|I knew that there was a lot of ancient (many badly trashed) stuff in the Cotswolds but it wasn't until we studied an OS map in detail that I realised there was quite so much on my doorstep. Much of the stuff lacks a 'wow'-factor, but it is there, nevertheless, and as such deserves a peep.
On the other side of the main road and just a few 100ms south of Lyneham longbarrow hidden away in an long-disused quarry lies the Five shilling corner stone.
It wasn't on our shopping list today, but Moth hadn't seen Churchill village stones or Churchill Three stones before and as we were already so close, it would have been churlish not to visit. Besides I wanted to see the Three Stones without their summer plumage of nettles and long grass. We were rewarded indeed!
More of a leaning stone than a standing stone it probably only remains at its tortuous 45 degree angle by virtue of the wall it lies against. Were it not for this, it would almost certainly be over, lost amongst the undergrowth. My guess is that this was once some kind of marker stone, perhaps leading to Lyneham longbarrow
. Worth a glimpse if you are coming to see Lyneham.
I was pleased that Moth, too, thought that these stones were more than just badly placed gateposts or idly strewn field clearance. And this time, due to lack of undergrowth we could see that opposite the tallest stones on the north side of the driveway were four or five more large stones, upright, large and Rollrighty. Moth vigorous set about pulling off the ivy and moss to expose them more clearly to view. I still have no idea what's going on here at Churchill, but something very big once did, for sure.Just 100ms up from the Churchill Three stones are the Churchill village stones which I have seen before but impressed Moth hugely. The fact that the Churchill's church stands at the highest point in the village and is surrounded by menhirs (obviously not in their original location) still leads me to thinking that once Churchill had a whopping stone circle of its own, probably bigger than Rollright, which is just a couple of miles away to the north. Just look at all those stones packed tightly together now set as restraining kerbstones to the main drag through the village. Where did they come from, pray tell?
Head over towards Lower Swell, the other side of Stow-on-the-Wold and you enter a megalithic wonderland. OK, I accept that we're not talking Marlborough Downs, here, but there are a lot of bits hereabouts …a megalith here, a long barrow there…
An acceptable quarry
Bang slap in the middle of Lower Swell village the Whittlestone
lies dead. Were it not for the little brass plaque revealing its neolithic origins you would be forgiven for mistaking it for something the bin men forgot. It's not pretty, but it is big and thick, too, and it's recorded to have been shifted here at some point in the recent past. Dumped, more like. Given its proximity to Lower Swell long barrow, it may well have been part of that.
We took the wrong way out of the village and found ourselves heading towards Cow Common. We passed Swell Wold round barrow an unmistakable large earthen mound in a field on our route towards Upper Swell long barrow.The heavens opened. As we drove up the lane a bunch of tweed-clad, headscarved, green-wellied country folk were parking badly and gathering to look out from their muddy 4X4s with binoculars towards a posse of red-coated bastards riding superb horses in a field to our right. Moth gave way reluctantly as one string of mounted bastards rode excitedly past.
We parked in a lay-by close to Upper Swell long barrow and were soon joined by the aforementioned unmounted country folk who think its fun to follow the hunt. Today, it seems hunt-followers illegally use their mobile phones whilst driving to keep abreast of where the shameful action is. The hunt was coming our way. We could hear the horn, and dogs barking. Two red deer bolted out of the copse into an open field. Rabbits scuttled off. Ignoring these scumbags entirely, we carried on regardless up the edge of the field to our particular quarry: Upper Swell long barrow. As we entered the copse, I saw a fox running along a field edge, thankfully nothing pursued it. Another red deer stag startled and galloped off, just metres in front us.
A coupla swells
Continuing on through the woodland tracks towards Pole's Wood South long barrow, the sound of shotgun got closer, until one seemed to crack right overhead. It wasn't a good day to be a bird or an animal. The chap with the shotgun indicated the way towards to long barrow we hunted. He, however, was zealously taking out wood pigeons.
If you didn't know it was a long barrow, you wouldn't notice it. It's a large unmarked hump, slowly being reclaimed by beech trees, today lying under a thick carpet of leaves, providing fantastic cover for the wildlife now being hunted around us. I thought I could make out the shape of the horns of an entrance way, as at Belas Knap
This is a really big long barrow and not overly trashed. On the edge of woodland, it hasn't suffered under the plough and its shape, height, total length and significance is clear. Punctuated by mature trees along the top, its outline is still relatively smooth and straight. And to my pleasant surprise I found two stones and a bit of rubble making up a little stone cist on the top, small enough to curl up in. What a great long barrow!Lower Swell long barrow, on the other hand, requires more imagination to enjoy.
After four long barrows in a row we needed a big old rock to admire. Thankfully the Horestone(one of many Hoar/Hore/Hawk stones hereabouts) is just down the road.
Apart from its great height, (it's very steep sided) there's not much to see here. It's big and tall at maybe 25 metres long, but there are no outstanding features. Badly overgrown, it's now the domain of badgers. Could the Whittlestone
have once been something to do with this? It's very close.
Standing completely alone at the top of a field, nowhere near the field edge, crouches this rectangular megalith just 3 feet tall and 5ft 7ins wide. You just wouldn't see it at all if the field was in full-crop. Today, planted with low-growing brassicas, I hmm-ed and ahh-ed about whether or not to trapse through the field to see it as there was no clear track. I decided to go for it, being careful to step between the plants. Like everything else round here its of oolitic limestone, pockmarked and weathered. There was something of immense pride about this stone. Definitely worth look-see.Unlike the last site on today's list. Notgrove. Bloody, battered and pathetic like the hound-bitten corpse of a fox.
This is a total disaster. Weep, dear reader, then forget this one and instead see Poles Wood South long barrow which still lives.
Posted by Jane
26th January 2004ce
Edited 28th January 2004ce
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