Bryn Alyn - Standing Stones
Bryn Alyn, a beloved haunt of many in our area given its spectacular views, has such a long and varied history. A few weeks back we caught up with John Denton-Blore, a discoverer, who has spent over 50 years seeking Bryn Alyn's secrets. We caught up with him again (and are very much looking forward to meeting him in person when lockdown fully lifts!) to learn more about the enigmatic standing stones. In this post, we also announce our Afternoon Tea at the Loggs winner!
"We have all seen Standing Stones or Menhirs on our walks around north east Wales, some looking forlorn, standing upright in the middle of nowhere and for no apparent reason. Who erected these stones and why, why are they placed where they are and when? So many unanswered questions about these enigmatic pillars that have become virtually everyday items that we simply accept as just another mystery of our past. Many theories as to their purpose have been postulated over the years but they are impossible to prove, what I can do is give a possible explanation for one particular stone.
No two stones are the same, they are selected from local stone and as such vary from one geological area to another. Essentially, they are rectangular or square in section and fluctuate in length, and as a rule are pointed or angled at the apex. The average height for the stones around Bryn Alyn is about 1.3 metres high, another half can be added to this to make it stable when buried in the ground.
Today’s problem is understanding which is a standing stone and which is simply a gate post, many standing stones have been utilised over the years as they are quite solid and make ideal gate posts. Some are boundary stones; these are usually incorporated into a wall. And then there are some that have been erected in the not too distant past by the local farmer for his cattle or horses to rub against, however, these are usually taller stones. As can be seen there is an eclectic mix of stones all adding to the confusion over their interpretation.
Menhirs are usually associated with the Neolithic but continued to be erected into the Late Bronze Age, taking into account the small stone circle on Bryn Alyn and its six Four Posters that are typically Late Bronze Age we will have to live with a date of circa 1,000 BC until such time as we can find some dateable material relating to the stones. Radiocarbon dates obtained from Late Bronze Age artefacts from Lynx Cave gave us a calibrated date of 2,970-3,220 BP with a 95% probability.
One winters day I was wandering over Bryn Alyn on my way back from a hard day digging at Lynx Cave when I came across a small Standing Stone that appeared to have toppled a bit, hidden amongst some dead bracken. I took a photo for the record, then somehow forgot all about it? In 2006, 15 years later, having discovered a stone circle on Bryn Alyn, I became more interested in standing stones and remembered this unusual small Standing Stone. Returning to the site I took some detailed information about the stone, the stone was not loose and checking around the base with a steel probe I found it to be packed tight with rocks, it had obviously been set at that particular angle but why? Placing a compass on top of the stone I could see it was aligned east-west, another unusual feature that I had to ponder over.
With a few ideas in my head I returned to the stone a few weeks later to take a GPS reading and a few more measurements. If you look west along the top face of the stone it aligns perfectly with a small hill peak (Gyrn) on the Clwydian Range, 3.5 kilometres away. Its elevation is just 18 metres below the height of Gyrn and you can just see Snowdonia on the horizon 60 kilometres away. As the alignment is accurately positioned east-west this means that at mid-day any time of the year there is no shadow on either side of the stone, furthermore, and more importantly, on the spring and autumn equinox the sun sets directly behind Gyrn.
But why is it set at an angle? I made a replica of the stone in my garden and watched the shadow north of the stone decrease slowly as the days approached the summer solstice at mid-day on the solstice there is no shadow at the base of the stone. Whilst many argue that the celestial alignments are just a fluke, it would appear that the variety of alignments relating to this one stone are too much of a coincidence to be more than a chance location, elevation, orientation and inclination. Change any one of the four previous criteria and it won’t work as a timepiece or calendar. In today’s modern world, with all its amazing technology, it is difficult for us to imagine their world, and see it through their eyes. Nevertheless, the above theory can’t be proven, however, it is a feasible explanation.
Searching the internet for comparable sites I managed to find two other similar examples. The Gardoms Edge Stone in Derbyshire, A standing stone with a sloping face, set a similar angle to the Bryn Alyn Stone and dated to the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago. And a more recent one, in the Inca City of Machu Picchu in southern Peru. The Intihuatana Stone carved out of solid rock circa 1430 AD.
There are at least 10 other stones locally that need some sort of explanation for their specific location, maybe one day I can come up with a logical answer?"
We'd like to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to our Afternoon Tea for Two winner - mcarpenter5 who won with the following comment:
Can I nominate my cheese-loving husband please. We live at the kennels/cattery just down the path. Tough lockdown times, tougher family health times, raising a toddler, looking after his family. He's a bit of a superstar. Thanks, Mary.
Congratulations to you - please email us email@example.com and we can arrange your afternoon tea!