I drove along the well maintained minor road north of the village of Shurton (Not signposted Hinkley Point power station - merely: Dead End)
Fortunately the first security barrier was open with no guard on duty. This allowed me to (somewhat nervously) drive through and the Barrow could be easily seen on the right of the road – behind the high security fencing).
I continued to drive forward to look for somewhere to turn around and saw a second barrier which was manned. Luckily there was a place to turn around and I drove slowly back out of the power station.
As I say, the Barrow is easy enough to see and looked to be about 2 metres high and 20 metres across. Two small trees were growing out of its side. Not a place to hang around too long.
A nuclear power station next to a Bronze Age Barrow – how is that for a clash of cultures!
[visted 08/07/07] Another failed site, this time through not wanting to turn up unanounced at a Nuclear Power Station and asking to see their barrow. I did get to the gates and could see the barrow just inside the gates in a fenced off tree covered enclosure, but it was the other side of some (open) security gates and a large barbed wire fence. Call me overly cautious but in the current climate I figured discretion really was the better part of valour. There is a number for them on the British Energy website so I might give them a ring next time I'm heading that way.
Access is after sundown wearing ninja suits and night goggles.
More from 'Local Traditions of the Quantocks' by C. W. Whistler
(in Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Mar. 30, 1908), pp. 31-51.), which I seem to have overlooked. Must have been the Pixy Effect.
The Pixy legends of the district are of no unusual type. Belief in "Pixy leading" is general, and only a few years since a woman, lost in a sudden evening mist within a few minutes walk across the fields from her house, and unable to regain the pathway or find the stile, became actually demented from terror, firmly believing that she was "Pixy led." The legends have one special centre round a large mound on the Wick "moor", exploration of which has this year yielded some very remarkable results. The mound is about ninety feet across by eleven feet high, mainly composed of stones, and it was said to move bodily about the field in whose centre it stands.
Barrows moving about? How very unusual. But I do refer you to Grinsell's cautious remarks below.
Grinsell mentions the story of the broken peel (see below) in his 'Archaeology of Exmoor' (1970). He says that similar stories have been recorded in England - at Beedon Barrow for example, but that it has 'a Scandinavian flavour'. "Miss R.L. Tongue has mentioned another Scandinavian motif (the theft of a gold cup from the fairies) from the Quantock Hills, although apparently not connected with any barrow."
One final point needs to be added. The Wick Barrow tradition seems to have been first recorded for that site by Rev C. W. Whistler, Rector of Stockland Bristol from 1895 to 1909; he was also an energetic member of the Viking Society of Great Britain and Ireland, for which he was secretary for the Bridgwater area. Because of this the present writer just wonders how vivid his imagination was.
He thought Miss Tongue was quite imaginative too, I believe.
Oh how I would have loved to meet Mr Grinsell. He collects all this folklore but he is such a cynic. I'd like to think we would have got on well.
Hinckley Point [sic], on the Severn Coast, where an Atomic Power Station has been built within the last few years, was considered for centuries to be fairy-haunted land. The neighbourhood is full of pixy tales and beliefs, and the Quantock people are quite outspoken in their expectation of disaster for the intruding Power Station. It has had, and is still having, a more than reasonable number of setbacks. There have been some bad accidents which are freely ascribed in the countryside to its being built where it is. Usually, West Somerset people will not discuss their still-remembered fairy-beliefs, but in this case their speech is suggestive and indicates a full knowledge of the tradition.
[..]The elderly, and not so elderly, find a ghoulish pleasure in recounting the accidents and dangers attendant on its building. One or two grim watchers have tallied up deaths and near-deaths at one a year since the beginning of the desecration. Of these they say, 'Ah! they won't stop till there's seven.' Are these victims to placate the River Severn or the vengeful pixy-people? An answer to modern boasting abou the triumphs of science is: 'You and I won't be here come a hundred years time. But They'll have 'en! Hundred years be nothing to They. They can bide.'
Watching Folklore Grow
R. L. Tongue
Folklore, Vol. 75, No. 2. (Summer, 1964), pp. 110-112.
More local stories about the Pixies' Mound, from Berta Lawrence's 1973 'Somerset Legends'.
The hill was excavated in 1907 but local workmen were not keen to help. Some of those that did lend a hand experienced bad luck or illness - just as many people had predicted - and their wives persuaded them not to return to the work. After dark strange pixy music had been heard, and a circular wall of stones was discovered inside the mound - surely proof of the pixies' house?
When work was interrupted, some people said King Edward VII himself had stopped it because the excavation was so unlucky. The digging turned up 'a stone sword as long as a man's arm' and 'a wonderful bronze flagon' (somewhat exaggerated descriptions of the flint knife and pottery beaker that were found). A crouched skeleton was removed to Taunton museum. Was it Hubba himself (see the folklore at nearby Cynwit Castle)?
Yet another piece of folklore attached to the site - this one to be found in R Evans' 'Somerset stories of the supernatural' (2001) (and noted in Bord's 'Fairy Sites' book).
Once it was considered unlucky to traverse the mound. A local man who was protesting against the building of the nuclear power station said that it would be built 'over his dead body'. Out riding in the area (and apparently unaware of its reputation) he rode over the mound. Later he was killed in a fall from his horse. And of course, the power station was inevitably built.
This story seems to hang together so poorly (why would the fairies want to bring him bad luck when he was trying to save the tone of the neighbourhood?) that can one only assume it's actually based on Real Happenings, the story being concocted around them to make sense of two unpleasant events?
Whilst reading 'The Holy Wells of Somerset' (D E Horne 1923), I spotted one called 'St Sativola's Well' or St Sidwell, close to the barrow.
The field in which the barrow lies is Barrow Sidwells - a never failing spring is to be found within a stone's throw westward of the tumulus. 'Within living memory Stoke Courcy women used to bring their children to this well to be washed, if suffering fom any ailment of skin or eyes, and this healing reputation is still well known, even if the water is less sought after.'
Saint Sidwell was martyred near Exeter in the 6th century. Apparently she'd come into some inherited land, and her evil stepmother wanted it. The latter bribed two harvesters to bump the poor girl off. As Ms-soon-to-be-St Sidwell knelt in prayer in the field, they sneaked up and decapitated her with a scythe. Where her head fell, a spring instantly sprung up. You can see her in Exeter Cathedral's east window. (story in Reader's Digest 'Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain).
Reading the fortean times website, I came across a post by 'Marion':
In the very early seventies I lived in the village of Stogursey , about two miles from the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor , I was only five but I still remember the absolute certaintly of the villagers young and old alike that the station had been built on a 'fairy's house' and the fairies were still well pi**ed with the whole affair ! Several people had died during the building of the reactor - proof that the villagers were right ! There was a serious accident one night when a turbine shaft sheared off and went through a twelve foot ( or whatever ) thick wall , this was because a protective statue of a fairy had been moved or removed ! This statue was also said to move on it's own and no one wanted to work on site at night . There was also an impression that more went on but people wouldn't talk about it . And everyone was deadly serious about it too , it wasn't a joke to them .
Delightfully located just outside Hinkley Point nuclear power station, Wick Barrow is also known as 'Pixies' Mound'. I noticed on the HP website that they intend to Enhance the Appearance of Pixies Mound. Goodness knows what this means, hopefully they will just mow it now and again.
In this mound the pixies were said to live, and an old barn close at hand is the last place where they were seen by "Mr. Rawlin's uncle." He heard the sound of threshing, and crept up to the barn to see who was making free with his corn. As he came near he heard voice.
"How i do tweat," said one.
"So thee do tweat, do 'ee?" answered another, "well then, I do tweat and double tweat, looky zee!"
Mr. Rawlins's uncle looked over the half-door, and there were the pixies with their red caps.
"Well done, my little vellows!" he cried, and at that they fled, and have been seen no more.
The story is not unusual, of course, and occurs in connection with other old barns and relatives of other living men elsewhere in the district.
Another less common legend, but one which is found elsewhere in England and Scandinavia alike, is that of a ploughman who was at work in one of the Sidwell fields. As he worked he heard what he took to be a child crying, and lamenting that it had "broken its peel," round the barrow. The "peel" is the long wooden shovel with which the bread is put into the old brick-ovens, but the man went to see if he could find the child, whom he supposed must have wandered from home. He could see no one, but on the side of the mound was the broken peel, which he mended with string, being good natured, and supposing that the child could not be far away. When he left work in the evening he went to see if the peel had been recovered. It was gone, but in its place was a cake hot from the oven of the grateful pixy.
There is no treasure-legend attached to the mound [..] It was said that "beautiful music comes from it of a night," and [..] "that a Dane was buried there." But the most persistent statement concerning the mound was that "if it were digged down by day, it would be put back that night."
Local Traditions of the Quantocks
C. W. Whistler
Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Mar. 30, 1908), pp. 31-51.
Presumably he ate the cake thinking it was a present for him- but what if it was just out cooling?! And note that usually you should refuse fairy food - but generally it's ok if it's a gift for you (under which circumstances it could be dangerously rude to refuse).
(edited to provide earlier versions of the stories).
(Disclaimer: this does include the 'R' word, but is in the interests of understanding later views of the barrow.)
The Somerset historic environment record says that the mound lay for a time within a Roman settlement. Roman pottery and a coin were found inside in a 1907 excavation (so the Romans could have dug into it - though the articles might have fallen in from yet another digging episode). The barrow contained the remains of many people - a mixture of bones in the centre (said to be Neolithic) and a number of secondary inhumations with beakers and a flint knife. The mound itself was built mainly of large stones (up to 2.5ft long), with a circular drystone enclosure at the centre.
It kind of raises thoughts about why they chose to settle right next to the barrow. Local 'Romanised' families keeping on the good side of local ancestors? Handy for a spring? Didn't even notice it? I don't know. But lots of people have used handy barrows as asource of stone - these people apparently didn't.