Most people have heard of Stonehenge, the most famous prehistoric circle of stones in Europe, perhaps in the world.
Less well-known is the fact that there are hundreds of stone circles in the UK, enigmatic remains of past lives and cultures. The circles continue to be a source of mystery and conjecture to this day.
Access to Stonehenge is now very restricted, the stones carefully protected, but fortunately, access to other stone circles is much more relaxed allowing the visitor to stand in the footprints of their ancestors and to imagine what happened there thousands of years ago.
Every year, I go to Keswick in the English Lake District for the annual literary festival. And every year, I make a pilgrimage on foot to Castlerigg Stone Circle perched on a hill top outside the town.
If you’re lucky and go early enough, you can find yourself alone at the site before the coach loads of tourists arrive later in the day.
Walking up the hill from the road for the first time, you have little sense of what is in store. Only as you crest the hill, do you see the oval of thirty-eight standing stones at the top. I defy anyone to stand in the centre of the stone circle and not be overwhelmed by a sense of history and awe. This ancient place has been a gathering point for more than three-thousand years – for trade, for ritual, for healing? – who knows? All around you loom the Lakeland Fells, their names pure poetry: Skiddaw, Blencathra, Clough Head, High Seat.
Last year, I happened to go up to Castlerigg the morning after the Summer Solstice, the time when the earth’s rotational axis is most greatly inclined towards the sun, creating the longest period of daylight. The Solstice has long been associated with holidays, festivals and rituals, and this year was no exception. All was peaceful again by the time I arrived with little sign of the recent celebrations – except a pile of empty beer cans behind one of the standing stones.
This collision of the past and the present inspired me to write my story, “Stone Circle.” What would the Druids, the high ranking religious leaders and judges of ancient times have made of such disrespect shown to one of their holy spiritual places? The nightmare began to unfold in my mind…
Gwenda Major lives in the Lake District in the north of the UK. Her passions are for genealogy, gardening and graveyards.
Gwenda’s stories have featured in numerous print and digital publications. Most recently her short stories have been published in Dodging the Rain, Toasted Cheese, Retreat West, Brilliant Flash Fiction and Bandit Fiction.
Gwenda has also written four novels and three novellas. In December 2016 her novella Offcomerswon first prize in the Open Novella Competition run by the National Association of Writers’Groups. Other novels have been either shortlisted or longlisted in national UK competitions.
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