This was perhaps my most surreal visit to a prehistoric site ever!
Picture the scene:
A race course with a golf course in the middle of it and 4 prehistoric burial mounds amid the golf course. Not only that but a surprisingly bust B4635 road running through the middle of the lot of it!
We turned onto the B4635 and drove towards the race course – only to discover that a race meeting was on! Still, the road looked clear so we slowly headed north and just the other side of the railway line, in a field on the right; I spotted the first Barrow – now no more than a small lump. Had I not been looking for it I would have driven past none the wiser?
We were now in the middle of the race course / golf course and I spotted Barrow number two – just to the right of the road. Little more than a low mound – again easy to drive straight past.
Barrow number three was much most impressive and easy to spot. Again to the right of the road and a tree growing out of the top of it. There was room to park on the golf course 'rough' to get a closer look.
Finally, we took the minor road to the North West to seek out Barrow number 4. At first I couldn't see it amongst the trees but then there it was – it's HUGE! Silhouetted on the horizon surrounded by trees.
I was going to have a closer look but then the fun started. Barriers were placed across the road, thick mats unrolled across the road and all traffic coming to a halt. The next thing I knew a horse race was about to start! There in front of me was about 20 jockeys on their steeds waiting for the starter orders. Soon enough, the race started and myself, Karen and Dafydd had a guess as to which horse was going to win. Luckily none of us 'backed' horse 7 who came hopelessly last (although he did better than the jockey who fell off after about 20 yards!!)
So there we were; stood next to a Bronze Age Barrow, in a golf course, watching a horse race from inside the track. As I said – all very surreal!!!
If you do plan a visit I suggest you pick a 'non-race' day. All four Barrows are easy to spot and 3 of them easy to access. Oh by the way, better keep an eye out for stray golf balls!
Visited on a beautiful spring day (5.3.2010). The barrows are a short walk from Ludlow town, although the direct route goes along the extremely busy A49(T). Approaching from this direction, over a little railway bridge, the first (and largest in diameter) of the barrows is in the first field on the right hand side - it's not marked as a barrow on the OS 1:25000 map. It has been ploughed right down and there is not much to see of it, not helped by a huge pile of manure placed right across it when I visited.
The next barrow, much more impressive, lies at the end of a fairway on the golf course, so time your wanderings to avoid getting hit by stray golf balls! The barrow is prominent, made more so by a tree planted on the top. It bears the scars of earlier excavation, but is still a pretty impressive monument. The OS map then shows two smaller "tumuli" to the NW, straddling the racecourse (not mentioned in my misc post below). One of these is apparent as a reasonable sized grassy mound, but the other is lost amongst the various bits of golf course landscaping and I couldn't make out where it was.
From here, a side road heads off towards the club house. The last and most impressive, of the barrows lies on the NW edge of the golf course. This is a very large mound (c. 4m high) covered in trees and vegetation. A footpath runs very close by.
All in all, although spoiled somewhat (as most things are) by the proximity of the golf course, these barrows are well worth a visit. I recommend a walk back to Ludlow via Bromfield and Oakly Park/Priors Halton, topped off with some great views of Ludlow Castle.
At the extremity of the roof of the north transept of Ludlow church is placed an iron arrow. According to a popular legend still repeated, Robin Hood stood on the larger mound or low at the Old Field, and aimed this arrow at the weathercock of the church, but, falling a few yards short of its intended destination, it has ever since remained in the place where it fixed itself.
The arrow simply indicates that this was the Fletcher's chancel; but the legend, made to explain its position, after the use of arrows was laid aside and forgotten, was probably engrafted on the tradition of a former legend which connected the low in the Old Field with the larger low which formerly occupied the site of the present church*; the one was visible from the other.
In Beowulf the treasures of ancient days which the dragon guarded, are represented as lying in a chamber or cave underneath the low. An old historian of the fourteenth century, Thomas of Walsingham, has preserved in his chronicle a curious legend relating to the village of Bromfield, near Ludlow.
In the year 1344, he says, a certain Saracen physician came to Earl Warren to ask permission to kill a serpent or dragon, which had its den at Bromfield, and was committing great ravages in the Earl's lands on the borders of Wales. The Earl consented, and the dragon was overcome by the incantations of the Arab; but certain words which he had dropped led to the belief that large treasure lay hid in the dragon's den. Some men of Herefordshire, hearing of this, went by night, at the instigation of a Lombard named Peter Picard, to dig for the gold; and they had just reached it, when the retainers of the Earl of Warren, having discovered what was going on, fell suddenly upon them, and threw them into prison. The treasure, which the Earl took possession of, is said by Walsingham to have been great. It is very probable that this treasure was a deposit of Roman coins, &c. found in the neighbourhood of the Old Field; and one of the barrows or lows there may have been the reputed dragon's home.
-stop press, folklore confusion shocker- Ms Burne says it's the wrong place. Though it's probably better to leave this here as I bet it's repeated in countless books. And anyway, who knows.
The story of the Dragon of Bromfield .. does not refer to Bromfield in Shropshire at all, as Mr Wright supposed, but to Bromfield in Denbighshire, formerly in the Marches of Wales, which came into the hands of John Earl Warren in the 13th century; whereas Bromfield belonged to the canons of Bromfield, and after them to the monks of Bromfield Priory, from (at least) the time of the Confessor onwards.
Originally there were about 20 barrows in the area between the Onny, Teme and Corve rivers. Now three remain as visible monuments:
Robin Hood's Butt (not to be confused with another site of the same name in south Shropshire) at SO489778 stands on the edge of Ludlow golf course. It measures 28m in diameter and is still over 4m high. It was excavated in 1884 and the cremated remains of a boy and a bronze implement were found. A tree stands on the barrow.
To the SE along the B4365 is a second barrow at SO496773. It is in the middle of the golf course (and near the racecourse). It also has a tree on top of it. An oval stone lined cist was found at the base of the mound, with a secondary cremation urn near the top of the mound.
The third barrow is at SO497770. The largest of the three (about 70m diameter) it has been ploughed down but still stands over a metre high. It has not been excavated.
Until the late 19th century, the barrows were considered to be Roman. Thomas Wright in "A History of Ludlow and its Neighbourhood" (1852) conjectured:
"I am strongly inclined to believe that the present racecourse (adjacent to Bromfield), which bears the name of the Old-Field, and around which there are several tumuli, was the site of a Roman settlement of some kind; and if the tumuli were opened their contents would probably be found to be pure Roman."
To be fair, Mr Wright was pretty close - a Roman camp was found a couple of hundred yards to the west (just north of Bromfield itself at SO483775).