Third seasonal visit of the year (2.8.09). The woods are beautifully green and totally empty today, everywhere dappled by the filtered sunshine. I already had a heightened sense of anticipation as I approached.
I spent about an hour here today, in perfect peace with only birdsong for company. Didn't see a soul the whole time I was here. There have been visitors though, the remains of a small campfire and a rough bivouac attest to that. I'm not sure that waking up next to this wonderful barrow wouldn't be too much to take. Each time I went to leave, the sun went in (I'm not joking) and came back out when I decided to stay a bit longer. This happened at least three times.
When I finally did go, I set off through the wood in a NE direction, following what seemed a pretty direct path to take me out to the B4070. After about 15 minutes, I looked ahead and found myself facing West Tump again.
A return visit in lovely spring sunshine (19.4.2009), this time walking from Cranham and through the woods to the south. From this direction the barrow is harder to find, but as I crested a rise it became visible through the trees.
I arrived as a mountain biker rode over the spine of the barrow, but after he'd gone I was left alone with the green-clothed form, birdsong and solitude. I love this spot, and the sun filtering through the trees took me away from the modern world for a while.
Wow! Visited 15.2.2009. Entered the wood from Cranham Lodge Sawmills (thanks for the tip Hamish) and then cut SE along various minor tracks. I had read Rhiannon's comments about the barrow being so big you couldn't miss it and scoffed, thinking that the trees would obscure it. I was wrong, Rhiannon was right - at this time of year you can see it pretty well, particularly in the snow. My advice to anyone trying to find it is to find a high spot in the wood and look around (this won't work in the summer!).
Seen from the west, the barrow appears as a lowish ridge, and I had to walk around the south side to be sure I had found it. From the SE, the "horned extremity" of the forecourt is clearly visible.
"She stands all alone/You can hear her hum softly".
Let me say that I am not usually susceptible to atmosphere/vibes, etc. But here! All the other barrows I have ever visited have just felt like "it" - this one definitely felt like "she". A she who had seen better days and was looking rather past her best, but definitely a she. A very welcoming spot, I had the odd feeling that West Tump wanted visitors and that she felt rather lonely in the woods, an aging princess in need of a suitor. Clearly I'm going soft or mad.
The forecourt is clearly descernable at the eastern end, above this is a roughly circular excavation scar. The barrow is also used by mountain bikers to give their woodland ride a bit more excitement, and a dirty brown stripe runs along her back through the snow. I sat for ten or fifteen minutes in the snowy forecourt, where the remains of four people from 4,000 years ago were found. A lovely, peaceful spot, with only the birds singing and the white clothed barrow for company.
"She fills the bags 'neath her eyes with the moonbeams, and cries 'cos the world's passed her by. Didn't time sound sweet yesterday?"
As I left I found my eyes drawn back to the barrow, which is clearly visible through the trees at this time of year. But it's off to the busy B4070 and Hazel Hanger Wood. I will be back.
Finding this is not for the faint hearted.Park down by the sawmills and walk back up the road, on the right is a mountain bike path,follow this and you come to a forest path,follow this to a wider path walk up the hill and on the right at this time of year you can just see the barrow on the right through the trees.Best of luck.
I visited West Tump today. It's a in a great and secluded setting hidden in the beech woods high on the Cotswold edge with considerable ambience. Although extensively excavated by Witts is retains an undisturbed feel. It's large and has an obvious 'horned' forecourt with one of the (false) portal dolmen still visible. There was a single lateral chamber whose excavation site is seen. Unfortunately the dry stone walling Witts described is no longer apparent. It's a good place to sit under the leaves and well worth the effort to find.
He noted that the south east end curved in slightly forming the horns characteristic of the Severn-Cotswold longbarrows. It was also surrounded
by a dry stone wall. The `horns' stood to a height of approximately 1m and between them were two upright stones forming a false doorway. There was no chamber at the south east end, but it was found 25m from the southern `horn'. Here there was an entrance through the wall 0.6m wide. A passage 2m long led to the chamber, which contained about 20 skeletons. One of the skeletons, that of a young woman, was placed at the end of the chamber on a semi-circle of flat stones, and the remains of a baby were nearby.
By 1920 the surrounding wall had all but disappeared, though you can see something of it still. The remains of the `horns' are now just a depression, and there's a great big dip in the top where the excavation took place.
The barrow lies in Buckle Wood, so it might be a bit camouflaged today - but I think at 150 feet long you might spot it.
(info from the scheduled monument record and James Dyer's 'Cotswolds and Upper Thames' regional archaeology booklet)