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Glos 'n' Oxon, Picnic People & Stomping in the Sun – Part 1

Glos 'n' OxonNow I know how Dr Foster felt….
Friday 25 July 2003
Making the most of a trip to meet up with TMA folk at the Uffington White Horse picnic, I booked a couple of nights in a B&B farm near Uffington.

Taking Friday off work I set off for Gloucestershire in the rain. The plan was to have a look around Glos, make my way back up into Oxfordshire taking in various sites, to quickly visit Jane's house for a cuppa, and finally head for the B&B.

I hadn't been bargaining on rain, but I'd been looking forward to this weekend for long enough that I was able to forget the weather and what felt like the beginnings of a cold.

By the time I reached Gloucestershire it had poured all the way and the rain was coming down even harder if anything.

Hetty Pegler's Tump was my southernmost target, so approaching on the B4066 from the north I passed the car park at Coaley Peak where the remains of Nympsfield Long Barrow lie, planning to visit after turning north from Hetty Pegler's.

I found the parking place for Hetty Pegler's, parked up and followed the signpost up to the barrow.

Hetty Pegler's Tump — Images

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Hetty Pegler's Tump — Fieldnotes

31.07.03ce
25 July 2003
Spotting the signpost for Hetty's pseudonym 'Uley Long Barrow' on the right, I pulled into the tiny layby, discovering that at the moment at least there is a nice flat piece of grass just inside the field behind where it looked as if people had been parking.

I parked the car and got out. In the time it took me to put on my coat I was pretty damp. I walked a couple of hundred yards in the direction the signpost pointed but the path petered out.

Retracing my steps twenty yards or so, I noticed a slight gap in the hedgerow that had been on my left and was now on my right (if you see what I mean). I stepped through and, as I hoped, to my right stood the long barrow which had been hidden from my sight by dense summer vegetation and filthy weather!

Oh for a sunny day to visit! This must be a pretty wonderful place when the water isn't seeping down your jeans and you don't have to have your camera stuck inside your jacket, digging in your chest.

I just managed to keep my knees clear of the growing puddle as I squeezed through the entrance into the central passage. Immediately I'd got in I realised I'd done it again…. I'd left my torch in the bloody car!!!!

I knew from experience that this would probably also scupper my chances of getting decent photos as I wouldn't be able to focus in the dark….

Squatting in the now dampening chamber I could immediately make out the layout and construction of the passage, the remaining chambers on the left (south) and where the destroyed chambers would have been on the right (north).

As my eyes became accustomed to the dark, the light seemed just good enough that I tried focusing manually and fired off a couple of decent shots. (I haven't uploaded them as they are too similar to the pictures already included on the relevant page of this website.)

I love seeing ruined barrows and burial chambers, but there really is nothing quite like being able to get inside these things! I often refer to ruined ones being like a 'cutaway' or 'exploded' diagram, but as the stones of the passage and chambers are visible from inside you still get a clear picture of the construction.

It's especially nice to find the peace and feeling of well-being which seems, from comments on this site, to be universally felt here. I even sat in the blackness of the south-eastern chamber for a few minutes, unusual for me – not because of any misgiving about the dark, but because I'd usually rather be moving and looking and poking!

As I walked away, leaving Hetty Pegler's behind, I found that the rain hadn't abated and seemed somehow to be managing to fall heavily and hang in the air at the same time….

I hurried back to the car and after a few deep breaths and curses at the weather gods, set off the few hundred yards back up the B4066 north, to park at Coaley Peak and the ruined Nympsfield Long Barrow.

Nympsfield Long Barrow — Images

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<b>Nympsfield Long Barrow</b>Posted by Moth<b>Nympsfield Long Barrow</b>Posted by Moth

Nympsfield Long Barrow — Fieldnotes

31.07.03ce
25 July 2003
No ice cream van in evidence today in the filthy weather, I soon realised that I had misread the Landranger as to where the barrow is. As you drive up the short entrance road to the car park, the barrow is on your right as you turn left into the car park proper.

I drove round the car park (one car in residence) and parked as close as I could to the barrow. I still got drenched. In almost any other place this would be a nice enough example of a long barrow, with just enough of it left to make it easy to visualise. But other than out of convenience or completism (guilty) with Hetty Pegler's Tump just next door, there's not really much reason to bother.

The picnic area probably has nice views on a clear day and you could enjoy a nice ice cream though. I wouldn't know – couldn't see for the mist and rain….

The picnic area the barrow sits in probably has great views on a clear day and there's often an ice cream van it seems, so you could enjoy a nice ice cream. I wouldn't know – couldn't see for the mist and rain….

Today I was 'passing' on the nearby Longstone of Minchinhampton and Windmill Tump as I had visited both before, albeit several years ago.

Instead, my next call was to attempt to find the mysterious fieldmarks spotted by TMAer Minchin Hampton on a multimap.com aerial photograph of Inchbrook, off to the east. Map ref SO826021.

Into the labyrinth
The area giving access, however, proved to be a regular rabbit-warren of hilly, stone-lined, single-track residential village roads. After navigating my way around for about 20 minutes, reversing or diving frequently into passing places for other traffic, I thought I had a 'handle' on how to get to the possible site.

It was as I headed down the hill towards Inchbrook itself to turn round, that I met a van coming up the hill. I'd just passed a wide driveway so began to reverse. I found that I could see nothing in my passenger side mirror because of the rain and bad light under the trees. I then found I could hear a slight scraping noise…! It was the wall and my passenger door….

Having re-manoeuvred out of the way I cursed loudly and colourfully, wishing Mr Hampton and other interested TMA parties luck in their quest for information on this possible site: "You're the soddin' local, you go and have bloody look!"

Revving angrily I started off towards Belas Knap near Cheltenham. I noticed the signs to Cold Slad village. I remembered that in the big papery TMA it says go past and find Crickley Park for the 'prehistoric site' of Cold Slad. I thought about it, but given my mood, and the fact that half the attraction is meant to be the view (pah! Did I mention the rain?) I accelerated straight past the lot!

(Shame really, as I now notice there are no fieldnotes for this site. Still, I doubt if mine would have been very constructive or informative as I was fed up AND wouldn't have been able to see a thing!)

Calm, calm, calm
Like Kammer, a look at the map showed me the shorter and simpler path from the west up to Belas Knap. And, guess what? Just as I arrived THE RAIN STOPPED. As I walked the few hundred yards up the gentle hill, THE SUN CAME OUT! And very soon I recognised the grassy mound of BELAS KNAP.

Belas Knap — Images

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Belas Knap — Fieldnotes

31.07.03ce
25 July 2003
Like Kammer, a look at the map showed me the shorter and simpler path from the west up to Belas Knap. Encouraged by his fieldnotes and in view of the weather conditions I drove round the lanes to the north of the long barrow, through the farmyard at the end of the tarmac and up the unmade lane.

All was just as Kammer describes but it is a measure of my mood having bumped the car earlier, that I drove that far. If reasonably practical I usually leave the car outside farms and go and ask permission, walking from the farm!!!

As I pulled up at the bottom of 'Kammer's path' I found it now has a signpost, so I knew I'd got it right. Which was a relief.

Kind of bigger than I expected, it must have been a long time since I read a description, as I had forgotten (if I ever knew) about the chambers being 'open' through the sides of the barrow. Though I did remember that the apparent 'main' entrance was a classic 'falsie'.

After rolling around on the wet ground photographing the low lintelled south-eastern chamber, I stood up and just took in the scene. For the first time, the day was living up to my expectations fully. The frustrations of Inchbrook were forgotten as I stood in perfect peace. Not a soul….

I spent a good half hour chilling in the perfect peace up at the long barrow before hitting the path back to the car. On reaching the car I was even reasonably calm when I saw the big white scratch along the door. "With luck the metal itself isn't damaged…." Hmmm.

On to Oxon
Next stop the Rollright Stones and Anish Kapoor's art 'installation' – not stopping on the way at Notgrove Long Barrow despite passing immediately beside it. (I've visited it before, and while not quite as negative about it as some others on this website, I don't think it's worth more than one visit!)

Regulars will know that I voiced strong reservations about Kapoor's piece of art. Not from an artistic, aesthetic or conceptual point of view, but from the point of view of someone seeing the Rollrights for the first or only time – visiting from abroad perhaps.

My thinking was that if I'd arrived at say 'La Table des Marchants' for my only visit (probably) ever, and found a big chrome blob in the middle of it, I'd have been irritated, annoyed or even upset.

Well. Ahem. Let's just say I stayed for an hour and took a few photos. Just the 19….

The Rollright Stones — Images

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<b>The Rollright Stones</b>Posted by Moth

The Rollright Stones — Fieldnotes

30.07.03ce
25 July 2003
Regulars will know that I voiced strong reservations about Kapoor's piece of art. Not from an artistic, aesthetic or conceptual point of view, but from the point of view of someone seeing the Rollrights for the first or only time – visiting from abroad perhaps.

My thinking was that if I'd arrived at say 'La Table des Marchants' for my only visit (probably) ever, and found a big chrome blob in the middle of it, I'd have been irritated, annoyed or even upset.

So was I right? Or were the more artistically minded folk around these parts right?

Well. Ahem. Let's just say I stayed for an hour and took a few photos. Just the 19….

The 'sculpture', if that's really the right word, is somehow unobtrusive, despite being quite big and finished with brightly polished chrome! I guess it's because the Rollrights is a pretty large circle.

Yet it draws you in. And you find yourself playing games – looking at the reflected stones, trees and countryside. Watching the clouds. Watching the light change. Looking at your own reflection. Standing up. Squatting down. Walking away. Walking back up to it. And great fun to try to capture all this on film!!!

The weather for my visit also made the experience particularly interesting. The sky was dull as I arrived and the chrome looked almost dirty. I quickly realised though that it was actually just refraction of the dull sky from the tiny water droplets left on the highly polished surface by the rain.

As the sun emerged, the whole character of not only the circle, but the sculpture too, changed in unity. The previously dull metallic 'blob' was now dazzling with intense reflected sunlight, still refracted by the tiny rain droplets. Stunning.

Count me as a convert. But there wasn't a quintessential dichotomy in sight. Unless it was behind one of the stones.

I believe it's still there for a few more days. GO!!!

Quick trips to The Whispering Knights and The King Stone and I was on my way to the Enstone Hoarstone.

The Whispering Knights — Images

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The King Stone — Images

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<b>The King Stone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The King Stone</b>Posted by Moth

Enigmatic Enstone
What would I do without Kammer? Once again his directions helped immensely as, even with the Landranger, I could easily have missed the stones in the relative darkness of the little corner of the wood they occupy.

They really are very difficult or impossible to spot from the B4022 and it isn't until you take the turn-off right beside the wrecked burial chamber that you can see them. Even then they don't exactly leap out at you when the trees are wearing their summer foliage!

The Hoar Stone — Images

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The Hoar Stone — Fieldnotes

31.07.03ce
25 July 2003
These stones really are very difficult to spot from the B4022 and it isn't until you take the turn off right beside the wrecked burial chamber that you can see them. Even then they don't exactly leap out at you with the trees wearing their summer foliage!

The stones retain a power and atmosphere of their own despite being so ruined that I found it difficult to picture the site as a burial chamber and without the trees. Can't honestly say I could even see the orientation myself without looking it up.

The stones retain a power and atmosphere of their own despite being so ruined that I found it difficult to picture the site as a burial chamber, and without the trees. Can't honestly say I could even see the orientation myself without looking it up.

OK. Final megalith of the day was to be The Hawk Stone, so beloved of TMA's clothed (and unclothed) Oxfordshire contingent.

Keep your kit on Moth
Sighting interesting cloud formations to the north, I trod on the gas, hoping for a dramatic backdrop for photographs. Unfortunately, although I arrived at the village of Dean pretty quickly and I found the stone easily after a short walk, the opportunity for dramatic piccies had gone.

Hawk Stone — Images

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Hawk Stone — Fieldnotes

31.07.03ce
25 July 2003
Approaching Chiddington from the east, I turned right for Dean. Arriving at Dean, there is a bench set on a verge, where I took an immediate left. After a good few hundred yards this lane bends fairly sharply right (you can see where I mean even on a road atlas).

Right where the road turns there is a footpath signposted heading more or less straight on across the fields. Parking here would have been inconsiderate so I carried on to the next junction and was pleased to see that if I turned right (continuing a loop back towards Dean) there was a small layby.

Walking along the lane back to the footpath described, I realised I could see the Hawk Stone projecting above the horizon on my right. I simply followed the path and couldn't miss the stone, standing alone in deep crop.

Luckily, distinct tractor tracks enabled me to cross the crop to the stone itself, though photographic opportunities were limited. I still took several pictures hoping that what remained of the interesting cloud formations would add to the atmosphere, but alas, it proved too late.

Deeply textured and looferlike in it's surface – in a similar way to the stones of the Rollright Stones, King Stone and Whispering Knights etc, the single stone is also a bizarrely shaped beastie. (See Rhiannon's 'Folklore' post on the Hawk Stone page.)

This is one of those single stones that in my opinion calls into question Aubrey Burl's assertion that single standing stones were usually originally part of a bigger setting. I find it difficult to reconcile the size and proportions of the stone with a burial chamber, yet neither does it fit the style of the Rollrights circle.

Perhaps it's one of the exceptions. It certainly looks right on its own and I couldn't imagine how it would look any other way.

After spending half an hour or so at the stone, I headed for my final stop of the day – that well deserved cuppa at Jane's house, which I was relieved to find easily!
Warm welcome, amazing art and great company. What more can I say? Thanks Jane! But after a happy couple of hours, I had to reluctantly be off to Uffington to find my B&B. Picnic tomorrow.

Part 2 is here.
Moth Posted by Moth
31st July 2003ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce


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