From East Kennett church I took the byway up to the right, circling East Kennett Longbarrow from a distance. I overshot it to explore Harestone Down SC, and if my way onward to Little Avebury hadn't been blocked, I probably wouldn't have ventured any closer to the great mound - just taking a picture from afar. Instead I had to descend the track back towards Manor farm, passing by the end of the barrow.
After passing by and looking back up to it against the sky, level with the horizon, suddenly it began to dawn on me how big the thing actually was.
Although, obviously a different beast from WKLB, EKLB has such an unexplorable wildness to it.
Could've spent longer, but saw the farmer milling around below, and the wind was biting now, so walked on (...past the sign saying "no admittance"). Whoops.....looked ok on the map, and the farmer said nothing, so.....
Sitting upon the Barrow Copse long barrow, wondering where to go next... as you do... it suddenly dawns upon me that I've never been to East Kennett. Eh? How did that happen? Ah, that's right... access 'issues'. But now I've thought of it it'd be rude not to go say 'hello' to arguably the most mysterious and enigmatic of the area's prehistoric treasures - I mean, even Silbury's been excavated, if only to generate a myriad further questions..... not to mention almost destroy the monument in the process. But that's another story.
Parking near the 'no coins accepted' 'phone box - a paradoxical sign of the times in 'timeless', chocolate box East Kennett - a short stroll past the church and patrolling 'guard geese' and ducks gives access to a byway, this bisecting the 'White Horse Trail' a little further on. Turn left at this point and the majestic tree-line, which I assume must cloak the long barrow, becomes the primary focus now. There are no signs forbidding access from the main track and no fence. How refreshing. Logical, too, since the visitor can skirt the bountiful crop with ease by following the field boundary past a particularly gaunt hawthorn. The retrospective is of the iconic Silbury across golden fields of wheat, or barley. No, I think it's wheat. Where's Sting when you need him? He'd know.
The long barrow is completely shrouded by it's green canopy of high summer, as if Nature is reluctant in the extreme to grant an audience with her monument. No, you're not gonna destroy THIS one, too, you swine that you are! A glance back across the Downs to poor West Kennett Long Barrow swarming with figures and I know exactly what Rhiannon means upon reading her own excellent account. But what if the great Boyne tombs hadn't have been excavated? And look what happened to The Thornborough Henges, quietly bought up by a commercial company when nobody was looking. Sadly it would appear that precious treasures cannot be 'left alone' in this cynical world in the hope that things will stay as they are. People will take advantage, sooner or later, with an eye on the eternal 'profit', methinks. In my opinion East Kennett must be highlighted, celebrated for the exceptional monument it is and the message sent out that 'we are watching'. It was never designed to be the beautiful sister of WKLB hiding away at home. Surely?
I wish I could say that this was a perfect visit, but the noise from a nearby speedway meeting (I kid you not!) competed with the wind in the trees for a time. In the centre of a World Heritage Area? What is it with people who couldn't give a monkey's about any one else? The contrast when the tannoy announces which respective muppet has 'won' and they all go home is, well.... Rhiannon's notes say all I wanted to say about the barrow itself, except a pair of overtrousers is a good idea to brave the head high (!!) nettles which colonise the massive mound in summer. The trees add much atmosphere, particularly when acting as foreground to a very large barrow marooned within crop to the SW. According to the map there is another example the other side of the long barrow.
A walk around the site emphasises just how massive East Kennett is. Will it ever be excavated? Apart from by the numerous beasties which call it 'home'. It is an exciting prospect, although things will then never be the same again, will they? Then again the current status quo would not appear to be the intention of the original builders. Something this substantial was clearly meant to be seen, not hidden away for the personal enjoyment of the few! Yeah, you shall go to the ball! EKLB wears an exclusive shining gown of white chalk by established designer M Downs..... not available in the shops for another six millennia.
East Kennett and West Kennett couldn't be much more different really, not in our century at least. I wondered whether to write these fieldnotes, it's like drawing unnecessary attention to something that's quite happy nice and quiet and unknown, despite its proximity to the show sites of Avebury. Not to mention the fact it's off the footpaths and I shouldn't really have been there at all. But your tma-ish type values EK for what it is. And most normal people don't want to trudge to an overgrown hillock somewhere up a muddy track. Besides, there's nowhere obvious to leave a tealight. So maybe EK's ok.
Even as you walk up here, you can see that the place is massively, surprisingly, tall. I thought it was an optical illusion until I got very close up and then I had to believe it. As you're walking up the track, the barrow glowers ominously above you. But on arriving, the near end seems like the less important back, it shuns the view of West Kennett's fancy frontage and Silbury hill. With the wintery lack of undergrowth I could walk along the barrow's crest, to the far end which is higher and more sheltered. That has a much more enclosed feeling. There's a kind of amphitheatre effect, with the skyline at a single level all around. But curiously the skyline isn't consistently close, some of it's made up of much further away bits of landscape, but it all overlaps to give this constant line. It's totally different to the open feel of the other end, with its distant views to all sorts of places that make you go ooh! when you recognise them.
It was very quiet indeed at the far end. It's riddled with burrows. Flakes of chalk and pointy flint nodules are everywhere (as are spent shotgun cartridges). A rabbit sprang out of one of the holes just in front of me and I don't know who was more startled. Partridges muttered in the field below but otherwise it was just that distant treetop noise like the sea. My crisps ruined the atmosphere really. I liked the distorted writing on some of the beeches and all the tiny snail shells with their strange little umbilical holes.
On the way back (after another guilt-ridden dash silhouetted against the sky) there were loads of yellowhammers to be seen and heard along the White Horse track. If you keep going straight down, the path comes out where the road crosses the Kennet. It's amazing to watch, a beautifully crystal clear chalk stream with its vegetation waving about in the current. It was a nicer way to walk back to where I'd parked near the church.
Another Avebury first for me today; a few hours to spare this morning so headed out to the downs on the 49 bus (fantastic views of layers of mist lifting). The morning still bright when I met up with a couple of friends - we headed out to Gunsight Lane near East Kennet village. From here they led the way up field-side tracks towards East Kennet Long Barrow. Like most of the less accessible sites within the Avebury WHS it is the walk to them that makes the experience so special. Today was no exception, en route there is a very different view of West Kennet Long Barrow across the sparse fields - no road, no cars, no visitors; just a view of an ancient long barrow as it must have looked for the past few millennia.
From the direction we were walking, East Kennet Long Barrow seemed to appear suddenly - too large to photograph in its entirety, the now leafless beech trees holding it fast. Apart from some badger damage it remains intact, we all all agreed that we hoped it would remain so. Long may it keep its secrets, its atmosphere and its sense of apartness.
[Once again acknowledgements to PeteG for his expertise on the Avebury landscape and for his willingness to share it]
I headed up to East Kennett Longbarrow by following the bridle path from Gunstile Road, in May 2009.
It appears that the farmer whose land this stands on now accepts that people are going to come and visit the barrow, as the corner of the field the barrow stands in is no longer being cultivated, and is indeed marked off by what can only be described as a path all the way around the barrow.
As others have stated, the barrow itself is huge, in terms of height and length, and it's amazing to think it hasn't really been investigated, and it's all the more wondrous for it.
It was quite a hike South out of my way to visit, but well worth the effort for the solitude and the mystery.
Not one for writing fieldnotes, but this longbarrow is one of the largest around and is truly magnificent if you allow your imagination to roam. It sits on the slope facing the small East Kennet church at the bottom, there can be no doubt which religion was more powerful in its day. The thing that struck me was how like Stoney Littleton it was, with the larger end at the top, so that the approach would have been downwards into the barrow, that of entering into the earth, or womb if you believe that was the intention.
Moss and I walked from Silbury Hill, thro the water meadows, past Silbaby, following the White Horse trail.
The landscape around East kennet longbarrow is both vast and open, earth meeting sky, but you need a horse to get around it!
The photo of Silbury Hill from the barrow is included because as the clouds chased over in a cold north wind, the sun suddenly illuminated a patch of chalk on its flanks, sparkling white, thought at first it was someone in a white dress on the hill, but when I got closer it was chalk. The chalk capping the hill when it was first built would have indeed made a spectacular sight.
Sunday 27 July 2003
Coming from the Sanctuary, I reached East Kennett village and took a right turn. I parked just down from the church and walked up the lane and through Manor Farm, joining a bridlepath up the hill to the west. The tree topped East Kennett Long Barrow was clearly visible to my left.
After a very short distance an overgrown but obvious track appears on the left, leading alongside the 'top' edge of the field where the long barrow stands.
As the path reached the field the barrow is in, there was no hedgerow or fence and the crop had nice wide, deep and clear tractor tracks.
I decided that should anyone disapprove, if I hustled along, the chances of me being spotted were slim. (I've now read that it's best to ask permission, so if I go again I will!)
Two minutes later I was on the north west end of the barrow amongst the trees. Reaching the top I soon found my way barred by impenetrable undergrowth thick with stinging nettles. I don't think I could've forced my way through, even if I hadn't been wearing shorts, As it was – no way!
I made my way back down to the foot of the barrow and turned right, along it's north east side. It was a struggle to make my way without damaging the crop and without stinging myself to death on the nettles that also line the edge of the barrow.
Reaching the south west end of the long barrow I found that there is actually some space to stand and look at this end. This 'felt' like the 'front' of the barrow, though I have no idea whether it is or not.
I couldn't see the chamber stones that apparently protrude at this end, but the vegetation was rampant, and once again of the stinging kind. Winter visit?
Dean Mereweather says that it lies "about three quarters of a mile south-east of the Long barrow at West Kennet, and is of much the same character as to shape and dimensions, but differs in construction. I was induced to visit this in consequence of having been informed by the occupier of the surrounding land that he had caused a hole to be dug at the east end for the purpose of obtaining flint; but that he soon found that it was made up of round and generally flat sarsen stones, which came tumbling so about the men that they gave up the work. It has unfortunately been planted over, as have many of the larger barrows on Hacpen Hill; I think it in bad taste."
Rev A C Smith quotes Dean Mereweather from 'Proc Arch Inst. Salisbury volume', in his 1884 'Guide to the British and Roman Antiquities of the North Wiltshire Downs'.