Review of ‘Monuments and Mountains’, by Garth Weston

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on (), and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.


... or to elaborate: Stone Circles, Henges and Standing Stones in the Landscape. This latest title from local publishers Ashridge Press/Country Books is offered as a 'new master key' to an understanding of these complicated and ever-intriguing features.

Author Garth Weston can date his own interest to 1977 and a flash of inspiration whilst browsing a map. To judge from the quantity of information and illustrations now brought together for Monuments and Mountains, he went on to spend the next 30 years delving, measuring and studying the subject. Old legends are aired too; apparently Nine Ladies on Stanton Moor is far from being the only circle of 'people turned to stone'.

This study looks at hundreds of monuments across the British Isles and considers their position relative to natural features, the remarkable relationships between the sites themselves, and hence the intentions and concerns of their builders. Weston proposes a web of influences on the choice of sites, from trade routes and boundaries to the more obvious cardinal positions and solar/lunar observations. Mathematical relationships include base units of measurement corresponding to a human pace: for example Arbor Low is 100 paces across and Wet Withens, 40. Measurements in multiples of 10 are common - an obvious choice, says Weston, 'for builders who counted on their fingers'.

Of these pre-literate architects, he concludes: 'With their fixation on principal directions, circle-divisions, right angles and alignments, and their predilection for numerical and spatial correspondences, the ring-builders were one of the earliest of many societies to place mathematical concepts at the heart of their world view.' On the local landscape, for instance, Alport Height lies due south of the conjectural site of the lost Seven Brethren ring on Matlock Moor, while Bull Ring and Wet Withins are precisely at right angles from the summit of Win Hill and also individually equidistant from Arbor Low.

Taking everything into account, Garth Weston ventures that: 'The silent rings of lichen-encrusted boulders were once venues for dignified rites, hard bargaining and lively socializing.' Without detracting from the certainty that we shall never know all the answers, the author provides some very satisfying conclusions, finally condensed into an appendix listing more than 1,600 features.

Monuments and Mountains by Garth Weston is available locally, or to order quoting ISBN 978-1-901214-79-6, price £19.99.

Review by Julie Bunting

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