is really nice and atmospheric, and quiet! I wandered all this area for ages, and later walked up to the Grey Weathers without seeing or hearing one other person. The circle had obviously be ‘used’ recently - an ugly patch of burnt ground scared the middle, and rotting daffodils had been placed on and by two stones.
Because this small area is so full of sites (including two stone rows and two cairns and cairn circles) I’m adding the others as separate sites within this one. However it has to be pointed out that it’s pretty hard to really tell much at this site because who knows what was cleared or moved when the trees were planted, or when they were cleared!?
The Northern stone rows seem out of alignment with the circle and are incomplete, the Northernmost stones apart from the blocking stone appearing to be missing. Still a nice site though and quite easily accessible.
Hut Circles 2 (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes
This group of huts and a cairn can be found a short distance uphill from the reservoir, turning left up a track soon after passing the visitor centre car park.
Though not signposted from the track they do have short posts beside them with identification numbers on.....if only the corresponding list was available to point out where the other antiquities could be found within the plantation!
The hut circles were easy to find and it was obvious that the forestry had kept them clear of any growth apart from grass.
I did not find the cairn circle as I was unclear just quite where it was and away from the track and the huts the terrain was overgrown and uneven...and it was too bloody hot to go too far off piste...