This was another site on my must see list for this trip down to Cornwall. With some judicious Google Earth scrying beforehand, in conjunction with a trusty O.S map, I’d identified the parking spot on the bend mentioned in Carl’s notes.
We approached down a narrow lane off the A30, a signpost warning that the track was unsuitable for HGV’s, and even in our little car it was tight going. Ellen drove as I navigated, somewhat fretful in case she met something coming the other way, as there were few passing places, and reversing on the narrow twisty roads would have taken some doing.
Following the signs towards Carn Euny we reached an even narrower track, this one with a no through road sign at the start of it. Ellen was reticent about taking it, but I encouraged her to take a drive of faith and so we carried on. Within minutes there is a thick band of grass growing up the centre of the road, but we’d come this far so there’s no turning back now! It’s not long though before I recognise the pull-in next to the public footpath sign I’d seen on Google Earth.
Parking up here Ellen decided to wait in the car, worried in case we ended up blocking the way for some huge agricultural machinery, and also being a bit more wary of trespassing than my blasé attitude towards it. I happily hopped over the gate however, and walking up the edge of the currently empty meadow, again followed Carl’s directions into the neighbouring field.
As I entered the field I was taken aback, the burial mound, so perfectly small and round sitting there incongruously in the field, just looked so unreal. Getting up close I could see just how different this chamber seemed from other barrows I’d visited, looking more like a roundhouse than a tomb (perhaps that’s the idea?).
Either way it’s lovely, probably the first chambered tomb I’d describe as cute. The gorsey toupee just adds to its character, and the vegetation growing around it gives the place an organic quality. As I bend down to look into the entrance it’s almost as if the stones of the entranceway are reaching around to give me a hug. Squeezing into the chamber, no slugs are in evidence today, but creeping tendrils of bramble are starting worm their way in, grabbing at my coat, and I really wish I had a pair of secateurs with me just to keep the chamber clear.
As I lean against the side of the mound to write my notes everything seems a bit illusory here, the sky is perfectly blue, the grass low cropped and gently rippling in the breeze, the lonely cawing of crows overhead, and not a sight or sound of the modern world in evidence. It’s like some bucolic idyll, and it feels as if nothing has changed since Borlase was here, if ever a site had a palpable vibe, it’s this one.
Utterly enchanted I forget the time, and feeling a bit mean about abandoning Ellen, I drag myself away, only to find on my return she’d dozed off in the car, so I could have stayed a bit longer I suppose! Anyway I will be back!
With all the abundance of megalithic wonderment crammed into this small part of West Penwith it’s interesting that this little burial chamber seems to have affected me most of all the places I’ve been so far this week, I can’t recommend a visit to this hidden gem highly enough.
What a little cracker this is! Visit, visit, visit!!!
Coming away from Carn Euny, just after you go through Brane farm, the lane takes a sharp left. At this bend there is room to park one car. Next to the public footpath sign is a gate. Go through the gate and follow right hand field hedge down to the bottom of the field. At the bottom right hand corner of the field is another gate - go through gate and turn right. The Grave is approximately 30 metres ahead of you. There is no public access to this site and you should ask for permission at the farm first.
I was camping in Cardinney campsite just two fields away (you can see it over the hedge at the bottom of the campsite)and only 5ft from my tent was a footpath heading right past the chambers field,So I got up early as postmen do and trod the path seldom trod ,boy was it overgrown ,slug's and snail's of many colour's and sizes.there was no footpath sign but it was marked on the O.S map ,then a small jump over the wall and I was there .What a little beauty ,looked to be grown rather than built with a little chamber that one could just squeeze into if you dont mind more slug's than you can count,I dont really have high regard's for farmer's (collectively how much land do they own)so i played a kind of peekaboo with a nearby farmer in his tractor he went one way and i went the other allways keeping the barrow between us, lot's of fun
It's possible (and easy) to gain access via Brane Farm. I was lucky in that someone was around to ask, I had no problem in getting permission, and the cows were safely locked away.
There is a path from the cowshed (obviously used by our bovine friends) down to the gate in the adjoining field, and again to the third field where the chamber lies.
From this direction, the first view is of the rear of the chamber (see photo), which consists of some large stones.
The actual chamber was quite overgrown with weeds and small shrubs on my visit, and I suspect some root damage may occur, as several smaller stones which had obviously come from the chamber were spread about near the entrance.
We couldn't find anyone to ask about entering the field, so we climbed over the wall and walked along the field edges as respectfully as possible, other than when I fell over in the mud! Ha!
What a wonderful little barrow this is, crouching like a hermit crab on the edge of big field. We were expecting it to be overgrown and gorsey, but some kind soul had recently been along with the secateurs.
It still retains a pleasing amount of height and nearly all of its kerbstones.
Was here May 20th, farmers were all too busy to worry about me, so I got as close as I could and took my photo. From where I stood it looked very neat with its hat of bluebells. It is not the easiest thing to find but can be approached from where the road bends to go to the farm.
This place really is tiny! I rather ignorantly decided to consult my copy of The Modern Antiquarian after arriving at the site, and so only realised then that I was actually in danger of being chased off the land, so I hurriedly took a few snaps then beat a retreat. I will do my research more thoroughly in future.
There is an interesting news item about Brane in the Cornwall Archaeological Unit’s Review of 1995-6, which comments that “in 1982 the entrance grave at Brane (SW4014 2818) was described as one of the best preserved chambered tombs in Britain; but by 1989 it had deteriorated to one of the worst cases of erosion in Cornwall. Where the kerbstones retaining the mound were missing, cattle were getting onto the mound, dragging the stones and earth to the ground. With the help of Mike Rosendale of Penwith District Council and the co-operation of the owners, the Wherrys of Brane, a plan to repair the entrance grave was devised. New granite kerbstones were provided to replace the missing ones and the mound was re-formed. Andrew Marment, Marcel Deigan and Morgan Marment carried out the work under the supervision of Mike Rosendale; a watching brief was carried out by Ann Preston-Jones of the CAU”.
If you fancy buying a copy of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit’s Review of 1995-6, called ‘Archaeology Alive No 4’, check out the CAU’s website, which I’ve added on the ‘Links’ page. It is currently being flogged off cheap at £1. No more info on Brane, but a good read in general. The CAU also do lots of other interesting publications, and all in all they seem like real dudes.
This small entrance grave is situated on low lying ground near the hamlet of Brane, to the south of Carn Euny. William Copeland Borlase first recorded this monument in 1863. it is illustrated in his book Naenia Cornubiae. in 1865 it was referred to by J. T. Blight as a conical shapedbarrow with a diameter of 15 feetand a height of 9 feet.