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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

Grey Wethers stone circles and Fernworthy Reservoir

Grey Wethers Double stone circles

A super spot for a picnic at any time of year, Grey Wethers stone circles is one of my favourite spots on the Moor. To me, it feels like a peaceful, magical place and each time I’ve visited it has been quiet even when one of our walks coincided with a group of orienteering runners in Fernworthy Forrest, the circles themselves were still tranquil.

sitting in the shade of one of the ancient stones

Park in the small car park on the western side of Fernworthy Reservoir TQ13 8EY SX 665 840. From here take the main path heading west through Fernworthy Forest. A few hundred metres into the forest in a clearing on the right is Fernworthy Circle and stone rows.

Fernworthy Stone Circle

Continue on the main path through Fernworthy Forest back on to open moor land near Teignhead Farm. Follow the path south for 1.5km. A short distance over the wall is the Grey Wethers double stone circle SX 638 831 The stone circles are thought to date from the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

following the wall with the stone circles in the distance

There are several legends regarding the circles and many of them seem to pertain to sheep.

One is that the stones are actually a shepherd and his flock turned to stone by the pagan gods after he was jilted by his betrothed. The story states that he was so broken hearted, his petrification was a kindness, bestowed upon him to save him from his heartbreak and enable him to remain with his beloved flock for eternity.

Another tale tells of how a disgruntled Farmer was duped into believing the stones (having viewed them from a distance in a light fog) were a prize flock of sheep and only discovered the deception after handing over a large sum of money.

Then there’s the story of the golden fleeces that can be shorn with a magical pair of sheers on midsummers Eve.

Long ago there was a wealthy farmer who was required by the gods to sacrifice his best lamb, in thanks for another bountiful year. The farmer was greedy and instead stole a lamb from his neighbour to place upon the alter.

The gods were angry and turned the farmers entire flock to stone. The farmer grew poorer and poorer until eventually he died and was buried on top of Cosdon hill along with his sheers.

One evening many years later a stranger hears of the tale. He’s told that on midsummers eve the rocks of the circle turn back into sheep and that should you perform the ritual and sheer the sheep, their Fleece will turn to gold.

He was intrigued and so climbed Cosdon hill (which is a feat in its self but wholly worth doing for the marvellous view) where he retrieved the farmers sheers and took them back to the Tolmen stone on the North Teign (another fabulous place to visit especially in the summer for a swim). Here he had to pass through the stone and dip the sheers into the water. Then he had to climb Kestor rock and fill a flask with water from the Druids basin at the top (a natural hollow in the top of Kestor rock which is still there today).

Once the flock had transformed back into sheep he should use the sheers and sprinkle the wool with the sacred water.

All this the stranger accomplished but when the ritual was complete a dreadful disembodied voice called to him that he should not see to profit from the dead, the sheep grew enormous and circled around him. They turned back to granite and one boulder toppled crushing the stranger beneath. He was discovered the next day and his grisly tale used as a cautionary story to discourage those that would follow.

The Tolmen Stone on the North Teign

catching butterflies in the forest

Head back to your car the same way you came in, however when looking at the OS map Fernworthy Forest is full of hut circles and ancient archaeology which you could go in search of and elongate your adventure. Not only that but the Forest is full of wildlife and a beautiful place to explore.

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