Despite the fog and drizzle worsening as I left Hetty Pegler’s Tump, I thought I must drive up to nearby Nympsfield before the late April afternoon became a total washout. Amazingly there were lots of people at the picnic area around the long barrow. Mostly dog walkers desperate enough to escape a dull Easter holiday weekday, even in this cold and murk. The view over to Coaley and the flat top of Cam Long Down was limited in this weather, but still impressive. I then noticed the barrow sitting over to my right, and approached from it’s side.
It has a neat, understated and unobtrusive presence, here in such a public place. I guess the recently-visited Notgrove could have been presented like this. This accessibility combined with the damp conditions, reminded me of when I’ve visited places such as Parc Le Breos before (I’ve just looked at Parc Le Breos again, and seen an entry from tjj pointing to the similarity to Nympsfield).
As I’ve noticed this week, whilst holidaying in the Cotswolds, another long barrow perched high up on the edge of a hillside. Now that I’ve seen a few, these Cotswold-Severn chambers are starting to become a bit of a fascination. Got a bit carried away taking photos, and in wanting to get out of the rain I completely forgot to check out Soldier’s Grave. Bah!
By the time I came back from visiting the nearby Soldier's Grave Barrow most of the people had gone although two young boys were playing in the piles of leaves which had collected in the chambers. They were clearly oblivious to what it was they were playing in.
Their fathers were deep in conversation about something – I doubt it was the Long Barrow!!
Very easy to access by car as on the site of a viewing/ picnic area on the Cotswold Way. Although there is a plantation of trees blocking the spectacular views over the Severn Valley from the actual barrow, the views a few metres along make this a very satisfying place to visit.
Rather manicured and to be honest somewhat soulless, this is my second visit. This time, however, I was struck by the characteristic cross shape of the chambers - the entrance facing east, with north, south and west chambers visible from the top of the barrow.
From here we headed to Uley Bury hillfort and Hetty Pegler's Tump along the Cotswold Way.
This site is soooooo easy to access. Large car park with wonderful views down the valley. You can spend a lovely day in this area visiting the sites and on a nice day enjoy a picnic. Something for everyone. Visit and enjoy!
Final prehistoric outing of the year (27.12.2009), walking up here from Nailsworth via Woodchester Park. The slight rain gave way to some sunshine as we arrived. The carpark near the barrow was busy and there were plenty of people milling about.
The stones that were in evidence lying on the grass in April when I last came have disappeared (presumably not by being replaced) and there were a couple of others now dislodged. The bottom of the chamber was carpeted in red leaves and a pair of gliders circled overhead - like vultures!
Visited on a reasonable spring day (26.4.09), walking from Woodchester via The Toots. Plenty of picnicers enjoying the spot, but only two small girls paid any attention to the long barrow itself (the upright megaliths being about the same height as them).
Despite the intrusive carpark and picnic tables, this is quite an interesting barrow with its exposed stonework. Having scared the girls off (sorry) I sat in the southern chamber of the barrow for a while and let life and sandwiches pass by. The odd thing about this barrow is that the "mound", such as it is, appears to run north-south, but actually it doesn't. The exposed chambers are in reality at the east end of the barrow and the original long mound would have run westwards from here. The mound is now very low and doesn't really give much sense of how the barrow must have looked. I was also a bit alarmed to see various bits of stonework removed from their places and lying on the grass next to the chamber. It wouldn't take much to seriously damage this exposed monument.
Anyway, after a few peaceful moments I headed off to the NW corner of the picnic area and The Soldier's Grave. The little girls reclaimed their play area and the picnicers carried on ignoring the ancient remains!
Visited 29th January 2005: The parking area right near the barrow is gone now, so no Travellers encampment this time. On this visit it was full of dry leaves, which made for good entertainment for the boys.
I have to say Nympsfield Long Barrow itself still leaves me cold. It's been reconstructed in such a clinical way that there's nothing left of the place except artifice.
You might be shocked to here that I had a little trouble at finding this - the most easy to find place! The weather was poor and the car park part of the picnic area seems to have moved compared to the OS map I had (1:25,000 - it has the new Severn Bridge on it so can't be that old!). This map suggests that the barrow is to the left (south) of any car park. Which, as Moth says, it isn't. The barrow is slightly to the right of the entrance to the picnic area, and the car parking is on the left at around SO794013. Before anyone thinks I'm mad to not find this immediately I have to also point out in my defence that Colin and Janet Bord's book 'A Guide to Ancient Sites in Britain' (which admittedly does date from the late 1970's) describes the barrow as at "the southern end of the picnic area". So I initially looked at the south end, and found some lovely views, but not the barrow.
Don't miss the stunning views across Gloucestershire, the Severn and Wales. Just walk down to the south (i.e. to the left as you drive in) and the view is everywhere. There is a new panoramic plate on Frocester Hill (on National Trust land) just at the end of the picnic area.
Nympsfield is an interesting example of an open longbarrow and this is approx what Notgrove looked like until it was backfilled. It's interesting that Colin and Janet Bord's book strongly disapproved of Notgrove when it was open, but made no adverse comment on Nympsfield.
25 July 2003
No ice cream van in evidence today in the filthy weather, I soon realised that I had misread the Landranger as to where the barrow is. As you drive up the short entrance road to the car park, the barrow is on your right as you turn left into the car park proper.
I drove round the car park (one car in residence) and parked as close as I could to the barrow. I still got drenched. In almost any other place this would be a nice enough example of a long barrow, with just enough of it left to make it easy to visualise. But other than out of convenience or completism (guilty) with Hetty Pegler's Tump just next door, there's not really much reason to bother.
The picnic area probably has nice views on a clear day and you could enjoy a nice ice cream though. I wouldn't know – couldn't see for the mist and rain….
Visited 4th August 2002: Not a very magical site, or it certainly wasn't when we visited. Still, if you like your megaliths to be within walking distance of an ice-cream van, then you'll love Nympsfield.
A good attempt to present an opened barrow by EH, suprisingly untouched/unvandalised considering its accessibility. Has the earth bank been rebuilt? Visit this then go on to Hetty Peglers Tump for the real thing!
A strangely tidy Neolithic long barrow 90 feet in length.
Approximately one mile from Hetty Pegler's Tump this barrow lies in a public park just to the right of the car parking area.
The chamber has been opened up so no dirty knees at this one folks.
Local folklore had it that Nympsfield was originally built as a shelter for lepers, and locals avoided it. Someone clearly overcame their fears in the end, judging by the ruinous state in which the barrow now lies.
Mark Richards also suggests (in 'The Cotswold Way' 1984) that the name Nympsfield could be derived from 'open country belonging to a place called Nymed'.. and nymed possibly coming from the Welsh 'nyfed' - a shrine or holy place (a grove?). Nympsfield the village is not really next to the barrow - it's more equidistant from this long barrow and Hetty Peglar's Tump. It'd be nice to think such a romantic explanation were true though.
When the barrow and its mound were excavated by a Professor Buckman in 1862 and Mrs Clifford in 1937 they found the remains of at least 13 human skeletons as well as Neolithic pottery. Other interesting objects interred were 'a piece of bone carved perhaps in the shape of a human figure', three shiny quartz pebbles, and a perforated dog whelk shell. Red ochre was also found, which must have been brought from a least a dozen miles away - the use of this bright pigment in burials is known from around the world, presumably for its symbolic association with blood.
This site has a selection of photos of the Nympsfield barrow, a diagrammatical plan of the site and (wackiest of all) Virtual Reality Panoramas. These are fun, but a bit tricky to operate. I felt nauseous after swinging around in circles a few times. You'll need either a Java compatible browser or the RealVR plug-in to see the panoramas.