After reading previous entries I visited with low expectations of this site, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s not that bad really.
Upon my arrival late in the evening an older couple were just leaving. They told me they’d been watching a Barn Owl quartering the field nearby - unfortunately it had passed elsewhere time I got to the long barrow, although this shifted my focus back to the site itself. Despite the fact that it is obviously no Belas Knap (from where I had just left), it’s general large shape can be followed, and the imagination can provide some gaps to aid what is seen, or not seen.
Because it feels somewhat ignored and separate from the cars zooming past nearby, I felt able to switch off from that world also, and find some sense of what the barrow feels like within the surrounding landscape. I was happy to spend time here, and found its location welcoming.
We visited this long barrow on 21 August 2011: I can see now why some of the other posts here indicate some disappointment, but despite the fact that the mound had obviously been hacked about a bit, we thought it was rather a lovely place, and its thick coat of grasses and flowers (harebells, scabius, knapweed, little bindweed) was a pleasure in itself. The views are excellent, and it is on the same ridge, more or less, as the Cold Aston long barrow, which we visited as well - they seem somehow to be siblings.
The last time a visited this site it was the middle of summer (pouring down with rain of course) and it was difficult to see the Barrow properly due to the high grass. As I was passing I thought I may as well have another visit now the grass is shorter.
Unfortunately all the short grass was able to do was show up even more than before how much this Barrow has been mangled. Sad to see although at least it is now protected – bit late unfortunately.
Not much to see here, but still worth a quick stop off if you are ever in the area. There is a large layby just a few metres away, next to a field of turnips (I didn't know they had turnip fields anymore!). The road (A436) is a bit of a race track so be a bit careful.
I had seen this site marked in the AA Driver's Atlas of the British Isles, so assumed it would be worth visiting, despite not having heard much about it previously. As the AA only seem to mark important or distinguished sites, it had to be worth a look, especially as I enjoy photgraphing these places.My friend Karen and I decided to visit it as the last site on a trip taking in Tinkinswood Long Barrow, St. Lythans Dolmen, and the Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone.
As we are from Oxfordshire, by the time we were on the return leg from Wales, it was late in the evening, and therefore a race aginst time before the light ran out.Finally arriving with minutes to spare, I leapt out of the car, ran excitedly through the gate, and was confronted by a huge, featureless, and overgrown grassy mound that was virtually swamped by the surrounding vegetation.
Karen spotted a small sign that gave a few details about the barrow, finishing with the fact that it was managed by Gloucestershire County Council, who had thoughtfully backfilled the whole thing in 1979 to prevent vandalism. Hmmm . . . .
Unfortunately, all GCC managed that evening was to provide a deep sense of loss and disappointment. That sort of logic suggests burying Gloucester Cathedral, in order to keep costs down and prevent vandalism.It's a real pity this site hasn't been properly maintained, as clearly, it's very important. Is there a 'Save Notgrove' site at all, much like the successful Stoney Littleton one?
As Ironman says, easy to find, and there's a huge layby less than 100 yards away. Just follow the signpost(s).
The only good thing about this site now is that it's a bit of a haven for wild flowers, being covered in the same specieis that I saw at Hetty Peglers Tump the other week. No idea what they are - I'm crap at botanical identification.
I agree with Treaclechops - let's bury Gloucester Cathedral in case it gets vandalised!
Clearly marked on maps, well signposted and very close to Belas Knap yet completely neglected. It is possible to discern the location of the chamber and a general lay out of the site but Notgrove has been destroyed by it's excavators, with no attempt to put it right.
An account of a visit to the barrow in 1931, post-excavation but pre-recovering:
"There is no mound now, or only the wreckage of one. Its stone chambers, left roofless and open to the sky, prove that it was once a great tomb, planned like a church, with nave and double transepts, placed on a site that belonged as much to the heavens as to the earth. But the stones were meant to remain unseen - we have uncovered them and let the wind swirl in their empty spaces. The tomb looks desolate in decay, yet it still holds something of the serene and simple impressiveness which must always have hung about it. There must be more than earth and stones in a form that, destroyed, can fill the mind with the peacefulness of the eternal and make it seem no greater and no less than the living quiescence which keeps the hills stable and puts the wind which sweeps over them into place as a ripple on the surface of time. ... perhaps they saw as well the symbols of permanence in the untroubled lines of the hills, and when they had set their stone chambers on high, covered them with a long mound contoured like a hill, hoping that the hills would take it into their keeping and preserve it. We have not yet discovered a more certain way to immortality. Their works speak of aspirations as high as ours; their works are also as permanent - if we would but handle them with nature's restraint."
Elsewhere in the chapter:
"[The barrows] hold these hills with time, not against it; they look across the valleys and see no enemy but the man who levels their crouching form, sunders their stones, and, in a few days, leaves them more marked by decay than the wear of four thousand years. The least we could do after opening them - for age does not diminish the sacredness of the tombs - would be to pile up the earth again and restore the forms that nature would soon reclothe with turf and the turf-loving upland flowers. This is not a sentimental plea - it is what we owe to the memory of people from whom we got our love for downland and wold, the people who, unknowingly, left their works to entice us back to the spaciousness of ridgeway and hilltop after too much living in stuffy cities."
From "A Cotswold Book" - H.W. Timperley (1931 Jonathan Cape).
Excavation at Notgrove Long Barrow (from 1935 Archaeology Report)
Excavations were carried out this summer on Notgrove Long Barrow, in the parish of Notgrove, Gloucs, one of the well-known Cotswold group, by Mrs E M Clifford. The barrow stands at 800 feet O.D. and its orientation is roughly east and west.
The chamber is of double cruciform type and differs from the other three chambered barrows in England and Wales which have two pairs of side chambers in having a considerable area expanded as a kind of antechamber immeadiately west of the horned entrance. The chamber is formed with alternating Megalithic slabs (the tallest is six feet five inches above ground) and dry stone walling. The complete plan has been recovered, the sockets of the missing stones being found besides two hitherto unknown orthostats. The centre of the monument is occupied by a dome, which is a circular structure, twenty-three feet in diameter, formed of large stones faced with dry stone walling which was protected or supported by large slabs in which were the bones of a man.
The two revetment walls were traced from the portal around the horns to both sides of the mound and the inner one appeared to have extended the whole length of the barrow, while the outer one was less definite. Its line, however, was marked by a small sharply defined trench cut in the upper surface of a clay bed which everyone was laid outside the inner wall, and which was necessary on the north side to level up the ground. The whole of the material used is of local origin. The dome, the antechamber, and the horned entrance are the new structural features which these excavations have produced, while fragments of Windmill pottery, a bone bead and pieces of bone skewers were found in the chamber. The lower part of a Peterborough bowl with decoration of herring bone incisions and a gouge made out of a tooth were found in the material which blocked the entrance.
Janet & Colin Bord's early gazetteer ("A Guide to Ancient Sites in Britain",1979, Paladin Books) shows a really interesting photo of the site after it had been excavated and left open (i.e. with at least 13 of the chamber stones sticking up proudly, before it was backfilled into the lumpy mess it is today). The book actually calls for the exposed stones to be preserved properly - presumably they had visited the site before it was backfilled in 1976 and didn't know that by the time the book was originally published (in 1978) it had already been covered over, although maybe not in the sensitive way that had hoped for!
The book comments "This Neolithic tomb is a good example of what happens to a megalithic burial chamber which is excavated and left open to the weather. When burial chambers are restored, a certain amount of rebuilding is necessary, and such unnatural materials as concrete are often used. This work can with some justification be criticised by the purist. But if the alternative is a sad picture of dereliction, such as we see at Notgrove, then surely preservation is justified. When the result is a beautiful structure like Belas Knap long barrow not far away, preservation is certainly justified."
English Heritage ecologist cut the grass on the barrow once a year in August because the site cover is 'relict limestone grassland', increasingly rare in the Cotswolds owing to the ecological wasteland of modern agriculture. It certainly is a tiny haven for butterflies and wild flowers, but a pity that one of the few publicly accessible sites in the area appears so overgrown. Information about this at the site would be helpful in appreciating it.
The Notgrove long barrow was built over an existing circular mound which contained a stone cist containing the remains on an old man. The bones of a young woman were placed at the top of the mound.
The long barrow itself was built with a surrounding drystone wall, an ESE alignment and measured approx. 48 metres by 24 metres. A curved forecourt led to a narrow passage way with a terminal chamber and two pairs of side chambers. Inside were found the remains of 6+ adults, 3 children, a newborn baby and a variety of animal bones. More remains and evidence of fires were found within the passage way.