Pete the Blacksmith has appeared in my blog on occasion as a man who likes to draw on his trusty old briar and speculate on matters neolithic. I too am not averse to a bit of trusty old briar drawing, and in that cheerful state, I’m always happy to hear a chap speculate on the neolithic. I like the fact that it is outside the compass of history, and so it makes a blank canvass for wild speculation. Even Geoffrey of Monmouth was not averse; in his History of the Kings of Britain, he has Brutus turning up in Totnes to found Britain six or seven centuries BC. Brutus finds evidence of a race of giants; evidence like Stonehenge. Geoffrey of Monmouth constructed a Brirish mythology, but even he has no idea how Stonehenge came to be, or what it was. But although we can make up whatever we like, one thing seems indisputable; Stonehenge, like lots of megalithic monuments, is associated with the rising and setting of the sun.
Round here we have our own mysterious megalithic artefacts. Over in the Radnor Valley, something very odd was going on. And yet there is little evidence of farming in the area. Pete Smith reckons that the Radnor Valley aligns directly with the setting sun, and so would have been a place of importance, notwithstanding that it marks the start of an important pass over the Cambrians to West Wales.
Pete has long been fascinated in particular by neolithic astronomy. A few years ago, he built a bonkers version of Stonehenge from nylon and scafolding, which he built overnight on the roundabout outside Presteigne, aligned with the rising sun on the morning of Midsummer. Now he has taken that interest a few steps further with the invention and manufacture of The Solar Eye.
It consists of two glass spheres set a a precise angle, so that at the equinox, the light from the coloured sphere rests on the centre of the shadow from the clear sphere. At other times, the light and shadow dance around one another across the course of the day and the year. We’ve had one sitting on the kitchen table for a few weeks now, and it never ceases to fascinate, even though the sun can’t be fucked to come out from behing the clouds. Fact is, The Solar Eye is just a beautiful thing, designed by a true craftsman and a true enthusiast. It draws the eye, just as it draws patterns when the sun is out. Visit the Solar Eye website, and learn more; or catch the large version Pete has made in bronze at The Three Counties Show in Malvern this weekend; and pray for the sun to come out soon.