|Windmill Tump is marked on my road atlas and I got here without an OS map. Since Kammer's visit a smart brown sign has gone up at the gate. It's a small one on a stick like a footpath sign, but it clearly shows the English Heritage symbol and the barrow's name, so if you're looking for it it's enough to make you swerve into the layby.
Well, this is a strange place. It's partly so neat that you wonder what's real - the enclosing drystone wall echoes Stoney Littleton's, but it ends neatly and abruptly every time a tree appears on the margin. On the other hand, the barrow's untidy and rather bumpy and muddley on top - partly the fault of the big beech, ash and oak trees on top, and partly, no doubt, from past excavations.
My favourite bit was the chamber (of which Kammer has taken a photo). It's ever so low and you can see more drystone walling inside. It was spookily thrilling to think of it stuffed with bones. However, it was weird - it was so high up on the mound. I imagined it would be low down like the side chambers at Belas Knap, but no. Weren't bones shuffled about and periodically added to at long barrows? So it couldn't have been just a sealed cist accessed from above? Was it just the end of a once longer passage? I dunno. I do know I kneeled squarely on a nettle when bending down for a look though. But in this position spotted that there are several lovely fossilised cockle-type shells on the rock: a deliberate choice or just local geology?
There's also the two stones at the far end from the gate. I couldn't tell if this was a 'false entrance' like Belas Knap, or another chamber positioned at the back end of the barrow instead (some research required). They were interestingly (naturally) striated and one of them had an excellent pink lichen on its inner face. It was more draughty sat here though, and the noise of the wind in the trees occasionally sounded like voices. As the rain set in it felt like quite a bleak and lonely place. But in sunshine it's probably an ideal picnic spot really.
The barrow is pretty overgrown at the moment - apart from round the chamber and the end pair of stones, which has short turf. There are nettles, brambles, wild strawberry, and pretty but poisonous woody nightshade. There are lots of lovely stripey snail shells in yellow and in pink to look out for, too.
Scrambling over all this I got to the end of the barrow nearest the gate, where it was quite clear and there were lots of flat stones like the ones in the walls. But - hang on a minute - I couldn't believe my eyes. Someone had carefully constructed a cross with them, flat on the ground, about 3 or 4 feet across! It was really carefully done, with the occasional straight edges of the stones deliberately chosen to form the edges of the symbol. It made me really angry - firstly that someone should be moving the stones (even if they had fallen out of a wall, or whatever), but secondly because I instantly presumed the symbol was made by someone trying to christianise this patently unchristian monument. Perhaps they weren't. Perhaps it wasn't even christian in intent. But that's what it looked like and I just set about demolishing their handiwork. Some people have some funny ideas. Not least pretty much illegally interfering with ancient monuments. But also, if that's what it was, trying to confer some kind of christian 'benefit' on people who lived at least 4000 years before christianity was even invented. In comparison with this, the roughly made plaited cornstalk ring I saw left at the entrance was a respectful and undamaging addition to the site.
Pfah. Anyway it was raining in big sheets now sweeping across the field and I had to leave. When I arrived I thought it was a strange location - there's no view at all. But on leaving it occurred to me that maybe that's the point - the barrow totally dominates the area which it is in, a constant reminder of the ancestors of the local inhabitants.
Posted by Rhiannon
13th August 2006ce
Edited 13th August 2006ce