The Rollright Stones, photograph by Luke Honey
"As Long Compton thou canst not see, King of England thou shalt not be!
Rise up stick and stand still stone, For King of England thou shalt be none;
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an elder tree!”
Those of you who know Oxfordshire may have visited the mysterious Rollright Stones, a complex of neolithic monuments found near the village of Long Compton on the undulating hills close to the Warwickshire border. I’ve been there with Mrs Aitch on a Midsummer’s Eve (pagans and their ilk very much in evidence) and the stones, truly, have a weird- if slightly sinister- atmosphere.
The Rollrights, Midsummer’s Eve, 2016, photograph by Luke Honey
The legend goes like this: One day a King was riding across the county with his army when he came across the local witch, Old Mother Shipton, who cackled:
"Seven long strides thou shalt take
And if Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be!”
The king took seven steps forward but couldn’t see Long Compton. The witch immediately turned him and his men into stone, and for some inexplicable reason, herself into an elder tree. And so they all remained. But when the local church clock strikes midnight- at the witching hour- the stones come to life, and holding hands, they dance in a circle.
It’s also supposed to be impossible to count the stones. I must remember to try this next time we visit.
Anyway, I’m glad to report that the stones now have their very own Rollright cheese produced by David Jowett and Antony Curnow at the King Stone Dairy, King Stone Farm, Chipping Norton. The King Stone can be found on the farm’s land.
Last Christmas, Mrs Aitch queued up at Paxon & Whitfield to get her hands on some. It’s a handmade soft washed-rind cheese, in the manner of Reblochon. And genuinely fabulous it is too. It’s a magnificent cheese. Buttery, tangy, with a decidedly nutty taste (so much so, I thought, mistakenly, that it might have had walnuts in it).
Rollright has only been with us since 2015 and has already won several awards including these two: Artisan Cheese Awards, 2016 (Supreme Champion) and Great British Cheese Awards (Best Soft Cheese).
Rollright Cheese is available online from the following stockists.