The first stop off is Roughridge Hill long barrow. Well-defined on the OS map, the reality is rather less impressive. Unless you know it’s there, you’d pass by without a glance. All that remains is a low rise in the grassy field, hard up against the edge of the much bigger Wansdyke. The proximity of the dyke may suggest that the long barrow was a reasonably obvious landmark, perhaps a boundary feature, made use of by the earthwork builders when they were planning their route. Sadly it’s not so prominent now, not really worthy of much of a pause as I head across the hill.
Two lithe brown shapes dart into my path, then rise on hind legs to survey their route – it’s the first hares I’ve seen this year, always a great pleasure to encounter.
A Neolithic long barrow (Grinsell's Bishops Cannings 92) situated on Roughridge Hill, to the south of Wansdyke. The barrow mound measures about 75 metres long and up to 32 metres wide. It stands up to about 1 metre high. Flanking the mound, but no longer visible at ground level due to the spreading of the mound caused by ploughing, are two quarry ditches which will survive as buried features. Scheduled.
On Roughbridge Hill - Bishop's Cannings 92; a long barrow, visible on air-photographs. (SU 05486577), orientated E/W, 230ft by 100ft and 6 1/2ft high. The eastern tip said by Grinsell to be cut by the Wansdyke. (1,2) SU 05466578; The long barrow is 70.0m long ENE-WSW by approximately 40.0m. The side ditch on the S is ploughed out, and visible only as a soilmark, but on the N a short portion of the ditch up to 0.7m deep protrudes from beneath Wansdyke which overlies it. The mound, although under plough, is up to 2.5m high. Surveyed at 1:2500. (3) The Neolithic long barrow referred to by the previous authorities was visible on vertical air photographs as a substantial oval mound which tapers to a point at its west end. Recent photographs show that it is gradually being ploughed smooth but is still a substantial mound. (4-5)
The most obvious landscape feature on Roughridge Hill is no doubt Wansdyke, but at its side is a hugely older Neolithic long barrow. Two early Bronze Age round barrows were also on the hill: these were excavated by Proudfoot in the 1960s. Underneath them he found traces of pits dating to the early Neolithic. The largest was over 2m across and contained: pottery sherds from over 30 pots; worked flints; a broken polished axehead; bone pins; antler; a sarsen polissoir; bones of cattle, pigs and sheep; and a piece of human bone! In the base of another was a human cremation. It seemed that the site had been occupied for a few months (or maybe a couple of years) and at that time was a clearing in woodland; the pits were maybe filled in at the time the people moved on, maybe with ceremony.
Pollard and Reynolds describe the discoveries in 'Avebury- the biography of a landscape' (2002) and emphasise that these pits are really the first traces of Neolithic activity in the Avebury region.