I have just walked this site again and have spotted what appears to be an unlisted pond barrow. I'm aware that these are notoriously difficult to tell from sink holes and the like, but this appears to have a well defined bank surrounding the parts of it which are not near the footpath, which runs very close to it. It is only several hundred yards from the Rainbarrows themselves . Photos to follow, you decide!
These barrows are much easier to see since much of the scrub has been cleared in order to reclaim the area as heathland. This is part of the Thomas Hardy heath project , which aims to re-create the heath of Hardy's youth , which became the fictional Egdon heath in his writings.
The name does not appear to have anything to do with rain but is an Anglicised version of Hraefn or Hraevn meaning raven in Anglo Saxon - see A.D.Mills - Place Names of Dorset.
Three Bronze Age bowl barrows on Duddle Heath. The barrows are between 17m and 25m in diameter and 1.25m-1.6m high. The two most northerly barrows have a hollow in the centre. This possibly marks the sot of the excavations in 1887. This found a cremation burial and three bucket urns containing cremations. The southern most barrow also has a hollow but this probably marks the site of a military observation post. Remains of ditches are visible at various points 2m wide and 0.25m deep. Scheduled.
Three of five barrows on Duddle heath between Thorncombe woods and Puddletown forest . Their visibility depends on wether the forestry commission have been cutting down trees or not . At the moment they can be seen quite well, although photography isn't very good . Situated next to a dogleg in Ackling dyke , the roman road to Badbury rings , access is always possible via the pathways through the forest. Another way to get to this site is to park in Thorncombe woods car park and walk up the roman road , it is well defined and always free of trees as the foresters use it as a natural fire break .I'm not surprised Hardy mentions these barrows as he was born in Higher Bockhampton which is part of Thorncombe woods and about a 1/4 of a mile away from them.
There is one barrow in this set of five which can be seen very well at the moment as the horrible pine trees have been removed from it.
These barrows were excavated by Edward Cunnington in the 1880s: he found some urns containing cremations, which are now in the Dorset County Museum.
They also star in Thomas Hardy's 'Return of the Native' as a crucial meeting point for the characters. At one point the locals build a beacon fire on top of one:
...a pyramid of furze thirty feet in circumference now occupied the crown of the tumulus, which was known as Rainbarrow for many miles round... Perhaps as many as thirty bonfires could be counted within the whole bounds of the district; and as the hour may be told on a clock-face when the figures themselves are invisible, so did the men recognize the locality of each fire by its angle and direction, though nothing of the scenery could be viewed...
The first tall flame from Rainbarrow sprang into the sky, attracting all eyes that had been fixed on the distant conflagrations back to their own attempt in the same kind. The cheerful blaze streaked the inner surface of the human circle—now increased by other stragglers, male and female—with its own gold livery, and even overlaid the dark turf around with a lively luminousness, which softened off into obscurity where the barrow rounded downwards out of sight. It showed the barrow to be the segment of a globe, as perfect as on the day when it was thrown up, even the little ditch remaining from which the earth was dug. Not a plough had ever disturbed a grain of that stubborn soil. In the heath's barrenness to the farmer lay its fertility to the historian. There had been no obliteration, because there had been no tending.
The name 'Rainbarrows' hints at more associations: is it that if you dig into them it will rain? (a frequent enough motif)