When the first European migrants sailed across the sea to colonise the island, they did not straight away mark out the magic circles of earth and stone that now epitomise their culture. Out of the sun’s oneness they did indeed come eventually to shape a million forms, ringing the changes with inexhaustible virtuosity on the circle and the spiral, but important preliminaries were necessary before they could build the great disc-shaped enclosures. The island with its dense cover of forest was a daunting prospect. Small wonder that the first settlements were modest affairs close to the sea coast. There were hundreds of attractive coastal inlets, many of them long since silted up, offering them harbours for their fragile vessels and sheltered waters for fishing. Immediately behind the high water mark, the salt wind maintained an open habitat where people could walk and work without first having to clear away the woodland. In the early neolithic, following the pioneer phase, there were still many settlements on and near the coast, such as Eskmeals and Ehenside Tarn in Cumbria, the village of sod houses
at Ehenside dating to 3750 BC. A mixed economy based on farming and fishing persisted at many coastal homesteads into the middle neolithic too as, for instance, at Bishopstone in Sussex (3250 BC).