Simon Calder: So, did the earth move for you?

The Man Who Pays His Way

"Ommm". To see if it works for you, recruit half a dozen pals, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, find a sacred rock, hold hands, press your torso against the stone, and go "Ommm".

"Ommm". To see if it works for you, recruit half a dozen pals, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, find a sacred rock, hold hands, press your torso against the stone, and go "Ommm".

I hope the earth moves for you, or at least gives a faint, echoing hum in response. That'll be better than the stony silence that I experienced, while my six friends (who I had met only minutes earlier, and happened to be visiting the Peruvian altiplano from California) entered various stages of ommm-induced trance.

Each Saturday during the month of August, this travel section will focus on one of the ancient elements: earth, wind, fire and water, in successive weeks. Of these universal essentials, the one I find hardest to get to grips with is earth – easy to travel across, tricky to regard as more than a handy way to deal with gravity.

To try to delve more deeply, I set off along the A44. As a thoroughfare, the road from Oxford to Evesham is not quite in the same scenic league as the Inca Trail. But it has the advantage of allowing a crew from BBC 1's Heaven and Earth Show, with whom I was working, to turn up in a van to film events at the Rollright Stones.

If you are unacquainted with this 5,000-year-old circle of boulders, and the related adjacent monoliths, make it a priority for this summer. It's nearer than Machu Picchu; admission, at 50p, is a lot cheaper than most ancient sites; and the spectacle is more entertaining than those equally timeworn neolithic wonders, the Rolling Stones.

The Venue is significant: it lies where ley lines converge, astride the border between Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The boundary is marked by the ancient ridgeway track known as the Jurassic Way, which runs along the line of a ridge of Jurassic limestone and forms the watershed between the Thames and Severn basins.

Some of the uncountable stones possess chillingly human shapes, and all kinds of powers and purposes have been ascribed to them, from a landing place for extra-terrestrials to "gathering and distribution points for Mother Earth's wisdom and energy".

On Lonely Planet's website, a recent visitor reports a strange experience: "I took my video camera into the circle and found that the tape stopped running and my batteries all went dead," writes Peter Kerr from Australia. "When I arrived home and tried to play the tape, it had been completely erased. A lady who was also there had terrible trouble with her hearing aid."

For a cameraman or a sound recordist, such phenomena might prompt a more profane utterance than "Ommm". But they didn't cuss, and neither did I. I said "Hello, Veronica".

Veronica Hammond is Arch-Druid of the Cotswold Order of Druids. She had arrived on the back of a motorcycle for an interview about the forces harboured by the Rollrights. She talked with passion about the energy she feels in the stones.

Each, apparently, is predominantly positive or negative, and polarities change six days after the new moon. And then we ran off to the warden's hut to escape the rain – only to meet another spiritual figure, a witch called Cassandra Latham.

Where's your cat? How do you pilot a broomstick? Cast any good spells lately? These were among the questions I failed to ask. Instead, the conversation with Cassandra embarked on the relative merits of Golden Virginia and Old Holborn as hand-rolling tobaccos (she's Golden Virginia, if that is not a blasphemous term in pagan circles).

As the rain outside bucketted down on five millennia of history, we turned to her professional life. "Rites of passage £30 (plus expenses)", promises her price list. Other services include psychic house cleansings, exorcisms and "removing curses, warts and negative energies". Happily, "works of magic are only performed with the recipient's full knowledge and permission".

Just as I was about to start on the cat/broomstick/spell line of questioning, and probably earn a well-deserved turning-to-stone, the director yelled from beneath her umbrella that the rain had abated enough to carry on filming.

A miracle – and the videotape apparently survived too, though it is unwise to rule out subterranean forces disrupting the transmission of The Heaven and Earth Show (BBC 1, 10am, tomorrow).

People who regard cold lumps of granite as inanimate may find it easy to mock those who believe that the earth has more going for it than mere gravity . But perhaps, as Shakespeare maintained, "The Earth has music for those who listen."

The Rollright Stones site (01295 277244, www.rollrightstones.co.uk) opens daily, sunrise to sunset. 'The Heaven and Earth Show' will feature sacred sites in Britain each Sunday in August; visit www.bbc.co.uk/religion/tv_radio/hande

Simon.Calder@independent.co.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor