Published: 16:27, 06 January 2022
| Updated: 15:05, 07 January 2022
An eminent scientist is calling for prehistoric stones to be protected amid claims pagans may have started a fire between them in woodland near his home.
Dr Thomas Shelley was upset to discover some of the collection of neolithic remains, which could date back as far as 4,500 BC, had been scorched on a visit to Walderslade Woods.
He now wants railings installed to stop the little-known group of sarsen stones, which may have been associated with a burial chamber, from being further blemished.
Dr Shelley is keen for a barrier to be erected similar to the type at the nearby Kit's Coty ancient monument on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford.
Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire has a spectacular collection of 23ft sarcens weighing around 20 tonnes.
The Kent site falls under the protection of Boxley Parish Council which took over the 38 hectares of Walderslade Woods from Kent County Council last September.
Its parish clerk Daniela Baylis said: "Putting up railings to protect the stones is certainly something we may consider. We shall be putting it on the meeting agenda."
Dr Shelley, 75, said: "Since they are ancient remains of considerable scientific interest, railings should be put around the stones to protect them."
The Walderslade resident, who is also chairman of Aylesford Parish Council, said: "I don't know who would do something like this, but I suspect pagans performing some kind of earth ritual.
"Fallen trees had also been dragged into position to start the fire, so it was definitely started deliberately.
"Personally, I don't care what religion people follow, I would just ask them not to damage ancient artefacts and not to start fires in woodland."
For centuries dog walkers and ramblers have walked past the little-known Tunbury Sarsens not realising their significance.
It was while Dr Shelley and his wife Rizwana, a chartered physicist, were walking along a path in the woodland, much of which has been developed for housing, that they noticed the unusual arrangement of the stones.
One theory is they could have been moved to create a Stone Age star map depicting The Plough or Big Dipper.
Dr Shelley added: "If what appears to be a star map on the stone nearest the pathway is real and not fortuitous, then it would be the most ancient star map discovered in the world to date.
"There are lots of neolithic sites in Kent and quite a few near where I live, despite all the building and development."
Dr Shelley, a specialist in design technology and mineralogy, is also chairman of the Kent Inventors' Forum, which meets monthly at the University of Greenwich, Chatham Maritime.
His illustrious career has led to him working with prestige scientific organisations worldwide and he has had numerous specialist papers published.