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

Old Harlow

Round Barrow(s)


'All is quiet on New Year's Day'... so sang that wee Irish fella, Bono... before he began hanging out with politicians, saving the world and indulging in other such important matters. Not to mention wearing silly specs. But I guess his heart's in the right place, a bit like the Bronze Age round barrow at Old Harlow, despite a continual cacophony of noise from the nearby kennels rendering the opening line of U2's seasonal song fanciful, at best.

Last year's ongoing attempt to discover more of my ancient Essex heritage somehow did not include a visit to Harlow... what with the mighty Wallbury just up the road. So what better time to remedy that omission than on the first day of the new year? As with most Essex monuments, the Old Harrow barrow is tucked away from the gaze of the passing motorist, although whether such seclusion mirrors its erectors' original intention is perhaps something we will never know. Was there always a screen of foliage adding a veneer of mystery to the site, the lowland equivalent of the mountain top cairn being set back from the skyline? Or were these great earthern barrows meant to act as a beacon, dominating the landscape?

Upon arrival, my first impression is that the mound is a lot more substantial than I anticipated [hopefully the scale image gives a good indication], both in respect of height and area covered. Several trees have made the ancient soil their home, the radiating branches of one such youngster curiously reminding me of a natural representation of Bryn Cader Faner. The summit is covered by bramble, although not to an excessive extent, the western flanks more or less clear, allowing space to sit and take in the surroundings. A large pond - or small lake - to the east adds a water feature, although a 'work shop' area of some description to the north might be an issue on other days. The aforementioned hounds eventually shut up, the only disturbance then the occasional, friendly local passing by, together with cars in the middle distance. Beyond, upon waste ground to the south-west(ish), air photography had apparently highlighted what was thought to be the course of a cursus, perhaps the least understood of all monuments. I take a look, but see nothing. Perhaps this is not surprising since Essex HER now reckons the linear crop marks probably represent much more recent 'tracks'. More's the pity.....

Access to the Old Harlow Barrow is easy.... once you've sorted somewhere to park, that is. From Junction 7 of the M11 take the A414 towards Harlow. At the fourth roundabout (with school to the right) turn right upon the B183 (Gilden Way) and, beyond another roundabout, the site is within trees a little to the right, beside a public footpath. I carried on a little further and parked down the next left, walking back. Note that there is 'official' access, so no need to climb any fences. Happy New Year!
2nd January 2012ce
Edited 5th January 2012ce

Comments (5)

I used to go to that school where you turned right (Mark Hall Comprehensive) and this mound was on our dreaded cross-country course for games ! Meic Posted by Meic
29th January 2012ce
Why is it that the nearest town to this site is Sawbridgeworth? Surely Harlow is a town...even if only a new one! Mr Hamhead Posted by Mr Hamhead
30th January 2012ce
Good job it wasn't on mine or else I'd have been even more hopeless at athletics. Didn't see any point in running in circles.... GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
30th January 2012ce
I also ran past the barrow when doing cross-country at Mark Hall school, though no-one ever mentioned the barrow in history classes. We also used to hang out on the barrow when I was a teenager and there was less scrub, as I remember it. The adjacent water feature is known as Dick’s Pond.
In the courtyard of the nearby Green Man Hotel, there’s a Saxon marker stone to the moot that was held on the barrow.
Finally, a nice way to approach it is to park in Churchgate Street, near the Queen’s Head pub, walk through the churchyard and then across the fields.
Orifrog Posted by Orifrog
18th March 2013ce
If you want to visit the Old Harlow round barrow, I do it sooner rather than later as they're cracking on with building in the field next to it (the area where the now-discounted cursus was supposed to have been is unrecognisable) and there are likely to be houses next to it if you leave it too long! I wouldn't put it past them to 'landscape' the area around the barrow either.

On the plus side, I saw a grass snake and a muntjac deer there while out with the missus and the dog yesterday.
Orifrog Posted by Orifrog
21st April 2015ce
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