How many stone monuments do you think are in the British Isles? Any guesses? What would you say if you learned that there were nearly 1,000 stone circles in the U.K.? What if I told you that if you added the other monuments, such as stone rows, long barrows, cairns, standing stones, and so on, you'd end up with tens of thousands of monuments?
I was shocked too. The popular media has made us think that Stonehenge is the only big stone monument in the Isles, but there's obviously much more than that.
With Standing with Stones, writer and presenter Rupert Soskin hopes to share his knowledge and fondness for these mysterious places. A renowned naturalist and writer, Soskin has been exploring the stone monuments most of his life and has a few theories to share. But even with his theories and those he relates from other archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians — we just don't know enough about these sites to tell how they were used or why they were built.
Some of the monuments have astronomical significance, built to predict the winter and summer solstices or the position of the sun, moon, and stars. Others are remnants of objects used by the Romans to measure distance, like the London Stone which has been used to denote the center of London for measurements. But most of them are complete unknowns.
Throughout the documentary, Soskin takes viewers on a tour of more than 100 monuments scattered across England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the smaller islands of the U.K. It took Soskin and documentarian Michael Bott more than two years, living in a camper-van for a month at a time, as they traveled thousands of miles recording footage.
Was the journey worth it? Definitely. Whereas nature documentaries such as Planet Earth have stunning high definition video of living creatures inhabiting the planet, Soskin and Bott somehow managed to capture the amazing natural beauty of these stone sites in a way I don't think I've ever seen before. Breathtaking shots of landscapes dotted with these Neolithic, Bronze, or Iron Age monuments left me wanting to hop on a plane and visit them myself.
And Soskin's presentation weaves humor, humility, and intelligence together as he provides some context for these sites. It's obvious that he has a passion for them and wants to share it. And he does a wonderful job as our congenial, informative tour guide.