Sea Views at Stalldown

Stalldown WPP1070250

Much of the Stalldown stone alignment has extensive sea views.

Stalldown plan

Simplified plan of the Stalldown stone row. Upright stones shown black and recumbent red (Source: Butler, J., 1993, 61 and fieldwork).

Sea Views

Views of the sea exist throughout the accepted length of the impressive Stalldown stone row. The views of the sea at the northern end are very restricted but open up rapidly as you walk southward. The row straddles a hilltop and for this reason views to the south are initially hidden behind the hill. After the top of the hill is reached extensive views of South Devon and the sea beyond are maintained throughout the remainder of its length. If the alignment did originally extend as far as the cairn at SX 63152 62871 the northern part of the row would have no sea views. This extension however must be considered speculative for the moment and consequently is not considered any further here.

1 Stalldown N end 1

View from the top of the row (N end). A very restricted view of the sea is visible from this spot (Source: GoogleEarth).

2 Stalldown 25m from N end

As you walk southward along the row the view of the sea increases rapidly. After 25m twice as much sea is visible (Source: GoogleEarth).

3 Stalldown 50m from N end50m from the northern end the sea view has grown considerably in size (Source: GoogleEarth).

4 Stalldown cairn at top

From the cairn adjacent  to the row at the top of the hill extensive views of the sea to the south are available. The sea remains clearly visible throughout the remainder of the row’s length (Source: GoogleEarth).

Sea View P1070163

View from the southern end of the row showing a small closed sea triangle formed by the Yealm estuary. Whilst this tiny triangle is visible along much of the row it is likely that it was not previously so obvious when the sea levels were lower than today. 

Landmark Reveals

Perhaps of more interest than the sea views at Stalldown are the visual links with other prominent broadly contemporary prehistoric features in the surrounding landscape. In this part of Devon there are a number of large hilltop cairns and these are all at the limit of visibility at various points along the row. As one walks along the row these cairns appear or disappear on the distant horizon at specific points. The position and orientation of the row ensures the number of reveals is maximised with separate cairns appearing at different places. The clear visual relationship between the row and the cairns is tangible, although of course whether it is significant or deliberate is open to debate.  The cumulative evidence of clearly defined visual links between the natural and contemporary human landscapes with stone rows is powerful and suggests that the rows were positioned to refer directly to their surroundings. We can therefore be reasonably confident that stone rows were sited to exploit these visual links which in turn provides an insight into their function. In a society with few clearly defined routeways, navigation would have been a crucial skill and may therefore have been incorporated into their ritual believes. Precisely how this was achieved will probably never be known, but we can be fairly certain that they appreciated the significance of visual relationships between landmarks and how these could be used to refer to specific places. In a world where it was becoming increasingly important to define routeways and ownership the stone rows maybe the most obvious manifestation of a society grappling with the challenges of travel and territory.

Hey 1 Stalldown N end

Viewshed (red) from the northern end of Stalldown stone row. Large numbers of cairns (grey) are at the limit of visibility whilst the view to the south eastern ones (blue) is blocked.  The views from this spot towards the sea are very restricted, but by contrast a significant number of cairns are in prominent skyline positions (Source:

Hey 2 Stalldown cairn

Viewshed from the cairn adjacent to the row. From this prominent position all but one of the cairns is visible. The cairn on Sharp Tor which was previously visible has now disappeared and been replaced by views of the south eastern cairns.

Hey 3 Stalldown 100m S of cairn

Viewshed from a point 100m south of the cairn on the row. Over the course of 100m the remaining north eastern cairns have disappeared one at a time. The point at which a cairn disappears may have been a spot of particular significance.

Hey 4 Stalldown bottom

The viewshed from the bottom (southern end) of the alignment. The remaining cairns to the east of the row have now disappeared from view but the cairns to the west remain visible. All three of these cairns or groups of cairns remain in a prominent position from any position on the row and are the only consistent element in an other constantly evolving picture. 

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