Draycott Hill - Barrow Cemetery - May 14th 2008
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 157 - Scale 1:25000
Marlborough and Savernake Forest Avebury and Devizes
A fine group of barrows over looking the hamlet of Huish. Not easily accessible. A single track road runs up from Manor Farm and the church of Huish. I'm told that this area is owned by the Rothschild's and is fiercely protected. My visit was via the bridleway from West Woods which seemed like an ancient path, very flat with small half buried sarsen stones, appearing to be placed along its route. The path opened out beside what looked like a dried up, tree lined pond. (SU 14243 64535)
At this point several bridleways and footpaths go off in different directions. If you came up the track from Huish in a car, this would be as far as you could drive. The path leading east, up the hill, passes some medieval earthworks.
The easiest path to the barrows at this point, is the northern bridleway which skirts the edge of Gopher wood. I choose to travel along the muddy path which goes through the middle of the wood. It was cool in the hot afternoon sun and the bluebells looked very pretty. The whole wood seemed magical and was populated with Sessile Oaks, ash and service trees. The majority of trees seemed to be 100 or so years old. I have not encountered another wood like this along the Pewsey Vale. Most trees are beech arranged in clumps, but this wood seemed unmanaged and natural. It was obviously a favourite with the horse riders of the area.
Reaching the gate at the end of the wood, a "access land" sign proclaims you have reached the strip of land that runs along the top of the ridge, designated access land under the Countryside and Rights of way act 2000. See www.countrysideaccess.go.uk for all the details of these rights. This designation continues from here, past Golden Ball hill and onto Knapp Hill. A bridleway runs along the top of the ridge, so gates are available to get a bike through.
The barrows lie just over the crest of the hill. I got the impression that the large disc barrow (SU16SW608) was the original resident, and the others were constructed soon afterwards. The disc barrow probably filled the tip of the spur and its ditch would had originally followed the 240m contour exactly. The later bowl barrows all seem to fight for space. They were probably constructed by the same tribe or group over several generations. I would guess that following the disc barrow, the most northern bowl was built (604), and then slightly east (607). The smaller bowl barrows of 609 and 605 were then
constructed and cut into the ditches of the existing barrows. The remaining three barrows which merge to form the elongated 606, where the final additions before the whole of the spur was filled up. Each barrow merges with its predecessor as if to reinforce the continuity of the separate generations. Whether this was due to religious belief or a visual symbol of the tribes ancestral right to the land is unknown, maybe it was a bit of both. The different type of barrows may indicate different cultures or tribes where colonizing the same area over different time periods. Golden ball hill next to Draycott hill, had evidence of Mesolithic activity which would had been thousands of years before any barrows, disc, bowl or even long, where used.
A very beautiful area with more than a hint of mystery about it. The wood itself is well worth a visit just for the oak trees. As I travel by bicycle, I usually go in only one direction. If you travel here by car, consider parking at the Knap hill car park (SU 11588 63758) and making the effort to walk out to this hill. Once past the climb behind Knap hill, the ridge is flat and level making walking easy. Many TMA sites can be seen from up here and different perspectives gained on a truly spectacular landscape.
Posted by Chance
19th May 2008ce