Leaving Kitchen Barrow it’s an easy walk around the rim of the escarpment to the western flank of Tan Hill. The first encounter is with the linear earthwork running just below the top of the slope. Presumably part of the same thinking that constructed a much longer section of bank and ditch on the northwestern side of the hill, it’s pretty well-preserved, with the hillside falling steeply away below it.
A bit of further uphill huff and puff and I’m in the midst of the round barrow group that crowns the western spur of Tan Hill, a promontory separated by a narrower neck from the main bulk of the hill to the east.
Tan Hill is the second highest hill in Wiltshire, only fractionally lower than nearby Milk Hill and part of the same long east-west ridge. As you’d perhaps expect from such a prominent place, looking out across the downs in all directions, the ridge is covered in a timespan of prehistoric sites from the Neolithic long barrows of Kitchen Barrow at the western end and Adam’s Grave at the eastern end, through numerous round barrows and Iron Age earthworks, with Rybury hillfort on a southern spur. There’s a great view westwards, taking in King’s Play Hill and Morgan’s Hill, each topped with further barrows, as well as the unmistakable Cherhill Down and Olbury with its obelisk.
The barrow group includes three bowl barrows, in a NW-SE line, with a much larger disc barrow close to the two northern bowl barrows. All are clearly visible, if rather reduced by ploughing. The bowl barrows (particularly the one at the SE) bear clear excavation damage. They are all covered by sheep-cropped grass, so there’s no seasonal vegetation problem to contend with in a visit.
Although it’s the most damaged, the SE barrow is still pretty impressive and boasts very extensive views. The central barrow is bigger, well over a metre high despite the ravages of time and barrow diggers. The NW barrow is the runt of the litter, clinging to its sloping setting like a barnacle. All have well defined surrounding ditches. The adjoining disc barrow is great too, almost 20m across, including its outer bank. All in all well worth the effort of the walk.
A group of three bowl barrows and a disc barrow, at the western end of Tan Hill. Pastscape brief description:
Group of three Bronze Age bowl barrows and a disc barrow located to the west of Tan Hill, listed by Grinsell as Bishops Cannings 46, 47, 48 and 94 respectively. No. 46, excavated by Thurnam in the mid-19th century, contained a cremation, possibly primary, with shale beads and pendant plus a faience bead. 47 and 48 were both also examined by Thurnam, who found that they had been previously excavated. However, a flint scraper was found in one of them. The disc barrow appears not to have been excavated. All are extant as damaged earthworks.