|I felt encouraged by Treaclechop's description of her visit to her Oxford barrow, so I will try to describe my visit to some similarly apparently unprepossessing sites.
I really hope you understand when I say that sometimes, there are some places you just have to visit on your own (or with similarly weird people - that probably means people like yourselves). Otherwise, when you do have the opportunity to take people with you to a lovely place with something-to-actually-see, then they'll think you're crying wolf, think it'll be yet another empty field, and refuse to go.
For example, a few weeks ago I was working away in my saturday job, and a friend came in to see me. "Have you anything planned for tomorrow?" she asked. Well actually I had. I'd been looking at my beloved OS maps and I was completely set on going out to look for some imperceptible bumps in a field.
So I say " Erm. No. Not really. I thought I might go for a walk." So she says to me, "Ooh well, if you're not really doing anything perhaps we could meet up for lunch!" You see I don't mean to sound Antisocial, but I really wanted to see my henge from the map. I'd set my little heart on it. But I didn't want to have to explain this in the middle of the shop to someone who probably is under the impression I'm quite normal, and have normal interests. Do you know what I mean? So I had to make some non-commital noises and quickly serve the next customer.
There are these uncomfortable feelings I get - that firstly, I am in fact a ridiculous megalithic geek (which I strongly refute, though it's probably a waste of time), and secondly, that there's this element of sneaking about inherent in visiting less obvious sites - the way you have to duck under fences, having first scouted the area for landowners with dogs and guns etc., let alone the feeling of embarrassment about explaining your reasons for wanting to visit an apparently empty field to someone who's given you a perfectly decent offer of a lunch out.
I probably sound like I worry too much. But I don't really, because I went off to see the henge anyway, and arranged to meet her another evening. So everything was fine.
My first stop was Hangman's Copse. I took a couple of snaps because I wanted to give you the idea of how much of an isolated island the barrow looks amongst the crops.
Next stop, a flyby snap of Cley Hill and its little sidekick. Again, there are better angles, but you can see something of the earthworks and the barrow. I'm in the direction of Bugley so who knows, this footpath could be the very one used by the boggart in the story.
Now onto something new - the mysterious Deverill Road Henge. I parked the car in the industrial estate / ex-army barracks down the road, and trying to fix in my mind as best I could where I should be looking, set off on foot. The road is very long and straight, lined on both sides with a raised verge and hedges. I kept leaping up and peering over but I couldn't see a thing. It's a funny feeling, this searching for sites business. You really want to prove to yourself you've found the place, even if it's by spotting the most pathetic and insignificant little dint int he ground.
I still couldn't see anything but I didn't want to give up - on the other hand I kept suppressing a rising disappointment: what on earth did I actually expect to find of an earthen ring after 4000 years? However, suddenly my pogoing efforts paid off. A cloud racing across the sun made a strip of light move over the waving grasses in the next field. As its shape subtley altered I realised it was illuminating a tiny rise and fall in the ground - well this had to be it! It is sad, but I felt quite chuffed, and wholly disregarding conventions about private property clambered over the nearest gate. I furtively dashed across the field through the tall grasses - well, it served me right because I'd forgotten it'd been raining all night, and my trousers were soon wringing wet almost up to my knees.
As you can see, I futilely tried to photograph it - you know it's never going to come out, but you do so anyway, don't you find? I felt that I really wanted to take a good photo to prove to you people that there was something there. But it just looks like an imperceptible bump in a field.
So I tried to concentrate on the surrounding landscape. The hills nearby are fantastic. I tried to show the view from the henge in another photo. But all the time I was feeling guilty for being in the field without permission so I hotfooted it back to the gate in that strange lolloping bouncing trot reserved for long wet grass. Munching my sandwiches back in the car I bemoaned my uncomfortably wet flares and consulted the map for the next stop in nearby Sutton Veny.
After my brush with the livestock there and tired of walking I thought I'd pay Devizes Museum] a visit, taking a snap of Westbury White Horse en route. There is currently a temporary exhibition of notebooks of THE names in old-school archaeology. If you become a member you can use the library, and who knows what weath of stuff would be in there. I found myself dashing excitedly from case to case. It's a fantastic place and I wholeheartedly recommend you visit - it's not like it's far from Stonehenge and Avebury if you're in the area.
This (courtesy of HMcG) is the fantastic stained glass window by John Nash which can be found upstairs in the art gallery at the museum. I had to furtively clamber over a barrier of chairs because they were in the process of arranging an exhibition. The room was in darkness - but at least that meant the colours of the window sang out. The museum displays quite a few works of art with prehistoric subjects - another reason to go.
The helpful MAGIC site provides this information:
"The monument includes a henge monument set on a gentle south-east facing slope in an area of undulating chalk downland immediately east of the Wylye Valley. It comprises a central area between 30m and 33m across raised 1m above ground level. Surrounding this is a ditch, from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument, and an external bank. The ditch has been partly infilled over the years but survives to a depth of 0.5m and is c.10m across. The bank is 0.2m high and 10m wide. In the south-west portion of the ditch is a causeway c.4m across.
I must say I'm not particularly convinced by these figures but can't do any better. I was preoccupied at the time by the sheer excitement of tracking it down and taking in the feel of its location and the hillside opposite, which you can see in the photos above.
I was sadly quite thrilled to see the henge show up on Multimap's aerial photo.
I didn't know what to expect here - I was just chasing 'tumuli' on the map. There are three in a row in the Wylye valley bottom - admittedly it's a very wide valley, but still a little unusual to find them so low down when there are so many convenient hills?
I tried to keep my mind on the landscape but had to walk through a field of curious bullocks who looked like they were going to march over en masse so I was slightly distracted. Running the gauntlet seemed worth it though when I got to the last field containing 'The Knoll'. The barrow was surrounded by fantastic greeny golden barley, rippling in waves like something in a Van Gogh painting.
Posted by Rhiannon
10th July 2003ce
Edited 8th July 2004ce