Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal

Paul Mobbs’ photographic record of his walks around ‘Banburyshire’ and ‘The Irondowns’, and occasionally, as part of his work around Britain, the areas beyond.

Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:
The Hawk Stone

For me, if there is one local site that has to be ‘top of the list’, this is it. It’s not just the stone itself; it’s the way it interacts with the location, and the landscape it sits within. It’s a very ‘special’ place to pause and take a break, irrespective of weather or time of year.

Summary for ‘The Hawk Stone’:

Location: Spelsbury, Oxfordshire

Type: ‘Standing Stones & Circles’.

Condition: Monolith, standing in a field.

Access: Public footpath passes the stone, or can be accessed from the nearby road.

OS Grid Ref.: SP339235

Further information: Wikipedia.

Walks posts for site:
    • The Anomalous Megalith.
    • A Beltane Megaliths Trail.

I keep returning here, seemingly every year.

The Hawk Stone is the site I love to return to, to experience, in the words of Glenn Albrecht, ‘eutierria’. “A good and positive feeling of oneness with the earth and its life forces.” No matter the route I take to get there, it is the break, and view, that makes the walk.

The site can easily be worked into a circular walk with other nearby sites. On public transport, using the S3 bus to Chipping Norton or Enstone, or train to Charlbury or Kingham railway stations, longer routes are possible taking in many more local sites.

Study The Hawk Stone for long enough and you begin to see curious details. Like the fact each compass point presents a completely different ‘face’ from the others. It’s not just that it’s a different shape; the weathering and the patterning of lichen are very different too.

If you want to cheat, you can access the stone from the minor road off the B4026 to Dean.

The footpath which passes the stone has its own rewards, taking in some spectacular scenery as it crosses the Chadlington Downs between Dean and Chipping Norton. It intersects the ‘Old London Road’, running between Churchill and Enstone, where the path crosses the ridge line at just over 200 metres/660 feet. Here there is a beautiful view over Wychwood, all the way to Uffington Hill.

The stone sits in a small grassy patch, set aside from the field it is located within. It’s a good spot to picnic, or just to drop and rest. On a cool but sunny day in the Spring or Autumn, you can sit with your back pressed against its southern face and be warmed from both sides at once.

Officially it’s a bit of an enigma: With a very rough date of the, “Late Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age”. It appears to be a single megalith, rather like the The King Stone within The Rollright Stones, or the nearby Thor’s Stone at Taston.

There is no archaeology to identify it as a dolmen, like the nearby Hoar Stone, or the remains of a portal stone, like the nearby Lyneham Long Barrow.

I know what you might be thinking. “There must be something bad to consider”. Chadlington Downs has a line-of-site to R.A.F Brize Norton. When military air traffic picks up you might get a lot of noise from jet engines (just in case you’re confused as to what that awful noise is).

However, true to its name, it very often seems that The Hawk Stone does have ‘hawks’ – or strictly speaking birds of prey.

I’ve often seen buzzards and kites circling the area around the stone, and occasionally a kestrel. It may be that the topography, the rising ground from the valley below, provides the perfect conditions for them to effortlessly soar on the wing.

Question is, is that a recent thing, or has that always been the case – and hence why it was chosen long ago to place the stone here?

Reputedly its name is a corruption of the word ‘hoar’, derived from the Middle and Old English word for ‘old’ – like the nearby Hoar Stone. Practically it would be confusing to have two ‘hoar stones’ so close together; so perhaps ‘hawk stone’ became the adopted toponym due to its location and the birds of prey that live here.

Well away from busy roads, The Hawk Stone is somewhere you can stay a while and peacefully take in the spectacular views all around. Given its location, it's the ideal mid-point for a walk, where, like the stone itself, you can rest and take the time to sit and just ‘be’ in the world.