The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Latest Posts — Weblog

Previous 25 | Showing 26-50 of 768 posts. Most recent first | Next 25

Mendip First - 2 April 2016

Mendip First - 2 April 2016

It’s six o’clock in the morning, and I’m the only person in this house that’s awake. My bag is packed and ready for a trip over the mountaintops of South Wales, but the forecast is looking uninspiring. Rain until early afternoon, which suggests little enjoyment for most of my walking window. Widen the forecast out though, and it looks like sunshine galore to the southwest. Hmmm.

A quick burst of complete replanning, frantic printing of different bus timetables and I’m off to Bristol to catch the “Mendips Explorer” and head into an area I’ve never been to before. A look at the Cheddar Gorge and Mendips West map opens up a huge amount of possible destinations, barrows seem to ooze from every km square around here. There’s also a decent amount of open access land, which promises a day free of the irritations of blocked paths and muddy farmland.

The bus climbs out of Bristol, offering a view of Maes Knoll before passing the Stanton Drew turning. I’m tempted, but not enough. The Priddy complex is only a couple of miles west as well, but I’m not in the mood for farms today. One connection later and I’m heading through Cheddar to a little strung-out hamlet called Sandford Batch, not quite on the hills but not right down in the low-lying vale either. A path heads eastwards into community woodland, scarred by quarrying and with an impressive limekiln left as a visible reminder of industry.

Further east the woods open out to fields and as the path starts to descend I’m rewarded with a view of my first objective of the day, Dolebury Warren. From here it looks like short climb, but my route drops right down into Dolebury Bottom gorge first, adding significantly to the amount of the steep ascent. The overcast morning is slowly starting to lift, so I shed my coat and fleece before starting on the uphill.

Dolebury Warren — Fieldnotes

The approach is through woods, climbing fairly sharply although not quite taking the direct route up the scarp. I’m anticipating a slog but in fact the ramparts come into sight pretty quickly – after spending so much time in the Welsh uplands it’s easy to forget that the hills here are not very big, for all that they’re very steep-sided. The sun starts to break through as I reach the western entrance.

It’s immediately apparent that this is a first rate hillfort in great preservation. There are two lines of ramparts, the inner one much higher than the outer and built of stone blocks. The western entrance is at the lowest part of the fort, which continues to climb steeply towards the top of the hill a good 30 metres higher than where I’m standing. The banks are inturned and the entrance appears to be an original one.

I follow the rampart along its northern side, steadily climbing as it goes. The fetish for building shelters that has damaged so many Bronze Age summit cairns is in evidence here too, with the plentiful stone of the rampart obviously being too difficult to resist messing about. Actually, it’s a pretty windswept place. Although the sun is now out, when it occasionally dips behind ragged cloud there’s a serious chill and I’m quickly reminded that it’s still early in the year to be wandering around a hillfort in a t-shirt.

As the rampart climbs, the views open out wonderfully in every direction but east. The Severn is the main event, looking towards Steep Holm and Flat Holm islands that we got familiar with walking the coast path on the opposite side. I also recognise Brean Down and assume the urban sprawl to be Weston-super-Mare. Almost due west a wooded hill with open interior is the neighbouring Banwell Plain hillfort.

The ditch between the ramparts is overgrown in places, but there is obviously regular clearance of scrub going on. A couple of dog walkers and a couple of walkers are dotted around the fort, but it’s a big place and there’s no sense of intrusion. Reaching the very top of the fort there’s another entrance facing east, also looking like it’s probably original. The views are now magnificent, right across to South Wales – if the cloud and rain lifted there, I’ve no doubt the Brecon Beacons would be readily visible. To the south the high ridge of the Mendips blocks the view, open moorland that will be my next objective once I leave here.

But first there’s the southern circuit and interior. On the south side the rampart is less built-up, but the reasoning is obvious as the ground falls very steeply away to a lovely wooded gorge below. Rowberrow church is visible across the ravine, and in a field beyond there is a sizeable round barrow that just manages to be obscured by trees no matter where I stand on the rampart. I head back up into the fort’s interior, which is heavily scarred and pitted. The fort’s name gives the reason away, as it was the site of a huge artificial rabbit warren in the 17th century. At the highest part of the interior, just inside the eastern entrance, there is a low curving linear feature with a square structure inside. This was apparently the garden wall and footings of the warren-keeper’s house. I wonder what it must have been like to live here, surrounded by rabbits and the ghosts of the original inhabitants. Whatever, it makes a great spot for an early lunch before heading east.

A final touch as I leave is the way Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel is framed by the eastern entrance. What a great place this is. I reluctantly turn away, hugely impressed by this great fort with its sweeping views.

Dolebury Warren — Images

<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Rowberrow Warren — Fieldnotes

To the southeast, the route drops gently towards the upper end of a valley. On the other side is a dense conifer forest that wouldn’t be out of place above the South Wales valleys. Somewhere over there the OS map shows a pair of cairns, which I’m intending to call in on before climbing onto the main Mendips ridge. The first thing that stands out is a large area of felling – the cairns are somewhere in it, which will either make them easy to find or impossible.

Luckily there’s not a huge amount of height loss to cross the valley at its head. Bridleways head off in several directions – to get to the first cairn I take the one heading west then a fork to the southwest, which slopes gently uphill into the felled area. The map shows the cairn at a bend in the track, right in the heart of the felling. I could be back in the Welsh forests here. Forestry clearance is a messy business, often leaving deeps ruts from the machinery and then a burst of vegetation as the tree covers disappears. This is no exception. I find the cairn right by the track, hidden at first glance by the high verges pushed up by logging vehicles. It’s in a sorry state, the edge has been damaged by the felling operation and it’s covered in a tangle of brambles and bracken. The only redeeming feature is a single silver birch, left to grow on the western side of the mound.

Once over the pitiful state of the immediate surroundings though, the location can be appreciated. The cairn looks down the steep-sided valley between Dolebury Warren to the north and the high Mendips ridge to the south. As with many of the upland cairns of South Wales, there seems to be a definite relationship between watercourses and the placing of these Bronze Age funerary monuments.

I head back the way I’ve come to the junction of paths. The second cairn is also in a felled area, this time a narrow triangle of land between tracks. The OS map shows it as right next to a bridleway heading onto Black Down. Unfortunately the felling here has left behind a deep tangle of bracken and water-filled ruts and ridges. I head uphill, but the track seems to follow a slightly different route to the map and after a while of fruitless prodding about in the bracken and tree stumps I reluctantly abandon the search. I’m sure it’s still here somewhere, but I won’t be the one to find it this time.

Rowberrow Warren — Images

<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Read's Cavern — Fieldnotes

Before heading on to the open moorland, the map offers one more site: Read’s Cavern. Heading ESE from the junction of paths, the track follows the course of the stream, soon opening onto a small clearing with a seat. The cavern lies immediately to the north, where the fast-running waters, cold and crystal clear, disappear into the side of the hill. The cave appears to be accessible, but only if you’re prepared for a proper caving expedition. The limestone rocks around the entrance are liberally decorated with fossils of sea-creatures from impossibly distant epochs of time.

The entrance is very small and the water pouring in suggests an instant soaking. A sign fixed to the rockface above gives an emergency call-out number in case of difficulties. I’m not equipped either mentally or physically to go pot-holing on this trip, so I sit near the entrance for a while and watch the splash and sparkle of the water.

Read's Cavern — Images

<b>Read's Cavern</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Read's Cavern</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Read's Cavern</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Burrington (Black Down) — Fieldnotes

There are more barrows shown to the northeast, as well as another cave called Aveline’s Hole. I pass various deep sinkholes, glorying in the names Bos Swallet and Rod’s Pot. Some of these are huge scoops in the ground. As the path gives way to a metalled road, a proper look at the map shows Aveline’s Hole is actually on the other side of a steep gorge, so I reluctantly abandon any idea of a visit today. There are however three barrows (the OS shows one cairn and two tumuli) in an open area of common below the northern slopes of the moorland proper.

This area is deep with the brown stalks of last year’s bracken, which makes barrow hunting somewhat difficult, although not as much as it would be on a summer visit.

I start off looking for the cairn, the northern of the three monuments on the map. After foolishly hacking my way into and back out of a briar patch thinking it was the barrow, I realise that it’s actually a very prominent feature crowned with a stand of silver birch trees. On closer inspection it’s a beauty, lots of stonework and an crisp footprint (although no kerb as such). The trees are no doubt causing damage but enhance the atmosphere immensely, especially as the sun at its zenith is now beating down through a cloudless blue sky. Something of an unexpected highlight, and definitely worth the visit.

Heading south the other two marked barrows are less easy to find. The middle barrow is a low mound next to one of the many paths that criss-cross this open area. It’s misshapen and has hawthorn growing on it, assuming I’ve even found the right thing under all the bracken. I can’t find anything in the marked position of the southernmost barrow, although I think it’s likely to be somewhere near a single silver birch, as these trees seem to feature close to many of the barrows in this area. Either it’s deeply buried in bracken or the map has it in the wrong place.

Burrington (Black Down) — Images

<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Black Down (Priddy) — Fieldnotes

By now I’m feeling the need to press on, with the biggest hill of the day looming ahead, so I don’t stop very long to search. It is worth pausing to look at the unfolding view of the limestone cliffs across the gorge to the north. Somewhere in that hillside is Aveline’s Hole and there appears to be a hillfort or settlement on the hilltop above it. A good reason to come back to the area anyway.

The climb up onto Black Down is not too bad, a good clear path running above West Twin Brook. The excellent views north across the Severn/Bristol Channel give plenty to admire on each pause for breath. At the top of the ridge, the path is very eroded and muddy and I’m grateful that we haven’t had huge amounts of rain recently. The top of Black Down is a sponge that would make for a challenging visit in wet conditions.

There are plenty of people up here and it’s easy to see why the main path running east-west along the top of the hill is so churned up and eroded. Unfortunately, the same is also true of the pair of barrows immediately beside the path. The northeastern one has been worn down to its stonework and is in a sorry state, crossed directly by the path. The northwestern barrow has fared slightly better than its companion, not being quite so close to the main line of the path. A sparkly slab lies on the edge of the mound, crystals catching the beautiful spring sunshine.

The erosion is a shame as these are excellent barrows, substantial and upstanding, with terrific views. I look down on a now-distant Dolebury Warren and reflect that this walk is probably going to be a bit longer than I thought! Across the Bristol Channel, the hills and mountains of South Wales are still lying under dark clouds and I’m not in the least sorry I decided on the last minute change of plan this morning.

I head south across tussocky and damp ground to the possible third barrow in the group. This one is lower and difficult to discern under dense vegetation. So dense in fact that I startle and flush a deer from the side of the mound, watching it gracefully bound across the treacherously boggy ground.

Black Down (Priddy) — Images

<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Beacon Batch — Fieldnotes

Back on the main path, the summit is obvious straight ahead. The map shows a big group of barrows and it’s coming back to me that Thelonious posted some photos a while ago. The going is not too bad as the weather has been dry, but would be horrible in wet conditions.

The first barrow (Burrington 11) is to the north of the path, another substantial mound despite erosion and probable excavation. From it the barrow that the trig pillar sits on obscures the linear group to the east.

The summit mound (Burrington 13) has obviously been resurfaced fairly recently with a new cap of stonework to protect it from erosion. This is the highest point of the Mendip hills and a fantastic viewpoint. As well as the views north and west that I’ve had for most of the day, there are now views south that take in Glastonbury Tor as well as Exmoor away to the southwest.

It’s a well visited place as you’d expect, and while I’m here there are walkers, cyclists and horseriders at various times.

The linear barrow group (Burrington 14-16) immediately east of the summit is also cracking, with wooden signs warning visitors that it is ancient monument and to keep off to prevent erosion. I imagine that the summit barrow itself was always going to be the target for most visitors, so this seems a good way to compromise and keep the other monuments from further damage. Two more barrows (Burrington 18 and 19) lie to the south, providing an excellent spot to head away from the other people and admire the linear group profiled along the skyline.

On such a lovely day, with the wind and sun on my face, this is as good a place as I could wish to be. But by now it’s getting on for 3 o’clock, so I bid a reluctant farewell to the barrows and head east. The path has been resurfaced here and initially provides nice easy going after the boggier ridge. There is a last barrow on the south side of the path (Burrington 20) which sets me on my way downhill.

Eventually the path comes to the edge of the open access land, with fields laid out to the east and another path running north-south. Right at the junction of these paths is another barrow (Burrington 22), but it’s low and buried in heather, offering little in comparison with the group on the summit. I head north briefly to look for a final barrow (Blagdon 1). It proves to be buried under the fence line and badly eroded.

From here my path goes southwest, becoming increasingly wet and marshy. I’m soon hopping precariously from tussock to tussock, and it should come as no surprise to learn that one of the tussocks proves to be less solid than it looked. My tired legs refuse to keep me upright and I’m down on one knee, with an unpleasant feeling of cold, black water trickling into the top of my boot. Gah.

Beacon Batch — Images

<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Feeling irritated/damp I carry on to until the path leaves the open access land at the ruins of a World War Two bunker. A couple of fields later and I’m back on proper terra firma, on lanes and a farm track. I’m really close to Gorsey Bigbury henge here, just a field away. But I’m also tiring now and it’s getting on, enough to stop me from the effort of seeking permission from the farmhouse – one for another day then.

Rhino Rift Barrow — Fieldnotes

My route heads east again, passing one barrow on the map that doesn’t appear to exist anymore, a load of the cutest spring lambs you ever saw, and then the obvious mound of Rhino Rift barrow. It’s perched above the edge of a steep sided wooded ravine, which presumably is the Rhino Rift itself. The barrow is not round, rather it’s an elongated shape, higher at one end than the other. I’m not surprised to read Chance’s post that it has been considered as a possible long barrow, although it’s not that long.

Rhino Rift Barrow — Images

<b>Rhino Rift Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rhino Rift Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rhino Rift Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Another descent, this time into Black Rock gorge, which reminds me strongly of the limestone country of both the Gower and Peak District. I’m nearing the head of Cheddar Gorge now, and I’m not really sure what the pedestrian access is going to be like. It’s also getting busier, as families have come here to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. With this in mind, when I see a finger post marked “Cheddar” I decide to take it. There’s an initial steep climb into some woods, but then the horrific sight of steep steps ahead. I push myself up them, creaking and groaning at the seams now.

Finally at the top and a narrow path skirts along the north of the gorge itself, over exposed and uneven limestone. The scenery becomes spectacular, looking along the gorge through the cliffs at its end. A little stile with a sign warning of the drop gives access to a sloping grassy area right on the edge of the cliffs. The view drops straight down to the road, where miniature people and cars bustle far below. For the first time I can recall I’m vertiginous, not helped by the family of sheep of some ancient breed that scamper about the hillside around me. I beat a hasty retreat to the stile, pleased to put a wall between me and certain death. The path downhill becomes steeper and steeper and by now my feet are aching from the rough terrain. I had hoped to explore the gorge itself, but I’m exhausted now and just want to stop walking.

By the time I reach the village I’ve missed the bus and could do with having a lie down. This last section has proved to be very hard country, especially at the end of a 12 mile walk. But boy has it been rewarding. From the brilliance of Dolebury Warren, the long views of the southwest and Wales, the superb barrow cemetery on Beacon Batch and the spectacular scenery of the gorge at the end, this is definitely an area to come back to. Perhaps with a little more planning next time though. Adios Somerset.

Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave — Images

<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
10th April 2016ce

A lot happened on a short trip!

A lot happened on a short trip!

I was heading North on the A1 and decided I would break the journey with a stop to see the Duddo stone circle and the rock art at Roughting Lynn.

First I had no idea Duddo was such a major stone circle, I guess I'm getting too used to finding a few fallen stones long hidden by gorse and heather. The 20 minute walk to the stones is an absolute delight with the stones soon visible on the hill and beckoning you forward growing in stature with every stride. The walk back has the Cheviots in the background, covered in snow at this time of year and leaving you with the feeling this part of the world must have many other long lost monuments to the past. There are 5 major stones standing, however, there are a few other partially buried stones within the circumference of the circle, not sure if these are part of the original circle, just dumped there or some form of broken alter like the recumbent stone circles of Aberdeenshire.

Secondly, I had no idea that rock art would be so fascinating, are they pictures, hieroglyphics, maps or just ancient artwork. I felt quiet distressed as I am too early in my personal voyage of discovery to visit all the sites outlined in Julian's two books to be distracted by this new area of interest, however, I see no other option than to devote some time to understanding and unlocking the meaning of these works of art.

And finally when I arrived at my destination I checked my photo only to discover my camera had failed and I had no photos of my visits. I was strangely annoyed. Although the main purpose of my visits are to take communion with whatever force remains I was still disappointed not to have a record of my visit and know already that I will return just to take photos. I also know that I will not go on a field visit with the phone in the car charger, it will always be in my pocket as back up.

Regardless, it was a nice change from stopping at the usual service stations
Posted by costaexpress
28th February 2016ce

Weather 1, Man 0

Weather 1, Man 0

Well we are well into February and still no end to the wet muddy weather, fed up of moaning that I am fed up with the weather I made the bed up in the van loaded the fridge with food, grovelled in front of my wife and set off for Dartmoor to visit Merrivales famous stone avenues and to undertake a reccy ahead of my planned summer walking trip to visit Dartmoor's more remote stone circles.
I made my way down there via the A303, not the obvious route from Lincolnshire, however, I just love the way the road sweeps past Stonehenge and soon I was on Dartmoor and ready for a drive around just to get my bearings. The temperature plummeted to -4 overnight and I awoke to heavy continuous rain. Not to be deterred I set off for Merrivale where even the footpaths had been washed out and were now fast flowing streams, on with the wellies, two waterproof jackets and up into the complex, needless to say I had the place to myself, and wow, what a site, multiple stone avenues, stone circle, standing stones, broken cairn and multiple ancient dwellings. I soon abandoned the rough site plan and just staggered from site to site. The complex just keeps giving and despite the heavy freezing rain demanded a lot of time to fully explore and enjoy. I returned to the van and needed a complete change of clothes, glad there was no one else in the small car park. This is one of the most amazing sites I have ever visited, no information boards or visitor centre, no ice cream van (can imagine it is the complete opposite in summer) just a huge window to our past.
The weather really dictated what sites I was able to visit and so I moved around to Grimspound as it is only a short walk from the road. I had not expected a site on this scale and once again demanded a lot of time to fully explore, strangely despite the poor weather this site was quiet busy with four or five other people milling around and enjoying all the sites within the pound
The weather killed off any more visits that day and I returned in the morning for a wonderful walk in bright sunshine, moving out from Postbridge down to the lovely stone circle/circular cairn called Sousson Pound set into a clearing on the edge of the woods, into the woods to visit the two circular cairns and leave my footprints in the snow that was still lying there, clearly no other visitors pass this way and then the longish haul up to the Challacombe Stone Rows. I was knocked out by this site despite some dispute over how accurately the stones had been re erected. The row appeared to be aligned with the Tor and stretched up hill to a large single marker stone. The avenue itself seemed to have three chambers/cairns/holding pounds built into it. The remote setting coupled with its wonderful views of Grimspound in the distance really made the walk worth while.
The following day the weather worsened again and I spent the day around Sharpitor and Black Tor tracking down the stone rows, cairns and settlements, all within easy reach of the road and hence the van for shelter from the squalls as they came in. No footpaths and bog and marsh to negotiate I more than once breached my wellies and started to wonder if I should stick to warmer climates at this time of year. Exhausted, wet and tired I was happy with my few days on the moor and it certainly 'wetted' my appetite for my return in the summer.
As I pulled on the drive I realised I had not bought anything for my wife, might just sleep in the van again tonight!
Posted by costaexpress
21st February 2016ce

They say Giants built them

They say Giants built them

I was fed up with the mild and wet weather we have been having, every time you venture out the sites are either waterlogged or you have to plug through mud. Anyway, I was browsing Julian's books looking for inspiration, in particular somewhere that is not located on the side of a mountain nor on a remote moor and there it was, the Hunebedden in the province of Drenthe. 54 of them to chose from, all well documented with a rich and interesting history.
That was it, mind made up, I booked the tunnel for two days ahead, a day to get the van ready and a day to pick up courage to tell my wife I was off. The research would have to be done on the hoof.
It took all day to drive there, however, it left me ready for an early start the following morning. D53/54 came up first and immediately got me thinking. Nicely reconstructed hunebed, wonderful setting in a heath and woodland location, however, something was wrong. The stones were dead, lifeless, soulless, field art, and this set the pattern as I visited the next few Hunebedden. All wonderful places to visit but essentially dead.
Then a strange thing happened, as I saw more and more of them I started to feel the history and significance I had not felt before and I started to realise the power of these stones is in the whole and not the individual, as I continued my visit I realised they are not separate sites but one huge site spread over a 30km radius and the trip began to take on a new and exciting interest.
Over the next few days I worked my way around 25 to 30 of the sites and found myself eagerly anticipating what I might find next whereas I must confess after the first few sites I was beginning to think they are all the same, just outdoor sculptures.
I must just mention that at sites D12 and 13 in the village of Eext I met a most interesting keeper of the local history and believer in ancient religions. He generously showed me around the two sites pointing out interesting carvings and shapes in the stones, explaining the force fields generated by a combination of their locations on ancient pathways and their relationship to each other. He was very old with long white hair and long white beard, in fact he looked exactly like you might expect a wizard to look like in a film, he was of course incredibly knowledgeable and when we parted company he gave me a small stone with a tiny hole in it. He said it would protect me into the future, however, when the time was right the tiny hole would appear like a great window to the Other World and I would be ready to climb through - although hopefully not too soon!
All in all a most enjoyable field trip, and a welcome break from the winter blues.
I stopped off at Brugge on the way back to buy chocolates for my wife, when I gave them to her she said great when are you off next? Seems I have found the key.
Posted by costaexpress
5th February 2016ce

Open Data LIDAR: Henges

Open Data LIDAR: Henges

Image source
The following images are obtained from the recent releases of open data LIDAR by The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales. I've used this amazing dynamic map which has been created to use the open data. Thank you to all concerned for your time and resources!

Picture Selection
I have gone through all sites categorised as Henges on checking if a) LIDAR exists and b) they are visible to my untrained eye. This has unfortunately trimmed 70% or so of the listed henges.
All henges in Scotland and Ireland are right out. A high percentage of those left are missing LIDAR. Thornborough North and Central, Arbor Low, The Bull Ring and half of Mayburgh are some of the better known casualties. Those where LIDAR exists but we don’t see them can be categorized as small henges less than 20m wide which presumably have shallower ditches, lost to quarrying, buildings and agriculture.

Each picture is at maximum resolution, so you can download two (or twenty) and directly compare them.

Arminghall Henge — Images

<b>Arminghall Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Avebury — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by juamei

Castell Bryn-Gwyn — Images

<b>Castell Bryn-Gwyn</b>Posted by juamei

Castell Mawr — Images

<b>Castell Mawr</b>Posted by juamei

Castilly Henge — Images

<b>Castilly Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Castle Dykes, Wensleydale — Images

<b>Castle Dykes, Wensleydale</b>Posted by juamei

Devil's Quoits — Images

<b>Devil's Quoits</b>Posted by juamei

Durrington Walls — Images

<b>Durrington Walls</b>Posted by juamei

East Marleyknowe — Images

<b>East Marleyknowe</b>Posted by juamei

Ferrybridge Henge — Images

<b>Ferrybridge Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Ffynnon Newydd Henge — Images

<b>Ffynnon Newydd Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Flodden Camp — Images

<b>Flodden Camp</b>Posted by juamei

Gawsworth Henge — Images

<b>Gawsworth Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Great Wigborough Henge — Images

<b>Great Wigborough Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Groat Haugh — Images

<b>Groat Haugh</b>Posted by juamei

Gunthorpe Bridge — Images

<b>Gunthorpe Bridge</b>Posted by juamei

King Arthur's Round Table — Images

<b>King Arthur's Round Table</b>Posted by juamei

Knowlton Henges — Images

<b>Knowlton Henges</b>Posted by juamei

Little Argham Henge — Images

<b>Little Argham Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Little Round Table — Images

<b>Little Round Table</b>Posted by juamei

Long Ivor Farm — Images

<b>Long Ivor Farm</b>Posted by juamei
<b>Marden Henge (and Hatfield Barrow)</b>Posted by juamei

Maumbury Rings — Images

<b>Maumbury Rings</b>Posted by juamei

Mount Pleasant — Images

<b>Mount Pleasant</b>Posted by juamei

Newton Kyme Henge (Site) — Images

<b>Newton Kyme Henge (Site)</b>Posted by juamei

Nunwick Henge — Images

<b>Nunwick Henge</b>Posted by juamei

The Weddings at Stanton Drew — Images

<b>The Weddings at Stanton Drew</b>Posted by juamei

Stonehenge — Images

<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by juamei

Thornborough Henge South — Images

<b>Thornborough Henge South</b>Posted by juamei

Weather Hill — Images

<b>Weather Hill</b>Posted by juamei

Woodhenge — Images

<b>Woodhenge</b>Posted by juamei

Woolhanger Henge — Images

<b>Woolhanger Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Yarnbury Henge — Images

<b>Yarnbury Henge</b>Posted by juamei
juamei Posted by juamei
7th January 2016ce

The Gorse awakens

The Gorse awakens

This year the solstice turned out to be on the 22nd, not the 21st, and most definitely not on the 20th, but seeing as the first two dates are work days and ive not got the option of going off sick, Sunday the 20th will have to do.
At least there would be no part time enthusiasts clogging the place up, the place in question being the oh so divine Druids circle above Penmaenmawr, it is a wondrous place, big mountains to the south and west, and north down hill to the Irish sea. Plus it is not alone on these hills, the Druids circle is just one out of at least ten places that are well worth a visit. Also the almost complete lack of gorse is very heart warming.
So far, I have witnessed the sunrise here on the summer solstice, an equinox, and one more for the complete set, a winter solstice. The actual moment of sunrise was obscured by a mountain, but even when the sun came above the mountain, clouds got in the way, and it was windy, so windy that just standing up straight was exhausting, even stringing several swear words together didn't help, well not with the standing up anyway.
At the summer solstice the sun rises up out of the sea, a spectacle to behold I can tell you, the equinox sun rises above some low hills, more or less marked by Maen Penddu standing stone and Cefn Maen Amor stone circle, that was a good sun rise, but it's no summer solstice.
The winter solstice sunrise, some might say that the sight line is blocked by a mountain, but when that mountain is Tal y Fan, the most megalithically covered mountain in Britain, one has to consider the idea that it is intentional.

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by postman

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by postman

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by postman

At the stone circle itself there is a couple of platforms from which a view of the circle is best seen from, The highest platform is also the perfect viewing place from which to watch the sun rise in mid winter, the second platform is perfect for viewing the equinox sun rise over the middle of the circle, and the lowest platform, I say platform but it's not really is where the summer sun can be seen best rising over the circle.
I cannot say that the platforms are constructed, or meant to be used to observe the sun rises, but it's really too much to put down to coincidence, perhaps the least one can say for certain is that the circle was carefully placed. Possibly.

Anyway, I've been up here for five hours now and it's time to go and see some gorse, wonderful stuff gorse, well, it is when you've cut it down and thrown it far into the wind, unlike Han Solo.

Carnedd y Saeson is one of the best sites along the North Walean coast
but like lots of places it is being choked by and disappearing under gorse.
Fifteen months ago Thesweetcheat and I went there and trampled the stuff as best we could, but whats really needed is a flick saw and a few hours. I gave it both.

Carnedd y Saeson — Images

<b>Carnedd y Saeson</b>Posted by postman

The big gorse bush by the cist is gone as is most of the gorse covering the southern arc of stones, work is ongoing. I myself am in two minds about undergrowth removal, I am aware that the authorities could take a dim view, and I am not unsympathetic to the free growth of all living things, but in some places it just has to go.
What I really needed was a big light saber and Anakins lust for cutting down younglings.
My arms and chest muscles hurt for several days, and right after the exercise my hands stung like a snake bite, it crossed my mind that I should leave Wales to clear up it's own stone circle themselves, then the inner voice said yeah right and chuckled long into the night
Work is ongoing.
postman Posted by postman
28th December 2015ce

Lanyon Quoit

Lanyon Quoit

Well I painted the spare room and my wife unexpectedly declared she did not mind if I wanted to fit in another field trip, so in a state of shock out came the books, maps, gps coordinates and of course the internet (I really enjoy the planning phase before a trip) and I decided I would like to see Lanyon Quoit as it looked like my Golden Retriever poised waiting for the command to fetch. Van loaded, waves from the kitchen window, dog barking I left Lincolnshire for the run South to St Just where I would hole up for a few days. I had just passed Bristol when the phone went, 'I don't like the colour want to change it to Tunsgate Green, no worries you can do it when you get back' grrr! My first visit was to the complex which includes the Merry Maidens, Tregiffian Burial Chamber, Gun Rith and Pipers 1 & 2. I spent ages trying to figure out any kind of alignment of the stones and eventually moved on to the unexpected highlight of my trip Boscawen - un. a short walk over the brow of the hill and there it is below you looking like a giant sundial enclosed by a stone wall and hedge. I assume the central standing stone was originally straight or is it aligned to a date in the calendar? This was a wonderful place and if it wasn't so damp and muddy I could have spent much longer there. I had read about people experiencing a rebirth down in the Fogou's, reckoned that would be good for me and so headed of to Carn Euny village to search for the mysterious glowing algae and to be reborn. Although blustery and raining I decided to park up at Carn Brea and walk across the moors to the village, this took me past the Holy Well, the adjacent trees suitably covered in multi coloured plastic and cloth ribbons and then I descended down into the Fogou. The mysterious algae was in fact everywhere and not difficult to find and I thrust my way back into daylight arms outstretched - Reborn - Sadly no, I was still old and now also covered in mud. Next day I just had to see the Quoit and it did not disappoint, waterlogged and alone it seemed to pointing somewhere into the distance. Up the road and a good walk up to Men an tol. With no one around I was able to try getting various parts of my body through the holed stone. Remembering the fertility rites associated with this place I decided to leave fearing I might have gotten myself pregnant and set off for the Nine Maidens stone circle further up the moor. I had read it was just up the path, well I can assure you in late autumn it was no stroll. The path was flooded and eventually ran out and I struggled up through the water filled ruts in the heather passing a lesser circle and broken cairn until eventually reaching the circle. It was raining, the site was waterlogged and a more desolate spot on earth I don't think I have come across. The circle was brooding and menacing and I wanted to get away from it. Setting of down the hill through the heather I couldn't stop myself panicking slightly and tripping over from rut to rut and was pleased to make the good path back at Men an tol. I climbed in the van, made a pot of coffee and gave myself a good talking to. Anyway I soon cheered up and walked along the cliff tops to find Ballowall Barrow. Overnight a tremendous storm blew up and my planned walks to Chun, Zennor and Milfra Quiots looked in danger. I set of aiming for Chun, however, the whole moor was now fast moving streams and pools, I got close enough for a photo with the zoom lens but that was it, my wellies had flooded I was wet and beaten. I decided to head East to easier targets and visited the newly erected Quoit at Carwynnen. Nice little visitors area however it is difficult to reassemble ambience and atmosphere so I moved on to see the mighty Trevethy Quiot, very different to the others more like a box with a huge capstone. Whats the hole in the roof all about, original or new? Whilst in the area I visited the Duloe stone circle which was really worth the detour, every single stone in the small circle is of great interest and spent a surprisingly long time there. Next I moved on to the Hurlers multiple stone circle. Looks like a tourist spot in summer, however, deserted today. The rain did not allow me to do the site justice and the whole area deserves a further visit just to this one spot. And so that was it early next morning I set of back for Lincolnshire doing one last detour to Stanton Drew, Wow! Its just there, no fanfare, no gravel pathway, no visitor centre, no mown grass, just this major prehistoric site with huge stones and multiple circles, just an honesty box to let you know its there. This is a full afternoons vist and by the time I found the cove in the pub garden I realised I would be late home. Picking up a couple of tins of Tunsgate Green at Homme e basse on the way back I dropped them on the chest of drawers in the bedroom, my wife looked up with one eye open and asked where is the Cornish fudge and clotted cream, I decided this was not the time to tell her I might be pregnant.
Posted by costaexpress
20th November 2015ce
Edited 21st November 2015ce

Le Petit Menac

Le Petit Menac

Following numerous field trips this year my wife had asked me to hold off any more visits, at least until the spare room has been decorated in time for Christmas. this was not an unreasonable request as I had started to decorate the room some two and a half years ago. So it was with some dismay she caught me in the study with Julians book open at the section about Carnac. 'Trust you are not thinking of going there any time soon because you can think again'. 'no, No, NO!, how could you think such a thing, I know my priorities'. Anyway, over a glass of wine that evening I realised that there was no way out of this mess and I blurted out that not only was I thinking of going but that I had already booked the van and myself on the Eurotunnel leaving Saturday morning. I made the bed up in the van, stacked the fridge with food and beer and waved cheerio to an empty kitchen window and blew a promise on the breeze to paint the spare room immediately upon my return.
The 640 miles to the Arzon peninsula (my first port of call to visit the cairn du petit mont) proved easier than I had expected and I was there late afternoon having left home at 1.30am in the morning giving me time to drive past the main alignments as a taster for Sunday morning.
I decided to start at the Kerzerho alignment at Erdeven. What an amazing place with the main stone avenue gently progressing down the hill away from the main road. As I walked down the avenue I encountered a large group dressed in Brittany kilts enacting a strange ceremony including a mock beheading on one of the flattened stones, whilst not threatening my presence wasn't really appreciated and I took some photographs and left knowing I could come back later. as I approached the main alignment at Menac I could not believe the car park, everything I hate, kids running around spilling ice cream, dogs barking, groups preparing for Sunday cycling club and adults wondering as far as the information booth. It got worse as I approached the stones and discovered I could only enter with a guide, however, putting all to one side the scale of the alignment simply took my breath away. I knew it would be big, but not this big, where do I start, how do I get to really appreciate it? After a short while I realised I needed to move on and went to the Kermario alignment. Wow, just two cars and totally free access to the stones which wound there way first down the hill and then back up towards Kerlescan. Here I was also able to visit the Dolmens of Kermario and Kercado and a wonderful walk up to the Giant de Manio. It was then on to the alignment at Kerlescan and a walk around to the Menhir behind it. Next on my agenda was to find the alignment of Petit Menac, not as easy as it sounds. Following a few false starts I crossed the main road and followed the path into the forest, and wow what a magical, mysterious place it turned out to be. The stone avenue is clearly visible despite the growing vegetation and the mature woodland slowly winding to the left and then up the hill into the wood. I was there for over one hour and not one other person ventured into the woods it was impossible to compare it with the crazy going ons at the main Menac alignment, so peaceful so full of atmosphere with the suns rays penetrating the trees and illuminating the stones
So what are they all about, why are they there? They certainly convey a great sense of ceremony of a grandeur on a scale we do not see any where else. Was one erected for every birth, for every death, are they a silent army or are they standing stations for a grand ceremony?
The next day was spent visiting some of the seemingly never ending number of important sites in the area in particular the megaliths of Locmariaquer where on one rather touristy site is the broken menhir of Er Grah, once the tallest standing stone in Europe and the Table de Marchand and the Er Grah Tumulus which at 460 feet long was on a scale I have not seen before.
I spent a further day travelling across country to La Roche Au Fees and the Dolmen de Bagnieux. The first being one of the most impressive megaliths I have ever seen on a huge scale in a woodland setting. Once again I had the place to myself to enjoy and to wonder. The Dolmen at Bagnieux was a real let down, stripped of all dignity and a 4euro side attraction to the local café, really wished I had not seen it. I wanted to release it and set it free although I knew it was already long dead.
And so that was my short trip, you will be pleased to know I bought a tin of white gloss on the way home, having read the multiple warnings on the back of the tin I have locked it in a cabinet in the back of the garage afraid of what damage it may do and in any case my wife said she would have preffered flowers!
Posted by costaexpress
15th October 2015ce

Learning how to see & breathe.

Learning how to see & breathe.

I've tried the field notes thing, but there's really nothing I can add other than my own emotional experience, & I'm not sure that's what field notes are about. I'm in awe of people who can photograph, measure, detail & wonderfully describe these fantastic places. Drew, please take note, how am I to learn?
It occurred to me , on holiday in Cornwall, on my last day that I chose, after all the neolithic adventuring, to devote a day to getting in the sea. In fact that is always the highlight of time spent in Cornwall. And whilst in the sea, I found myself thinking what must our forebears have made of this. How awe inspiring must this of been for them, just as it is for me & then I thought how can you leave a lasting testimony to the sea? Sea henge & the footprints at Formby Point?
Anyway the whole point of this post is that I drove home from work today & I saw the hills, & the lumps & bumps on the horizon. I watched the bluest sky & the way the sun shone through the greenest tree overhangs. The darkness & the light. The sparkling water. The red & gold turning foliage. The mist, the frost & the stones ancient or not. And I realised that this has been the gift given to me.
Posted by carol27
2nd October 2015ce

Sunkenkirk & Long Meg

Sunkenkirk & Long Meg

I took my mum, as promised to Sunkenkirk last week. We parked in a little lay by fairly near to the site as she isn't too steady on her pins. I took my wild flower book TJJ & managed to identify a few blooms! She kept asking me what had "happened" to me over the last months & that I'd changed; I was more settled & less giddy. Sunkenkirk really enchants me; twice now on the approach I find myself questioning where it's hiding, & if I'm in the right place. I know where it should be but can't see it when all of a sudden it appears over the slight crest of a rise on the path. Like Castlerigg it sits in the centre of the landscape.
She wandered around & around touching the stones & exclaiming at their size & the effort involved in erecting them; & "what are they for?" She told me that she feels about trees the way I feel about stones & that she stands & hugs them; so we hugged some stones together! She commented that if anyone was to see us they'd suppose we were " off our rockers"! On the path back to the car we constantly turned back for one last look & she said she didn't want to leave. When we lost sight of the circle we found a tree & hugged that as well.
Next to Long Meg.; she got a fierce hug & some passers by stopped to chat & laughed with us. Mum traced the carvings with her finger & tears came to her eyes as she wondered about who'd gone before. Some ramblers who looked nearer mum's age passed by saying they should strip off & run around naked & find a sacrificial victim! A young goth couple from Italy set to & explained perfectly the known history of the place; the ramblers soon quieted & left with far more knowledge about their own history than when they'd arrived. The Italian couple had been to Castlerigg & I was proud to direct them to Little Meg. We discussed the journey to Sunkenkirk which they also hoped to see. They were to stop at Avebury on the way down South to Dover on their journey home. They were so excited & knew so much about our places. The boy told me they didn't have circles, cairns or barrows in Italy. They looked fantastic with their wild black hair & studded leather. We ate strawberries together which they'd offered me & mum. Their rickety old car didn't look capable of the distances they had to cover but they had every faith. We counted the stones together. My mum was blown away, as was I. Who'd have thought it she says.
Posted by carol27
6th August 2015ce

A Holyhead bloodbath

A Holyhead bloodbath

I've just been to the big white stones of Henblas cromlech, and was very disappointed to find the footpath overgrown and never used, but it still didn't take long to beat a path through the undergrowth, I very much enjoyed my time here, until I received a phone call asking if the kids and me wanted to go out for tea at the Plough, I said OK even though it meant a visit to Trefignath was not going to happen, but I was adamant that the burial chamber that no ones ever heard of near Holyhead would not escape my attention. I found the path back to the car more easily on the way back, aint it always the way.
Back in the car I put my foot down and soon we were going the wrong way in the mental labyrinth that is Holyhead, god I hate this town, cant really say why, it just seems a hopelessly depressing place, the best thing about Holyhead is the road and ferry out of it. Sorry, perhaps its me, not you. Eventually after much cursing I found ourselves on the wrong side of the island and stuck behind the worlds most inconsiderate motor home driver, ever. I've only got a short time before we have to start back, I can feel my hackles getting up, but happily we parted company at the turning for Penrhos Feilw, which we passed by with no more than a glance. Once the two standing stones were out of view behind us I started looking for a suitable place to park.

Having not found one I squeezed in at the side of the road by an opening for a horse paddock, as I wasn't going to be gone long I left daughter in the car with her I phone and two big horses for company. I jumped the gate and started off, over another fence and I was in the open countryside. I could see the upright stones on top of the hill, not far away, 300 yards if that. But getting there was proving difficult, walls of thick gorse blocked my route, and I had to weave a path of my own around and sometimes through, it hurts does gorse, I don't like it, not one bit. The going was hard and time was short, I got to a likely looking rocky outcrop from which to look over the sea of gorse to the site i'd come to see. Crap ! I'm not wading through that lot, I sat for a minute, then decided that I would actually wade through that lot, it's nearly a hundred miles from my house, am I really going to give up when I'm so very close......nope.
I sent a text telling them I would be a touch late for tea.
I actually found a good path through the vicious barbed gorse, it took me all the way to the foot of the Gorsedd, only to be faced with a twelve foot vertical rock climb, I don't like rock climbing, like football it all seems a bit unnecessary.
I struggled through the shaky legs and came out on top, just, I threw my hands up in the air and said out loud nature nil, postman 1.

Gorsedd Gwlwm — Images

<b>Gorsedd Gwlwm</b>Posted by postman<b>Gorsedd Gwlwm</b>Posted by postman<b>Gorsedd Gwlwm</b>Posted by postman

This site is not on any map, thanks be to coflein for pointing it out to me.
Only three stones remain standing of the chamber or large cist, and maybe a couple of kerb stones hiding among the gorse, by now I've decided not to call it gorse anymore, but by the more colourful
name of M*t**r - F*c**r, that's a bad swear word there.
All the time I was here a Buzzard circled me overhead screeching, if this was a western film it would soon be curtains for me.
The view was terrific, north is the Holyhead hut circle group and the fort on the mountain, south is Angelsey giving way to distant Snowdonia, east and west is the Irish sea, and of course that little town.
But, all too soon I must go, I scrambled back down the cliff and followed the path back to where I got on it and then passed that place, only for the path to stop at a dead end, the grass was well trampled, sleeping horses, frolicking humans, or even a Bigfoot nest (they're everywhere you know ).
This is where my time in hell began, I could see no way out, there was nothing for it but to simply wade through the m****r - f***r. Growling, shouting and swearing at the top of my voice did nothing to stop the pain. I remember a wally from long ago saying he was impervious to m****r f****r pain, I didnt believe him then and now I know he was lying. It was like being attacked by a dozen Leprechauns with sharp swords. Every now and then brambles would grab my leg and threaten to pull me over, once when I did go down I lay there for a few seconds thinking "oh well, so this is where they find my body, if you're going to die in the countryside this isn't a bad place to buy it, my ghost wouldn't half laugh at the people who come to remove my body, but lieing down and dieing isn't the postal way, get up man, keep going.
I imagined myself as a soldier enduring some form of jungle warfare, only without the incredible pain in my legs.
Half way back now and i'm so very tired, I look at my hand and it's bleeding quite badly, the sweat pouring off my forehead tastes bloody, and I realise that I've been wiping my sweaty brow with my bloody hand, god I must look a right state. Sometimes it gets easier to move forward, sometimes I'm just stumped and don't know where to go. Continuous swearing seems to have done the trick, I'm nearing the end of my ordeal, my legs are really stinging, I'm dreading having a look at them. Only one barbed wire fence to go, it's covered in brambles, but by now the pain is becoming normal, I bash as much brambles out of the way as I could with my camera bag, lob it over and haul myself over.
I've done it, a plain and normal field to cross and I'm back at the road, what I really don't need now is some Welsh farmer telling me i'm on private property, and that's precisely what doesn't happen, a good job too, I think I might have done away with him.
Next was the priceless look on my daughters face, Dad ! your covered in blood whats happened, now is the time to have a look at my legs. Oh shit look at that, I took a picture of them because in time the scratches will be gone and all this will be a memory. What I really need now is medical attention of some sort, instead I think I'll drive a hundred miles to a posh pub for a well deserved pub meal. One of the good things about going out with my Ex wife and her mother is I can turn up stinking like a torture victim.

So, in summary.
This site is a good one, you will have the place to yourself, views are good, but for the love of god come from the north.
M****r f*****g gorse should be wiped out, extinctified, by flamethrower, bagsy first on that.
postman Posted by postman
21st July 2015ce

Offa’s Dyke VIII – Four Crosses to Buttington Bridge 16.7.2011

Offa’s Dyke VIII – Four Crosses to Buttington Bridge 16.7.2011

It’s unusual for one of my walks to avoid the hills, but that’s exactly what this section of Offa’s Dyke Path will do. Since leaving the Clwydian range we've crossed several major watercourses on their way down from the Welsh uplands, but today we'll meet the mightiest of them all.

The bus from Welshpool drops us at Four Crosses, where we finished our last section back in May. This is a very low-lying settlement, not much more than 50m above sea-level on a wide plain stretching from Llanymynech Hill and Afon Efyrnwy to the north to the Breiddins to the southeast. The Dark Ages earthwork of Offa’s Dyke crosses this plain, but there was once much more going on here than the patchwork of fields now suggests.

The northern part of the village is called Llandysilio, one of many Welsh locations associated with St Tysilio, who died about 100 years before King Offa was born. In the fields to the east a huge complex of cropmarks has revealed a Bronze Age cemetery, now flattened, together with ring ditches and traces of field systems. There’s nothing to see now, but back in the Bronze Age this was clearly a place of some significance.

We follow the dyke itself southeast out of the village centre. It’s much reduced here, generations of ploughing cutting its height to barely a metre tall. Straight ahead is a dark bulk of hills. These are the Breiddins, rising near-vertically from the plain and site of a number of Iron Age earthworks that will be watching over our whole route today.

The section of dyke north of Rhos is very attractive, planted with a double row of oak trees. From here we have a nice retrospective view of Bryn Mawr hillfort, yet another prominent site overlooking this flat landscape that we're traversing. But our first – indeed only – site of the day lies just a couple of hundred yards away to the east.

Crosswood — Fieldnotes

Crosswood enclosure could be seen as part of the complex of sites around Four Crosses and Llandysilio. It’s a circular enclosure with an internal ditch, bisected by the road from Rhos to Llandrinio. The road crosses the site about a third of the way from the northern part of the arc, so it’s not an obvious re-use of any original entrances. Sadly the earthwork has been much reduced by ploughing, rather similarly to the nearby line of Offa’s Dyke. It’s best preserved at the northwest, where both the bank and the internal ditch can be made out clearly, albeit not the easiest thing to photograph. Running east the bank gets even further reduced, to the point of near-disappearance.

On the south of the road we couldn't see anything at all, but this did involve trying to peer through a pretty thick hedge!

Not the most impressive place to visit, but as pretty much the only visible remains of the numerous sites on this flat plan, it’s worth a quick hello.

Crosswood — Images

<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Leaving Rhos we rejoin the line of the dyke, heading arrow-straight across the flatlands. From here, the enormous brooding bulk of Breiddin Hill Camp increasingly fills our view as we cross the meadows. Quarrying has blighted the side of the hill, but nevertheless the positioning of the fort on its top is pretty formidable.

Breiddin Hill Camp — Images

<b>Breiddin Hill Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Breiddin Hill Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Breiddin Hill Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
It blocks views to the other forts beyond. Way over to the southwest, a further wooded hillfort, Gaer Fawr (Welshpool) rises prominently, with Crowther’s Camp another to the south. We are surrounded by these monuments to status and power, down here in the fertile land that sustained them.

Gaer Fawr (Welshpool) — Images

<b>Gaer Fawr (Welshpool)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Crowther's Camp — Images

<b>Crowther's Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The hedgerows burst with cow parsley and the waving stalks of grass that’s too far out of reach of the cows that graze most of this landscape. The surroundings are increasingly marked with drainage cuts, keeping the fields dry from the overspill of the great river that we’re approaching.

The River Severn, or Afon Hafren, has made its way from its mountain source on Pumlumon and is now a fast-flowing obstacle, cutting across the broad plain between the rolling hills of Mid-Wales and the mini-mountains of the Breiddins. We will meet it again, at the very end of the Offa’s Dyke walk over a hundred miles away. By then it will be the mightiest of all British rivers, forcing its way out to sea against one of the most extreme tidal reaches anywhere on the planet. For now though, it will be our gentler companion for several miles south, as we search for a bridge to the other side.

A more pressing obstacle comes in the form of a huge lump of beef however. Our path follows the Tirymynach embankment, built to stop the river from bursting its banks and flooding the fields of the plain. This is dairy cattle country, and in summer bulls often share the fields with their families. One such bull has chosen to lie down bang up against one of the stiles along the embankment, blocking a narrow gap in a thick hedge. He seems unconcerned by our presence, but our only way onward would involve climbing over his back. This doesn't seem like the action of a sane person and we reluctantly have to turn back to Red House, adding unwanted extra miles and taking us away from the river temporarily.
<b>New Pieces Enclosure, Breiddin Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
From Pool Quay we follow the Montgomery Canal, now restored and navigable, outliving the dismantled railway that supplanted it. This low-lying plain has long been a transport route, just as the Hafren/Severn itself must have provided a terrific highway for the prehistoric people who built the hillforts, and even further back to those who laid their dead in the cemetery at Four Crosses.

The river crossing finally comes at Buttington Bridge, but this is also the end of our Offa’s Dyke mileage for today and instead we head westwards to Welshpool. A strange walk for me, avoiding the hills that stand so prominent to either side of us. But a useful new perspective, to view the forts from below, as the prehistoric farmers viewed them in their heyday. Did they see the suspicious eyes of warlike overlords, or a lofty place of refuge in times of trouble? I guess we'll never know, but down here the mother river flows on and on, untroubled by such concerns.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
7th June 2015ce

Anglesey May 21 & 22

Anglesey May 21 & 22

Just a couple of nights in Angelsey. Limited time & mobility due to partner's broken hip!
First visit Caer Lob an iron age settlement nr Brynsiencyn. Rectangle shape, with double ditches, could have been moated. Real clear delineation. On the way to Bryn Celli Dhu; a beautifully shaped burial mound with a little henge. There's a replica ? sentinel stone with carvings; zig zags & spirals. In the chamber there's a free standing stone that the chap from " Standing With Stones" series thought could be a fossil tree-I wonder if this has been investigated. There are 5 little stones placed in front of one of the entrances. Inside some of the stones had perfect little circle holes where you can fit your finger. The adjoining field has a large stone in alignment. At midsummer solstice the sun rises and shines through the chamber. Beautiful walk to the site. The hawthorne & bluebells out in force.
Then to Plas Newydd ( a gorgeous stately home, worth seeing in itself, looks out over the Menai Straits. Has a large trompe l'oiel by Whistler covering one wall - footprints of Neptune emerging from the sea onto the patio; an avenue of tall pines leading to the house which scent the air on the right day.) Saw the Plas Newydd dolmen which looks like it's been plonked onto the grass in front of the house as a tourist attraction! It's striking. Had to stop the car & wait while two beautiful red squirrels crossed the road.
Only had one day of exploring so off to Trefignath, nr Holyhead on Holy Island. It's mighty, a cairn. One chamber partially supported by an out of place bricks & mortar column. Another section reminded me of an old fashioned box bed; three large stones as a megalithic head board, absolutely gorgeous. The monstrous aluminium works across the road is easy to ignore, just turn your back to it. Some lovely pinky red lichen on surrounding stones.
In neighbouring field stands Ty Mawr, a solitary standing stone which looks like a cowled figure (Julian says a druid) & next door to that another field which looked like it had placed stones ( to me that is.)
On to Penrhos Feilw, two huge standing stones; the ground they're on looks levelled. This place reminded me of sites like Sunkenkirk & Castlerigg in that it has glorious panoramic views, off to the bay & up to the majestic Holyhead mountain. This site is tucked away off a single track road. It's beautiful all around this area; shimmering little bays & rocky outcrops, not many folk about. Breathtaking.
On to Holyhead Mountain where I walked in awe around the hut circles. They are delightful, so wonderfully situated perched together on the side of the hill. Stone circular buildings with entrances and pathways linking. I could imagine the homesteads there and found it powerful and moving. The paths were ablaze with bluebells and ? white stitchwort and ? maiden pink. Tried to look the flowers up in my wild flowers book, but not sure. TJJ May know. The views were fantastic. It must be wild in Winter. Holyhead Mt looms above & the distant bay glimmers in the sunshine.
Went looking for Lligwy dolmen but partner's leg sore & time running out.
It was a great visit with so much more to see. Angelsey is such a beautiful place; wild and in the past somehow, even with the jet fighters zooming about overhead. To TJJ, happy holidays and travels.
Posted by carol27
28th May 2015ce

Stone out of song – Bwlch y Ddeufaen and Maen y Bardd 9 July 2011

Stone out of song – Bwlch y Ddeufaen and Maen y Bardd 9 July 2011

Leaving the broad plain of the Conwy Valley, lanes wind steadily upwards, bound tight by stone walls and occasionally gated against errant stock.

The blunt form of Pen-y-Gaer (Caerhun) rises steep on the right, but that will wait for another day. Today we head towards the lower slopes of Tal y Fan, a mountain separated from the massive bulk of Y Carneddau by an upland pass. The pass was used by the Romans, but its name and origins are much older – Bwlch y Ddeufaen (“Pass of the Two Stones”). The sites we’ve come to see today line the track that heads east from the pass, contouring the southern flank of the mountain. They come in a rich profusion, an elongated string of megalithic jewels, in a concentration to rival any you might find in West Cornwall or North-east Scotland.

Cerrig Pryfaid — Fieldnotes

It’s always exciting to start the day with a stone circle, especially one you’ve not been to before. Composed of diminutive stones, Cerrig Pryfaid is certainly no Avebury in purely megalithic terms. But the setting elevates it to something quite special.

The near-perfect circle sits in an amphitheatre of rock, broken only to the southeast where Pen y Gaer overlooks the wide sweep of the fertile Conwy Valley. Even here the longer view is filled with rank upon rank of high hills. The southwestern prospect is entirely blocked by the towering wall of the Carneddau mountains, crowned by Bronze Age cairns on the summits of Carnedd y Ddelw and Drum. To the north Foel Lwyd, the western buttress of the Tal y Fan ridge, rises in a jagged jumble of boulders and outcrops.

Two small outliers stand to the west of the circle, both with tantalising sunrise alignments (midwinter, autumn equinox). But today it’s getting towards midday, in July. So we make do with the earthlier delights of the landscape and views before heading back towards the Pass and our next site.

Cerrig Pryfaid — Images

<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The Giantess' Apronful — Fieldnotes

From stone circle to cairn. Barclodiad y Gawres is a good size (15-20m irregular diameter), composed of large cobbles with a central scoop. It’s dotted here and there with clumps of stonecrop, the pink-white five pointed flowers a splash of summer brightness against the grey stones. We entirely fail to see the cist, or either of the other cairns that are supposedly close by. A little way to the southeast we come across a small arrangement of stones, which look like they’ve been placed deliberately but not as anything obviously identifiable. Blossom’s dogs find nice big boulders to stand on and survey the area.

The visual focus is the prominent Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen standing stones, visible from here, nestled in the v-shaped pass between the ridges of the Carneddau and Foel Lwyd. The flanking pylons fail to detract from the setting, despite their best efforts.

Elsewhere this cairn would be worth a proper stop, but here it’s probably the least arresting of the day’s sites. And we can see the next one already, so it’s time to head off.

The Giantess' Apronful — Images

<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen — Fieldnotes

The two stones that give the pass its name are a big step up in size from the ankle biters of Cerrig Pryfaid. Both are taller than me, and there’s some serious girth going on too. The tapering southern stone is a beauty, Blossom and I struggle to reach round it with our combined outstretched arms. There’s a small, shallow drill hole on one side, as if someone foolishly attempted to convert this into a gatepost and was struck dead for their temerity before getting very far. I’ll leave Rhiannon to find some suitably doomy folkore to confirm the point.

By contrast, the northern stone is flat-topped and appears to shine out its whiteness against the dark heather. On closer inspection, the whiteness is entirely illusory, the stone isn’t quartz at all but a light grey. There are two further, shorter uprights close to the northern stone, one of which is indeed a quartzy rock. Their placement isn’t obvious but reminds me somewhat of a scaled-up version of the little followers of Maen Mawr in South Wales. In amongst the chocks at the base of the northern stone is one very dark rock, a matt coal black in colour. It’s not clear whether this is a later addition as it doesn’t seem to be doing much chocking.

We don’t realise that there’s a fan of much smaller uprights close to the southern stone, and in truth a visit in summer vegetation isn’t the best time to look for them. It is a great time to admire the purple flowers adorning the heather though.

Once again, the setting is excellent. The views are similar to those from Cerrig Pryfaid, but with added elevation giving a fresh perspective to the outcrops of Pen y Castell. The stones are not set on the crest of the pass, so there’s no view northwards to speak of. Instead they turn their impassive faces resolutely southeast, looking down the valley of the Tafalog, heading off to join the great Afon Conwy three or four miles away. Surrounded now by pylons and cables, yet they retain their dignity against these huge, transitory metal giants. Time is on their side after all.

I’m really taken with these stones. The sense of deep time seems to hang around them, from the ageless mountains, through the monument builders, the tramp of Roman soldiers, into a hinterland of iron and wire. Rather than detracting, the pylons add to this sense that we’re standing in the midst of a palimpsest, layers of time and people still there, just below the surface. And perhaps we’re a shadowy presence in earlier and later times, too.

Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen — Images

<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Reluctantly we head back to the car for a very short trip eastwards. It’s blue skies and sunshine as we get out again a mile on. The ribbon of sites continues on along the southern flank of Tal y Fan, a mountain almost completely encircled by cairns, standing stones, burial chambers and stone circles, yet itself devoid of monuments. Surely a deliberate omission?

Cae Coch — Fieldnotes

Cae Coch standing stone is first, just a short pull up a bracken and grass covered slope from the track. It’s one of those eternally pleasing stones with a completely different aspect depending on which side you view it from. The broad face is turned towards the track and is perpendicular to Pen-y-Gaer (Caerhun) hillfort, but side-on the profile is slender with a bend in the middle. The views across the Conwy valley are worth the visit alone. An unexpectedly good site.

As we approached the stone the blue sky had turned unexpectedly dark, and now looks like night has arrived early. It rains, just for a moment. And then it’s gone, so that by the time we regain the track much of the blue has returned.

Cae Coch — Images

<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Ffon-y-Cawr — Images

<b>Ffon-y-Cawr</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Maen-y-Bardd — Fieldnotes

Even the track feels ancient, a deep green channel between collapsing drystone walls enlivened by vibrant purple foxgloves at this time of year. We pass Ffon-y-cawr, leaning crazily on the other side of the wall. Another one to save for a proper visit, because from here we can see the main objective for today.

Maen-y-Bardd is at once bigger and smaller than I expected it to be. It’s perfectly proportioned and looks out over the wide valley of Afon Conwy, the river itself winding lazily through the centre. And there are mountains, and hills, and little fields, and a huge cloud-filled sky. What a place.

“Stone out of song” goes a poem I hold very close to my heart. But did the song come first, or the stone? Was a bard buried here, or did the place make poets of its visitors?

We stop for a good while. Even the dogs seem content to sit here.

At length an interruption comes in the form of a farmer in his tractor, cutting the bracken in the field next door. The spell is broken. We head uphill.

Maen-y-Bardd — Images

<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Caer Bach — Fieldnotes

Climbing directly up the grassy slopes of Tal y Fan’s southern flank, we pass a ruined homestead and regain a proper path. The map shows some cairns here, but we fail to see anything obvious. [Postie’s subsequent visit shows we weren’t missing much.]

Caer Bach now rises in front of us, flat-topped and dotted with gorse. Just before we get there, we come across a very strange “structure”, consisting of a huge oval boulder apparently placed over some supporting stones to form a small open-fronted chamber, which appears to have been lined with smaller stones. It looks constructed rather than natural, but what it is we have no idea. There’s so much going on in this area that it’s difficult not to imagine it having some significance.

Tal-y-Fan’s summit, crossed by a typically improbable drystone wall, now looms directly above us. It looks almost within touching distance from here, but it’s not on the menu today. Instead we head for the fort. The earthworks aren’t the most impressive, but as with every other place we’ve been today the setting is superb. The views extend to Pen-y-Gaer (Caerhun) and Cerrig-y-Ddinas, so whether the occupants were friend or foe they were certainly observable. It’s a neat and compact site, feeling quite sheltered in the lea of the mountain’s flank, despite its lofty position.

Caer Bach — Images

<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

We have a belated lunch, overlooking the Conwy valley. The lonely mountain watches over it all, serene within its encirclement of prehistoric riches. One day I’ll climb it, but today it’s enough to rest in its shelter for a while. The poet dreams on, of the song, and of the stone.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
19th May 2015ce
Edited 20th May 2015ce

The Mountains Are Singing - Penmaenmawr 2 July 11

The Mountains Are Singing - Penmaenmawr 2 July 11

Dammit, this train is getting later and later. Sometimes a delay is nothing, but today’s a big day of prehistoric excitement, if only I can ever get there. Last night a discussion on the forum led to an offer of a meet up at Penmaenmawr, in a part of Wales I’ve never been to, for a walk to the Druid’s Circle before a climb of Tal-y-Fan.

I ring my companion for the day, to tell her that Arriva are doing what they can to stop me ever getting there. Luckily the voice at the other end is one of calm reassurance, unphased by the changing timetable. This is my first contact with Blossom, who has offered the meet up.

By the time I get to Penmaenmawr, an hour and a half late, it’s shaping up to be a glorious summer’s day. Blossom is waiting on the platform, her dogs are waiting in the car, and without much ado off we head up the steep and winding road that leads to the Two Pillars carpark, at the top of the prosaically named Mountain Lane.

A broad and easy track climbs steadily from the carpark, carefully hiding the views south behind the flanking Foel Lus but providing a grand vista of the quarried and scarred Graig Llwyd and across to Ynys Mon – these are places I’ve longed to see, now laid out between azure sky and blue-green sea.

Graig Lwyd — Images

<b>Graig Lwyd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

We emerge onto a hillside of well-made drystone walls and cropped grass. The long summit ridge of Tal-y-Fan is the principal backdrop, far off and high above.

Red Farm — Images

<b>Red Farm</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Maen Crwn — Fieldnotes

After passing Red Farm stone circle without a proper look, the impressive boulder of Maen Crwn is the first proper stop on the walk up towards the Druid's Circle.

Set in the V of a valley between higher hills, the long views are restricted. But it feels like a stone-on-the-way-to-somewhere stone, the kind you often find marking your path in upland Wales when on the way to exciting destinations. And given what waits above, it certainly performs that function beautifully.

The pull of the circles is too much to linger though...

Maen Crwn — Images

<b>Maen Crwn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen Crwn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen Crwn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Circle 275 — Fieldnotes

It’s a further steady slog of a climb up from Maen Crwn, and the excitement levels really ramp up from here on. Druid's Circle is already visible on the skyline above, but it's still worth restraining the urge to get there for a while with a pause at this lovely little circle.

Like something someone might build around a campfire, a simple ring of smooth stones, with a wonderful sea view. The dogs are very taken, sniffing around the inside of the ring. If it weren't for the fact that the Big Attraction is so visibly close, it would be easy to stop here for a good while.

But we don't.

Circle 275 — Images

<b>Circle 275</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Circle 275</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Circle 275</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Y Meini Hirion — Fieldnotes

It’s not much more of a pull upwards to reach the circle. There’s no-one else about so I can savour this beauty properly. The setting is as good as any stone circle I’ve been to, particularly on such a wondrous summer’s day. The sea to the north, the high peaks of the Carneddau mountains to the south. It’s a bit special this.

The stones are big, certainly bigger than you’d find in many Welsh circles. Each has character and there are veins of quartz here and there. Although some of the stones have fallen, it doesn’t detract from the overall impression.

Mountains, stones, silence, sea and sky.

I could write a few pages of superlatives, but really you should come and see for yourself. In the meantime, we have some lunch and take it all in.

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Monument 280 — Fieldnotes

Blossom has Frances Lynch’s excellent Gwynedd guide with her and we have a quick look to see what else there is around here. The prominent jumble of upright stones visible to the west is the most obvious place to head next. Unfortunately we don’t realise that Circle 278 is hidden away over a little crest and miss it completely. Drat.

Monument 280 (these numbers suggest a spectacular profusion of other sites crowding around us) is very difficult to get a handle on, even when you’re standing in its midst. A row of four uprights run north-south across the monument, while on the west an apparent kerb forms its edge. Shapes and patterns can be discerned, but are contradicted by other patterns. Truly an enigma.

Monument 280 — Images

<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Cors y Carneddau — Fieldnotes

Having singularly failed to realise we’d missed Circle 278, we continue west along the main track. Cors y Carneddau circle is supposedly on the north side of the track. Surely this should be easy to find?
Well, no. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there are quite of lot of random stones in the grass here. Which ones do you choose?

Eventually we decide that a group quite near to the drystone wall, just east of a corner, is the best bet. There are at least four stones in a sort-of arc, with a couple of additional possibles close by. But I could be persuaded otherwise…

Cors y Carneddau — Images

<b>Cors y Carneddau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cors y Carneddau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cors y Carneddau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Cefn Coch — Fieldnotes

What is entirely certain though, is the massive Cefn Coch (“Red Ridge”) cairn. It would be impressive anywhere, but what sets it apart from comparable sites is the stunning backdrop of the Carneddau.

Turning its face resolutely from the sea hidden behind a ridge to the north, the cairn unquestionably looks inland towards the mountains. The very highest peaks of the range are hidden from here, but the skyline is filled with an array of summits all well above the 2000ft mark, several of which boast contemporary monuments.

It's a breathtaking sight and we sit in awe for quite a while.

Cefn Coch — Images

<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

This stunning place will be our final outpost of the day. It’s getting on and my plans to head on to Tal-y-Fan, already compromised by the train delays, were abandoned as soon as I reached the circles. A first visit to this wonderful complex in such amazing weather deserves time to savour. Today I’ve had good company to savour it in.

We retrace our steps to the car and I know I will surely be back. What a perfect day.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
5th April 2015ce

49 Adventures - Wansdyke Wandering 28 May 2011

49 Adventures - Wansdyke Wandering 28 May 2011

The previous weekend I used the 49 bus service to walk to Avebury from the north, so a walk from the south seems a fitting follow-up.

I get off at Shepherds Shore, the handy point where the post-Roman Wansdyke crosses the A361. There’s a gentle climb up the shoulder of Roughridge Hill, following the earthwork and allowing an unfolding view of Cherhill Down and Oldbury and the extensive North Down barrow cemetery.

Cherhill Down and Oldbury — Images

<b>Cherhill Down and Oldbury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Roughridge Hill — Fieldnotes

The first stop off is Roughridge Hill long barrow. Well-defined on the OS map, the reality is rather less impressive. Unless you know it’s there, you’d pass by without a glance. All that remains is a low rise in the grassy field, hard up against the edge of the much bigger Wansdyke. The proximity of the dyke may suggest that the long barrow was a reasonably obvious landmark, perhaps a boundary feature, made use of by the earthwork builders when they were planning their route. Sadly it’s not so prominent now, not really worthy of much of a pause as I head across the hill.

Two lithe brown shapes dart into my path, then rise on hind legs to survey their route – it’s the first hares I’ve seen this year, always a great pleasure to encounter.

Roughridge Hill — Images

<b>Roughridge Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Roughridge Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Easton Down — Images

<b>Easton Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
I briefly contemplate a proper look at Easton Down long barrow, which appears as a much more prominent and upstanding feature than its nearest contemporary. However, it’s a bit off my route for today, so I head south instead, off the Wansdyke and across fields of dusty earth and white chalk. A lonely reservoir tower, stark and angular, is the only trace of modern presence here. Reaching the southern slopes of Kitchen Barrow Hill, rows of Medieval strip lynchets provide evidence of earlier occupations.

Kitchen Barrow — Fieldnotes

From the strip fields there is a great view of Kitchen Barrow Hill to the east. The south-facing scarp is steep and the presence of an intervening dry valley heightens the impression that Kitchen Barrow was placed to be seen from the neighbouring slopes. The area around the barrow is open access land, so there are no complications in getting to the site.

Pastscape records show a round barrow to the north of the long barrow, at a point where the fence changes direction. However, although there are several bumps alongside the fenceline, none is particularly obvious or convincing as the round barrow depicted on the OS map.

The long barrow is certainly obvious though, 30m or so long and a couple of metres high at its southern tip, with well defined flanking ditches. It lies along the sloping crest of the ridge, with its northeastern end almost blending into the hillside. The views south are extensive, as the ground drops sharply to the farmland and the valley of the Kennet & Avon Canal below. To the west there’s a great view of the multi-phase west end of Tan Hill, where more strip fields lie below a linear prehistoric earthwork and a group of Bronze Age round barrows are silhouetted on the skyline.

A good place to stop for a while and let the world turn, especially on a Wiltshire big skies day of fast-moving cloud. Regrettably today’s visit is under a rather more leaden variety.

Kitchen Barrow — Images

<b>Kitchen Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Kitchen Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Tan Hill (west) — Fieldnotes

Leaving Kitchen Barrow it’s an easy walk around the rim of the escarpment to the western flank of Tan Hill. The first encounter is with the linear earthwork running just below the top of the slope. Presumably part of the same thinking that constructed a much longer section of bank and ditch on the northwestern side of the hill, it’s pretty well-preserved, with the hillside falling steeply away below it.

A bit of further uphill huff and puff and I’m in the midst of the round barrow group that crowns the western spur of Tan Hill, a promontory separated by a narrower neck from the main bulk of the hill to the east.

Tan Hill is the second highest hill in Wiltshire, only fractionally lower than nearby Milk Hill and part of the same long east-west ridge. As you’d perhaps expect from such a prominent place, looking out across the downs in all directions, the ridge is covered in a timespan of prehistoric sites from the Neolithic long barrows of Kitchen Barrow at the western end and Adam’s Grave at the eastern end, through numerous round barrows and Iron Age earthworks, with Rybury hillfort on a southern spur. There’s a great view westwards, taking in King’s Play Hill and Morgan’s Hill, each topped with further barrows, as well as the unmistakable Cherhill Down and Olbury with its obelisk.

The barrow group includes three bowl barrows, in a NW-SE line, with a much larger disc barrow close to the two northern bowl barrows. All are clearly visible, if rather reduced by ploughing. The bowl barrows (particularly the one at the SE) bear clear excavation damage. They are all covered by sheep-cropped grass, so there’s no seasonal vegetation problem to contend with in a visit.

Although it’s the most damaged, the SE barrow is still pretty impressive and boasts very extensive views. The central barrow is bigger, well over a metre high despite the ravages of time and barrow diggers. The NW barrow is the runt of the litter, clinging to its sloping setting like a barnacle. All have well defined surrounding ditches. The adjoining disc barrow is great too, almost 20m across, including its outer bank. All in all well worth the effort of the walk.

Tan Hill — Images

<b>Tan Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Tan Hill (west) — Images

<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
From here I leave the top of the hill and follow the prehistoric earthwork northeast, heading back down towards the ever-impressive Wansdyke. A pair of deer materialise in the fields below me, making their swift way across my line of vision. Hares and deer, it’s turning into something of a wildlife spectacle today.

Wansdyke is most impressive here, snaking its way across the northern slopes of Tan Hill. There’s also a decent view of a single, large round barrow on Horton Down, surrounded by gallops but covered in a darker green mantle.

Horton Down — Images

<b>Horton Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Allington Down — Fieldnotes

Sadly the barrows on Allington Down have been rather less well-treated than their neighbours up on the ridge. Once a group of six, there’s nothing to see of all but one now. The plough has taken care of the rest. However, the one that does remain is very decent. It’s quite overgrown with nettles and long grass, topped with three shrubby May Trees in bloom, making it difficult to see whether there’s damage to its top.

I can see Silbury, peaking out from trees and indicating how far I still have to go to get to Avebury today. So I go.

Allington Down — Images

<b>Allington Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Allington Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Fifteen minutes’ walk brings me close to the undulating silhouette of West Kennett long barrow, attended by more people than I’ve seen in the three hours since I left the bus. I like its inaccessibility from this long approach, it gives a good appreciation of its setting, how the profile stands proud against the skyline.

West Kennett — Images

<b>West Kennett</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
My own route kinks east, then northeast, heading towards The Sanctuary. In the field immediately to the south, the mound of Avebury 23 round barrow can just be seen over the crop. More impressive is West Overton 1, the southernmost outlier of the long barrow cemetery stretching north of the A4.

The Sanctuary — Fieldnotes

I visited The Sanctuary once before, on my first trip to Avebury. On a day of first contact with heart-stopping monuments, the concrete-marked circle seemed an anticlimax, a curio and little more. Today I’m more receptive, especially after the long, peaceful walk over the downs to get here.

The place is deserted when I arrive, allowing a better appreciation of the layout and in particular the size of the rings. The outer circle is a wide 40m across, as big as almost any stone circle I’ve been to. Although the little concrete blocks are no substitute for stately sarsens or hefty timbers, there’s still much to enjoy here, if you can block out the steady roar of the busy A4 just over the hedge. Looking south across the low Avebury 23 round barrow, the tree-covered form of East Kennett long barrow can be seen from the circles. Such a shame that the original grandeur is lost forever though.

The Sanctuary — Images

<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

West Kennett Avenue — Fieldnotes

From The Sanctuary, a permissive path allows access to the remnants of West Kennett Avenue on the south side of the A4. This part of the monument seems to receive little attention, probably because of its separation from the better preserved section running northwestwards to Avebury.

However, it’s well worth a visit to make sense of the relationship of The Sanctuary and the henge complex. The first stone encountered is an enormous fallen slab, jutting out from the hedgeline. Beyond that is another fallen stone, apparently broken with a smaller piece placed on its top. The final stone in this group still stands, buried in the hedge and trapped behind barbed wire. It has been broken, leaving a short stump in place. Screened from the busy A4 by the thick hedge, this is a hidden spot, remarkably quiet for somewhere so close to the Avebury tourist hub. It doesn’t have the atmosphere or obvious draw of the well-known northern section of the Avenue, but it’s another part of the jigsaw that makes up this fascinating landscape.

Risking life and limb I cross the A4 onto the B4003, a narrow but busy road that runs parallel with the Avenue on its way to the henge. It’s worth stopping off at the single upright stone, separated from its companions by the road and hedges, looked down upon by the linear cemetery of massive round barrows along the Overton Hill ridge to the east.

West Kennett Avenue — Images

<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Falkner's Circle — Fieldnotes

By now the threatening skies of earlier have turned to a persistent drizzle, and contact with any vegetation leads to an immediate soaking. I decide to leave the road and Avenue and instead head east to look for the scant remains of Falkner’s Circle.

A path leads round the margin of the field, eventually reaching a gateway where a single standing stone marks the position of the poor old circle. Nettles surround it, neglected and lost, a sad survivor with no-one to talk to. I’d like to come back on a less gloomy day, perhaps in the winter when the nettles have gone. It doesn’t feel like a place to linger today though.

Falkner's Circle — Images

<b>Falkner's Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
I’m on the last leg now, following increasingly wet and muddy tracks towards the village. Last week I sat in the sunshine and watched people in the circles, but today the wet doesn’t encourage sitting still. Even in the rain, Avebury is compelling; the massive stones silent and unmoving sentinels, watchful beneath the lowering skies.

Avebury — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

A final embrace with the Cove, and the 49 is back, to take me homewards from another glimpse of the vast landscape surrounding the beating heart of Avebury.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
22nd March 2015ce

19thC Shetland Archaeology in Orkney papers

19thC Shetland Archaeology in Orkney papers

July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" George Petrie and Dr Hunt excavate 65'D 10~11' high bowl barrow. Near the centre 5-6' below the apex were fond a "peculiar" stone tool (similar to one found at Sefster on same trip), potsherds and ox bone fragments. Tumulus made of burnt stones, having a circle of stones just inside the perimeter with the remains of an encircling circular wall a few feet inside that. On the wall's inner face, roughly 15' inside the north perimeter, a large edgeset freestone block was found facing the centre. This was held up by a wall either side and had a large perforation near its upper end. Not far from the mound, but unconnected, were found two inscribed stones, each with a different kind of runes. These were taken to Lerwick.
Brindister Voe HU25NE 6
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" Broch of Brindister at edge of steep cliff and defended by double earthworks landward. George Petrie and Dr Hamiltton saw doorway and traced galleris in the circular wall but didn't examine inerior as choked with debris from broch tower.

Broch of Burraness HU58SW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" described. In 1854 one of the best preserved broughs in Shetland but a lot taken for cottage building in Burraness.

The Brough HU48NW 3
31st 1865 "The Orcadian" llttle left of Brough of West Sandwick's wall.

Brough of North Garth ~HY547005
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" brough below house, at beach's N end, almost entirely gone.

Brough of Stoal HU58NW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" at least 3 ditches cut off brough at stole/chair of Awick, very high banks.

Brough of West Yell
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" name mentioned.

Burgi Geo HP50NW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" description of approach to brough on Burgar Goes, a site mentioned by Hibbert.

Burra Voe HU57NW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" little left as most of Brough of Burnavoe stones taken to build house at Burnavoe by owner Mr Henderson, entrance to underground passages now blocked by stone.

Charlotte Street, Lerwick
February 12th 1886 "Orkney Herald" stone cist with remains, probably previously disturbed, found near surface in clearing site for Mr Ogalvy's houses at bottom of Charlotte Street.

Clickhimin HU44SE 2
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" Broch of Clickimin [sic] in worse state than Mousa but wall restoration more in keeping with design..
April 11th 1888 "Orkney Herald" Stones removed from causeway by local butcher for building material.

Fillicomb Point HP50NW 3
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" some ditches of brough in heads of Toft remain but part of broch fallen into the sea.

June 27th 1883 "Orkney Herald" report from "Shetland News"; man on Foulis [sic] finds fresh-looking but headless female body, lying on an o.g.s. of stunted heath, after digging 6' through solid peat.

Giant's Grave, North Yell
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" close to St Niniian's Kirk site (Papil Bay) is a N/S aligned low mound called giant's grave and never built upon, though slight attempts to excavate seem to show natural sandstone only.

Gossabrough HU58SW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" chambers visible in Brough of Gossaburgh ruins, graves reported nearby.

Graveland HU49NE 3
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" remains of buildings at Brough of Bergaard on small peninsula.

Greenbank HP50SW ?53
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" two stone fragments with worn lettering found at Clinsara Reggs on the meik of Papal by Margaret Craigie of Millby Cottage servant, near the St Ninian's Kirk site.

Head of Brough HU48SW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" description of Brough of Brough.

Holm of Coppister HU47NE 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" Brough of Cuppister mentioned (name only).

Levenwick HU412NW 3
August 21st 1869 "The Orcadian" recorded by Dryden.Broch excavated down to the foundations within the last fortnight by Gilbert Goudie and described. Only finds part of a handmill and bone fragments.

Loch of Huxter HU56SE 1
June 17th 1879 "Orkney Herald" described in notice read to Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Mailand (Unst) HP60SW
June 10th 1876 "The Orcadian" D Edmonton's men digging May 31st on area long dug for peats discover 4 cast metal items together mouth down in the peat, a large basin and 3 fire-pots different sizes.

Mousa HU42SE 1
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" description of Mousa-Borg, where restorations have been made to the walltop and the doorway but those to the latter has greatly changed the appearance.

Muckle Heog East HP61SW 12
September 27th 1864 "The Orcadian" burnt human bones from crouched people found in cist 18" below ground level in digging hole for flagstaff, 2 skulls sent by Mr Edmonton to Mr Roberts at Somerset House.

Papil Bay HP50SW 4
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" St Ninian's Kirk site at the Kinwail 'gard of Weeping' close to mound called giant's grave.

Sefster HU35SW 14
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" celts and stone knives found by minister Bryden several years ago in underground passage at Safsetter/Safester. Passage re-opened and many more tools found, including one similar to that already found in a Bressay mound. Potsherds and stone vessels also found.

St Ninian's Church HU32SE 4 ?
August 26th 1885 "Orkney Herald" letter from the "Scotsman" describing situation of unenclosed disused St Ninian/Ringan's graveyard: ~6 miles from Fitful Head on E side of tidal outlet on W side of mainland's southern part. Soil is loose light sand to a great depth.

Trebister HU43NW 13?
March 28th 1883 "Orkney Herald" preparations on Saturday for a graveyard at a grass-covered mound belonging to Rev Mr Walker bring to light a 'Pictish castle', 40' of a circular section 4' high surviving from what is likely to have been a ~140' outer wall of the building. Stone dyke encloses mound. Large quanities of dark red peaty ash in several places and a man's jawbone found. Other discoveries were a few stone celts, several 12x8" ovoid polished stones (some with oval cavities) and four pottery varieties - 2 dark red soft earthenware sherds, a hard brick red sherd, and a very hard modern looking highly polished grayish sherd with light green spots.

Uyea, Shetland HU69NW 7
March 18th 1885 "Orkney Herald" article includes extra to P.S.A.S record of meeting, being mention of 3 steatite urns found in tumulus and 4 polished oval porphyrite knives found by Mr J Leisk, all exhibited.
wideford Posted by wideford
27th November 2014ce

Walking with Owls in the rain at Drannandow

Walking with Owls in the rain at Drannandow

About three miles north west of Newton Stewart is the tiny village of Penninghame easily reached by following the A714, but the megalithic complex of Drannandow is across the River Cree and there is no bridge here. Either keep going to Clachaneasy and use the bridge there or start from leaving Newton Stewart by going to Minnigaff. Look for an eastern turning to the less than a mile away Drannandow Farm. We parked just the other side of the farm.

It was still persisting down so Eric decided to let me have a wander round the wilderness on my own, suited and booted in waterproofs from heaven I set off up the track at my briskest pace.
Several gates need to be opened and closed and after less than a mile turn right onto another track. On the highest ground immediately right of the farm track is the stone circle and cairn of Drumfern.
I was looking for the cairn first as it would be I hope, the easiest to spot. It was, the rain and poor visibility didn't add much to the atmosphere, the atmosphere could best be described as drizzly. About one meter high and occupying a good lookout position the cairns extremities have grassed over leaving the cairns high parts open to the air. My dad once said "seen one stone circle seen them all" I disagree strongly but with cairns he might have got away with it.

Drumfern — Images

<b>Drumfern</b>Posted by postman

About fifty yards away going back to the track I eventually found the remnants of Drumfern stone circle. There are many stray small boulders that may or may not have once been part of the circle, this makes pinpointing the ring a touch less than easy. But it is there, Only three or four stones are still up standing, hiding amid the long reedy grassy bunches that like to hide circle stones. One rough stone is almost a meter high the other two or three are smaller smoother boulder like stones.
I quite liked it despite it's near destruction, finding the stones that describe the circle is a bit like putting an easy jigsaw together, or doing a child's crossword, maybe.

Drumfern — Images

<b>Drumfern</b>Posted by postman<b>Drumfern</b>Posted by postman

Seeing as I found the circle quick and easy enough I decided to try and see all that was here in this little complex. Heading further east along the farm track I enter the forestry part of the walk. Creepy places at the best of times, strange sounds followed me round, one time I thought I heard a car behind me but there was nothing there, creepy, at least the trees shaded me from the incessant rain. Coming out of the other side of the forestry block keeping to the track for another four hundred yards I came to Drannandow chambered cairn right next to a ruined cottage apparently called Nappers cottage.
This was the scene of my all time bestest nature moment, as I approached the cairn and the cottage a big white bird launched off the ruin and flew away, at first I thought it was a seagull, but then another one flew off, this time closer, I could clearly see that it was a Barn Owl, 45 years and ive only seen Barn Owls twice, now ive doubled my tally in a day. The spirit of Nutkins came over me and I walked over to the ruined cottage in a trance, looking through a window I decided it was too perilous to go in it so I walked round and looked through another window and there on a roof beam was another Barn Owl not ten feet away from me, it screeched at me as it flew away looking me in the eye as it went past, I have not been that close to a raptor outside of a falconry display. I reckoned it would not matter what stones I saw that day, that Owling moment would be the highlight. (Barn Owls are the quietest fliers, even their feathers have feathers).
One of the Owls perched on a nearby gatepost and watched me looking over the chambered cairn, oh yeah right, focus, stones.

Drannandow — Images

<b>Drannandow</b>Posted by postman<b>Drannandow</b>Posted by postman

Five, yes five chambers there are in this cairn, the eastern chamber is the biggest, but it looks like it's been tacked onto the side of a roundish cairn and made it into a longish cairn. The north west chamber is pretty good too, but the other three are full of rubble and covered in ferns, making them hard to distinguish. The whole thing is on the large side and really quite impressive, long views south across the moor.

From here there are two other cairns on a south south west alignment, the furthest can just be seen on the tree line of the forestry block I just walked through, and the other is nearer to the cottage, but because of the crappy weather and time constraints I decided to let them go, which was a stupid shame because the middle cairn has a cist, still with it's capstone in place, I now wish I'd gone over for a nosy.

But at least there's still a couple of large standing stones to be seen, I'd glimpsed them as I came out of the trees, so I knew where to head for. But it didn't make getting there any easier, bogs, streams and springs all wanted to soak me or even break a leg.
On approach to the stones they looked very dark, black almost against the moors light brown colour. Standing next to them they are both taller than me, 6ft 8' and 7ft 4', and covered in mosses and lichens. Big brown cattle eyed me suspiciously as I stumbled this way and that, I put on my best Scottish accent and told them not to worry I'm a Postman.
The Thieves they are called, it says so on the map very clearly, traditionally they're said to take their name from the fact that several free-booters were executed at them in the 14th century. Kill them all I say (what is free booting?)
Whilst I was there I could see a very clear rubble bank, like what you get on embanked stone circles, the two tall stones stand on this bank 14 feet apart, research later explained the bank away as modern, but, well, what could it be for? mysterious.

Blair Hill — Images

<b>Blair Hill</b>Posted by postman<b>Blair Hill</b>Posted by postman

The two stones are very good menhirs, one of them is a very unlikely shape, I like unlikely shaped standing stones, they are so......unlikely.

But that is all the time I can spend at Drannandow, Eric, food, and Glenquicken await.

Owls are brilliant, but seeing them is better.
postman Posted by postman
11th November 2014ce

more early Orkney newspaper accounts summarised

more early Orkney newspaper accounts summarised

Having gone back to Orkney's 19thC newspapers to extract accounts of non-Orcadian sites I found more Orcadian ones too. So here are more summaries


October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" decorated 8/9th century box found previous year on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall along with contents

Blomuir (not one of the known sites)

December 7th 1896 Orkney Herald" account of chambered mound near house of Blomuir (built of stones from mound) excavated few weeks before by owner, producing 8 skeletons and a polished gneiss hammerhead. Half skeletons found in E/W aligned corbelled chamber measuring maximum 10' x 3½', walls standing up to 2½' with entrance half-way along S side. Stone ball stone B.1914.594 found at mound a few days ago


June 11th 1867 The Orcadian" new road cut through small part extensive stoney mound ruins revealing bone fragments and shells

Burrian Castle HY75SE 3

December 6th 1882 "Orkney Herald" recovered relics donated by Mr Traill of Woodwick to the Antiquarian Museum

Corquoy (Mansies Knowes) HY43SW 17

November 2nd 1880 "Orkney Herald" account in The Scotsman of previous excavation of a Manx nound producing same knd of urn

Hillhead HY40NW 12

April 19th 1882 "Orkney Herald" full description of ornamented stone ball found draing a field - only other example found in Ireland several years before. Cast being sent to the Antiquarian Museum.

Ivar's Knowe HY74SW 10

October 31st 1894 "Orkney Herald" rising Ivar's Knowe and a few mounds ¾ mile to its W mentioned as full of burnt stones

Knowe of Taft HY22SE 8

January 20th 1880 "Orkney Herald" on rise called The Taft farmer George Garson of Hamar breaks through 3~4" thick slab roof into space 2½" square extending in a circular direction. Bones have been found near this
January 24th 1880 "The Orcadian" George Garson of Hammer [sic], Greenie, excavates opening 2'6"~2'9" broad by a foot deep (above a yard of soil containing bone) thought part of a broch. Taken to about 30', 2 'cists' are found and also red pigment a decorative circular glass piece.and rude pottery - Samian sherd found here some time ago


October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" perforated serpentine macehead found on property of Mr Graeme of Graemeshall on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall

Little Howe of Hoxa ND49SW 2

June 21st 1871 "The Orkney Herald short account of dig on concentric walled ruin begun previous Wednesday and finds to date

Munkerhouse, Papay HY45SE 26

August 22nd 1874 "Orkney Herald" Mt Traill of Holland allows dig of broch remains in cliff-face near Established Church. Most of large tower gone but extensive outworks, with some lintels remaining, proceed undergorund towards kirk.
Ness of Brodgar HY21SE 16

October 10th 1888 "Orkney Herald" visitors dig tumuli near Ring of Brodgar. One covered by 6" of peat, under which fine light brown earth, then after ~2'6" large stones cover dark ashy earth intermixed with small bone fragments. Mound lies on bed of clay

North Town Moss, Burray ND49NE 5

May 1st 1889 "Orkney Herald" very detailed description of silver hoard found on April 22nd by George Petrie of Little Wart 3' deep while diigging peats at "head of green slade" on N side of North Side Moss [sic] roughly a mile NW of school

Old Town Hall, Kirkwall HY41SW 142

November 12th 1890 "Orkney Herald" tombstones found in demolishing old walls of the old town hall, said to have re-used stone from Ear's Palace
December 17th 1890 "Orkney Herald" 2 12" white sanstone balls unearthed

Peterkirk (Tresness) HY74SW 7

October 31st 1894 "Orkney Herald" at St Peter's Chapel a fine well having been removed previously a narrow well-like vault with two recesses has been found and various stone tools and combs. The mound was originally at least 25' high

Pier of Gill HY44NW ?23

October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" Two polishd serpentine celts found in mound along with a skeleton on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall

Pisgah x2 HY44NW 7

August 22nd 1874 "Orkney Herald" description of 2nd earthhouse excavated in previous week by George Petrie a few hundred yards N of Pisgah souterrain, discovered at same time as that 25 years before but left undug

nr Sandwick Parish church

August 24th 1886 "Orkney Herald" unusually hig seas remove beach below church for some distance to reveal forest remains in a considerable depth of peat moss near where deer horns have been found

Saverock HY41SW 5

June 12th 1869 The Orcadian"
October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" two polished celts found in field where cists had been destroyed on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall

Thistle Brae, Sanday

June 11th 1867 The Orcadian" new road cut through small part of large mound "under the sands of South Myres" revealing bone fragments and shells. Thistle Brae conceals several buildings on 'western shore' and shows ruinous wall length of 38 paces roughly parallel to the road some parts burnt

Tofts Ness HY74SE

October 31st 1894 "Orkney Herald" reference to Picts Houses at Toft Ness

Ward Holm

June 22nd 1881 "Orkney Herald" apparently ecclesiastical remains on Kirk Holm [sic] and distinct cultivation traces all over the island
wideford Posted by wideford
30th October 2014ce

New discovery from Robin Heath

New discovery from Robin Heath

On Sunday 22nd June 2014 myself , and several other interested parties, were at the “Small World Theatre “ in Cardigan , for Robin Heath's talk on his new book; Proto Stonehenge in Wales . As I was the only one who owned a pen ( and knew how to use it ) I was volunteered into writing a review of the talk, which I am delighted to do.

The room was soon full of interested people, and more chairs were needed to accommodate the crowd .
We got going with a short talk about a wide variety of sites , from Nazca in Peru to Stonehenge , and how an aerial view is important in understanding the sites . Robin then told us that his new discovery was a second link between Preseli and Stonehenge that predated the monument itself.

We moved onto the atmosphere that researchers operate in when investigating Stonehenge and similar monuments , with characters such as Jaquetta Hawkes, John Michell, Magnus Magnusson, Alexander Thom and Clive Ruggles to name a few . The widely differing views of these individuals and their “muckers” has coloured the debate about Neolithic man for a long time, and it's still going on now .
Robin stressed the role that Astronomy, Geometry and Metrology has played in the design of Stonehenge, and the Archaeological establishments refusal to consider these in the study of ancient man , and now we have Mike Parker Pearson and the ongoing Bluestone transport debate .
This melting pot is the backdrop to the situation today , and it's into this that Robin's discovery will be dropped .
The cornerstone of Robin's work is measurement and this is where Alexander Thom's excellent plan of Stonehenge comes in , along with the implications that are contained within the long lost meanings behind these measures. By marrying Astronomy, Geometry and Metrology Robin, along with those that came before , has found some answers that may explain the earlier phases at Stonehenge, and now it's proto counterpart in Wales.

We then moved onto a brief history of Stonehenge , through it's earlier phases, before the large stones moved in . It soon became apparent that there was a lot more to it than the simple monument that was seen at the time.
He took us through the car park post holes, onto the heel stone , and how the name actually means “appearance of the sun”, found through Astronomy, folklore and the Welsh language, a taste of things to come.
Then we had a short description of the Aubrey holes and their geometry, and how the 56 holes are curiously unevenly spaced around an accurate circle.
We were then taken briefly through the remaining phases of Stonehenge, with the appearance of the Bluestones, onto the first complex linear geometry at the site in the station stones, and finally onto the structure we see today, and the re-use of the Bluestones.

This brought us to the main reason for A Thom's accurate plan of the monument , for without some confidence in the plan any understanding of Stonehenge was always going to be incomplete. Once the plan was completed , at the request of Richard Atkinson , a much more detailed analysis of the monument was possible.
This made it possible for Robin to give us a proper explanation of the Aubrey holes, and , among other things ,their possible use as a calender device that was calibrated by the sun/moon cycles, and an eclipse predictor . All made possible by the use of the number 56.

We then came to the Station stone rectangle, and how, with the aid of A Thom's plan it is possible to see that the original surveyor's of Stonehenge knew their stuff. The accuracy of this rectangle is impressive , and telling.
What was showing up was geometrical concepts that were supposed to have been invented far into the future and thousands of miles away , not in Neolithic Britain.
Stonehenges designer's were using Geometry, Astronomy and some form of Metrology. All of which are Anathema to the establishment.
The rectangle turned out to be either the centre of an Octagon or two Pythagorean 5:12:13 triangles.

Research from the 70's , this time involving the heel stone, confirmed that the ratio 12:13 was already evident in the monuments design. A picture was emerging of an ancient people that were familiar with geometry , and they had a means of passing this knowledge on.

This is where Robin introduced the contentious Megalithic yard , and how it is the most likely unit of length used as the basis of Stonehenges Metrology.

We were then given a grounding in the Astronomy of Stonehenge , and the uniqueness of it's latitude, which again showed a long standing knowledge of the heavens by our ancestors.

After what had been a whistle stop tour of the main background to Robins discovery , and quite a lot of information to take in, we came to the real basis of his talk , the Station stones , and their hidden gem , Robin's “Lunation triangle”.

Robin explained that the Station stone rectangle has the proportions of 5:12 , and the diagonal is another whole number of 13 , which makes it two Pythagorean right angled triangles . The 5:12 and 13 are in unit lengths of 8 megalithic yards/unit .
In Neolithic Britain this should never be, according to established wisdom . But it's there anyway. Even without the stones in the middle the monument was proving to be impressive , but for scientific and not sightseeing reasons.

We were treated to a look into the problems of calender making , and how day counting alone is not enough as the solar year is 365 and just under a quarter day long, so an accumulating error builds up, which is why we now have leap days. It needs both the sun and moon and their different cycles to calibrate each other in order to keep track of the year
Robin took us through the Lunation triangle , and it's unique property as a calender device that marries the Moon to the Sun. It does this by treating the units in the side length's as Lunar month's, which makes the 12 and 13 sides just under and just over the length of a solar year. By splitting the 5 side into 3:2 , and joining this position to the pointy end , you have a new length of 12.369 lunar month's, which is also precisely the length of the solar year . This length , 12.369 , of units of 8 MY , contains 99 megalithic yards , and there are 99 lunar months in 8 solar years, fancy that , what a coincidence.

Robin showed us how knotted a rope with 30 equal divisions could , quickly and easily , be turned into a lunation triangle, by pegging the 5 point and the 17 point, and joining the two ends together. This automatically forms a right angled triangle, and by bringing the 13 side down the 3:2 point on the 5 side the length of the solar year is automatically defined .
Phases of the moon can be predicted , as can eclipses , with this device , without needing to watch the horizon . A very simple and clever device , and accurate to 1 day in 46 years .

Robin summed up the picture so far;

The station stones are set up accurately on the same perimeter as the Aubrey holes .

They are aligned to the solstices and the moons standstills .

They contain the Lunation triangle , which also uses the Sun and Moon.

They are set out using the megalithic yard as a time measure converted to a linear measure.

All this done at a latitude that is unique in it's property of matching the Sun and Moon rise and set positions into a right angle .

This was the work of extremely clever people , who must have had a long history of observing the skies behind them , and some way of recording that information for future generations.

If the Lunation triangle is real it should exist outside Stonehenge , and Robin showed us other examples from Britain and France , again set out with significant alignments and the megalithic yard.

We then moved onto the new discovery , and the reason for all the excitement.

Robin's latest find is appropriately in the land of the Bluestones , and it's significance is probably that it's linked to Stonehenge by science , and not by stone . This one is quite difficult to quantify really , because the link is a cultural and scientific one , and not a geological one , but it's there , large as life .

We were now intoduced to the new discovery , and something that has been staring Robin in the face for a long time . Right on his doorstep , contained within monuments he has studied for a long time , is what he has dubbed " the Carningli triangle ". A huge Lunation triangle that connects 3 prehistoric sites over several miles , all intervisible .

So there it was , Robins discovery, bigger and less obvious than the English one , but Welsh versions do tend to be like that .
Robin explained the different sites , all megalithic , and the assessment process he went through in order to clarify just what he had found . It has turned out that, in the home of the Bluestones , is possibly the home of the Lunation triangle , which turns the Bluestone at Stonehenge question on it's head , as there is now an ancient scientific link as well as the more familiar geological one .
Robin took us through the evaluation process, and the accuracy is impressive , as is the scale , with sides of 9647 feet, 23,136 feet and 25, 070 feet.
It's a big one , and the reason for such a scale is not easy to comprehend , but it's there , and it takes some explaining away. A Lunation triangle, on a grand scale , in the home of the Bluestones. You couldn't make it up , but it's there .

Robin has thrown another bomb into the debate about the Bluestones , and our scientific heritage . Could he be right about this . He has certainly found the possibility of something very special .


July 2014
Posted by cerrig
23rd July 2014ce

RSPB Cottascarth in Blubbersdale JUNE 19th 2014

RSPB Cottascarth in Blubbersdale JUNE 19th 2014

Though the Orkney Blide Trust's Out and About had once been due to visit the RSPB's biird reserve in Rendall this han't come about. Then I received an e-mail from the RSPB for volunteers, saying that a hen harrier viewing centre is to replace the hut there, and they need to record the standing buildings of Dale before the builders incorporate them into the new fabric. Nine months working with the archaeologists over two seasons I had managed to avoid drawing plans, now was time to bite the bullet (though the work turned out to use very different methods, as I should have figured out). Over further e-mails we arranged that Julian Branscombe would give me a lift to Finstown and RSPB Scotland's archaeologist Jill Hebden (formerly with the National Trust) take me the
rest of the way. In the event Julian gave me a lift all the way in as he had to provide proof that there is enough water in case of a muir burn whilst the builders were on-site. Heading out on the Evie Road at the edge of Norseman 'village' you turn left onto the Lyde Road (a 90 minute walk from Norseman to the Harray Road by the way), Then as it starts to climb a farm road takes you all the way to Lower Cottascarth. On our way from the inside the car we saw an arctic skua above us, but alas nary a sign of a harrier all day ! Instead of continuing to Blu(b)bersdale/Bluebersdale (blae-berries dale) you turn left and park just beyond the last of the farm buildings. A new car park is to be made a little further up and the road tarmacked.

Looking to my left I noticed a small but hefty mound to my right around a field corner. Though covered in green it also looked oddly dark. This is the Black Knowe, NMRS record no. HY31NE 5 at HY36951988, which sits on the shoulder of a low hill called the Tooin 'tower/ward' of Rusht. On the 1st O.S. it marks a boundary corner and I was told that at the moment it is disfigured by a hash of fencing. In the dawn of archaeology George Petrie and Captain Thomas found ash and burnt bone under an inverted 10"x7"
broken clay urn, of coarse fabric with stone inclusions, in a short cist 18"x12" and 8~10" deep. The kistvaen was six foot down in the mound. Pure sandy clay lay beneath a foot of peat, covered by hand-sized flat stones to hold the mounds shape. As first described this bowl barrow wouldn't have appeared that different from a burnt mound I think, called roughly semi-circular. It is thought that two orthostats at the top are what is left of said cist, in which case the excavated mound would have been four or five metres high as in 1966 it still stood to about 2.2m high and fourteen across. Twenty years earlier RCAMS describe its composition as earth and small stones. Hurried measurements in 1993 show it reduced to 8 by 9 metres across and 0.75m high. It certainly looked higher than that from the Dale track - the Orkney Barrows Project notes it can be seen from as much as a kilometre away. An aerial view shows Black Knowe as a really circular patch of green, which raises several questions.
There's further archaeology northwards. Two chains west of the house of Blubbersdale is the site of the Harray Mans Grave, HY32SE 13 at HY37182000, traditionally the burial place of Harray men who died during the famine of 1740 after shellfishing at the Bay of Isbister. In 1856 John Skea found two (or three) cists during land improvements. The cists contained bones and ashes, but the skeletal remains mouldered into dust after meeting fresh air. If they had been under a tumulus, unmentioned in the account itself, this would have been removed to allow for the construction of the two land drains thereabouts. I myself think the name came from elsewhere, for in 1932 there is a description of the Harraymen's Graves located no great distance away, being 22 chains SW of Queenamidda. Seven E/W stones showed through two feet of peat from three to twelve inches in 1932 but with global warming are probably out of sight now I guess. The closest of them are two six foot apart, but despite the rest being seperated by greater distance they formed a row aligned roughly NE/SW.These are shown with the legend Graves on the 1st O.S. map at HY36702037. Here the tale is that that a man finding bones there took fright, though the only person to dig found nothing. Finally for Blubbersdale there is a clutch of bowl barrows, HY32SE 2, the 'original' 1880 Orkney Name Book one a burial place by tradition (RCAMS couldn't find this earthen mound). For it there are contradictory locations. First 34 chains from Blubbersdale and about 30 W of Castle (Ellibister), second 650 yards ENE of Blubbersdale on the O.S. (nothing at that spot the record states). The Orkney Barrows Project reports that only the second of three barrows 'A' 'B' 'C' reported in 1967 was locatable, but that the vegetation could well have hidden the others at the time of the visit : 'A' and 'B' had slightly mutilated tops ('B' cut for peats), 'B' and 'C' were covered by heather and 'A' turf-covered ; dimensions are 'A' at HY37862023 roughly 10x0.7m, 'B' very prominent from several directions at HY3784020320 10.0x10.9x1.2m, 'C' at HY37952025 roughly 6x1m high.

As the land levelled out an old steading hoved into view, and this is Dale where the hen harrier viewing centre is to be. The first thing you come to is a stone scrap heap. They think that it is formed of flags used to roof the place, but one of these is several inches thick. Dale itself consists of two buildings, one pre-1880 and the other 1880~1900, and continued in use well into last century. There are also later concrete structures in the angle between them. This is a sheep control station the farmer had to build during a liver fluke scare, and is to be removed. And behind that a squat tree with lovely bark and moss and lichen drenched branches shrouds the rest. A volunteer extensive local knowledge had been there since 7pm, and even he had seen no harriers. Whilst we waited for the others Julian went into a little more detail about what the builders would be doing in a fortnight to the E-W later building, showing us on the plan how it would be 'made good' then added to. There will be skylights in the new roof so folk can see inside the centre and viewing 'windows' at the front to see the birdies.
Jill Hebden arrived with Lorna Dow and a student who also lived locally. Jill said that the RSPB had found this site held more than first thought, and the downhill part of the N-S building had a mill. Unfortunately we wouldn't be planning the machinery inside the mill as the nettles were especially rampant here, though she did the rest of us a favour by tramping them down elsewhere (as the only one with a hard hat only she could do the room of the later building where some of a flag roof hung on). Standing Building Recording is, as I should have guessed, nothing like the planning I saw at The Howe. No metal frame divided into a grid here ! Instead you use a surveyor's tape, with the beginning starting before the structure and away from the wall. Then what you do is you measure from the tape to the wall at set intervals - every 2m in our case, except where we came to features. Once you have done the first line comes the difficult bit of setting up the next at right angles. Luckily Jill set up these for us, as when we tried we were pants at it. Even she found it difficult because of all the reeds and tussocks still standing way high. And the pins to hold the tape kept hitting stone at the older structure. Eventually I figured that part of this is owing to the fact that the flag paving so obvious near the house part actually went all the way along the front. There also appeared to be the remains of a path going towards the tree.
The long central home has fireplaces each end. One has the chimney breast exposed whilst in the other it is still covered by a large flag, which now is mostly secured by one nail, so we kept clear. A starling had a nest somewhere behind the latter, and spent ages slanging us off each time it returned with a beakful of food for them (a pied wagtail appeared one time similarly annoyed. But Willi's nest is somewhere in the semi-roofed building as it coninually popped up on the old eaves before flashing inside. Oh. and in the 'dinner break' I heard my first ever cuckoo in the big [for Orkney] tree where twa burns meet). Each fireplace had a cupboard space beside it. Though the room looks positively mediaeval despite the blocking you can see bonny fine wooden moulding still in place at a couple of the windows that belies this. My memory is hazy on whether the number of rooms including this and the mill is three or four, but there is one with two tall vertical flags that might be animal stalls.
At the back of the building the mill lade/leat meets the building under the home's central window. For some reason it 'hits' at an angle before the channel continues alongside the hill - we tried to backtrack but where it is before this is a stromash. Where the leat turns there is also a feature at right angles, including an orthostat. Short of the millwheel what look to be bits of the pulled down roof cover a small structure that must be part of the system. Its walls are orthagonal to the building but on the outside there is an arched section facing downstream. The wheel is of undershot design and had 24 buckets. Unusuall, again, it has only a single metal wheel. No-one could recall having seen a millwheel like this anywhere in Orkney, let alone the parish.Hopefully this can all be resolved if, as hoped, the RSPB and the OIC can engage community groups to further record Dale. A few low orthostats can be seen by the sides of the outflow before this reaches the burn. The 'old house team' stayed on after the others because of the unexpected complexities. I was much relieved when Jill said she could actually take me all the way back, as she was headed for Kirkwall. Indeed she even knew where my street was ! Thank you for the lifts Julian and Jill.

When I reached home and used Google Satellite the image showed a large rectangular enclosure taking in the front of the the old building and explaining why the newer one stood at right angles to it. So I then had another look at the first O.S. maps and found in the angle betwen them a roughly circular garden and/or drying area with a path bisecting it diagonally. So I think that the pins hit a low bank like that at Rowhall in Sandwick (which in turn could be wall footings - from the bus you can see what this may have looked like from a ruin east of Binscarth House). As for the mill, the aerial view shows the lade starting just short of a fence uphill then after a short distance taking a turn that takes it onto the alignment we observed. It goes a long way, then short of Dale enters a distinct sub-elliptical area that I take as being what's left of a milldam.
wideford Posted by wideford
6th July 2014ce



Took the bus to the start of the first Churchill Barrier. The driver was good enough to set me down quite close. As this counted as a Lamb Holm return I thought about crossing over the barrier. Not for the Italian Chapel, where I've been a few times with others, but for the Orkney Winery shop. Even then the draw for me isn't the wine itself, it is the like of chutneys, preserves and sweets that are made from them. A little too rich, in the monetary meaning, for my tastes alas.
My reason for going to East Holm was twofold; firstly that I had taken good views of it from Burray and wanted to return the compliment, secondly that having seen the recent storm-damage to the sea-wall I wanted to see if the nearest cliffs had given up anything (I had chosen low tide at St Mary's). In the bright light the coastal batteries opposite me resembled a landscape-sized art installation, surely intended as more than form following function. Too good not to photograph several times along the way. By the road are the Graemeshall properties. Here a 15th century dwelling was replaced in 1615 by Meil House, which after being sold on became Graham's Hall then Graemeshall (for what it's worth there is a Graemshall, one 'e', in Evie). And I imagine that the name Meil is an early designation for this whole area as we have the Muir of Meil between Hamly Hill and the B9052. A nice quiet road runs up between house and farm by Graemeshall Loch, which is well known to birders. However my attention was caught by the site to my right , two swans on the waters of Scapa Flow - obviously this near the burn outlet the sea is only slightly brackish. Loved the way they practically surfed the waves close inshore. A gentleman in a long motorhome was parked up with a huge camera pointed to the loch, but I still had the best of the deal from my view I think.

No damage looks to have been done to the cliff-section below Mass Howe, certainly the body of the mound must be accounted natural. Because of the name it is said that the structural remains on top are from a church, allegedly a local tradition, especially given the nearby Mass Road track. But it seems more likely to me that Mass=moss and refers to the once extensive Muir of Meil heath. Besides which Mass Road bypasses the mound - if anything the road goes up towards the nearer of the mounds below Hestakelda(y) 'horse well', now Hestimuir, and most likely went to the well as with the Tieve Well Road above St Nicholas Church. Took more photos of the coastal batteries. At the far edge of the nearer and larger one a roughly triangular piece of ground normally rather damp strucki me as positively parched this day. Here what is now marked as a burnt mound is below a wellspring (one of five Wells shown on this length of hillside on the 1882 O.S.). Not wishing to disturb the kie I moved on. Beyond and left of the burnt mound the long ruin roughly parallel to the coast is labelled Old School on the same very large scale map. Which is strange as at the roadside end of the trail the buildings to the left are also named Old School. Perhaps seperate schools for boys and girls (or children and sub-adults maybe). Alternatively as East Schoolhouse [in 1882 labelled as School (Boys & Girls)] lies over from Hurtiso they might be for the three Christian denomination hereabouts. Or more simply the lived-in Old School is named after the ruin. Does anyone know ? Still intrigued by an outpost of the wartime stuff. A narrow piece of land not many metres long sticks out of the body of the cliffs, with a rather precipitous neck at the end of which is a structure resembling the top of a pillarbox. In shape it is an hexagon with a hexagonal plug. There are two holes set close together, and my guess is that this had been a machine-gun post.
At the east side of the neck is what I take for a section of wall or walling composed of slabs. Eventually the coastal path section ends. Just beyond this point there is a long second wall, below the present fieldwall, that is either set into the cliff or hanging on grimly, made of the same material. Now the path runs straight up to the main road, running past Newark (wonder where the old Wirk had been). This is another usually sodden track. Which is hardly surprising as it is bordered by three of the wellsprings mentioned earlier ! If you can, use the Orkney Gate at the top of the track as the trail's style is a monster that is liable to swing you off. Across the road is Manse, which had been a manse for the Free Church. It is safe to assume that both mounds were used by the church but the Flagstaff Mound right of the building has no traces. On the other hand I have actually been on the Sundial Mound and there is a big scatter of stones on its top, though my theory is that some come from a previous structure re-used as I have seen no such remains on any other sundial sites and nor did they surmount big mounds.

Where the road turns to go to St Andrew's is the farm of Hurtiso. It is on Hurtiso land that the famous headgear came to light during peat digging. This appears to have been an antient heirloom, as what had started off life as a piece of neckwear was by stages transformed into a cozytrot, a kind of hooded shawl (except this item has half-metre long tassels on it. The Hurtiso Hood 'moved' into a Kirkwall collection, hence the next newspaper account gives it a St Ola origin instead of Holm. Someone must have pointed out it came from the next parish, because the third newspaper article places its finding in Tankerness, part of St Andrew's ! And so a tentative association with finds on Groatster/Grotsetter land has entered the record. Now that the truth is out the name has been changed to the Orkney Hood (to spare blushes I assume). I used to be puzzled by a niche in the roadside wall until I realised this space had been left by an old postbox ! There is a bench and viewpoint here. One day nearing sunset I photographed a beam of sunlight that from here ran straight across the Italian Chapel, truly wondrous to behold. Continuing over the green and going by East Schoolhouse and Vigga, the Cornquoy and Greenwall roads part just before the hill descends. From here I had distant views of the Burray brochs strongly illumined by the sun. A little too strongly for clarity but enough to show the proper distance between them (other views I'd had of them they had always appeared so close together I had imagined them in a much tighter framing of the chambered tomb that had lain just behind behind them on Northfield farm). Tried to make out St Lawrence's Church on Burray then and later to no avail. But my thinking at this vantage point was that whether brochs were for defence or lookout Laurenskirk plugged a gap that the East and West Brochs didn't cover, the other side of Burray having the Iron Age settlement on Hunda. Turned left onto the Greenwall Road and then down the Tieve Well Road to the Cornquoy Road. There are two mounds either end of the Howes Wick shoreline. Closest is the broch mound under the older section of St Nicholas' burial ground (there was also a well/wellspring beyond the northern well. formerly bounded by a ring of stones). In the late 50's a farmer took 40 trailers of stone from a drystone wall, including a cup-marked stone, and emptied them onto the shore. Near the eastern end of the wick is Castle Howe, where a small Viking wirk has been built over a D-shaped chamber. There are no reports of a circular structure here, but one could make a case for the lower chamber being [part of] one of those controversial IA structures labelled 'semi-broch' by some [no longer ??]. Perhaps I might compare it with North Taing on the Head of Holland that shows at the cliff edge as a dee-shaped bank with stones. There I have noted clumps of large stone coming up in the nearer side of a field during deep ploughing, indicating that the centre of a larger structure could have been removed. And this or an incomplete build are generally accepted as the origin of those 'semi-brochs'.

Turning left I continued all the way to the crossroads near the old St Nicholas Manse. Turned right here. Seems a long way from the church it serves, but the same is true of the Tankerness manse next to Northwood House and the North Church (that church now hosts the material worshippers of Sheila Fleet Jewellery). I felt fairly sure a track runs by the west side of the manse enclosure, but being uncertain from this end carried on to The Cottage. Alas the lawn seems to have taken over much of the track since my previous visit (when I walked the Sand of Cornquoy undisturbed) so I'll leave that for a weekday when I disturb none. Back up to the crossroads and decided to continue over to the Roseness trail. Before you reach the tiny car park Ducrow along the way is a perfectly lovely house and garden. My only intention had been to merely have a peek, but cresting the hill before Upper Cornquoy found me stunned by the clarity of Copinsay and the other Deerness on the distant horizon. A well-kept track runs between fields to a signpost marked for Stembister and Roseness paths. Take the right and it is a long way to Stembister in St Andrew's, with its standing stone moved slightly back from the cliffs edge to a drying green. Along the way the path sweeps down a steep decline before climbing equally steeply back up. From Stembister the road to the Deerness Road is only short by comparison, simpler the other way as you would need a lift ftom St Andrew's or know the few buses that way very very well ! Turn right at the signpost for Rose Ness. No, of course I didn't. Headed straight for the nearest cliffs to snap those islands. This is the Bay of Semolie. Nice place for a picnic. The cliffs are stupendous, the views likewise. Don't think you can get down to the beach at all. Here stands the King of Semolie. Sadly the Queen of Semolie passed about the midpoint of the last century. A rather bigger rock stack further along Rose Ness is nameless, so you wonder why they both had names - maybe some lost event took place in the vicinity involving a rig [or perhaps a tale like the "Queen of Morocco" relates]. Walked along the cliffs until I came upon a fence ending right at the cliff edge. Definitely low enough to swing over, but even I didn't risk it. Watched the waves down below crashing up and over the rocks of a small geo. Followed the fence up to the trail proper. The gate there is rather fiddly and most folk would find it quicker to climb the gate rather than open it. Be careful as this is not standing vertical.
Instead of going back to what I think is Tur Geo (whereabouts lies a Bruce's Hole) my feet took me a little further along to where there are rocky plates between the heath and the cliff edge, good for a bit of a clamber. Came upon Rosalind, one of the Orkney Blide Trust support workers. She had come here with a group of youths to do some actual rock-climbing. The day being very blustery they had had no look and contented themselves with scampering amongst the rocks in hope of a climb somewhere not dashed by the high spray. From there I went to the Hole of The Ness, simply The Gloup on the 25" maps. Imagine the gloup in Derrness turned ino a circle form. To my dismay this feature is now fenced in. And not narrowly at that, and in fact the fence struck me as more distant from the rim at its safest point. You can hear the the sea still rushing in and out, and walk over the arch at the cliff, but the most you can see sttod on tippy-toes is the top couple of metres of exposed rock. Didn't complete the walk as it became too overcast for the pictures I wanted. Anyway, the forecast had been for rain later, and fearing it earlier now went back to the start of the trail. Down on the main Cornquoy Road the climbing party soon approached behind me. Even though I had a return ticket I was only too happy to accept a lift back in the circumstances - seemed to take me half the way to Kirkwall before I had the safety belt gone, so I was obviously near the end of my endurance. Fortunately the Out and About planning of Orkney Blide Trust's trip gave me the opportunity to do the headland full justice a short time later. After leaving the gloup some of us kept closer than the others to the land's edge, and treated ourselves to peering down the sheer sides of long and narrow Pantie Geo. We reached the angular monument that I have seen from miles away at various places, a tall truncated pyramid topped by a cross. It sits on the site of one of two Rose Ness beacons. They both dated to the modern era, but at this one there is a large level mound of stones that speaks of an earlier vardr. Or something more, as during its construction in 1867 the men found a well-preserved skeleton and re-buried most of this under the stones dug up. Down near the far end of the ness the slightly later light beacon (1905) still stands. It is where we all finally fetched up.Long ago a neighbour took me here and, by prmission, let me up inside. These beacons are low affairs. Meant only to be seen in daylight they don't 'shout' at you like lighthouses, their human scale most appealing. By it are two concrete foundations that have to be wartime remains. Two of our party sat on the smaller one, about two metres square. A quick glance saw possible earlier stuff there too. The trail ends at The Riff, so there must be an obstacle between there and Roy [brief speculation - roy/roi. is the King of Semolie the Row/Roo 'rock' of Semolie]. Didn't go that far but returned by way of North Cairn. In the hollowed top of this cairn are a number of large stones and a single orthostat, a survivor. Further on we met a member who had arrived late on her own. We were all lucky enough to see a wader up omn the headland barely a small room's length away. The bird ran along the straight edge of a shallow ? peat cutting. Must have had a nest nearby we guessed as it made several passes. Lovely little thing. Jeff and I thought it could be a dotterel. Put rwa photos on the Facebook page of the Orkney Nature Festival and had it identified as a dunlin
wideford Posted by wideford
31st May 2014ce

Red stones, blue stones and Black Mountains 8 March 2014

Red stones, blue stones and Black Mountains 8 March 2014

A long walk walked, today. I’ve not been to the Black Mountains for too long, but the call of the high ridges has finally got my attention again. By the time the obliging bus driver lets me out at Glangrwyney, the last drops and drips of the morning’s early rain have given way to low cloud, hiding the hills and cloaking the valley beneath a dull and deadening blanket.

I walk the quiet lanes to Llangenny, crossing the lovely old bridge over the Grwyne Fawr, rushing and tumbling towards its confluence with the Usk/Wysg, into a pretty village seemingly marred with an abundance of “private keep out” signs, which dampens my spirit more than the rain ever can. I’ve come here for my first site of the day, a small standing stone that’s been on my radar for a few years but never sufficiently prominent to warrant a journey. Until today, when I plan to combine it with a few other local delicacies.

Llangenny — Fieldnotes

Llangenny/Llangenau standing stone is smaller than I was expecting, a rather grey sandstone with a small, irregular and presumably natural hole near its top. It is set on a small rise, below a much steeper slope, a little to the west of the Grwyne Fechan – another of South Wales’ many waterside stones then. Chickens abound, belonging to the house next to the stone, which has been kept obligingly unfenced although a lot of new fencing has appeared since Elderford’s earlier picture. Despite this, I don’t feel overly at ease here. Perhaps it’s the oppressive cloud cover, perhaps it’s all the signs proliferating in the village, but I don’t feel like lingering. Perhaps just as well, because I have more stones to visit and a big hill to climb.

Llangenny — Images

<b>Llangenny</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Llangenny</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Llangenny</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Coed Ynys Faen — Fieldnotes

Following the Grwyne Fawr valley north, the next village is Llanbedr, but before that there is the small matter of a pair of standing stones in a little wood, once again a little to the west of the river. The Coflein record suggests that the smaller, southern stone of the pair may have been destroyed or lost during tree felling some decades ago. I passed here once before, in very deep snow on my way back down from a visit to the wonderful Crug Hywel fort. On that occasion everything was hidden beneath a mantle of snow, with black tree stumps punctuating the pristine surface – not really ideal conditions to look for little stones and I went by without stopping.

Today presents a much better chance. The undergrowth that will carpet the woodland floor come the late spring and summer is only just beginning to make its presence felt, so despite some bramble-tangling to negotiate, it’s reasonably easy to get through the trees. Taking the OS map at face value, I head into the wood and straight uphill in the direction of where I hope the smaller “lost” stone would be. The sun has started to get through the cloud now, filtering through the light foliage in a way that never fails to lift the heart.

And, halfway up the slope, there it is! Not lost, not destroyed, but exactly where the map shows it to be. To find this stone, lost but found, will be enough to make my day worthwhile even if all else fails. It’s a very small stone, rather less than a metre tall and embedded into a bank with what looks like a old trackway running down to it from the southwest. A slab of old red sandstone, almost completely covered in moss and easy to miss as a tree stump. It is particularly angular for a prehistoric stone and it would be easy enough to believe that it might have a later date. Having said that, the abundance of other standing stones along the valleys of the Grwyne Fawr and Fechan give credence to it being part of the same family, aspected to the watercourse.

I head north below the tree cover, angling slightly downhill and closer to the road as I pick my way under the low branches. Not far on, I see a regular shape below me, nearer to the road than I expected. Closer inspection reveals that it is indeed a large, recumbent slab. Carl records that the northern stone has fallen and it looks to me as though this is a fairly recent occurrence. The scar left as it tore away from the sloping setting is still visible, and small stones and earth lie on top of the stone’s base, presumably left from its fall. It’s a shame, as this would be a fine stone if put back up again. Like its southern partner it’s a slab, much wider than thick. Its top is pyramidal, very similar to the shape of other stones in the Brecon Beacons National Park, the nearest example being at Standard Street, only a mile or so distant from this site.

The northern stone is visible from the road, through a gap in the trees.

Coed Ynys Faen — Images

<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Coed Ynys Faen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Once I leave the trees, the views across the valley open up. The substantial and steep-sided hill of Crug Mawr, which I will be climbing soon, is now in view. I bypass Llanbedr and leave the Grwyne Fawr valley, instead following its smaller sibling the Grwyne Fechan northwards. At Henbant Farm an ancient dog greets me silently, then I’m off the roads and onto a muddy and enclosed bridleway climbing steadily between crumbling drystone walls beneath the trees. Waterproof already discarded, I’m too hot under my fleece, unused to the steady rhythm of a Welsh climb after months of bad weather keeping me off the hills. The cloud has largely cleared, replaced by a watery sunshine and hazy visibility that defies any attempts to photograph the surrounding landscape. The path leaves the trees, emerging onto the open slopes that mark the real start of the long upland ridge that will define the rest of my outward route today.

Pen Cerrig-Calch — Images

<b>Pen Cerrig-Calch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Disgwylfa — Fieldnotes

I head up to the top of Blaen-yr-Henbant, ignoring the more obvious scar of the Beacons Way to get the best of the views. The breeze up here is very stiff, but worth enduring to reveal the nearby hillfort of Twyn y Gaer Camp and the unmistakeable summit of The Sugarloaf/Pen y Fal. The best view is behind me, where Crug Hywel and the domed summit of becairned Pen Cerrig-calch form the backdrop to the valley now far below. The route drops briefly before rising again, steeper now as it reaches the final pull to the summit of Crug Mawr, at 550m OD the fingertip of the Gadair ridge, the third and highest of the five ridges forming the “hand” of the Black Mountains.

It is very blowy at the summit trig, so I press straight on – the principle objective of today’s walk is now directly ahead. Dropping from the top, the path turns darker and wetter, grassy slopes replaced with peat and a surrounding cover of heather, mercifully low at this time of the year. A trio of ponies block the path, but they are young and skittish, scampering away as I prepare to divert around them.

It’s not far from Crug Mawr to the Disgwylfa cairn, though I miss the turn off the main path slightly, as the cairn disappears from view briefly, blocked by the intervening ground. As I cut across the heather, the stone pile atop the cairn appears first. Some of the boulders in the pile have been painted red or blue, inexplicably. But the mound beneath is much bigger, prominent despite the covering vegetation. The centre has been scooped out and presumably provides the majority of the material for the stone pile. There is no sign of a cist or central structure. The views are brilliant, taking in the splendid summit of Pen-y-Gadair Fawr along the ridge, while the beehive’d cairn of Garn Wen can be seen on the next ridge to the east. The top of the Sugarloaf peaks out behind Crug Mawr, although the hazy sunlight makes visibility limited in that direction.

Disgwylfa — Images

<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Disgwylfa</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
It’s decision time now. I had intended to return to Crug Mawr and drop down to Patrishow to visit the church and Ffynnon Ishow holy well. But the ridge to the north goes ever on and on, to the lofty heights that I haven’t visited for too long. As anyone who uses the OS 1:25000 will know, Disgwylfa lies at the top of the southern side of the Black Mountains map, so to go on requires turning the map over, usually in high winds that do their best to make this simple task an effort of will that, once done, you don’t want to have to reverse. I turn over the map, knowing that I will now be led into a much longer walk than I ever intended to do today.

I decide that the bus timetable will let me fit in a climb of Pen Twyn Mawr at least, so I find myself carrying on northwards along the ridge.

Nant yr Ychen — Fieldnotes

The distance between the Disgwylfa cairn and the various “piles of stones” marked on the map seems too long, despite the easy walking involved. One of the piles looks like a candidate for an older cairn, although Coflein doesn’t agree. By contrast, I pass what turns out to be the Nant yr Ychen cairn with barely a glance. There is no sign of an obvious mound and the pile marks the junction of footpaths. There are yet more terrific views though, except to the north where my day’s highpoint, Pen Twyn Mawr, blocks off everything beyond.

Nant yr Ychen — Images

<b>Nant yr Ychen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
I’m pleased to reach the summit, one that I’ve only previously visited with a friend, so this is the first time I’ve made it up here using public transport. It’s a featureless and rather flat top, but does enjoy a great view of Pen y Gadair Fawr, looking almost within touching distance. A mad thought involving carrying on up the ridge forms briefly, but I have no idea about the buses from Talgarth and it wouldn’t be a great place to be stuck. Every step north takes me further from Crickhowell, so I reluctantly – and belatedly – decide to stop going upwards and start going down.

Instead of returning back to the last footpath junction, I elect to pay a visit to the lovely Maen Llwyd, my favourite site in the spread fingers of the Black Mountains. I head straight to it, angling down the side slopes of the ridge using barely-there sheep tracks, losing height quickly and fairly easily. A deeper fold in the land with a bubbling stream at its centre provides the only obstacle, a drop and re-ascent and I’m there.

Maen Llwyd (Twyn Du) — Fieldnotes

Since my last visit, almost four years ago, the stone has been penned behind a new barbed wire fence. But nothing really detracts here. The stone itself is tall and shapely, interesting with its hollow shoulder. The setting, in the amphitheatre of the ridges, is sublime. It’s taken a little over four hours to get here from Glangrwyney, including earlier stops on the way. I settle with my back to stone and let the peace and beauty of the place sink in.

Maen Llwyd (Twyn Du) — Images

<b>Maen Llwyd (Twyn Du)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen Llwyd (Twyn Du)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen Llwyd (Twyn Du)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
With a jolt I realise that half an hour has passed in the blink of an eye and that I only have a couple of hours now to get back to Crickhowell to catch the bus, so I leave with all haste. It’s a dash down through the forest, aiming for its southwestern tip. The tracks deteriorate and soon I’m stumbling over the pits and stumps of a great expanse of old felling. A muddy patch takes my foot from under me and I fall very disgracefully on my arse, stupidly sticking my arm out and jarring my wrist in the process. Thankfully nothing is broken, but I curse my stupidity nonetheless. An accident alone in this remote spot would be a very bad idea and the incident is a sobering reminder of how close to disaster one can be, how easy it is to take for granted safety from harm.

Leaving the forest I join a muddy bridleway down to the road at the old hermitage, apparently once home to the mistress of a wealthy local landowner. It stands in ruins beside a bridge and ford across the Grwyne Fechan now, though no doubt ghosts re-enact the dramas played out within its walls. After this it’s five miles of twisting, turning lanes to negotiate against a clock that gets less forgiving with each aching step. For all that, adrenalin and a bus timetable give you wings and I have time to enjoy the view of the Sugarloaf dominating the village of Llanbedr and the wonder of Crug Hwyel fort, prominent as a flat-topped Silbury commanding the Usk valley falling away to the south.

Mynydd Pen-y-Fal — Images

<b>Mynydd Pen-y-Fal</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Crug Hywel Camp — Images

<b>Crug Hywel Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Finally I’m back in Crickhowell, a bustling and friendly town I like very much. Aside from lead-heavy legs and a painful arm, I’ve survived the long walk up and down the third finger of the Black Mountains. This sais remains obsessed with Wales, no doubt about that.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
12th May 2014ce

THE HOPE TO HOXA January 23rd 2014

THE HOPE TO HOXA January 23rd 2014

Only three for the Out and About today; the volunteer driver Patrick, me and the labradoodle Star. In St. Margaret's Hope we parked the minibus at Cromarty Square, went onto Shore Road and took the second road on our left, much steeper than School Road. Good way to build up to the walk, get the 'big hill' out of the way. First thing we come to is a set of tall walls roadside, with steps in between to take folk up to the level ground above and through step-topped gatepillars sans gate. Here is Bellevue, built in the last two decades of the 19th century. This angular two-storey house with blue-grey slates is the only one I've noticed in Orkney built of pale pastel red stone. More likely my memory let's me down. And mistakiing the house for Angle Cottage (which is by the site of St Margaret's Chapel) I thought the big walled enclosure it is part of was the school. Braehead behind is already on the 1st 25" map, though I think not much older. In the field on the other side of the road disturbed ground is all that is left of the the site of the Brough of Ontoft.

Cresting the hill we looked down at Heatherum where a modern double path of modern flags shone in the sun, more striking than any open air art installation. Turning left here takes you swiftly to Widewall Bay. Nah, that won't do. Turn right past the fine farm of Grutha and go around the coast we shall. This is the way I came when I stayed at the Murray Arms. On this road to your right look down onto the farms of Lowertown and enjoy Scapa Flow and its islands spread before you. On the map Hunda seems small, but from here it took a while to identify it as the causeway is much longer than on photos I've seen and we were looking at Hunda broadside on - explains why the circular walk from the Burray village takes as long as it does ! Not long to reach the other side of Hoxa Hill.

As we made our way down to the ayre we were much taken with the 'boathouse' at Mayfield (formerly the name of a dwelling back up the hill). This modern 'boathouse' is one of those modern conceits, a hoose made to resemble an upturned boat, but awfu' bonnie and rather large. The drystone wall divided seaside garden is pretty too. Somewhere hereabouts are believed to be the remains of an authentic boathouse, yer actual housing for boats. Next the shore this side of the Dam of Hoxa sits Longhouse farm range with its corn-drying kiln. Longhouse, Hoxa Mill originally, is now a residence. Something I only realised after I strayed onto the lawn to snap the kiln ! There is a track that takes you from the Dam of Hoxa over the old ayre to the Sand o'Wright. At this time, going by the overflowing pools either side, it struck us as maybe not the best route for now, might only get so far before being 'pushed' back. Tread the shore. Continue on to the road end at Howe. On the eminence above is the Howe of Hoxa. Which is a doubling as Hoxa is haugsheid referring to the broch. You can only see the top of the tower, and until you reach the spot it looks just a weird fieldwall. Then there you are with a topdown view. Which is a good thing, because the last time I went the interior had way too many tall nettles for one to venture in. From the broch a long mound heads doen the hill, and tradition states that Earl Thorfinn Hairsakljuf was hoy-laid here after his death in about A.D.960, However all archaeologists can say is that there are traces of settlement in the lower section.
Passing by the broch I contented myself with a few shots from the road as I had used my SLR up close some time ago and we wanted to be back on time. Had my first glimpse of its small 'companion' by the shore, which will be a lot easier to resch than I had assumed. 115 paces/yards from the broch is the Little Howe of Hoxa, though it is possible the name is that of the mediaeval ruin rather than the (supposedly) prehistoric structure. In June 1871 George Petrie excavated this, and after he left Mr Gray of Roeberry (who had partialy dug the chambered mound on Warthill the previous year) continued to clear it out and (it was believed) make further exploration. Petrie found an approximately circular structure with two concentic wall enclosing a space of ~21'D. The 4' thick outer wall was seperated from the inner by a 2' high passage tapering from 18~20" below the covering stones to 16" wide at the base where it met bedrock at one place.. A 20' long passage and doorway went all the way through the structure, standing 4' high and being 2½' wide. Traditionally a passage connected with the Howe of Hoxa, but no trace found of this at the time or since. Presently the site is called a homestead and thought to be either early broch or pre-broch, but the finds made seem to me to be as likely from a Viking wirk or borg - perhap not a "green site" still. It is notable that none of the newspaper reports refer to it as a broch. There is a way in still, an archaeologist friend of mine entered the hole even though it is generally considered dangerous to do so. A wall post-dating the excavation goes across the homestead. Little Howe of Hoxa may simply be a name used to differentiate the ruined dwelling. There is a slip near Howe and a couple of derelict buildings mentioned on the NMRS, what appears to be a roofless croft and a small square building of just four walls.
There are plenty of other early settlements in the area. Just back up the hill is Swart(e)quoy where excavations starting the same month found a probable earthen encampment suurounded by a strong rampart of earth and stone. Also at the same time some trenches made in a sandy knoll called Kirkiebrae on the other side of the isthmus found another 'encampment'. Though the name implies a church connection the finds don't bear witness to this, and the St Colm's dedication is a thoroughly modern fiction or the papers at the time would surely have said. One of the trenches turned up a fine red and yellow clay/pigment intermixed with ashes along with a huge number of bones from the same fauna as that at Little Howe. On a hearth of burnt stones one of the relics was a piecemeal bone comb held together by iron pins and having a central dot surrounded by small concentric rings. It stood comparison with examples from Hampshire and other English counties, bringing to my mind the recent theory that there had been Angles resident on Orkney in Pictish times. Situated close by where caravan park it doesn't look much to me, being more impressed by a mound in the elongated field triangle on the hillside. Wouldn't be the first time the slight repositioning of a boundary has put a site on a different side to that on maps, as happened to me with Brodgar's Fairy Well.

A short road section goes across the hill, and here is the junction with the road to Head of Hoxa - carry on to this and eventually arrive at the Hoxa Tapestry gallery and then a fine reastaurant with glorious views (when the mists clear), beyond which a lovely nature walk takes you around the wartime camps and emplacements. Another time. Arriving back onto the main road the pillbox you can make out in the land between the shores has been moved from its original location, so possibly an alternative explanation for what I see in the field corner. East of the toilet block are several hut bases and foundations from a small camp used by REME. As we came by the farmer was dropping hay fodder on some for his sheep. Very well behaved they were, staying in the field even after he left the gate open to get more fodder. Not enough time to tread the Sand o'Wright, so off up to Roeberry. A couple of interesting buildings on the farm.The ends facing us had wide ornate multicolour stone block archways, one open the other blocked off. Patrick and I spotted a very small belfry on the roadside building and thought this to be an old church, no, no, schoolhouse. Then at the other end spotted a big external staircase. So most likely a storehouse, with that 'belfry' housing a pulley system for hauling goods up to the next floor. The first O.S. shows something peculiar, apparently where Roeberry Cottage is now. I like the cottage gateway, framed by softly curving walls. And way above Roeberry House are the sad remains of The Wart tomb.
Now we were up the other side of Hoxa Hill overlooking the Oyce of Quindry. I wonder if it is a coincidence that tidal inlets attract Ba' games, but of course they provide (or occur in) big level patches of land e.g. Oyce of Quindry, the Ouse and the surviving Ba and the Ba ' Green of Orquil (probably the Ouse at Finstown and the head of Hamnavoe for Stromness too). Anyhoo, on the uphill side of the road a Nissen hut sits in complete isolation. Incredibly this is all that's left of Hillside Camp (ND49SW 33 in the region of ND435923) - some 500 men from the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery stayed at the accomodation camp. At the head of the Oyce of Quindry a road goes by the shore to Ronaldsvoe. Near the junction with the main road I spot another Nissen Hut, though even through binoculars this resembled a small cottage.with a chimney at each end. My next thought was that a wartime building had been turned into a dwelling, but further observation showed the structure had been covered in concrete like many an engine house. So I suspect it provided power for Hillside Camp. However, no matter how far I drill down on PASTMAP absolutely nothing is shown there, never mind a site pin !! Most curious.

Of a sudden coming down the hill into the Hope headed for School Road, to the east is Stonepark. In the 19thC several cists were found in a mound at Stonepark [?ND444932 by a field bend], and in another fired stone and earth mound on the same farm of Blanster (near the farm buildings) a single cist held some ashes under an upturned urn. A little further down, somewhere near the playing fields on the other side of the road had been yet another small military camp, this one for the RASC with only a few hut foundations left to mark the endeavour. But the next thing to grab my attention is what I think is Angle Cottage, an L-shaped two-storey mansion house with crow-stepped gables. Though with a date of 1893 visible on a photo I take it that it has been re-modelled if so. When I wrote up this walk for the Blide Blether because I had mixed up the roads I had applied the name to Bellevue !! In 1866 at a spot 20~30 yards from the shore (that had been under cultivation for almost a century) men digging for office house foundations near the Established Church manse uncovered a skeleton 2-3' down, prior to which 5-6' of mound material had been already removed. I'm not sure whether this was U.P Church property as this is much further back, and all I can find on RCAHMS are several records for warehouses [offices is Orcadian for farm labourer accomodation at this time]. Another mystery. Patrick, Star and I got back in the minibus and returned to the Blide in order to be there at the alloted time, but the two humans agreed it would be a fine walk to extend into a full day by adding in a tour of the Head of Hoxa military sites.

Petrie's excavations in local papers :- June 21st & 28th1871 "The Orkney Herald", June 24th & July 1st 1871 "The Orcadian".
Swartiquoy, ND49SW 11 at ND431940 - lost site of tumulus with cist and urn. Enclosure almost definitely that down as Mayfield, ND49SW 91 at ND 43150 94238. The modern Mayfield farm's former name Swartiquioy, with East Swartiquoy near Kirmareth.
Howe of Hoxa. ND49SW 1 at ND4252693962, mentions.
Little Howe of Hoxa, ND49SW 2 at ND4243 9403
St Colm's Chapel / Kirkiebrae, ND49SW 8 at ND42229369. My own suspicions lie with the stuff in the field corner at ND42189371, rather than ouside, even so.
wideford Posted by wideford
6th March 2014ce

Ridgeway to heaven – Barbury Castle to Avebury 21 May 2011

Ridgeway to heaven – Barbury Castle to Avebury 21 May 2011

My first trip to Wiltshire of the year, and summer is a comin’-in. The ever-handy 49 bus drops me just north of Broad Hinton, as today I’ve decided to approach Avebury from the north along the Ridgeway, as recommended by Mr. Aubrey Burl. The quiet walk along minor roads to Uffcott reacquaints me with the joys of wide Wiltshire skies, with the downs rising over to the east, topped by the long line of the Ridgeway.

The Ridgeway — Images

<b>The Ridgeway</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Barbury Castle — Fieldnotes

Walking from Uffcott gives a slow and steady approach to Barbury Castle, today’s first objective and the proper start of the walk. A week or so earlier, G/F and I had a wander round Old Oswestry, which frankly blew me away in its scale and ambition. As a result, I’m not expecting quite so much from Barbury, but you should never, ever, underestimate what you might find at a prehistoric site. You’d think I would have learned that by now.

As the rampart looms above me and the climb steepens, it’s already becoming apparent that this is going to be a good ‘un. The first thing properly encountered is a fine disc barrow set below the western entrance to the site, constructed on the slope and facing westwards over the edge of the down. The disc is actually easier to see from the approach than close-up. A smaller round barrow lies to the northeast, closer to the bottom of the hillfort rampart. On another day, in another place, these two would be enough to linger over. Here though, the pull of the earthwork is too much and I make my way up onto the bank.

I make my way clockwise around the outer ditch. Up close, the earthworks really are very impressive indeed, the ditch still deep despite 2,000 years of silting. There are terrific open views from here. Liddington Castle, the next substantial hillfort to the northeast, can be seen on the horizon. Over to the east the views stretch across the Marlborough Downs, while to the south the fort commands views of anyone coming down the Ridgeway. Once inside the splendour of banks and ditches, there is little else to be seen. The real joy of the visit is undoubtedly in the perimeter and the views from it. A week after Old Oswestry, Barbury Castle is certainly holding its own. A gem of a fort, all in all.

Barbury Castle — Images

<b>Barbury Castle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Barbury Castle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Barbury Castle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Barbury Castle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Barbury Castle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Barbury Castle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Finally dragging myself away from the wonderful fort, I join the Ridgeway as it heads southwest. After an initial drop back down the road, the gradient climbs steadily, which provides a decent retrospective view of the fort. A couple of sizeable sarsens, marked on the OS map as BSs (boundary stones) point the traveller on their way. The weather has been fairly dry and the Ridgeway itself makes for pleasant walking without huge amounts of mud. Apart from a couple of horse riders and a group walking in the opposite direction, it’s pretty quiet along here. The steady rhythm of walking, the open landscape and the tranquillity of an English summer lift the heart and clear the head. Begone dull care!

The Ridgeway — Images

<b>The Ridgeway</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Ridgeway</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Just below Hackpen Hill, the other world briefly intrudes onto this idyll, with weekend traffic flowing steadily along the Marlborough road. I resist the temptations offered by various (presumably Medieval) earthworks and the Hackpen white horse, choosing instead to keep the onward progress going. Sometimes you just need to walk, really. A similar impulse keeps me from visiting a solitary round barrow at the foot of Berwick Bassett Down (Berwick Bassett, incidentally, would make a great name for a character in a 1930s pulp novel, perhaps an investigative reporter).

At length I reach a fork in the track. The Ridgeway carries on its stately progress due south, but I’m leaving it here and taking the other fork, the White Horse Trail towards Clatford. Not without regret, as the section of Ridgeway between here and the Herepath junction would provide the first views of my ultimate objective, Avebury. My chosen route will delay that pleasure for quite a bit longer, but there are other pleasures ahead, less well travelled than the great henge.

The track skirts the very edges of the Grey Wethers sarsen drift on Fyfield Down. As it passes through Totterdown wood, it becomes apparent that some of drift has been subsumed into the shade of the trees. It’s rather odd to come across the great stones here, mossy and green, when in the mind’s imagining they stand exposed to wind and weather on the open downs.

Fyfield Down — Images

<b>Fyfield Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Fyfield Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Out of the woods, past more scattered sarsen, my route crosses the Herepath in a dogleg and then I’m into horse racing country at Clatford Down. After the Ridgeway and Totterdown Wood, the manicured sweep of the gallops is jarring to the senses. But better this than a golf course, I suppose. The unlikely upright of Long Tom appears a couple of fields away – it’s not on the map and I’d forgotten of its existence. I don’t approach, but even from a distance it looks oddly unprehistoric, perhaps because its slender profile is so unlike the other megaliths of this part of Wiltshire. A hundred yards or so to the east, I come across the broken stump of another sarsen upright, but I have no idea if it has any age to it.

Long Tom — Images

<b>Long Tom</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Long Tom</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Devil's Den — Fieldnotes

South of the Clatford Down gallops I finally part with the White Horse Trail, taking a bridleway southwest towards the second site of the day. As the path follows the contour of the hillside, Devil’s Den comes into view. This is one of those sites that you’ll already have seen, even if you’ve never been to it. Something of a celebrity, even in a county that boasts some of the biggest A-listers of them all. It’s great to see it first from afar, how it sits in its valley, tucked away below the windy downs.

Devil’s Den is something of a triumph in another way, as although the OS map shows it standing off the right of way, the little triangle of land is subject to permissive access, which means you can go and spend as long as you like there without worrying about any confrontation. This is a relief, because it’s a site I want to savour. No rushing here. The chamber sits on top of a little mound, all that remains of a much larger structure. The field is turning to meadow, and will be a haven for chalkland flowers and insect life. Beneath the low spread of grasses, the surface is completely littered with chalk and bits of flint, presumably turned up by years of ploughing but now left discarded in the sun.

I love this site. The whole structure looks poised, as if about the march away across the Wiltshire landscape. The sky has turned somewhat cloudy now, but rather than diminishing the visit it adds an extra drama to the backdrop. I could stay here a long time, and so I do.

Time passes, not a soul approaches. Just how a site visit should be.

Devil's Den — Images

<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Fyfield Down — Fieldnotes

The next part of the walk is a bit less straightforward. I’m hoping that I can find the Polisher, but I don’t actually know where it is. I know photos on TMA show a gallops fence nearby, but that’s about all I’ve got. Most significantly, I don’t know which side of the Herepath it’s on. The only thing to do is to wander.

Wandering in the drifts of Fyfield Down is a good thing though. After entering the Down at its southeastern corner, I’m immediately confronted by the scale of the drift itself. I’ve never really seen anything quite like it. I have a quick look at the Fyfield 1 and 2 barrows, but really even these are overshadowed by the natural landscape here. From here I follow the ribbon of the Mother’s Jam, coming across The Monster Stone as I wander. Yep, it really is a monster. Other treats here include the experimental earthwork, slowly decaying as intended. Overton Down (south) may be just about the least impressive round barrow I’ve seen in Wiltshire, a barely-there mound under nettles – get the sheep in, someone.

Fyfield Down — Images

<b>Fyfield Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Fyfield 1 and 2 barrows — Images

<b>Fyfield 1 and 2 barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The Mother's Jam — Images

<b>The Mother's Jam</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Overton Down — Images

<b>Overton Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Experimental Earthwork — Images

<b>Experimental Earthwork</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The Polisher — Fieldnotes

Much wandering later, just as I’m on the verge of reluctantly giving up, I spot a pointy stone, which looks familiar. And so it proves to be, the unmistakable grooves of the Polisher lying just beyond. I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself at this point, but even without the extra euphoric boost, this would be a winner all day long every day.

I won’t try to describe the stone, the pictures do that better. Instead I’m going to lie down with my head resting on its smooth surface and enjoy the peace for a few minutes.

The Polisher — Images

<b>The Polisher</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Polisher</b>Posted by thesweetcheat


That’s better. Where was I? Oh yes, on my way to Avebury (just in case you’d drifted off too). Back on course then, after what has been quite a detour. From Fyfield Down the Herepath cuts across Overton Down and starts its descent to the great centre below. There are some decent barrows to be seen en-route, on both sides of the path. As always I get the feeling I’m only scratching a very superficial depth into the chalky surface of this landscape.

Avebury — Fieldnotes

By the time I reach the eastern entrance of the henge I’m tired and the sky has turned much darker. As always though, meeting the huge stones of the circle boosts my flagging energy in a way that Red Bull will never be able to replicate.

I don’t take the full tour today. Today’s efforts have been focused on getting here through the landscape, the journey being the reward for once. Instead I have a mooch to the Cove (still my favourite setting in the whole complex) and the southern quadrants. I finally take up residence on the sloping bank above the ditch of the southwestern quadrant, not quite at the bottom but on a level with the stones. Arriving at such a busy place after the quiet of the Downs would usually irk me, but today I enjoy watching the different interactions people have with the stones. Some stand in awe, some touch, some just have their picture taken. From where I sit, the voices are muted and the words don’t carry, except one who is expounding something about the electrical properties of the stones.

Ah, Avebury in the summertime. Long may it be a focal point, the builders would surely approve.

The Cove — Images

<b>The Cove</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Avebury — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
6th February 2014ce
Previous 25 | Showing 26-50 of 768 posts. Most recent first | Next 25