The legend of its origins revolve around a vengeful witch milking a magic cow dry through a sieve to deprive the local people of their only sustenance in a terrible drought. The cow disappeared and the wicked woman was petrified and set within a circle of stones to prevent any more of her mischief.
Although the true origins of the circle aren’t quite as exciting, I find it fascinating that Bronze Age people set 30 hefty dolerite stones in a circle in such a beautiful spot.
There’s much speculation as to the purpose of their building but no-one really knows for sure why the circle is there. . . and I love that. A 3, 000 year-old mystery, it’s brilliant. The circle itself is a perfectly peaceful place for a spot of pondering – the views alone are quite spectacular. To the east are the Stiperstones, such an iconic Shropshire landmark;
to the west lies Wales, rolling away towards the sea, the humpback of Cadair Idris and pyramid peak of Snowdon visible on a clear day.
So, was the circle constructed as a focus for certain rites? Was it a place of ritual and worship, celebration or sacrifice or sport? Did it provide a calendric device, helping to map the solar, lunar or stellar cycles? Did the people gather here to talk or listen, be lectured or entertained, to make laws or pass judgement, to buy, sell or barter, to pray or to party? Had prehistoric men and women sensed something mystical about this spot, a hidden force of nature or energy that called them here? Or, like me, did they just love the view?
Perhaps one day we’ll have a definitive answer. I hope not. It’s much more fun to wonder.
I wondered, too, about Bronze Age diets. As settled people, did they grow vegetable gardens? A quick spin round the internet revealed evidence of garden plots where cereals were grown (mainly wheat and barley), the possibility of brassicas such as cabbage and roots such as parsnips, and pulses like beans, lentils, bitter vetch and peas. Mmm, wonder if they had the same problem with pea-eating mice as we do?
Archaeologists have discovered a cup of Bronze Age nettle stew and I found an ‘authentic’ recipe on this website http://www.ancientcraft.co.uk/Archaeology/bronze-age/bronzeage_food.html
As we have quite an abundance of fresh nettle growth in the garden, I decided to give the nettle idea a go with a few modern day tweaks to the recipe. Given the shortage of wild boar in the area, I plumped for a nettle soup based on homemade vegetable stock, flavoured with onion and garlic and thickened with potato rather than barley flour (there’s a great recipe in James Wong’s Grow Your Own Drugs). Young nettles being packed with minerals, vitamins and chlorophyll, this is a great spring tonic after the dark months of winter.
However, this is not for the faint-hearted: the recipe is dead easy but picking the nettle tops, picking them over and washing them takes some time (DON’T forget to wear gloves). Cook it all down, whizz through the blender, stir in cream and nutmeg and taste . . . to me, it tastes a bit like fresh pea soup, so I stirred in chopped fresh mint from the garden and ate it chilled. Surprisingly good (and very cheap).
Those Bronze Age people knew what they were doing. 🙂