After knackering myself carrying Dafydd up Knap Hill in the strong winds, I left him with Karen in the car as I walked up to Adam's Grave alone. Although it looks quite far I reached the top in only 15 minutes. Access is easy via a path through the fields opposite the car park. I was surprised by how large and clear the ditch/bank around the long barrow was. I can't think of any other site I have been to which has anything anywhere near as large as this? This must have been a very special site in the distant past. The wind on top of Adam's Grave was even stronger than nearby Knap Hill and I took refuge in one of the ditches near the top. It was surprising how much shelter could be had and I happily spent a few minutes lying on my back watching the clouds fly by. I had the whole hill to myself and there were good views to be had in all directions. I had been meaning to visit this place for a number of years – now I have achieved that little ambition. It goes without saying that this is well worth a visit.
A walking day out with some friends (21.2.2010), initially under an overcast sky, then sunshine. The photos on TMA hadn't quite prepared me for the size of this thing - woah! Although ruined, this is a giant of a long barrow. I was immediately in prehistory heaven as soon as I saw the round barrows dotted next to the carpark and on the approach to the long barrow (I think my friends thought I had gone mad) and from there on in it just got better. Knap Hill is a dominant presence so close to barrow (and presumably pre-dates it, but I don't really know).
We climbed up to the barrow in a stiff, freezing cold wind, which didn't encourage much lingering. A walk down to Alton Barnes, passing the fallen sarsen (another worried look from my friends - he's taking pictures of a big stone?) and briefly onto the Ridgeway. The barrow remains visible along the Avon and Kennet canal, through Stanton St Bernard and around the western side of Milk Hill, where it disappears from view. Coming back round from the north, with Knap Hill in the centre of the view, the barrow re-appears on its hilltop, a terrific monument to the ancient builders, a waymarker for any passing gods. My infrequest visits to Wiltshire always leave me a little overawed and this was no exception.
Big Wiltshire skies, cloud shadows chasing across the downs, creating a patchwork quilt over the already patchwork quilt of the farmland, wide-open spaces, pre-history peppered across the rolling landscape, a landscape of curvy, female-like form, and views over golden fields. There's the odd crop circle too.
I first visited Adam's Grave a few years ago, and was struck by the prominent position it occupies, visible from miles around. Knap Hill sits handily away to the east, and it's good to feel the wind through my scalp. This is a special place, a place of great atmosphere, and a place where I feel great inner peace. Whoever was placed to rest her for eternity was truly blessed. I wish I could meet the people who built this barrow, for they truly felt something, something intangible to us today.
Sit up there on the right sort of day, and dream of the distant people, for whom a great, unknown driving force set them to work on this tomb.
If you are in a car, and heading up this way, it's not as bad a climb as it looks from the road. We managed to get the three-wheeler buggy up there, but had to lift it over a couple of stiles.
The mound and the view are as amazing as is related below, as is the whopping great sense of place, though I think the mound is an essential part of this. I found it to have a sentinel-like air to it. As if it were monitoring those who pass from the Vale of Pewsy, whilst keeping an eye on Salisbury Plain. It felt to me like there should have been biiiig music. If you plan to spend time here, take some sounds, maybe something soaring...
Ahem. 'Nuff blurble. The thing that really got me about this place is the little earthworks at the sides, and the (presumably quarried) bit to the NE. Perfectly ambiguous, what are they for? Ae they contemporary with the mound? Have they anything to do with the mostly dissappeared stones of the facade? Speaking of which, have a root about and they can still be seen. They looked a bit like limestone, possibly brought a distance, making the place even more special.
On the peak of Adam's Grave, I felt very close to flight. It felt natural to spread my arms and stand, effortlessly, on tip-toe. Military and commercial heicopters buzzed past continuously, yet could not compete with the power emanating from this place. All the people I met here were open in gaze and word, and every meeting felt especially important. I encountered warmth, contentment, generosity, wisdom, insight, wonder and a curious crop circle which I can best describe as a Chakra Bee!
The system of earthworks which surround the barrow are worth exploring, and the scattered, burrow excavations give a tantalising glimpse of what lies beneath. A lady told me that there is an unexcavated chamber inside. Let it remain so.
It feels like it's on the edge; crouching, clinging like an animal to the very crest of the hill, on a threshold between the known world of the Marlborough Downs and beyond, between land and sky, between the earth here and now and the heavens. And what a view! Leaning heavily into the wind, I watched the low winter sunlight fade fast producing weak yet dramatic shadows on the very sexy figure of Knap Hill just opposite.
I never expected this long barrow to be so dramatic and frankly so bloody big. I never expected to see a bank and ditch running round it, today providing welcome relief from the howlin' wind. I never expected to like a place so much in such foul conditions.
Arriving at the car park between Knap Hill and Adam's Grave we found ourselves with company. Today it seemed everybody had decided to visit Adam's Grave! I can't say I was surprised - after a torrential downpour the night before the weather had taken a turn for the better, and we found ourselves walking in glorious sunshine.
The view from Adam's Grave is outstanding. We sat and contemplated for a good long while, people coming and going all the while. When we finally decided to leave I realised I hadn't actually taken any photographs, I'd been so taken in by the place I'd just forgotten to. I soon amended this, before making our way to Wansdyke.
I've been waiting so long to get out here. I felt desperate to get a huge dose of air and view and space (you must surely know what I mean especially in these horrible dark wet days) and we were going whether it poured with rain or not. Which in the event it did, of course. As we were driving along the bottom of the Pewsey Downs there was a fantastic bright rainbow reaching down to it, and then we rounded the corner and saw the white horse. It's quite new (1930s), a replacement for an older one that was close by. It's a funny looking animal, could be anything with four legs really - maybe the maker wanted to be a bit ambiguous?
We drove onto the downs and I was horrified to see that the little car park was full of cars - what could all these people be doing out on such a dingy afternoon? and I really didn't want to share the place with them. But when we started walking we didn't see anyone. I guess there's room for a lot of people up here.
Climbing up towards Adam's Grave you are suddenly surprised by the view stretching out in front of you, it suddenly appears all at once. It was quite misty but we could see for miles. You seem to be on the edge of a huge shallow basin - the lip seems to go all around the horizon. I could pick out where the Westbury white horse is (by the thoughtfully positioned cement works chimney plume) and realised that I'd glimpsed the Pewsey horse from the hill fort there. It starts you realising how the landscape fits together, and how different groups of people lived in proximity to one another. We climbed up onto the longbarrow and stared out at the dark clouds relentlessly coming towards us. Then it started pouring with rain. You feel on top of everything - I would have felt very exposed in a thunderstorm. We stood there in the rain a little while but even with umbrellas it was very cold so we reluctantly trudged through the mud back to the car.
The other half had been in a terrible mood with nicotine withdrawal, but admitted he felt a bit better. Anyone would feel relaxed visiting this fantastic place. I felt a weight off my shoulders. I just have to have peace and quiet sometimes - this place is peaceful. I would love to come back in the sun and stay a long while but will it be full of children and picnics?
It should be even more fantastic in the summer because the Pewsey Downs are a nationally important nature reserve - the rare chalk grassland has been grazed for countless generations and is full of rare plant species, and the butterflies they attract.
The three-mile walk from the Sanctuary to Adam's Grave is an essential thing for anyone wanting to get a handle on the geography of the Avebury landscape.
The Ridgeway - although all the books give it as ending at the Sanctuary - goes south past Overton Hill and carries on south, coming out of the magical rolling chalk hills between the 2 MA sites of Knap Hill and Adam's Grave into the Vale of Pewsey, seeming to end at the foot of Woodborough Hill.
As you come into the village of East Kennett, the tree covered long barrow on the hill looms large and forboding. It had always seemed such a speck when seen from West Kennett, but from the east and south it shows itself as the big monstrous mother it really is.
Passing the site of the destroyed Little Avebury stone circle on Cow Down, you come up the hill to the Wansdyke, and out to a spectacular view of Adam's Grave and Knap Hill. on the horizon in front.
The climb is tough but short, and the view from the top is incredible. Up here is another one of those places that makes you glad you brought the tombstone-esque bulk of the Modern Antiquarian, for only when here can the true accuracy of Julian Cope's poetic writing really come clear. You do glimpse forever.
The plain in front drops away, and it's one of those places like the top of Glastonbury Tor where you feel like you are looking at the whole world.
Such a magnificent place compels you to stay for hours.
The view stays wonderful if you walk the hilltop path to the west, along to Tan Hill, a site of Lammas celebrations in sight of Silbury from time immemorial until 1932.
The edge of the Avebury landscape up here, and somehow also the heart of everything.
Adam's Grave, once called Wodnesbeorg (Woden's Barrow) is a Neolithic tomb dominating Walker's Hill above the Vale of Pewsey. Nearby are East Wansdyke and the Ridgeway, and two battles have been fought here that we know of. And yet, this place which must have been an ancient M1 is so very quiet today. Time heals all.
I visited during a scorching hot day, and enjoyed the views all around until I thought I would burst..
The first time we visited it was very foggy and visbility became worse as we climbed. We could only see about 10 feet infront so we could make no realionships or actualy know where we were. We reached Adams Grave without knowing and rested for a while. In the fog I explored and walked from the stone at the front , I circled the mound and lost all my bearings. When I called to Lee that I had found another stone he told me I had gone full circle and I couldn't see how , it was very eery and time seemed to stand still. This was a very intemate experience, just us and the grave, we could see nothing else due to the fog. We wanted to walk on further but we became worried we may get lost so decided to call it aday. The next time was so amazing , it was wonderfull to see the mound as a whole in it's setting and and wow at the fantastic view that was hidden on our vist .
You can't go here without feeling the urge to walk every hill and down within site (and there are lots). A beautiful and quietly awsome place.
Julian's description of this site in the Modern Antiquarian intrigued me so while I was in the area over the Summer Solstice, I made a point to visit. This place has one of the most incredible views ever. Some people might not even realise that it is a long barrow, but that is not the point with this place. This is a place of position, and to make the climb and get to the top is a wonderful experience. Once you are there, it a place to stay for hours which is exactly what I did. I was by myself, family and friends staying back at Avebury and enjoying the Solstice atmosphere, and for the three hours I was there no one else came. A truly magical experience. Unfortunately, you can't walk from Avebury (unless you have all day). I cycled, and it was challenging (lots of hills and stupid drivers not giving me enough space) but it was still worth it. It felt great not arriving by car.
Kathleen Wiltshire, in her 'Ghosts and Legends of the Wiltshire Countryside' recounts the following tale, collected firsthand from the person who experienced it.
"Miss Muriel Cobern had an experience on Walker's Hill in the summer of 1965 or 66. She was walking back from the barrow above the White Horse, towards the lay-by at the top of the hill, where she had left the car. About fifty yards from the barrow she suddenly felt very uneasy, and glanced around; it was very cloudy and rather cold, and no one else was about. A flock of sheep through which she was passing seemed untroubled, so she went on. Suddenly she could distinctly hear horses' hooves thudding, as if a whole army was coming at full gallop; but there was not a horse to be seen anywhere. Miss Cobern, walking much faster she admits, passed Adams Grave, and could hear the hooves no longer."
In the 19th century, the stone at the end of the barrow was known as 'Little Eve', the barrow being called 'Old Adam'. Either way, like the older way of calling the place Woden's (Odin's) Barrow, it suggests that it has been there as long as time itself.
(reported by Grinsell, Folklore of Prehistoric sites)
Two battles are recorded as having been fought at Wodnesbeorh (Woden's barrow) probably the long barrow now called Adam's Grave (see SU 16 SW 24). The first battle in AD 592 ended in a defeat of Ceawlin, the second in AD 715 was fought between Ine and Ceolred
The site of the Battle of Woden's Barrow, which is also known as the Battle of Wodnesbeorh and the Battle of Adam's Grave, is located in Alton in Wiltshire. The battle was fought in 592 AD between the West Saxon Ceawlin and a British force. Ceawlin was defeated. Burne sites this battle-field as being at New Town, where the Ridgeway meets the modern Marlborough road. SU1163
This was probably fought near the long barrow called Woden's Barrow (SU 16 SW 24) at New Town where the Ridgeway meets the modern Marlborough Road. This battle was fought between Ine, King of Wessex and Ceolred, King of Mercia.
The site of the Battle of Woden's Barrow, which is also known as the Battle of Adam's Grave, the Battle of Alton Priors and the Battle of Wodnesbeorh, is located in Alton in Wiltshire. The battle was fought in 715 AD between King Ine of Wessex and King Ceolred of Mercia. The battle was fought on the same site as the earlier battle of 592 AD.
The National Grid Reference for the site of the battle is: SU1163
Neolithic long barrow, identified with the "Wodnesborge" of a charter of 825 AD. Listed by Grinsell as Alton 14. The mound was excavated by Thurnam in 1860. He found traces of primary interments plus a leaf arrowhead. The barrow mound survives as an earthwork 65 metres long and 28 metres wide at its south eastern end, narrowing to 16 metres at its north western end. It stands up to 6.5 metres high, and is flanked by side ditches up to 1.5 metres deep. A later mound has been constructed over the southern end of each of the side ditches. Both are suggested to be pillow mounds. A square enclosure, with sides 18 metres long, partly overlies the south east end of the barrow.