Royal Wedding? – not for me – although the extra day off work was most welcome!
So, having taken the opportunity to knock another couple of English Heritage sites off the list, I found myself in sunny Oxfordshire.
Although there is now no sign of the Barrows which once stood here I did see a sign proclaiming Abingdon as 'the oldest town in Britain – since the Iron Age'.
As Barrows once stood here perhaps this should be revised to 'since the Bronze Age'?
The name Barrow Hills promises much but the reality is that any visible trace of the barrows themselves is long gone.
I started by driving down Thrupp Road, which forms the eastern edge of the site, to see if there were any suspicious bumps or other signs. Nothing, although the field does have a large bowl shaped dip which stands out in this generally flat landscape. I then headed back to the car park for Barrow Hills Park which is on Audlett Drive just south of the roundabout with the (Abingdon to) Radley Road. The park itself is mainly a skate park and dogwalking area with some recently planted woodland. It's pleasant enough on a damp spring afternoon when the cherry trees are flowering but there's no information about the place and its distinctive name, and the only mounds are in the skate park and hence presumably modern.
So what used to be visible? This was a Bronze Age cemetery, with two rows of barrows arranged in straight lines running roughly east to west, parallel to each other and only a short distance apart. According to Leeds, the northern line had eleven barrows with single ring ditches and the southern line had five barrows with double ring ditches. The car park is roughly in the middle - the barrows to the east are under the park and the field mentioned earlier, the barrows to the west are under the houses on the other side of Audlett Drive. The area was excavated in the 1980s prior to the housing being built and use of the area for ceremonial and funerary purposes back to the early Neolithic was uncovered (Excavations at Barrow Hills - ISBN 0947816895).
All in all, probably not worth a visit then but if it's a dry summer, overflying the area in a microlight might show up some interesting crop marks.
Another article by Leeds: "Further Excavations in Barrow Hills Field, Radley, Berks" with map and diagrams. What a straight line those 'barrows' made! Mr Leeds has a rather readable style compared to many report writers (despite the kind of dry subject matter). From volume III (1938).
This is E.T. Leeds 1936 summary of his ditch and barrow excavations in Oxfordshire (some of the locations were in Berkshire at the time but have since been organisationally moved). As well as the Barrow Hills ditches at Radley, excavations at Cassington, Clifton Hampden, North Stoke and Abingdon are covered.
It contains a small but useful figure of the Barrow Hills ditches on a contemporary OS map - despite the significant changes in the area as a result of the expansion of Abingdon, the distinctive turns of the Abingdon-Radley road still exist and so help locate the site on a current OS map.