Briagha is a community leader
THE CREATION OF THE TEMPLE DRUID SITE - JANUARY 2007
My friend Jon Appleton and I have worked together for a number of years, notably in the construction of the stone circle at Brithdir Mawr community, at the north west end of the Prescelli mountains in Pembrokeshire, Wales. We have now completed another project at Temple Druid ( the original name of the estate) on the south side of these same mountains, close to the little town of Maenclochog. We were again working with part of an ancient layout, on an estate managed by my friends, Samantha and Steve.
I first visited the site in May 2006, when I went over with my friend from West Wales Dowsers. We walked around all three of the fields that were designated as the new Community Woodland and found some high energy spots. One was in the first field, where there seemed to be a natural platform with two buried stones, and both of us dowsed this as a good spot to put something which could enhance the energy there. We also found the likely place where the last stone had stood till its removal 20 years ago, and I vowed then to make sure it went back there. Finally we went up to the top field, and agreed that the far end of the field was the best place for a circle.
The ancient set-up was of a long stone row, over 200 yards long, and a burial chamber, or dolmen, whose location is now no longer visible. However, our plan was to erect the new circle and a dolmen and put in two standing stones. One being put back in its place in the ancient layout, and one being put where it will take up a relationship with the stone circle, guiding folk in to it in the manner of Maen Mawr, by Cerrig Duon, a lovely little circle on the slopes of the Black Mountain, about 40 miles away. This placing of a large stone, literally Maen Mawr in Welsh, as a guide towards a circle of smaller stones is found in other sites too, and felt appropriate here.
The project is part of a Community Woodland, and we were getting some of the grant money to do it, which feels great, to see public funds creating a new megalithic site! These Community Woodlands are funded by the lottery as part of their aim to strengthen communities, and will become areas where folk can come freely to enjoy the trees and hold social events. There is also a roundhouse here too, as an example of sustainable architecture and as somewhere for indoor gatherings to take place. The grant work, including tree planting and site layout, took place over the year 2007.
We looked at the number of stones available just on the Trusts' land, in the two fields next to the top field, and there were at least 25. When Jon placed 22 stones on a circle of 22 megalithic yards' diameter, they are placed roughly every 3.3 megalithic yards. It is possible to make the circle a calender of the rising and setting positions of the sun and moon with this number, and although there is likely to be poor visibility to the east, there could be views to the west, if the trees are kept low. We then discussed grading the stones in size around the circle and this fitted well with the sizes of stones that are available. We felt it would be good to grade them with smallest at the southern entrance, and getting bigger towards the north.
We then looked at the second field, where the stone was standing until only 20 years ago. The farmer who moved it lives next door, so Steve said he would try to find out exactly which stone it was, so we could replace it. We finally looked at the bottom field. There are around 12 large stones at the edge, plus at least 2 buried ones on a small platform halfway up the field. The platform felt the right place to put a dolmen, of 3 uprights and a capstone, slightly off the path, with a standing stone on the path. People would only see the stone at first, once the trees grew tall, but when they came up to it, they would see the dolmen too. There were at least three 6 ft stones here, and a big 7x5 one that could be the capstone.
I had been told that my friends at Temple Druid would be getting in a machine to create the track and car park that lead into the woodland, so when I got a call on Sunday 28th January, to say that a JCB was coming the next day, I knew I had to be there. I hoped that this machine would be able to drag the stones out of the hedge banks and perhaps take them up to where the circle was to be, in the next field.
Monday 29th - We needed to measure the agreed diameter on the field, and put in the compass points of major sun and moon rising and setting points. First I marked them with a tent peg; then my friend Bel dug out 18 inch wide holes to mark them in a way that was visible from a big machine. The JCB was huge and the driver, Hefin Owens, turned out to be an excellent driver and mover of stones. He had to spend quite a lot of his time digging out the track and then spreading the lorry loads of loose shale that were being used to make it well drained and solid, so I felt less pressure about doing the whole circle that day!
The first holes marked North, South, East and West and I then put in Imbolc sunrise, Beltane, midwinter solstice, and the major southerly moon rise. The minor south moon rise is almost the same as Beltane at this latitude, so it did not get its own point. These points were approximately 3 megalithic yards apart, and I was able to pace the next segment, of sun and moon sets, and then check they were correct.
Tuesday 30th - The track was still being dug, so we collected lumps of white quartz to place at each of the holes, and small rocks at each of the four directions. It started to feel as if something was there, not just in my head! I visited the stones in the second field to try to pick out which would be best for the circle, and Hefin told me we could move them the next day when the dumper truck arrived. When I got home that evening, I climbed the hill and there bright in the sky was Venus, and just below, and half as bright was Mercury. I was thrilled, and made a plea to Mercury to guide me in this work, and help me communicate and think clearly.
Wednesday 31st - When I arrived I was quite pleased to see that Hefin had done some megalithic sculpture of his own. He had pulled some stones out of the hedge and the track, and put some into two arrangements of three stones, a pointy one with a boulder each side, rather like the avenue at Avebury. These looked so good that I knew they should stay, and I then suggested that the biggest one left should go at the actual entrance. When Sam and Steve arrived, they said they had had to think of a name for their co-op that is doing this work, and had chosen Dragon Stone -and there it was - the dragon stone, right at the entrance!
There were also 12 large stones available for the circle as well and 3 big ones that would make good uprights for the dolmen too, and a little way up the track a really big one that was an ideal capstone. All 12 were put in the truck, and taken to the circle area. I went round and smudged them, and told them the plan, very aware that they had all moved in less time than one had taken at Brithdir, when moved by people and levers.
Thursday 1st - I arrived to find the capstone had been taken up to the circle! I told Hefin and he calmly went and got it down again. The lorry loads of stone for the track came every hour or two, and took about half an hour to spread, so in-between, Hefin could help me find stones. I went up and down the hedge bank, trying to get the best stones, and also picking the two out for the standing stones in the second and top fields. One of these was the one that was only moved 20 years ago, and both Jon and I had felt quite clear which stone this was. There was also another really tall big one that felt ideal for the top field, where it would be visible as a guide into the circle.
So first we put in the "old" stone where it was marked on my map from 1896. It was a cube, just the right height for sitting on, and Steve will plant the trees fanning out in a circle from it and with a path leading up to it, so it will become a central focus of the field. Next came the standing stone for the top field. Up came the stone in the dumper truck, and I pointed out the spot to drop it off, and then came the JCB and in minutes it was nudged into the ground. I checked that it could be seen, and just as I had hoped, the top just showing as you enter the field. It is visible from the road too, outlined against the skyline.
Back to the hedge bank in the second field to choose the circle stones, starting with a long one that was a good choice for the north. I went along pointing to the stones I wanted and Hefin neatly scooped them out and put them in the truck, which would go to the edge of the circle in the top field with every few stones, and drop them there. Having this vast "metal dragon" at my command was amazing, especially as I did not have to actually drive it! Once they were all up there, Hefin went back to track laying, and once again I smudged the stones, thanking them for coming so easily, and telling the new ones what was going on.
It was then time to begin the dolmen. We started to place the 3 stones I had chosen the day before. The first one was fine, but then the second one did not feel right, and kept trying to fall back from where it was placed. I tried to phone Jon, but there he was, walking down the road - Hooray! So I took him to the field and discovered that I had got the dolmen orientated wrong, facing west instead of east, as most old ones do. Once we had got that clear we set to work. This time the second stone went up beautifully and the third, solid in the ground, and ready for the capstone.
This is when the fun really started, as two huge straps were brought out, and one then the other put around the stone. After some difficulties the massive 7 ton stone lifted off the ground and swung round to the waiting 3 stones, each with a pointy top. This is when Chris the dumper truck driver joined in, firmly guiding the huge stone around in the air and on to the waiting points - just like the real thing, and "solid as a rock". It looked just as we'd hoped, and all done in around an hour and a half!
Friday 2nd - The next day the first thing to do was to check my measurements on the circle. It seemed that I had only put 4 points in each segment apart from the east-south one, giving 19 stones, but Jon felt that it was better to have 5, so we changed it and corrected any discrepancies using the figures from Brithdir. This brought us to a 24 stone circle, but the stones had other ideas!
Shortly after lunch we heard the JCB approaching, and everything was moving again. We had picked the first 5 stones, starting with the north one, and their holes were dug and they were placed, with each one taking 2-4 minutes! It then got exciting, as I showed Hefin where to dig the next hole then raced over to the pile of stones and selected the next stone, hoping to match what was already there, and follow the plan of slowly getting smaller as they came round to the south. It was hectic, and I had no time to look, being too busy trying to find each stone and pointing out the top so it could go in the right way up.
The 18 inch wide, six inch deep spade holes vanished into the 3 foot wide, 4 foot deep and 4 foot long JCB holes. At some point we lost the 5th hole in the north-west quadrant, but it was a filler, not a sunset point, so we did not worry too much. Some stones went in less accurately than hoped, but most were pretty spot on. A lesson for the future: place marker poles in a bigger outer ring, maybe 7 ft out, so these points can still be seen even when all the ground is gone!
After an hour or so of brisk and focused activity, we were looking at a lovely stone circle! The ground became a bit earthy as the JCB tracks went to and fro, and I went around treading down the bigger ridges. The stones all looked very harmonious, mostly similar in size but gradually getting smaller towards the south, which has a slightly bigger one again. After the stones were in, we tidied up, and then I put the lumps of white quartz into the centre to mark a potential fire pit. As we sat there, we could see the sun slowly going down to set behind the stone that we had placed to mark this very sunset, at Imbolc. On the way home we saw the huge, orange, full moon rising before us. We then stopped at a high point and watched Venus and Mercury, back in the west, and I gave thanks for such a wonderful experience, still stunned that it was all done so quickly!
We had a big celebration and inauguration in April, by which time the grass had grown back, and it felt quite settled in. I will probably go over often, to make sure it IS real, and tidy up some more, and watch the trees grow. This is a community woodland, and so lots of folk will have the chance to enjoy our work and the ambience it helps to create, and use the circle for all their many purposes, just as our ancestors did!
Ed note: Ros Briagha lives and works in Wales. She can be reached at :email@example.com
is a member of the