Visited Knap hill for the first time today and what a lovely spot it is. I felt that along with adams grave it acts as a a pair of sentries guarding the southern approaches to Avebury. I look forward to returning when its not so windy and having a proper stomp around. A truly lovely part of the world and well worth a visit.
It was a bright and sunny day but very windy. Karen chose to stay in the car whilst I walked/carried Dafydd up the hill from the large car park. Access was easy through a gate but the higher we got, the windier it got. By the time we reached the top if felt like the winds were gale force and I had to shelter Dafydd to stop him being blown over! There were a couple of military looking helicopters flying around and I presume they were practicing flying in string winds?! Adams Grave is easily seen just a short distance away. We didn't stay too long on the top and quickly made our way back down the hill to the relative shelter of the valley floor. It was only a 10 minute walk from the car park to the top.
A few years ago I visited Knap Hill, and was blown away by the place. However, I then walked across to Adam's Grave, which outshone it. Knap Hill is the bridesmaid, and adam's Grave the bride. Having said that, it is a place to put on your places to visit before you shuffle off this mortal coil. Adam's Grave is a place to put on your list of places to visit tomorrow in case you shuffle off this mortal coil the day after tomorrow. In fact, stuff it, spoil yourself, visit them both tomorrow, it'd be daft not to.
Knap Hill is wide open, with outstanding views, and a sense of loneliness for a people gone. Choose a day of wind, and clouds sailing like galleons across the sky, with the sun-dappled landscape stretched out before you, with Avebury to the north, and Salisbury Plain to the south.
Visited Knap Hill early in February, a cold misty day and most of my photos reflect this. Adams Grave is probably contemporary with Knap Hill and the landscape round here is luminous with the past. If someone from the neolithic past had sat down beside me and Moss on top of that hill I would'nt have been surprised. We would both have been looking at a lunarlike landscape, hills and downs defined by sharply etched lines that meet the plain below. Perhaps in neolithic times the land below would have been marshy and tree covered, but in the distance Picked Hill would have stood out, as did Silbury in its time, was it a sacred hill? could the inhabitants of Knap hill look out and brooded on the meaning of life as they went about their daily tasks - who knows.. But this area is so imbued with man's need to imprint himself within the landscape, The Wansdyke on the other side of Adams Grave reminds one of this. The colossal effort that went into making one's mark, whether in death, or defence, or as a boundary to define the edges of territory.
No fences/stiles to climb from the carpark! Hoorah! Fairly easy to get the buggy up to the top.
Slightly perplexed by the amount of chalk and stuff being excavated by the wildlife, but hey, I guess this place has put up with a lot of that over the years. Mildly intigued by the horseshoe shaped patches of darker colour in the grass, mycelial? Or archaeological? There are numerous wee hollows, maybe traces of old stuff? Some are big enough to hide from the wind.
Not very quiet on a summer afternoon, due to the near constant thrum of 'copters and microlites photographing the inevitable crop circles below the scarp. Combine this with the noise from Salisbury Plain, and it may be better to visit a it later in the day if you want to let your mind drift and ponder in peace.
I liked Knap Hill. It's not quite as exposed as its neighbour, Adam's Grave, which is an advantage when you're trying to eat your sandwiches without consuming mouthfuls of hair. Also, its vista is quite different. At Adam's Grave you are compelled to look outwards - outwards, upwards, downwards, east and west. You don't think to look backwards with such a view on offer. But Knap Hill's different.
At least half the time I was looking at the Downs around where I was sat - Adam's Grave and the ridge on which it lies take up a good proportion of your field of view. I was watching for people approaching, watching people climb up towards Adam's Grave, seeing them sillouetted on its back, and following with my eye the curves of the hills and those distinctive undulating chalkland valleys. So I felt that Knaps Hill's not all about Onward and Outward and Far Away (though it certainly has that) but it has the comfort of the land close at hand too.
Wherever I looked there were weird and wonderful chalkland flowers and fluttering butterflies. Wherever I sat was a spiky plant, but hey, it's a small price to pay for this view. As I walked down to the road again a flock of goldfinches flew off the thistles where they'd been feeding and flashed red and gold in the sun.
Sunday 27 July 2003
I went up to Adam's Grave first. If you've read my 'fieldnotes' on that you'll know it rendered me practically speechless.
Knap Hill is hardly less spectacular, but without the barrow on top.
It somehow also felt less wild though. Both hills and the car park between were busy, but several people sat up here for some time, whereas nobody stayed on top of Adam's Grave for long while I was there….
The views from both just go on forever. Sorry to repeat a cliché but it's true. And from Knap Hill you can see the Adam's Grave barrow properly. It's strange and very impressive from here.
It must be really mind-boggling if you know the area well and can spot places you know. I'm still in awe over a week later.
I went to Knap Hill during one of my numerous trips to the Avebury area. This time I was with my dear 65 year old Mum. This was her first visit to the area and my first visit to Knap Hill.
Approaching Knap Hill was an exciting experience for me as it seemed to stand so majestically in the distance, I had a feeling of excitement within me and could wait to climb it and experience what Julian had... The way the wind blows etc.!
The weather was clear and beautiful and although the wind was blowing it didn't matter to me or mum. I jumped out of the car and started to run as fast as my legs would carry me I ran and ran and ran and reaching the bottom of Knap Hill saw me taking huge steps as far apart my legs would go in order for me to reach the top and survey the land.
THE TOP at last and what an experience!!!!!! Beautiful isn't the word........ Stunning would be closer to it!!!
Adams Grave looked so lonely but incredibly masterful and special from the to top of Knap Hill although we decided not to climb to Adams Grave I enjoyed the view!
We spent a good 20 mins atop Knap Hill, taking in the beauty and getting our faces blown off. I would recommend that you visit this place and climb up. Enjoy Adams Grave from a different view........ I will be going back to Knap Hill in March with some other friends! See you then!
Details of the Neolithic causewayed enclosure on Pastscape
The site of Knap Hill, a Neolithic causewayed enclosure. It encompasses an area of circa 2.4 hectares and consists of a single circuit of sub-triangular plan, conforming to the contours of the hill and possibly incomplete on the steepest, southern side. Exceptionally compared to other enclosures, the causeways seem to correspond precisely to gaps in the bank. It is unclear if the earthworks ever formed a complete enclosure. Excavations by the Cunningtons in 1908-9 first demonstrated the causewayed nature of the earthworks, as well as recovering pottery which they felt to be Neolithic in date. Further excavations in 1961 confirmed the Cunningtons' observations. Romano-British pottery and an extended inhumation probably relates to the adjacent, later earthwork enclosure. The site and its archaeological history were re-investigated as part of the RCHME project focusing on enclosure and industry in the Neolithic period in 1995. Knap Hill was also subsequently included in a research programme into the dating of the early Neolithic causewayed enclosures of southern Britain and of Ireland. The results suggested that Knap Hill was probably constructed in the 35th century cal BC, (that is to say between 3500-4001cal BC) probably more than a century later than Windmill Hill and the West Kennet long barrow. It is unclear, however, for how long activity continued. On the basis that the ditch was left to infill naturally, that there is no sign of recutting, and because there is a scarcity of sherds and bones, a short duration, probably of well under a century and perhaps only a generation or two, is possible.
Earthwork enclosure of probable Iron Age and Romano-British date, immediately adjacent to the Neolithic causewayed enclosure on Knap Hill (SU 16 SW 22). Excavations occurred at the enclosure in 1908-9, finds including pottery, animal remains, a quern, remains of a human infant, a brooch of probable Iron Age date and numerous other artefact types. A "T-shaped hypocaust or fireplace" may well be a corn-drier. The presence of possible building stone plus the other artefacts has prompted the site's inclusion in Scott's gazetteer of Roman villas. A Saxon sword was also found, while pottery and clay pipes of 17th century date also point to some activity within the enclosure at this time. A square embanked area at the east side of the enclosure is probably a Post Medieval dew pond.
You will be unsurprised to hear that the track you can see beneath you when you sit on Knap Hill*, called Workway Drove, has an ancient name. Its name is mentioned in a 13thC document as 'Warckweye', probably deriving from the earlier Saxon 'Weorc weg', meaning the road by the stronghold - ie Knap Hill (according to Timperley in his 'Vale of Pewsey' 1954).
*the one that eventually becomes the road forming the car park, crossing over the Ridgeway path here.
Reading the new-agish 'Legendary Landscapes' by J D Wakefield (1999) I came across a photo of the 'Devil's Trackway'. Apparently it is a "strange serpentine bank and ditch that leads down the entire facade of the south side of [Knap Hill], descending the most precipitous part of the escarpment into the vale."
When the Cunningtons excavated Knap Hill in 1908/9 they noticed how it was difficult to see close-up, but showed up at a distance. Mrs C saw it following the curve of the hill at the top and then descending straight down (apparently in WAM 37 - 1912). It was known by her local workers:
From the road up Alton Hill it can be seen well and looks like a wide cart track, and locally it is known as the 'Devil's Trackway'. Our labourers knew it well by sight, but appeared to think it a kind of optical delusion that vanished at close quarters, and were much interested when the actual bank was pointed out to them. It was suggested that the bank might be merely the result of levelling to make a pathway, possibly down to the nearest water, but the hill is so steep at this point as to make this very improbable, if not indeed impracticable.
The markings are quite clear on the photos in Wakefield's book (p25/26), and actually you can see it well on the Viewfinder photo linked to below. (He/she gives the line a serpenty / goddess-umbilical cord style theory, but does anyone know a modern archaeological interpretation? Is it something prehistoric? It's certainly unusual as it can't be a non-devilish trackway, the way it's careering off down that perilous slope. Is there some relevance that the Viewfinder caption says "There is little knowledge why the earthworks on the southern side of the escarpment are missing" - the south side being the very side that the Trackway cuts across?)