A short distance north of the Addington and Chestnuts long barrows – east of Trottiscliffe. As this is a National Trust site a small (free) parking area is provided. Another site in this area where an O/S map comes in handy – at least you only need the one map!
From the parking area, myself, Dafydd and Sophie walked down along the obvious wooded path and out into the open fields. It is a lovely walk in this weather and we strolled along with not a care in the world. Unlike the local land owners who clearly have concerns judging by the proliferation of ‘private’ ‘no trespassing’ ‘private road’ type signs we have seen in the area – welcome to Southern England. An Englishman’s ‘home’ may be his ‘castle’ – although the drawbridge always seems to be raised!
Anyway, the path is well sign posted and after about 10 minutes we reached the N.T. info board at the bottom of the rise on which Coldrum stands. At this point we could hear the beating of a drum and it was obvious that someone was already at the site. We hurried up and upon reaching the summit were met by several people who were watching a lady sat within the wooden fenced off area playing an African drum. The lower branches of the large tree at the top of the rise were covered in clooties. I also spotted the remains of a fire which someone had made next to the stones but other than the grass appears to have made no damage.
Once she had finished most of the people wandered off although we ducked under the fence to have a closer look of the stones. The stones are enormous and many wouldn’t look out of place at Avebury. The two square ‘walls’ are particularly impressive, some of the best standing stones I have seen. Although I note they have been concreted in to help keep them up.
Whilst the children played around the stones I got chatting to the lady with the drum. She explained all about the drum and how she liked to visit Coldrum to take in the atmosphere and try to ‘connect’ with the ancestors. She said she also liked to visit Stonehenge and Avebury at the solstices but preferred Coldrum for the equinoxes. We spent quite a while chatting about all things ‘old stones’ before I left her to get back to her drumming. I did say that the music certainly added to the atmosphere of the place and there is a fair chance music would have been played at that very spot when the barrow was in use. As I looked down the valley across the farm land it was comforting to think that these were the same fields that the ancients would have farmed.
With these thoughts and with the sound of the drum it was quite easy to form a ‘connection’ with the past. It is surprising how music can help bring the stones to life. Stones can often seem quite sterile places.
Before I knew it we had already been gone an hour and I am sure Karen would have been less than happy sat in the car waiting for us. ‘I won’t be long’ being my usual last words before disappearing into some field or other. I suppose she is used to my definition of ‘long’ by now! However, we did have a long drive back to Cardiff ahead of us and we both had work the next day so it was time to retrace our steps.
Coldrum is a place I have really wanted to visit ever since seeing the site in Neil Oliver’s wonderful Ancient Britain series – I am so glad I finally got to visit. This was the last site of our long weekend in Kent and my favourite place we visited. Coldrum is a ‘must see’ site - particularly given its current status as the oldest long barrow in Britain. As Neil Oliver said – ‘It all starts here………..’ ?
I've been meaning to visit Coldrum for what seems like an eternity. It would pop into my head as I was lurching around the M25 after a hard days slog in London, but usually I'd find myself too tired, the light would be fading or the weather not quite right. So despite the on/off rain showers Mrs. C and I decided to try a visit on the way to friends in North Kent and as it turned out it couldn't have been much better. I was a bit surprised once we'd located it that it wasn't perched on the edge of the North Downs, which is how I'd always pictured it, but nestling in the valley below on a small raised platform of a hill. The views from here, however, are quite wonderful as your gaze tumbles along the bottom of the downs and across the surrounding fields and I doubt whether that view will have changed very much in the past 5000 years considering its isolation. Somebody else who turned up while we were there informed us that most of the surrounding land is to become a vineyard in the near future and I wondered how that might impact on the site.
As we were there as the sun was going down everything seemed to have that warm glow about it and the light gave the stones that extra strength and definition so reminiscent of childhood evenings in Wiltshire when we'd drive out to places like West Kennet and Avebury and the stance of the site is not unlike the Wiltshire sites also. The only detraction was that some imbecile had written the word 'DEVIL' on one of the burial chamber stones in charcoal but it must have been a while ago and it had faded and would probably disappear with the next good rain fall. The other thing that was interesting and which has been noted here before is the strange blueness of the stones once they're in shadow. I couldn't work out if this was just due to the comparison between the lit and unlit stone or perhaps something to do with the lichens that cover them and how they interact with light?
So what a delight and a place that I'm itching to get back to, along with the nearby Chestnuts at Addington, which we didn't get to see on this occasion, but would be interesting to compare.
To update the the access situation, the 'unofficial' side entrance from the adjacent farm field is now shut off by fencing, so all visitors must follow the official route from the car park.
In winter the path is very muddy and the steep slope leading down to Coldrum Lane from the car park track is very treachurous, so wear good boots and if possible take a walking staff.
The access to Coldrum Longbarrow is now effectively non existent for people of limited mobility, particularly in winter. :(
I would prefer to see some special arrangements made for people with walking difficulties so that they could gain access to at least the lower part of the site by driving up Coldrum Lane, but a key to the gate would have to be made available for such visitors by the locals.
Whilst in general the gate on the lane is a good idea and keeps too many people from driving up the lane, (and has thus reduced vandalism and littering thereby), in this day and age of allegedly improved disabled access policy the changes of late to Coldrum are a retrograde step. :(
Paul Ashbee has expressed doubts over the length of the monument as it stands - the kerbstones could have been pulled together to free up more field space to the West. With that in mind, I walked the field today, and must say the distribution of stone chips and flint is more pronounced in a line between the kerbstones outside the fence. Following suggestions and after studying plans of the site I was able to look more closely at the slighting caused by removal of the end of the chamber and the capstone[s], and to recreate the site as was in my mind. The chamber ends are uneven, which with square slabs, is an anomaly - they are over 6" out of line, suggesting there were more stones and a longer chamber. The stones are there, identifiable as squarish slabs, at the foot of the slope. [But as Mr Ashbee says, they could have been brought from elsewhere!]
This makes the chamber at least another 7' long - evidenced by the amount of deposits found in the spoil on the eastern slope - and, with a facade [there were two standing stones on the lower ground level in the right alignment to complete the edging on the north east corner, one still stands, the other is beneath the hedge] and, therefore, two levels of building - the facade being at least 12' lower than the side kerbs.
Extending the chamber creates its own problem. The chamber would still be considerably higher than the ground level, and wet chalk to climb up does not makes sense with a monument aligned ESE [ie, winter solstice sunrise]. Therefore, at some stage, there would need to be steps to get to the high chamber. Of course, the chamber itself could have been on two levels, the 'front' chamber stones being 15' tall to match the height of the rear stones when planted and buried in the soil.
Unfortunately the whole monument has been attacked at least twice over the years, with religious fervour responsible in the 13th C, and the demand for chalk [of all things] making the eastern and northern banks into a small quarry 300 years later. This has led to stones being buried or removed [though not so many as elsewhere] and unearthed, to be arbitrarily placed along the kerb. Some of the kerbstones look like they could have been a capstone, dragged back across the chamber rather than risking injury by tipping it off the edge. Thankfully, its isolated position in the landscape and its inaccessibility due to it being surrounded by springs and therefore mud, has protected it from being noticed for many years. Once overthrown and overgrown, nobody would know what was there.
To clarify the issue of access to the site, the old lane marked on OS maps as 'Coldrum Lane' was, and still is, a private unmade road, which had got to such a sorry rutted state the residents along the lane decided to gate it off. It was never intended as access to the monument, but was the old entrance to Coldrum Lodge, long destroyed.
As a matter of general information it is no longer possible to access Coldrum Longbarrow by driving up Coldrum Lane. There is now a gate shutting it off to vehicles with a "Private Road, No Access" sign.
All visitors in cars must now use the official car park and footpath. However there is still a gap at the side of the gate wide enough for pedestrians. I am not yet able to ascertain the legal status of the new gate, but I believe that the lane may be a bridleway.
In any case at present the Barrow is therefore no longer easily accessible to disabled people, as the footpath is muddy and uneven and runs through a hollow that gets very swampy when it's been raining.
At one time the chamber stones could be viewed without even getting out of the car, this is no longer the case.
Decided to "do" the Medway sites on the spur of the moment and didn't have a chance to consult this site so my impressions were uncoloured.
After Kit's Coty and The circular stones of Addington and The Chestnuts (Don't forget to book on 01732 840220) we happened upon Coldrum.
Wow! What a site. I don't know if it was the weather, still and brilliant winter sun, the general neatness of the site, the position or the fantastic stones.
After negotiating the steepish path to the bottom with my 87yr old mother, I was more concerned with getting her over the stile and up the steps than looking around. My first impressions then were of the "cloutie" tree, then the recumbent stones, then the upright chamber with the lovely views of the North Downs and the valley beyond.
I was struck with the difference in colour when the stones were either sunlit or in shadow, a warm honey or a steely blue.
The fencing around the site was not the horrible railings that close off Kit's Coty but seemed to say "Respect this place" so didn't feel too guilty about hopping over to take pics.
When I got to the chamber I was astounded to find myself on top of a cliff with the obvious remains of the rest of the tomb lying below. Squeezing in, I wondered what it might be like on a March morning with the rising sunlight flooding it as Wayland has mentioned below. Explored the rest of the site including the informative 're-construction' plaque. I have never come across a square LB before, is it unique?
The whole site was graffiti free although the fire pit noted by others is still a grass free area.
A magical site. I'd have loved to have spent much more time here, another day for sure.
P.S. Difficult not to post duplicate pics of the site but the stones change in character with the light and season.
P.P.S. Check out the marvellous pub in the village (See facilities) where the locals told me the name is pronounced 'Trosley' with a long 'o'.
Access Small carpark then gentle track down, short steeper track up on grass.
For those with mobility problems, instead of taking the last steep track down, the top of the site can be accessed by walking around the edge of the open field.
Signs from the village and some friendly locals pointed me in the right direction. The walk from the car park isn't far but it had got a bit boggy. Visited on a damp Sunday morning but was all alone having left wifey at Bluewater (less than 30 mins - well worth bearing in mind if you have to assist in the transport for retail pilgrimages, these stones and Kits Coty are do-able in a couple of hours). The view down the Medway Valley isn't spectacular but not unpleasant, you can envisage why the site would inspire its builders. Unusual compared to say West Kennet, Stoney Littleton Waylands Smithey etc of the Cotswold Severn variety that are nicely set but not quite so 'perched' on high.
Growing up in the Vigo Village just above Coldrum, I have such happy memories of these stones and whenever I retune to the area, I all ways make sure that I have an hour alone with the stones. The one memory that I have constant from all my time at the stones is early one winter morning; I spent the night asleep below the collapsed chamber, awaking at dawn and looking out across the fields before the mist had lifted with the sun just peaking over the horizon, a deep orange glow. The stones absorb the morning light, heat and colour a man made beauty that has stood the test of time.
Coldrum is a magical site, it is peaceful and tranquil at all times, even with the farmer ploughing his field the noises all seem to be reflected away across the valley. It is still all year round.
Like a rock 'n roll star, the chamber perches on top of the edge of a ridge, so that its stones look for all the world like some Freddie Mercury figure, arms aloft, allowing itself to bask in the glory of its adoring fans. Climb the steps to the left and rise up behind the 'stage' to see the pattern of placement of the kerbstones marking out the depth of the longbarrow. And look over the Freddie Mercury chamber and you see that the the rolling fields of Kent are the audience.
A ranch style fence indicates that you're not meant to walk on the top of the barrow, but people clearly had. Had the weather been better, I may have done so, just to get nearer the chamber, but it was so wet, and I so fearful of going arse-over-tit, I decided against.
This is a cracker of a monument, grand and spectacular and a real surprise to find such a beast lurking in Kent.
I stayed overnight at Coldrum Longbarrow this Friday evening, as I often do. I was camped out in the lane beneath the trees of the site and it was a beautiful moonlit evening.
Unlike the moronic idiots who are constantly setting fires in the middle of the stones my small campfire was, (as always), on a raised metal fire tray. In the morning this leaves no trace, since it is set up on bare earth and there is no grass to suffer scorch marks. Despite Coldrum's isolated setting a couple of lads showed up at my camp at about midnight and we had a good chat around the fire and a few swigs of 'Druid Fluid'.
The fence damage has now been fully repaired and some worn out posts replaced by Piers, the hard working NT Warden for the site. However I fear that it won't be long before the idiots come back and smash up all his good work. In fact I'm not convinced that the fence needs to be there at all since it isn't designed to keep people out, (thank the Goddess), and to the idiots merely acts as a handy firewood store.
I will be ringing the NT local office to negotiate about filling in and turfing over the rapidly deepening firepit in the centre of the stones. As long as it remains it is a temptation to moronic vandals to use it.
I was so angry after visiting this, the last stop of the day. Some idiots had set a camp fire within about 8 feet of the stones (see picture). The ashes were cold, but didn't look as if they'd been rained on, so were obviously recent and fresh. In addition, one of the rails of the surrounding fence had been broken, presumably during the camp's high spirits.
On the positive side, I learned something new. This was originally though to be the remnants of a stone circle, as shown by a plaque at the base of the terrace.
This is my first visit to a neolithic site since purchasing The Modern Antiquarian, and being only twenty minutes drive, it seemed the logical place to go. And what a place! So peaceful, and I felt at one with the surroundings...I really can't describe how I felt. I was just grateful to get out of the Medway Towns in the knowledge that we still have some fantastic heritage nearby.
Hopefully this will be the first of many trips. I didn't look closely, but it appeared that any graffitti has now gone.
The tree dressing at Coldrum and other Sacred Sites is quite common and has been going on for years. Tree Dressing and such are not specifically a Wiccan idea, as similar Well Dressing was very much a Christian practice (though possibly of Pagan origin). Many Pagan visitors to Coldrum continue this practice and as long as no plastics or metals are used then I don't find it a problem.
The more serious vandalism such as the severe spray painting of the chamber a few years ago and the cracking of one of the outer stones by fire (which also caused a large chunk to fall off which subsequently dissappeared) is a far greater problem. This beautiful place our Ancestors made thousands of years ago is now being destroyed by idiots and if they continue it will all be gone, with nothing left for our decendants to see.
I love these stones. The vandalism confounds and disturbs me certainly. I also don't fuly understand the tree dressing - which is completely anachronistic. Tree dressing comes from wicca, which arrived in the UK Long after the Coldrum Stones were built (Plus you do it around wells not high places). I saw the odd black pentacle hanging aswell, but - whatever.
I now live in the US but make a 'pilgrimage' here every time I visit the UK.
PS Has anyone noticed how the church you can see if you face east and look through the 'doorway' lines up with the sunrise ? The church must be built on an ancient site.
Definitely NOT the easiest place to find, but as someone says below, getting there shows you wanted to find it. I thought the sign below the NT arrow 'Coldrum Barrow' very fitting - it simply says 'DEAD SLOW'. Someone at the National Trust obviously has a sense of humour!
Perched up on its little plateau overlooking fields gives you the feeling that someone wanted this place to be special with a view so those who have gone before could look down over the land they knew. It's a very quiet, peaceful place. They've tried to get rid of the red sprayed garaffitti and done a fair job. Why do people want to do this sort of thing in the first place? Beats me. On one of the silhouette pics I've uploaded here I got a strong sense of the 'male' female' shapes of stones as found at Avebury. Or is it just a play of the light.
Well worth hunting for and spending some time with - especially as we're not exactely inundated with barrows and stones down here in Kent.
I drove down from London with three friends and spent the afternoon here. The sites position is particularly well chosen. Approaching from the west, the site is on the edge of a very gently sloping plateau, from the East however it is a totally different picture. Here the site is in full view from the lower ground below.
On our visit the stones had been left marked with chalked pentacles. I was sorry to have to leave them that way, but having no way of removing them, and realising that chalk can make a mess, I resigned myself to the fact that someone from the National Trust would eventually sort this out.
I too am (fairly) local and have been visiting the coldrum for many years. I love the place dearly and can not stop myself from going back time after time. The best time of day is dawn as the view of the sunrise across the valley in front (from behind the collapsed chamber stones) is breathtaking. Sunrise around March 21st is almost in line with the chamber.
I experienced my first Summer Solstice here and find it the best place to go for this - always well attended but not rowdy - although the occasional appearance of the local bobby does nothing to enhance the experience.
See you all there in June then!
On a final note - if anyone knows who the pricks are that have spray painted KEV and other shite all over the stones, kindly stove their heads in for me - IDIOTS.
I too grew up locally (in Addington) and have spent great chunks of my life at Coldrum. It is one of my fave places anywhere in the world. There have always been ribbons in the trees there, and having spent Summer Solstices there and many nights camping too, I seriously cannot recommend it highly enough.
Visited 21/09/2001. Continuing backon the M20 towards Sevenoaks we still had time to search out the Coldrums. it is rather weird burning down a busy motorway in search of our megalithic past - but if its good enough for Julian its good enough for me!
The road maps are all abit confusing but somewhere at junction 2A you pull off to Trottiscliffe - if you pass under the M20 you are going the right way...It seems a lot further than you think. You pass through the village and down past the church. you then wind on a bit and then come to a line of houses, inbetween which points the sign to The Coldrums.
Park in the car park (why would someone want to drop sweet wrappers here?) and follow the track down and to the right. the whole walk is about 3-4 minutes and the surrounding hills on this late summer evening were starting to glow with the suns dimming light. you reach a wider track and then continue along this (to the right) for a short way until the NT sign points you in!
Again, the stones are surrounded by a fence, but it is clear that this has not stopped revellers/devotees/nutters form gaining access. The stones that remain standing have a weary but defiant appearance and those that have slid down from the entrance form a formidable shambles. The site has a proud atmosphere.
Simon and I and our two friends visited there at the beginning of summer. I too noticed how windy it was when we got down there. It was quite claustrophobic but the small scale gave a sense of an oasis of peace. Vibes were pretty strong and intensified the spliff we had. I grew up in the area and though often went to Trosley Park we had no idea it was there untill checking it out in The Modern Antiquarian. It's added a little bit of ancient history to the mostly industrial and commercial scene presented by a lot of North West Kent. A fantastic little treasure.
I visited Coldrum on a bright sunny day, but there was a fierce wind! It whistled through the trees above and seemed to add to the atmosphere of the place . Like a lot of these palces, you'd never know it was there until you fell over it - but once you're there you feel like you're at the centre of everyting. In the shadow of the North Downs that dominate the landscape so much around here, with white chalky fields all around and big views to the South it's clear to see why they put it where they did.
The proper use of ribbons or other pieces of cloth goes back to holy wells and the like. The idea is that you make a wish, or prayer or whatever at the site, then tie a ribbon to it. With the decomposing of the ribbon, your wish comes to reality. There may be other reasons, but I'm sure this is one of the main ones. I've been to coldrum too - a bugger to find, and it looks like it's going to slip down that bank at a fair rate of knots and entomb you. Still, I agree with it being very atmospheric, something to do with the encircling trees and if someone is there, they actually WANTED to go there. You don't just walk along and find Coldrum, you've gotta walk.
we have just returned from a "three barrow" weekend. Coldrum was the last site we visited on a "three barrow" weekend and the most atmospheric. Forgive our ignorance but what is the significance of the ribbons tied to trees nearby? We also noticed this at other sites?
At 700 paces from the Pilgrims' Way we (Mr. Payne and Mr. A. A. Arnold, F.S.A., August, 1889) came on the fine but little-known cromlech called by the local people "Coldrum Stones and Druid Temple." [..]
About forty years ago, and when this property belonged to a Mr. Whitaker, and when the area within the dolmen was divided into two chambers by the medial stones, some unauthorized persons, simply to test the tradition of an underground passage, an evergreen idea, betwenn the dolmen and Trosly [ie Trottiscliffe] church, half a mile south-west of Coldrum, dug a cave, which my informant saw, at the entrance to the dolmen, now indicated by flint concrete. This falling in of the cave, too, has been the cause of most serious disturbances within the dolmen. The Vicar of Trosly here intervened and stopped this, fearing the stones might fall.
Coldrum Monument and Exploration 1910.
F. J. Bennett
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 43, (Jan. - Jun., 1913), pp. 76-85
As you can see from the post here, there was some feeling that Coldrum was disturbed by people looking for treasure. Though it's not clear what this means exactly - did the locals ever believe it contained treasure, or did they just think the diggers were naturally digging it primarily to find treasure, or what. Hmm.
Proceeding from the circle at Coldrum, towards the east, we observed single stones, of the same kind and of colossal magnitude, scattered over the fields for some distance; and it is the tradition of the peasantry that a continuous line of such stones ran from Coldrum direct along the valley to the hill of Kits Coty House, a distance of between five and six miles. Mr Larking and myself traced these stones in the line through a great portion of the distance, and their existence probably gave rise to the tradition. I was informed that they had even been found in the bed of the river, where there seems to have been an ancient ford. It must be remarked that these stones, or boulders, belong to the geological formation of the district, and many of them may have obtained their present position by natural causes: but from a tolerably careful examination, we were led to believe that there had once existed an avenue of stones connecting the cemetry around Kits Coty House with that in the parish of Addington - together they seem to have formed the grand necropolis of the Belgian settlers in this part of the island.
Wanderings of an Antiquary: chiefly upon the traces of the Romans in Britain By Thomas Wright (1854). Online at Google books.
As the Lower Kits Coty [the Countless Stones] were destroyed about 1690 it might be thought that this legend [of them being countless] arose after their dispersal, but this is not a necessary inference, sinceI was told many years ago by a countryman that the stones of Coldrum were 'difficult' to count, and that no two persons got the same number.
From 'Notes on the Folklore and Legends Associated with the Kentish Megaliths, by John H. Evans, in Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Mar., 1946), p39.
The Coldrum Ley is said to run from nearby Trottiscliffe village church, through the barrow and on, via several other significant sites to the top of Bluebell Hill.
There is a legend of atunnel connecting Coldrum to the church said to contain treasure. I believe this to be a folk memory of the connecting Ley.
One central slab of the western, distal, end of the kerbed part of the barrow has upon it a line of concave abrasion and polishing. A diffused area of similar polishing is also to be seen on another stone. These can be explained as the results of the sharpening of stone and flint axe-blades on the sarsens. The construction of Coldrum would have involved the use of numerous timber levers, struts and blocks, which would have required cutting and fashioning. Axe sharpening would thus have been a recurrent necessity. Axe-sharpening traces have been noted at West Kennet, while at Wayland's Smithy sarsen rubbers, termed querns, were used. Axe-sharpening traces have been noted upon some of Stonehenge's sarsen stones and among the sarsen spreads on Overton Down, east of Avebury. Similar sharpening patches and grooves may exist on the stones of the Kentish series. Timber in quantity would have been needed for stone transport.
Paul Ashbee, Coldrum Revisited and Reviewed, Arch Cantiana vol 118, 1998.
First, an "amusing anecdote":
"Mr Payne alludes to a find of human remains in his Collectanea Cantiana, p139, made presumably when the cave was dug, and of which the skull, by order of the Vicar of Meopham, was buried in that churchyard, causing the Rector of Trosly to complain that he had robbed him of his oldest parishioner!"
And now the hint that one of the stones may have a pollisoir?
"..Another discovery of mine tending that way [towards the interpretation that the site is Neolithic] and of much interest, and unique as far as I know in England, is a highly polished groove in one of the stones."
Judging by the plan accompanying the article, this stone was/is on the far west of the monument. Another plan shows where flints were set in cement to plug the hole dug by people allegedly searching for the tunnel connecting the site with the church at Trosly (half a mile southwest). The Rector apparently stepped in and put a stop to such behaviour - because he was afraid that the stones might fall in.
Coldrum Monument and Exploration 1910.
F. J. Bennett
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 43. (Jan. - Jun., 1913), pp. 76-85.
Mr Bennett comes up with a theory that includes the bones found there and the cultivation terraces - that the monument was somewhere to sacrifice a chosen young man to ensure the fertility of the surrounding land.
"Proceeding from the circle at Coldrum, towards the east, we observed single stones, of the same kind and of the same colossal magnitude, scattered over the fields for some distance; and it is the tradition of the peasantry that a continuous line of such stones ran from Coldrum direct along the valley to the hill of Kit's Coty House, a distance of between 5-6 miles"
The author accompanied by Mr Larking then set off to trace the route of the stones "For a large portion of the journey".
"I was informed that the stones had even be found in the bottom of the river, where there seems to be an ancient ford. It must be remarked that these stones, or boulders, belong to the geological formation of this area, and many of them may have attained their present position by natural causes. But from a tolerably careful examination, we were led to believe that there once existed an avenue of stones connecting the cemetery of Kit's Coty House to the parish of Addlington – together they seem to have formed a grand necropolis for the Belgian settlers in this part of the island".
Extracts from "Wanderings of an Antiquary" by Thomas Wright 1777.