Yesterday we went to the Cotswolds to see the Rollright Stones, the third most famous of England's many prehistoric stone circles. The circle of stones, known as The King's Men, stands in a farmer's field like unmoving chess pieces, perhaps sorting out what to do with Humpty Dumpty.
A lot of folklore has built up around the stones. They're thought to be the king's men, turned to stone, except for warm nights when they turn to men again and take a drink from the well at the nearby village of Little Rollright. Or possibly they hold hands and dance in a circle; apparently no one's ever caught this magic on camera.
But I'd believe it anyway. There's just something mystical about stone circles, erected thousands of years ago by very dedicated craftsmen.
Another legend says it's impossible to count the stones in the circle, and if you manage to count the same number twice, you'll have bad luck. Or possibly good luck, depending on who's telling. This legend apparently played into a Dr Who episode, filmed partly on location at the Rollright Stones.
Nearby stand the Whispering Knights, who, after plotting against their king, were turned into stone by a witch.
I listened, but I couldn't hear what they were whispering about.
The King Stone, all alone
The king himself is across the road. Since chips of the rock will protect men in battle, he had to be protected by a fence from all the soldiers who, literally, wanted a piece of him.
The stones were erected not by Druids or by witches with a penchant for stoning but by neolithic worshipers at various times in prehistory. The Whispering Knights are a burial chamber, built around 3500 BC. The circle dates to around 2500 BC, and the king stone is from the Bronze age, and sits atop a Bronze age barrow.
The megalith is located about a half hour drive from Oxford, deep in the heart of the Cotswolds. It's a fine way to spend a sunny summer afternoon, gazing at lichen covered stones that haven't moved for thousands of years.
Not quite as moving as Stonehenge, but not quite as crowded either.