As a birthday treat we had a weekend away in Weymouth (chance for me to knock several E.H. sites off the list). Looking at the map it soon became apparent that this part of the world is chock-a-block with prehistoric sites and a full week would be needed for a proper visit – never mind a weekend. Still, I was sure I could manage a few sites during our short break!
Heading east along the very busy A35 I kept a sharp look out for the entrance to Wellbottom Lodge where E.H. state you can access the site from. Needless to say we initially drove straight past it – which isn’t surprising given it is a very small entrance surrounded by trees. After a bit of a dodgy turn round using the layby near the Broad Stone we were soon parking up next to the house.
At this point it occurred to me that although access is via Wellbottom Lodge that isn’t the same as saying you are able to park there! Looking at the drive I suspect you are not although as no one came out of the house confirming this I decided to take a chance and park there anyway as otherwise it would have involved a dangerous walk along the A35 from the layby to get to the lodge. Besides, Karen and the children stayed in the car so if anyone did come out she could use her feminine charms!
Opposite the lodge is a small gravel path with a gate at each end – this is the access point to the Barrows. A small E.H. info board is provided. You then enter the fields in which lie the Barrows and home to a lot of sheep. There are several Barrows to be seen in this field; across the road and there is also one near the lodge. This is one of those places where the best view would be had via a balloon flight – or if you are feeling brave a Felix Baumgartner sky dive!!
You actually get a good view of the Barrows by simply driving along the A35.
Despite being an E.H. site access isn’t as easy as it should be due to the parking problems. For most people I would suggest a ‘drive by’ along the A35 would suffice.
How often Winterbourne Poor Lot must be seen from speeding cars and not up close. It's as true for me as anyone. It's only the second time I've stopped off here to have a closer look. It's not an easy place to stop at. There is no obvious easy access from any direction. The road is fast and the fences don't exactly invite you in. For all that this is a site managed by English Heritage, on their site it still says access via Wellbottom Lodge and this is probably the only place to park. Even then the road is so fast that stopping there and getting back out again in one piece feels like quite a mission!
Once up there on the hill though and it's a different world, albeit one that shares the main road. Maybe the fact that people usually pass by instead of stopping here adds something to the place, it's certainly nice to have the place to oneself for a little while.
[visited 11/9/4] Quick look about after hearing of a metal detector in the Dorchester area digging into barrows. No real sign here, but a couple of the barrows have patches of bare soil, presumably from the sheep as they didn't look like shovel dug holes. I also had a quick chat with the owners of the house next door, who say they keep an eye on the place and certainly wouldn't tolerate treasure hunters.
Whilst you visit Poor Lot don't forget the woods just to the East, though watch out for gamekeepers as these be pheasant woods. There is a circular banked structure just before you enter the woods to your left, it used to be in the woods, but the landowner has removed the woods to iirc turn it into pasture. I preume this is the remains of a disk? barrow, similar to one at Oakley Down cemetary, but I'm not sure.
[visited 27/11/02] Ideally get to this site via the Dog kennels next door as a public footpath goes through there apparently. Though a notice on their wall implied the footpath will be moving soon. Alternatively park in the next farm track a field past the barrows and work your way back, climbing over the fence of your choice.
I was amazed at the number and variation of the barrows here, not to mention the huge size of one of them. Another thing I noticed were strange parallel lines or track-ways leading up to the barrows and between them. Probably just plough marks but interesting nevertheless.
I would love to know more about these. Of all the ancient sites we visited in Dorset these were voted ˜most surprising and enigmatic". We knew nothing more than what we saw on the OS map, which shows the English Heritage symbol with the title "Poor Lot Barrows" and a landscape seemingly littered with barrows / tumuli. I still don't know much more!
We couldn't find any sort of entrance or obvious place to park, so we ended up parking on the grass verge of the side road (towards Compton Valence, see below), walking back across the main road (A35) and hopping over the fence. We were pretty amazed that an English Heritage site seemed to have nothing there and made us feel like trespassers! Later I saw the English Heritage website which said there was access via Wellbottom Lodge. We couldn't see any, but at that time we weren't quite sure where we were looking and what we were looking for! I presume the Lodge is the house just off to the south of the A35, a short distance before the junction to Compton Valence (if coming from Winterbourne Abbas).
Anyway, remnants of all sort of weird and wonderfully shaped barrows do litter the area, including in the field to the South West, the field to the South East (including quite a large tumulus - see photo), and the field opposite the road (to the North East). Judging by the strange shapes in the maize field to the North there may also be 'things' hiding there, but the OS map doesn't show anything.
And as we were there two jet planes (they looked like American Air Force jets, not RAF?) flew very low over us and then peeled away from each other, like a personal flypast! Amazing.
The English heritage website gives the following information:
Opening Times: Any reasonable time
Directions: 2 miles W of Winterbourne Abbas, S of junction of A35 with a minor road to Compton Valence. Access via Wellbottom Lodge - 180 metres (200 yards) along A35 from junction (OS Map 194; ref SY 590906)
Winterbourne Poor Lot is a large Bronze Age round barrow cemetery, comprising a number of different types including bell barrows, disc barrows and bowl barrows, along with a possible hut circle. The dispersed cemetery is unusually situated within a valley bottom, split on each side by the A35 main road, and is believed to contain at least 44 barrows. Many of the barrows have suffered plough damage and some are no longer visible. The cemetery itself is clearly visible from the chalk ridges to the north and south, where further groups of barrows are known to survive. The core of the cemetery is situated within an area of 3 hectares on a natural terrace in the hillside, close to the bottom of the valley. Many of the barrows within this group are inter-visible and individual settings suggest that they were carefully located to provide views other neighbouring barrow groups. These bowl barrows have mounds composed of earth, flint and chalk. Each is surrounded by a ditch, which was used to gather material for construction of the barrows, though some of these ditches have since become infilled. The largest barrow in this group measures about 35 metres in diameter and 2.5 metres in height. The barrow cemetery is crossed by a parish boundary between Kingston Russell and Winterbourne Abbas. There are traces of old field banks running parallel to the modern field boundary within the south western area of the cemetery. At least two of the barrows were excavated by R. J. C. Atkinson between 1952 and 1953. One of these barrows (referred to as 'Barrow G') had a ring bank enclosing a circle of 8 small pits, covered by a flint pavement 22 feet in diameter which extended as a pathway through the entrance on the south east side. This was flanked by a pair of pits. Winterbourne Poor Lot barrows are now in the care of English Heritage.