The Devil’s Quoits

Virtual geocache
Map of 51.74005,-1.4058167

Description

Nearly 5,000 years ago, towards the end of the stone age, hunter-gatherer and early agrarian tribes built a circle of stones. It stood here, in a grassy plain probably first cleared for their sheep and goats. This construction, originally comprising 36 standing stones plus an additional stone standing outside, “pointing in”, stood at the centre of a network of over 60 ancient burial mounds across the Windrush Valley. Its purpose is uncertain: unlike some henge monuments, the stones do not seem to have been positioned with any astrological significance. Over the millennia that followed, though, it certainly saw varied use: bronze age settlers to the area added a central plinth stone, suggesting ritual uses, and there’s evidence that the outer ring mound may have been used for burials.

Unfortunately, like many of Britains’ ancient monuments, this henge did not survive intact through the ages. During the medieval period most of the stones were entirely removed, probably for use in other construction projects. In the Second World War most of the earthworks were levelled in order to establish an airfield at the site. After the war, the area was part of a quarry for gravel, and then when the pit was closed it began to be used as a landfill site: a purpose that the surrounding area still supports today, as you’ll doubtless notice as you approach!

Following archaeological work, however, the stone circle was able to be reconstructed in the early 2000s, leading to the monument you’ll see today. The current monument attempts to replicate what the area might have looked like at the time of the Roman expansion into Britain. Only one of the “original” stones remains: the others are all replacements from the surrounding area.

The name of the henge comes from a local legend. According to the story, a beggar and the Devil played a game of quoits (throwing a rope loop so it encircles a stone: a predecessor to games like horseshoes and hoopla). They played atop Wytham Hill, about 5.5km North-East of here. The Devil won by throwing these stones all the way here, and then casting his quoit around them despite the vast distance, and leaving the stones and the surrounding earthwork “ring” as a result.

Finding this cache

The coordinates will take you directly to the centre of the stone circle. Four possible trailheads are suggested, two of which (including the closest) have car parking available. For the most part, the trailheads are not well-signposted and you’ll need to do your own navigation. Please respect any signs and fences and stick to the path: some of the surrounding areas contain former quarry or current landfill operations and trespassing could be dangerous.

In addition to logging the cache, you’ll need to contact the cache owner with answers to the following two questions. Logs for which answers aren’t forthcoming will be deleted:

  1. Count the stones.
    How many stones are standing in the circle today?
  2. Point to the outlier.
    One stone stands outside the circle, almost “pointing in” towards the centre – let’s call this the outlier.
    Stand in the centre of the circle, facing the entrance/information board. In what direction is the outlier relative to you?
    (Relative clock directions e.g. “7 o’clock”, “10 o’clock” etc or degrees are acceptable, but absolute directions e.g. “West” are not.)

Consider including in your log a photograph of yourself at the site, but please ensure that the photograph can’t be used to answer the questions without visiting!

Logging this cache

You can log this geocache at any or all of the following:

  • GC88ZY9 [geocaching.com]
  • This page, by leaving a comment, trackback, or pingback to this web address

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