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Standing with Stones by Rupert Soskin
A Photographic Journey Through Megalithic Britain and Ireland
By Stella Maris
April 18, 2009
Stonehenge through the barricades on a dismal Summer Solstice
© Memory Map
I saw my very first stone circle at the tender age of eleven. My family had just moved from Washington, DC-- the land of masonically aligned monuments--to the land of megalithically aligned monuments, in the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors.
I'll never forget the feeling of awe as we scrambled over a ridge, the astonishing manifestation of stones as big as houses appearing seemingly out of nowhere below us. After that, "stone circle hunting" became my favorite family weekend pastime. Every Sunday my mother would make a picnic of sandwiches, pork pies, and Scotch eggs for us to eat in remote country lay-bys surrounded by sheep, after which my father would take my brother and me rambling over hill and dale. Later on we graduated to Cistercian monasteries, but that's another story...
This beautifully-produced book isn't just your average compilation of stone circles in the UK, but is obviously a labor of love: it is abundantly clear from the presentation that Soskin has visited these monuments several times over an extended period. I could easily imagine him hunkering in a many a lay-by consuming pork pies in anticipation, just as we did.
Containing 248 excellent color photographs (Soskin is a professional nature photographer), one really gets a feel for the atmosphere of the locations, but without any undue New Agey fussiness. The collection inevitably includes my most favorite monuments, but there were also curiosities that I had never had the opportunity to track down. For instance, in addition to the oft-visited Arbor Low, Nine Ladies, Castlerigg, and Long Meg in The North, there is also an entry on the obscure curious fossilized Neolithic footprints on the beach at Formby Point near Liverpool.
The South of England section features all the internationally well-known megalithic sites, such as Stonehenge and my beloved Avebury... but I was especially happy to see a good four pages on the Rollright Stones, which I had actually once attempted to purchase myself back in my music biz days when I had more money than sense. I’d even gone as far as meeting with the elderly owner, who no longer felt that she could properly care for the stones, and was concertedly calculating just how many digital tape recorders I would have had to sell... ah, the memories!
It was also good to see the extensive entries on Wales and Ireland, which I'd never had enough time to explore fully enough myself. The only disappointment of the book is that Soskin didn't include a photo of the stunning inner chamber at Newgrange featuring the solar alignment on the Winter Solstice... maybe in a future revized edition?
One can never own too many books on megalithic monuments, in my opinion. I personally have an entire bookshelf dedicated to the genre, from my very first bible, A Guide to Ancient Sites in Britain by Janet and Colin Bord, to Julian Cope's rockin' Megalithic European.
And, now that the weather’s getting warmer and stone circle hunting season is upon us, I can think of no better way for the curious connoisseur to prepare than to obtain a copy of Rupert Soskin's memorable Standing with Stones.