Ancient Stones
A Guide to Standing Stones & Stone Circles in the South of Scotland.


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Equipment For The Stone Hunter

Actually, you don't need much in the way of equipment to get out there and search for ancient stones. All you need to get started is a good Ordnance Survey map and your own two feet. However, if you are going to do things properly and also get more enjoyment out of stone hunting, a few additional items of equipment are useful to have. This section looks at a few such items.

All the items covered here have a permanent place in my equipment bag and are taken with me on each and every outing. They don't take up much space and all the items listed left fit inside a small pouch or bumbag. Its always a good idea to take everything as you will certainly find that the one day you leave something behind that is the day you will need it!

Compass
Next to a good Ordnance Survey map, the not-so-humble compass is one of the most useful tools you can have in the search for ancient stones. Not every stone is easy to find, particularly stones that are on the small side or lying recumbent and may also be concealed by dense vegetation. A good example is the 018 Grey Mare, a large flat stone on Wether Law near Longformacus, in the Scottish Borders. The stone is only visible from a few metres away, being situated in a low lying hollow and surrounded by deep heather. A compass is also a good backup device for your GPS receiver which will not always work in every situation, such as thick woodland or urban areas where a poor signal can decrease accuracy to an unacceptable level. In circumstances such as this the compass can be used. A GPS also relies on batteries, which can fail, usually at the most awkward of times. A compass needs no batteries and will always work.

Maps
These are without doubt the most essential tool for the stone hunter. Without a good set of maps, you are unlikely to find any great number of stones and here in the UK, the only maps worth using are those provided by the Ordnance Survey. There are two ranges available that are of use to the stone hunter, the 1:50,000 Landranger Series and the 1:25,000 Explorer Series. From the point of view of actually locating ancient stones, the 1:25,000 Explorer Series is by far the most useful. The level of detail included on these maps is a useful aid to navigating across the landscape and there are also far more ancient stones noted on this series than the Landranger Series, making them an essential tool for the stone hunter.

If you are simply following the instructions to a site listed on Ancient Stones, the Landranger Series will probably be sufficient for most stones that are easy to access, and if you use the GPS co-ordinates you should be able to find everything without too much hassle. If you are searching for stones in your own area from scratch, I would strongly recommend you purchase a set of Explorer maps. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of finding ancient stones.

Utility Knife
This item is not really essential but can be invaluable when you find yourself in need of one. For the stone hunter, itís usually used to clear vegetation away from stones to allow decent photographs to be taken. Some stones are often almost totally hidden behind thick vegetation such as nettles or bracken. One such example was 042 Cromwell's Stone, near West Calder, which was actually concealed beneath a fallen conifer! One final point, choose a knife with both a blade and wood saw. There are plenty in the Swiss Army range to choose from.

GPS Receiver
This amazing device uses 24 satellites to tell you where you are standing anywhere on the face of the earth and is accurate to within about 5m at best. Itís ideal for finding stones when you already have an 8-figure grid reference. Iíve used it a few times to find stones in difficult terrain, for example, 007 Crow Stones in the Lammermuir hills and itís also ideal for taking a grid reference on location for new stones not marked on maps. For finding stones listed on Ancient Stones, all you need do is enter the grid reference noted, hit to GOTO button and just follow the arrow. I use a Garmin eTrex.

Stationary
Obviously, if you are going to record information about a site, you need something to write in. Nothing hi-tech here, just a small A6 size notebook, two pens, a pencil and eraser. You could go for waterproof paper if youíre that keen but I just turn my back to the rain and get on with it. There are some almost illegible smudges in the notebook but thatís all part of the fun. I did consider some form of PDA (personal digital assistant) at one time but decided I have enough to carry as it is. Good old fashioned paper notebooks donít fail when you most need them.

Tape Measure
If you are going to create a web site similar to the companion sites to this one and want to record details of the stones you find, some form of measuring device is required. Iíve tried and tested metal measuring tapes but found them less than ideal. What I did find was best was a dress-makers tape, which actually came out of a Christmas cracker. It can be fun trying to measure a stone in strong winds, driving rain, etc and you do get some odd looks when there are people about but if you want to get sizes you just have to grin and bear it! Make sure you get the plastic/fibreglass type of tape measure rather than the cotton ones. They tend to stay cleaner and drier.

Batteries
With two items in my equipment bag powered by batteries, a digital camera and GPS receiver, spare batteries should be considered essential. If you have walked for 6 miles, fought your way through 500m of thick conifer plantation, only to discover that your camera batteries are flat and youíve no spares, you will realise just how important carrying spares can be. For the digital camera, I carry a minimum of two sets of rechargeable batteries and always have another freshly charged set installed in the camera. This might seem over-kill but digital; cameras tend to eat batteries at an amazing rate, particularly when flash is used. For the GPS receiver, I carry a single set of non-rechargeable batteries. I find that rechargeable batteries tend not to work very well in the GPS unit and a single set has always been adequate for the amount of use the device gets.

Binoculars
Not essential but very useful for scanning the surrounding area for other stones not marked on the map. They can also be used to look for associated features such as ancient track ways, prehistoric remains and the like that may be connected with the site you are visiting. As a keen birder, I tend to carry my binoculars whenever Iím out and about. You need not purchase anything special for occasional use but you do tend to get what you pay for. Cheap and cheerful usually means poor image quality and if you purchase at the top end of the market, the superior quality is obvious. MY present binoculars are Leica Trinovid 8 x 24 which come in around £250.00

Scale Ruler
This small item has a permanent place in my equipment bag. Itís mainly used for accurately measuring grid references from the map for entering into the GPS receiver when on location. A recent example when it was used was when searching for a standing stone near Dere Street, the Roman Road, in the Cheviot Hills - See 073. The whole area was covered in deep grass about 600mm deep and the stone was next to impossible to find without technical help. I used to scale rule to take a grid reference from the 1:25,000 map and entered the figure into the GPS unit. Calculating a grid reference this way from a 1:25,00 map is accurate to about 10m, usually enough for most locations. In this case I was able to walk directly to the site. make sure you get one that will suit the maps you are going to use.

009 Caves of Kilhern, New Luce.

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