The lovely Karen and I visited on a wild and stormy Friday ("They call it Stormy Friday . . . "), a bracing gale force 5 wind whooshing across the wide open landscapes as we climbed towards this beautiful mound.
Churn Knob is a very appealing and solid barrow of considerable size, with a definite air of staunchness about it as it rises up from the centre of a chalk-chipped field. It commands stunning views northwards across Oxfordshire, taking in Wittenham Clumps and Blewburton Hill, whilst southwards it looks to the line of the Ridgeway.
Pitted with animal holes, sporting a hawthorn bush and attractive elder, it still keeps its integrity despite the outrageous defilement visited upon it by zealots unknown. The addition of an 18 foot high cross and scaffold pole topped with the Star of David made us aghast and appalled, and I had a bloody good go at ripping down the scaffold pole. Would have succeeded, too, but was concerned that in doing so, I would have torn up a large portion of the mound, due to some damnfool seeing fit to embed the pole in concrete. Not wanting to damage the mound further, I left it, but at much more slanty angle.
I suggested to Karen that presumably this means I can now go into churches around the county and start daubing up pagan symbols, and leaving such offerings as would be fit. Frankly, if I ever caught the evangalist who erected the cross, I'd love to string them up on their hideous edifice. There's churchyards for that class of fundementalism.
Overall, though, I liked it very much, and the wild weather suited it tremendously - 5,000 years on, and the Goddess still rocks!
A narrow chalk footpath/bridleway leads up from Blewbury to the Downs. Today the track is lined with field scabious, poppies, cornflowers, lots of blue flowers which I couldn't identify and the most wonderful little purple orchids which are quite rare and only grew on very chalky soils such as was now underhoof. A quick canter past the old chalk pits lead us up to the top of Churn Hill and... there it is! Churn Knob! We couldn't actually get very close on horseback, ironically, because it lies directly beside one of the privately owned 'gallops' which casual riders are forbidden to use by The Expensive People. We got as close as we dared without being shot or set upon by slavering hounds for me to take a couple of pics.
It's quite big, perhaps, 10 or 15 metres wide at it's base and seems to rise quite steeply. At this time of year it is resplendent with wild flowers glowing purple in the hazy sunlight. But it's the position of the knob which is so impressive, for the views up here are remarkable. Looking north you seem to look vertically down over Blewburton Hill and across to the Wittenham Clumps. The graceful curves of the cooling towers of Didcot Power Station are just over to the west and on a clear day I'm sure you'd be able to see Oxford. It's from this position that St Birinus (whoever the f**k he was) preached a sermon. To remember this, for the millennium, local Christians have erected an unsightly and monstrous cross on the Knob. A deeply offensive and outrageous piece of vandalism in my opinion. Throw the perpetrators to the lions!
Bell barrow with adjacent bowl barrow. Churn Knob is a bell barrow 23m in diameter and 1.5m high. It is surrounded by a berm 5m wide. It is traditionally the the site of a sermon by St Birinus in the 7th century. The smaller bowl barrow lies 10m to the south west and is only visible as a soil mark. It is known from excavation in 1848 to have been 12m in diameter and 2m high with a 2m wide quarry ditch. Finds included, horse bones and material from an iron horse harness. Scheduled. Both barrows have been mapped from aerial photographs.