You know how it is... the lethargy, the call of the 'roll over in bed' too great to harbour any intention of going anywhere this morning? Tell me about it... so it's with some irony that I find myself heading up the M25 shortly after bound for.... Ware. An apparently rather fine bowl barrow within Easneye Wood, to the east of said town, is the objective. Yeah, about an hour's drive to visit a mound of earth, with no guarantee of an audience... there must be easier 'hobbies', surely? No, I think not.
The first pleasant surprise is the quality of the Hertfordshire countryside as I park up opposite Watersplace Farm on the B1004. I guess the clear blue sky, the catalyst for the visit, helps... but nevertheless... nice. The track, heading approx south east through the farm before crossing the River Ash, is wide and well maintained. Entering Easneye Wood it begins to climb, flanked on the right by a very deep drainage ditch. I head off uphill where this terminates, following a wire-mesh enclosure... one assumes there for the (poor) grouse... until a quite splendid bowl barrow emerges through the trees. Now there is some dispute as to the dating of this monument. EH is pretty confident it's Bronze Age in origin, no doubt in no small measure thanks to the cremation deposits mentioned in Rhiannon's post [refer English Heritage, National Monuments Record 638576].... deposits incidentally replaced within the mound following excavation. Hertfordshire HER, however, reckons it 'looks' Roman..... what chance of analysing the cremation using modern methods for a definitive answer. Can a 'contaminated' sample of organic material be of use? Dunno. Whatever, I must admit the round barrow certainly looks 'authentic' enough to me.
The monument's setting, beside a dirt track with piles of logs here and there, is disorder itself, yet curiously aesthetically pleasing to these eyes .... a working wood, albeit one apparently worked for a purpose many of us, myself included, will no doubt find abhorrent. But such is the countryside. More disturbingly, a 'christian college' lies below to the south-west, a place where adults still - even in the 21st Century - succumb to religious dogma unsupported by any evidence whatsoever. Not a problem if they were content to leave the rest of us alone and not invoke the political power trip.... but of course such people can not. But there you are. Many others will clearly disagree, as is their right. Just stay the hell away from me and allow me to believe my own senses.
The northern half of this substantial barrow is overgrown with brambles; however these are absent from the southern, affording a very fine perch from which to take in the vibe of the ancient forest.... the remnants of trees which once crowned the mound are still in evidence, one destroyed by Nature, the other by man. A couple of others 'hang in there', thriving upon the fertile soil. There are also the remains of a magpie, a pile of distinctive feathers all that is visible from the kill of a fox.... or perhaps bird of prey. Periodic sunlight streams through the bare winter canopy - or rather lack of it - and only the sound of headbanging woodpeckers, the odd shotgun, microlight, squirrel... etc... OK, it's not the quietest spot ... breaks the silence. No christian missionaries, however. Thank, er, goodness. Although, in retrospect, an encounter may well have proved 'interesting'. Or maybe not.
Time runs out and I return to the car, noticing 'Private - No Path' signs I (honestly) missed on the way up. Hey ho... note that these are private woods, then. Whatever. But what a great bowl barrow this is.
According to EH's record, this barrow is still 3m high and 20 across. It's near Easneye House, which is now a training college for evangelical missionaries, but which in Victorian times was owned by the Buxton family. The owner and his son opened the barrow in 1899. "Not a solitary piece of pottery, not a fragment of bronze, nor a single worked flint was found" but there were burnt bones and the jaw of a young pig. "The bones and ashes were, after examination, placed in an earthenware jar, with an inscription on a copper plate stating when and by whom the barrow was opened, and what was found in it. The jar with its contents was then placed in the centre of the mound where the bones were discovered, and the earth was replaced in the excavation."
From the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1899-90.