Its the week of the equinox, the balance of the seasons moving between both night and day, light and dark. As a late summer day gave way to a rainy autumn evening, I climbed the slopes of Blue Bell Hill, in the Medway Valley, to pay a long overdue visit to Kit’s Coty House.
This Dolmen forms part of a cluster of megalithic monuments in the Medway Valley, an Early Neolithic funerary landscape distinctive as a localised and isolated group of stone built structures. While the rest of Southern and South Eastern Britain has monuments of this period raised from earth and timber, here early farmers, thought to be part of a single early group with ties to the Lowlands of continental Europe, built in sarsen stone.
Kit’s Coty House sits on a spur of chalkland reaching out into the Medway Valley, raised high above the river but nowhere near the top of the chalk escarpment. The spur, and the monument, which originally included a 60m long mound, is aligned broadly east-west, pointing to, but with no great view of, the equinox sunrise.
The uprights, reaching almost 3m in height, support a huge, flat capstone. They incline inwards, accentuating the reach of the monument into the sky and giving the impression that is is both rearing up and back, as if straining to keep the sarsen table from crashing into the turf. The central upright is fractured and twisted, but still holds its 6,000 year old burden. The impression is of improbablity and precarity, balanced between hill top and valley bottom, between land and sky, between the extremes of the sun’s course.
The metal fence is apparently a legacy of Pitt Rivers, the site being deemed at threat from Victorian graffiti and other undesirable attention. But the railings now seems out of place, an unnecessary intrusion on a monument which has weathered enough seasons to stand on it’s own sandstone feet. It’s been over a century since it could make its journey to bathe in the Medway at Midsummer, or spin its capstone thrice on May Eve, so maybe its time to let stones stretch and breathe again, and trust in something other for their future than the General’s iron pail.