When visiting the Kingston Russel stone circle you simply must take the short detour off the bridleway to visit this ruined, but nevertheless impressive burial chamber.
Despite the cold wind myself and Dafydd spent a fair bit of time here looking over the stones. Needless to say we had the place to ourselves. I think you would be quite unlucky to find someone else here the same time as you.
To be honest I think this is a better preserved more interesting site than its more famous nearby stone circle. I note that it was nearly two years to the day since my last visit. A lot of water has passed under the bridge in that time! Although these sites are a bit out of the way (O/S map recommended) they are well worth the effort.
Park at the start of the private road to Gorwell farm (room for one car).
Directly in front of you is a bridleway. Walk along the bridleway (high hedge on your left) until you reach a wooden stile. Go over the stile, turn right and walk a short distance until you reach a metal gate on your left. **This is NOT the gate you see immediately after going over the stile**. You will see the long barrow from the gate.
As has previously been reported, despite its ruined state, there is a lot to recommend a visit.
The standing / fallen facing stones are very large and there are sufficient remains of the earthen part of the long barrow to easily make the shape out. Far away in the distance the coastline and sea can be seen. On my visit the field was full of sheep that seemed quite at home nestled down amongst the stones – until I disturbed them!
Despite the damage caused to it the long barrow has somehow retained a sense of ‘atmosphere’.
It only takes about 5 minutes to walk to the Grey Mare and it is well worth the minimum effort required.
Walked here from Black Down where I parked up. How I found the long barrow I will never know - pure luck - after deciding I was nowhere near it, I stumbled over it, hidden away behind a hedgerow, round a farmer's gate. Spoilt, after a long acquaintance with Stuart Piggott's masterful restoration of West Kennet Long Barrow ~ why can't it happen here? This site begs to be carefully restored in an age and culture which is beginning to value the living heritage of prehistoric monuments - a heritage which extends into the now & into the future. I would guess before the days of hedgerows that this once substantial barrow was extensively visible to those travelling the Dorset Ridgeway and related track ways, it seems to be perched on the side of a down, but the modern fields make it difficult to work out the syntax of the prehistoric topography. Wayland's Smithy is a bit like that too I think. The folklore behind the naming of the Grey Mare barrow does not appear to have been recorded, a shame if so, that link with the past gone then. Folklore is so important.
You only have to glance at an OS map to know that the triangle of Dorset between Dorchester, Bridport and Portland is one of the richest and most interesting prehistoric areas of England. Better still is driving along the A35 on a bright day after leaving the colossus of Maiden Castle and heading towards Winterbourne Abbas and that amazing view of the rolling hills and cliffs and the sea to your south. It’s so uplifting it makes you want to sell up and move down there – now!
Today, however, it’s not bright and we’re heading east after a few days of walking and fossil hunting in Lyme Regis and we seem to be keeping just ahead of a huge rainstorm heading in from the south west. So it seemed a good time to stop off at the Grey Mare just before the impending deluge. It’s not a terribly easy one to find and seemed to be further from where we parked than we’d imagined, infact so much so that Mrs Cane gave up and headed back to the car before she could hear my triumphant exclamations as I climbed over a gate into the field where it stood.
Despite it’s relative remoteness it’s a charming piece of work and has the feel of a diminutive WKLB or Wayland’s Smithy with it’s big stone façade and has a very different look to The Hellstone which is a not too distant neighbour. The back of it appears to have been a largely stone construction as there are very large flanking stones visible in various places which you don’t often see at long barrows unless they’ve been seriously denuded of their earth covering. It’s also very well sited as there are tremendous views over the Dorset countryside and, if I’m remembering rightly, a view of Chesil Beach and Portland Bill to the south east. Having stretched my “just 10 minutes” into half an hour I made my way back across the fields vowing that I must return for a long weekend to this regional treasure trove.
English Heritage have now helpfully nailed a very small disk with their logo on to a fence post as you take the bridleway towards the Grey Mare & Her Colts and Kingston Russell stone circle. This I presume in case you don't notice the very large sign warning that the other trackway from the road leads to private property.
Today the ground is frozen solid and the long grooves left by the farm vehicles and cattle are frozen solid.
It begins to lightly snow as we reach the long barrow.
This is a place well worth seeing, the structure of the site may no longer be intact, slightly ruinous even but still very much here within the landscape, and a truly amazing place it is!
Our first stop was The Grey Mare & Her Colts - the remains of a once-mighty Neolithic long barrow. Sheep were basking like lizards in the winter sun as we arrived. They hardly even budged as we climbed over the gate and over them to get into the field. The Grey Mare & Her Colts is a bit of a wreck but I have seen enough trashed burial chambers to be able to 'read' what is left of the stones. The swelling of the barrow is very pronounced and the portal stones are very large indeed. Up here the views stretch for miles and sounds of the countryside quietly seep into your soul...
This post appears as part of the weblog entry Dorset dash
Oh Joy, over 80 miles from home, it's taken 3 aborted attempts to find this site over the last 3 years. But today we made it, armed with an O.S map and determined heart. Well worth the wait though, it is a kind of tumbled-down West Kennet. Hope the following will help. On the road to Abbotsbury from the A35 at Winterbourne Abbas, after a signpost right for Littlebredy and before you get to Portesham (see parking notes for Hell Stone, there is a left turn signposted for the Hardy Monument. At this junction take the (very)minor road to the right (west). After about a mile the road bends sharply to the left and follows the valley round. At that point there is a layby to park. Return back up the road to the footpath that head NW up the hill. Shortly up this path you are faced with a 3-way split. The Public Footpath heads through a Private Farm. Take the Bridleway that heads straight on and hug the hedge to your left. After about 400yds there's a footpath through the hedge on the left. Follow this for about a hundred yards and the barrow is over another hedge.
Return to bridelway and follow for another 3/4 mile and just before the large clump of trees Kingston Russell Stone Circle is in a field on the left.
Again, the wonderment at this site is partly trying to imagine what it would have looked like in all it's ancient glory. I know that Julian is a tall man but how did he manage to see 'the view down to the sea' from the barrow?
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. A few days later in September 00 me and my gurl spent a blissful few hours lying on the mound and looking uo at blue sky and fluffy white clouds; with buzzards sweeping over the hillside and not a soul around.
With the stone circle just up the path the area's well worth a visit,
On saturday 2nd sept., we visited the Grey Mare and her Colts, having walked from the nearby Kingston Russel stone circle, which is just up the bridle path and worth a view. The location is wonderful, on the hills overlooking the south Dorset coastline and Portland below you. In a field, up against the hedgerow is a longbarrow, looking complete, if small, with beautiful uprights and small stones visable all around the edge.
Unmarked, unregarded, it's a gem. I lived 20 minuites from this site until I was 18 and never knew about this place until I read the Antiquarian.
It's easy to access with an OS map and you'll find yourself somewhere beautiful.
Tumulus. The Grey Mare and her Colts. (Cromlech) (NR) (1) Grey Mare and her Colts. Long Barrow. Neolithic. (SY 58388706) (2)
The Grey Mare and Colts at Gorwell, is a megalithic chambered long cairn. The site consists of a cairn, chamber, facade and peristalith. The cairn is of elongated egg form, 75' long overall and 45' wide at the SE and 4' above the surrounding ground at the same end. There is no sign of any ditches. The chamber, (at the wide SE end) now consists of upright stones forming three sides of a rectangular space, with a capstone (7' x 5') originally covering this, but now slipped sideways obscuring the fourth side of the chamber. (The front stone stands higher than the covering). The axis lies NW-SE and the outer SE wall is formed by a very large slab 61/2" wide, and standing 6' above the cairn material. The two other stones on the SW & W show only a foot or so above the ground. It is seven feet long internally. There are the visible remains of a shallow crescentic forecourt setting or facade of standing stones (about 5' high, 5' wide) with its central stone covering the front of the chamber, with an overall width along the chord of the facade of 35' and with a depth of arc about seven feet. Only two stones now remain of the peristalith near the SE end, showing a foot above ground. The Grey Mare and Colts (with Hell Stone) provides the most easterly members of the Zennor Group of megalithic culture. (3) Careful and detailed account with notes and measurements of each stone. (4) Long barrow : length 80ft; width 45ft; height 4ft. Orientated SE/NW. "Neolithic Wessex" No.142. A burial chamber with possible crescentic forecourt at SE, and traces of peristalith. Opened early in 19th century; many human bones and some pottery found (5). Long Barrow (NR) (The Grey Mare and her Colts). (8)
The ruined chamber is set at the E end of a mound 27.0m long and with a maximum width of 12.0m. The mound is orientated
WNW-ESE, and has an average height of 1.6m. There are no visible side ditches. General description in Authy 3 correct,
and the plan shown in Authy 6. The mound has been trampled by cattle but has not been disturbed by ploughing or other
agricultural operations. (9)
The Grey Mare and Her Colts lies at SY 5838 8706 the head of a dry valley which runs down to Gorwell in the valley of the headwaters of the River Bride. The monument is a well preserved example of a chambered long barrow. It comprises a rectangular mound, orientated NW-SE and 24m long. The mound tapers in width from the southeast end (13m) to the northwest end (8m). The mound is highest at the southeast (1m) and drops to 0.4m at the northwest. The southeast end terminates in a row of four massive sarsens, three are upright, one, at the northeast end, is recumbent. A fifth sarsen, now recumbent at the southwest end of the row, is likely to be that depicted on an 18th-century engraving in Hutchins? History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, as upright at the southwest corner of the mound. Behind the sarsen stones, recumbent on the edge of the mound, is a fifth massive sarsen, probably the capstone of the collapsed chamber. The slight scarp to the southeast of the end of the mound is probably the result of ploughing, a process which has presumably obliterated the quarry ditches for the mound. Several stones set into the edge of the mound are probably the remains of a retaining kerb. The ledge at the northwest end of the mound was caused by a hedge, now removed, but depicted on the 18th-century engravingand two hollows on the top of the mound may represent the remains of antiquarian excavations carried out in the early 19th century (authy 5) (10)
The site was surveyed using EDM at a scale of 1: 200 as part of a survey of the long barrows on the South Dorset Ridgeway carried out by English Heritage and the Ridgeway Survey Group (11)