To the southeast, the route drops gently towards the upper end of a valley. On the other side is a dense conifer forest that wouldn’t be out of place above the South Wales valleys. Somewhere over there the OS map shows a pair of cairns, which I’m intending to call in on before climbing onto the main Mendips ridge. The first thing that stands out is a large area of felling – the cairns are somewhere in it, which will either make them easy to find or impossible.
Luckily there’s not a huge amount of height loss to cross the valley at its head. Bridleways head off in several directions – to get to the first cairn I take the one heading west then a fork to the southwest, which slopes gently uphill into the felled area. The map shows the cairn at a bend in the track, right in the heart of the felling. I could be back in the Welsh forests here. Forestry clearance is a messy business, often leaving deeps ruts from the machinery and then a burst of vegetation as the tree covers disappears. This is no exception. I find the cairn right by the track, hidden at first glance by the high verges pushed up by logging vehicles. It’s in a sorry state, the edge has been damaged by the felling operation and it’s covered in a tangle of brambles and bracken. The only redeeming feature is a single silver birch, left to grow on the western side of the mound.
Once over the pitiful state of the immediate surroundings though, the location can be appreciated. The cairn looks down the steep-sided valley between Dolebury Warren to the north and the high Mendips ridge to the south. As with many of the upland cairns of South Wales, there seems to be a definite relationship between watercourses and the placing of these Bronze Age funerary monuments.
I head back the way I’ve come to the junction of paths. The second cairn is also in a felled area, this time a narrow triangle of land between tracks. The OS map shows it as right next to a bridleway heading onto Black Down. Unfortunately the felling here has left behind a deep tangle of bracken and water-filled ruts and ridges. I head uphill, but the track seems to follow a slightly different route to the map and after a while of fruitless prodding about in the bracken and tree stumps I reluctantly abandon the search. I’m sure it’s still here somewhere, but I won’t be the one to find it this time.
Two cairns, now in (felled) forestry. Info from Pastscape:
Shipham 3/T8 (ST 46125844)
A round cairn excavated circa 1924. 37 feet in diameter and on average 2 feet high, a very small quantity of calcined human bone was found on the original ground surface beneath the mound,which was restored after excavation. The cairn is listed by Grinsell as Shipham 3, and by the UBSS as cairn T8. Circa 1960, a leaf-shaped flint arrowhead was found amongst road-spoil adjacent to the cairn. It seems unlikely to be associated.
Shipham 4/T7 (ST 46655843)
T.7: Tumulus 35' dia. x 1' high. Excavated 1923. Cremation found in inverted enlarged food vessel, Abercromby type 7, with pygmy cup nearby: the whole encircled by vertical slabs and covered by an internal cairn.