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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Hurlers at Minions

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JULY. 28, 2021

We went on our long anticipated day trip to Cornwall last week. We don't know Cornwall well, or at least the top end, having only been right down to the foot of the county on previous holidays. Now, living in Devon much of Cornwall is a short drive away and has been out of bounds for most of the last eighteen months.

We didn't go with any fixed idea of what to see, just for a bit of exploration, so when we got there we just picked some interesting looking roads and meandered around. Our road map had small red highlights showing ancient monuments and that was why we headed for The Hurlers. It said stone circles and we had never heard of them.

The Hurlers is a group of three stone circles in the civil parish of St Cleer, Cornwall, England, UK. The site is half-a-mile (0.8 km) west of the village of Minions on the eastern flank of Bodmin Moor dated to about 1500BC.

Some 150 prehistoric stone circles have been identified in England, of which 16 are to be found on Bodmin Moor, the largest of the Cornish granite uplands. Of these, The Hurlers are the most fascinating.

The close grouping of three Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age stone circles is extremely rare in England, but a grouping of three such regular circles is unique.

The Hurlers comprises three stone circles that lie on a line from SSW to NNE, and have diameters of 35 metres (115 ft), 42 metres (138 ft) and 33 metres (108 ft). The two outer stone circles are circular. The middle circle, the largest is slightly elliptical. The survival of the southern stone circle, which now contains nine stones, has been most precarious: only two of the remaining stones are upright and the other seven are partially covered with soil. In the middle circle 14 stones survive out of 28. The stones show clear traces of being hammered smooth. The northern stone circle contained around 30 standing stones, from which 15 are still visible. Two other monoliths, the Pipers, are 100 metres (330 ft) southwest of the middle circle and may be entrance stones to the Hurlers.

Below you can see the largest, middle circle, looking south. The Pipers are just visible in the distance, a pair of stones right next to each other just to the right of the main stone in the centre of the picture. On the horizon is a much later winding engine tower indicating a mine.

The name "Hurlers" derives from a legend, in which men were playing Cornish hurling on a Sunday and were magically transformed into stones as punishment. The "Pipers" are supposed to be the figures of two men who played tunes on a Sunday and suffered the same fate. According to another legend, it is impossible to accurately count the number of standing stones.

The earliest mention of the Hurlers was by historian John Norden, who visited them around 1584. They were described by William Camden in his Britannia of 1586. In 1754 William Borlase published the first detailed description of the site.

Ralegh Radford excavated the site in the 1930s, and partly restored the two northern circles by re-erecting some stones and placing marker stones in the positions of those missing. There have been several subsequent investigations. A survey by the Cornwall Archeological Unit in 2009 indicated that there might also be a fourth circle and two stone rows.

Minions is in the former Caradon administrative district and in the parish of Linkinhorne. At 300 metres (980 ft) it is said to be the highest village in Cornwall.

The village is dominated by Caradon Hill, standing at 371 metres (1,217 ft) high, on which there is a TV transmission mast on the summit. As a result, there is a road leading up to the summit from Minions. On the western flank of the hill, a quarry recently started up again, cutting granite boulders.

As well as this working quarry, there are many other disused quarries and mine buildings in the area due to the village's mining heritage, including the Phoenix United Mine that closed in 1914. Unlike in the west of Cornwall, there are no plans to reopen the tin and copper mines in the area.

In May 2015, a road sign was erected outside the village in tribute to the then-forthcoming Minions movie. This sign was removed later the same year for safety reasons, due to families stopping on the narrow road to take photographs. Local residents fought for the "tourism-boosting" sign to stay, stating that it had "put Minions on the map." Calls for the colourful sign to be reinstated received strong support, with an anonymous member of the public placing stickers of the popular characters on the original sign.

This view North East shows a different engine winding tower and a twentieth century communications tower, making the most of the natural high elevation on Bodmin Moor. There is another winding engine on the right in the middle distance. At one point I was standing in a spot and around me I could make out seven different engine towers at once.

Although nowhere near as famous or as grand as Stone Henge, The Hurlers are a larger more extensive formation and have the advantage that you can walk amongst them, and touch them and even in the height of summer you can view them for free, without queuing, and with hardly any other people present.

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