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Fieldnotes by Rhiannon

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Woodhenge (Timber Circle)

I've never been to Woodhenge before, and I'm not sure what I was expecting - it looks so accessible near the road, and it's so near Stonehenge, but surely there's not much to really see? But I enjoyed my trip today. There's a perfectly good carpark, but I felt like commandeering the bus stop below and walking up. It felt like more of an entrance - and it made me realise that Woodhenge is indeed raised up from its surroundings. It gave me that 'top table' feel, like it was quite deliberately sited here for its superiority of position. But for various trees, you'd have a super 360 view. The River Avon is extremely close by - again, hidden by those dastardly trees?

At the top of the path I stopped to look at an 'interpretation board' - and suddenly I realised I was staring out at Durrington Walls, which was quite a revelation. It's huge and you can quite clearly see the banks. Durrington had post circles within it too. Such an enormous site must have been buzzing with activity once. The Riverside Project
suggests that there were once hundreds of dwellings inside.

Through the push-gate into the henge, and there are the rings of concrete posts in a nicely mown circle, surrounded by pleasantly unmown grassland full of wildlife (yellow rattle, scabious, butterflies, the peculiar sound of crickets). I sat down at the edge for some lunch. It was only by sitting down that I could really start to imagine how all the concentric circles of posts must have interacted - how your line of sight to the middle would have changed according to where you were. Some of the posts were just huge - one circle in particular has concrete markers a couple of feet? in diameter. That's quite a size.. and then you start wondering about how tall these posts would have been, and if or how they might have been decorated. Would it have felt claustrophobic amongst them? Was that the intention??

I walked to the fence - one thing you really can't see from here is Stonehenge, and I think that's more a matter of slope than trees. If only I'd been more prepared I would have known that the Cuckoo Stone was somewhere in front of me.

Another thing that set me wondering was the presence of 'additional' posts - posts that (to the untrained eye) look pretty randomly placed and aren't in line with any of the concentric circles. What were they all about? The mind boggles. Also to confuse there are two posts straddling the apparent N entrance - but then two more at a Strange angle off to the NE.

So don't just write this place off because it doesn't have its own stones! From an empty little field with concrete posts, you can conjure something up that is huge and imposing and mysterious, and that starts to fit into its surrounding landscape.

Piggle Dene (Natural Rock Feature)

The A4 is a race track here and there is nowhere safe to park - I left the car up the road at Fyfield (a bus between Calne and Marlborough would stop here too). There is a footpath all the way back, though it's a bit terrifying with the lorries flying past, and then you still have to make a mad dash across the road. But then it's a quick hop over the stile, you're in, and it's an oasis of calm.

Fittingly there were lots of sheep mixed in with the stoney 'greywethers'. But they weren't impressed with my intrusion and quickly set off, bleating madly.

I had had some daft idea to walk from here to the stones at Fyfield Down, but soon realised that there was more than enough to occupy me here (and also it was way too far for me today). If you can't get to Fyfield Down, but want to see the sarsens in somewhere that feels a little bit more remote than Lockeridge Dene, then Piggle Dene would be the place.

Some of the stones are little, and some are really huge. Lots of them have extraordinary shapes - sticky up bits, curvy bits, dippy bits. Most of them are smothered in lichens of all colours, many of which are rare (contributing to the SSSI status of the site).

Some of the stones have been split - I found a few where I could see where someone had attacked them, but others to the untrained eye looked unchiselled. I wish I knew more about the subject.

I stayed here for a couple of hours and didn't see a single person - though I was the star attraction for many many pairs of sheepy eyes.

I couldn't help feeling that the stones were like a river in their dry valley - a valley that feeds down into the Kennet. I also had this strange feeling that they were bursting out of the ground - that the ground was producing them. It's true I wanted to lay my head on them and see what I dreamt. More practically, because they're in the bottom of the valley, you can examine just about all of them without doing any climbing up and down slopes. You just have to watch out for the nettles and the sheep poo.

Kington Down Farm (Long Barrow)

A Spring visit this time and it's currently the haunt of partridges. This barrow must have been really something once - it's still reasonably high and I felt irritated that the other end of the barrow is totally flattened. It made me ponder how many other barrows must have existed but been wiped clean away. I couldn't see any of the big stones I'd seen in winter as plants cover everything - but there are a great deal of little flat stones round about, and I did wonder whether they could be from some Cotswold Severn style walling?

I was pleased to spot the barrow's twin* for the first time, through the hedge on the other side of the road. It seems directly opposite - it made me wonder how old the road is. The crops are only just sprouting so the barrow was clearly visible by its contrasting tufty grass. The multimap aerial photo shows it was ploughed, but it's quite clear on the Google map now. The farmer obviously looks after it now, which is excellent - surely the poor thing's been hammered enough over the millennia. It's on top of a small rise, but in the middle of the field so you can't really get to it. You can get an easier but not quite so clear view from the field entrance (which is blocked by some huge slabs of stone, which I did wonder about too).

*[gah - now looking at Magic it appears someone's changed their mind and this is now down as some round barrows - though there's no additional information. They are pretty much parallel to the long barrow though. I liked it when I thought there were two long barrows. Oh well. At least they make their own appearance on the SMR.]

Battlesbury Camp (Hillfort)

Sometimes I look at some of the photos people post of hill forts on this website and think, uncharitably, yeah yeah another photo of a ditch. But, walking round Battlesbury, I realised why people feel compelled to do this. If you're lucky, the banks and ditches at hill forts are impressive. They can be pretty monumental. They're utterly sculptural. The light catches their shape. I felt an overwhelming urge to capture that at Battlesbury – but not being a photographer, I soon ended up with a series of weedy snaps. It was frustrating. I'm sure many people make a much better job of it, but I can't. And it's not just the forms – it's how to capture the space outwards, and the strange combination of silence and noise - the wind howls so hard your ears hurt, but yet it's tranquil and still up here.

I was thinking of the name 'Battlesbury' and how probably inappropriate it is. Well it seems appropriate as you walk round and see the firing range and the shells of tanks – directly next to the fort is the off-limits military part of Salisbury Plain. But truly, how much battle did this fort see in its day? It reminded me of something fitzcoraldo had said about ceramics – that the revolution in everyday life that this new technology must have brought seems barely discussed. Ok sherds are used for dating sites, but who needs pottery when you've got sharp pointy weapons to talk about. Maybe wars and skirmishes did go on, but there have been plenty in historic times too, yet most of the time people are getting on with ordinary life.

It struck me walking round that 'those banks and ditches didn't dig themselves' – they were a great deal of work to undertake. But it would have had its symbolic value, to bind the local people together, as well as to act as a clear visual symbol of their determination and strength, besides being a good physical defence. It's actually in a super spot here, as there are steep hills around on all sides. You'd be bloody knackered before you got anywhere near poking someone with a spear.

Exhausted after dashing up here in my usual half-panic I sat down with the view directly out to Cley Hill. This would definitely have been my favourite spot if I'd been living here in the Iron Age. I can tell you, Iron Age people definitely wore hoods, or if not, ear muffs. You wouldn't last ten minutes up here without them at this time of year, it'd be far too painful. I wondered about the other people whose favourite spot this had been too, looking out at Cley Hill all those years ago. I wondered if they knew the people who lived out there, maybe there were friends and relations and people they fancied. It's funny how these forts are so empty today and it's just you and the sheep, yet at the same time my thoughts are always centred on the experience of the people that lived here. I know it's just imagination to consider what went on, but you always know that the view and the weather were there the same.

[on a more useful, gradient related note: I think you can drive pretty much up to the level of the fort. I left the car opposite the footpath at ST 896462 but the path is steep and goes up some steps before levelling out - there's a kissing gate to get in. I think really you could park higher up the road (don't be put off by the enormous tank) and use the track at ST 898464, getting a pretty level walk to the fort (presumably there's then a gate). Once at the fort there's some element of clamber to get on the banks and walk round.]

Windmill Tump (Long Barrow)

I unexpectedly found myself near Windmill Tump today, so popped in for a visit. It's quite different at this time of year, without leaves on the trees, and without the tangles of vegetation beneath, and all the lumps and bumps are exposed, making it much easier to understand what you're looking at. Crunching through the beechmast I expected to see more stones around the side chambers, but everything was mossy or covered by a carpet of short grass and other plants.

I did some sketches, but the length of the barrow kept squashing itself up on the page. I tried to draw the stones with some pastels, but the colours eluded me. Never mind, the process of drawing gave me that curious 'attentive / relaxed' meditative state, and I felt peaceful.. apart from the racket that was coming from somewhere nearby, out of sight.. something agricultural maybe. It would have been a blissful picnic spot there today but for that noise.

A word on access - there's a steep bit up from the road (a few feet) and you can either step through a little squeezy bit at the side, or I did notice the big farm gate is unlocked, so you could open that. The 200m(?) to the barrow is a nice flat wide path (with loads of daisies), and then it's a short flat nip across the oil-seed rape (look out for all the bright blue speedwell in between) to the barrow (the wide gate here was propped open). So I'd say it was pretty accessible now (compared to when Kammer visited), assuming you can make the distance from the road.

I did notice on the barrow that there were patches of violets, strawberry, dogs mercury, arum, and something decidedly oniony looking which I assume will be in flower soon, along with the patches of bluebells. So, I heartily recommend it for a spring visit soon.

The Devil's Bed and Bolster (Long Barrow)

It's really very nice here. I've put off a visit for a long time because I wasn't sure about the access: it looks like one of those sly long dashes from a footpath, with the potential of shotgun pellets in the rear. However, fear not, because the local farmer(s) make the footpaths very clear, and there is actually a permissive bridleway to the barrow (from ST810532). What nice people.

To me, the obvious thing in the landscape as I sat at the middle of the barrow, was Cley Hill on the sw-ish horizon. Of course, certain modern features do tend to make you look this way (the chestnut trees and the hedge behind you, the field margin to the left all block the view), so it could be irrelevant, but it didn't feel it.

The stones are a soft orangey pink, flat, and pocked with tiny holes on their narrow edges. The Countryside Stewardship notice about the path mentions 'nine stones' but there are certainly more than nine.

I think the atmosphere would make it easy to stay hours here.Looking for more information on the web, I see there's supposed to be a 'geocache' here. Well if I'd known (because the site was beautifully litter free on the surface) I'd have dug it up and blown it to smithereens. So that's something to do next time. Miserable, unappreciative dimwits.

AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY MAKES ME CROSS?? The git who left it there copied MY cheesy phrase from this website.
It makes you want to give up doesn't it. TMA is surely an attempt to make people value their environment and prehistory. What can you do if some people use that information for making a mess of the place? The box apparently contains golf tees and 'dinos' and all sorts of shite. Why do people leave this 21st century detritus at these special places?

Ogbourne St Andrew Church (Standing Stones)

I noticed the large sarsens under the church - I had forgotten they were here, but they're big enough to draw the eye. I had to feel they were useful foundations (the church is a real mismatch of materials and styles - interesting but locked). But at the end of the day, where did they come from? If they were from a circle, incorporating them was making a statement one way or the other. Maybe they weren't and were just lying around - it's not so far to the greywethers. But it's all very interesting.

I assumed from afar that the ones in the boundary (mentioned below) were gravestones and did not look at them properly.

Ogbourne St Andrew Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

Well this is really very curious. The mound is much bigger than I expected. My imaginative instinct is to compare it with the huge Wiltshire mounds near water ie Silbury etc. The water's even mentioned in the name of the place. But perhaps I should restrain myself - it's not that big. But it is big, and it is in a direct line with the church. I didn't see any 'venomous vipers' though I can believe they might frequent it. I did spot two (plastic) swords on the mound's summit, so the local children can't be that scared of them.

Hackpen Hill (Wiltshire)

If I run down the road a bit from our house, there's a super panoramic view. On a very fine day (or with binoculars), the furthest obvious thing you can see is a very distinctive group of three tree clumps. I've kept seeing them from all sorts of places - lots and lots of people must be familiar with them. There are two closeish together, and then another on the right, slightly further away. Today I was determined to find out where they were. So I jumped in the car and headed off in something like the right direction.

As you can imagine, my driving was a tad erratic, as I kept gawping at the landscape. But finally I arrived safely - and they were at Hackpen Hill, right on the Ridgeway.

It is, as Jane and Moth have said, fantastic up here (if a little chilly), and you can see a long way (the back of Cherhill Down is clear, and beyond that over to the edge of Salisbury Plain, and with binoculars, the mast near Priddy on the Mendip edge. There's lots to the north, but I didn't recognise much). Birds of prey were hovering over the slope, and the shadows of clouds made strange swirls with the patterns of chalk in the fields below.

I sat with the white horse, and on the far side of the road, a black horse stood admiring the view. Something was missing from my horse, so I collected some burnt wood from an old camp fire and made him a nice black eye. He's quite a dainty animal. But he's getting a bit green and may need a bit of a scour?

After walking up to the car park I thought I'd visit one of my tree clumps, so walked along the Ridgeway (serenaded by grasshoppers) to the first one, right by the track. It's mostly beech trees, and you can walk a circular path through them. I spotted my initials carved on one of the trees. You probably would as well, as there are so many.

Lugbury (Long Barrow)

I have to agree with Scubi - the elder tree is getting huge and the right hand stone is completely inaccessible behind brambles. I feel like something ought to be done before the whole lot disappears under a mound of vegetation. Not that I want a pristine site devoid of plants, but this is starting to go too far. The big slab is still relatively clear and touchable though, with its lovely pinky colour and soft dips. The size of the stones makes this place really Monumental.

Sodbury Camp (Hillfort)

As I was walking up from Little Sodbury, I suddenly realised what a racket I was making - I came here for a bit of peace, right? - so I made more effort to move quietly. It turned out this was totally futile, as when I found myself in the fort's ditches, all I could hear was the reverberation of shotguns. I snuck along the ditch wondering what would happen if I stuck my head above the banks. Actually it was only some people clay-pigeon shooting inside the fort. But it did made me think about the (prehistoric) advantages of sneaking up invisibly to a hillfort, but the disadvantages of being totally ignorant of what might be waiting inside.

If you only see this fort from the main road, you'd think there was no view at all - but actually the land drops away on the west side, and you can see for miles and miles, out into Wales. Because I've never understood this, I've always thought of it as a 'little fort' but seeing the double banks and ditch made me realise what a mammoth effort went into building this place. Like Moss, this, together with the violence of the guns, made me think about the nice and not so nice things that might have happened here. But (as I ate my crisps) my thoughts turned to more everyday arrangements, like what the inhabitants ate and drank, and what they might have carried their own packed lunch in.

I walked northwards through the camp centre and I wanted to walk back round along the east side - but I could not find the path round the back of the buildings. All signs were mysteriously missing (except the cotswold way ones) and even brandishing my map I didn't fancy an earful from one of the posh house owners. So I gave it a miss - but it's probably easier from other direction.

Windmill Tump (Long Barrow)

Windmill Tump is marked on my road atlas and I got here without an OS map. Since Kammer's visit a smart brown sign has gone up at the gate. It's a small one on a stick like a footpath sign, but it clearly shows the English Heritage symbol and the barrow's name, so if you're looking for it it's enough to make you swerve into the layby.

Well, this is a strange place. It's partly so neat that you wonder what's real - the enclosing drystone wall echoes Stoney Littleton's, but it ends neatly and abruptly every time a tree appears on the margin. On the other hand, the barrow's untidy and rather bumpy and muddley on top - partly the fault of the big beech, ash and oak trees on top, and partly, no doubt, from past excavations.

My favourite bit was the chamber (of which Kammer has taken a photo). It's ever so low and you can see more drystone walling inside. It was spookily thrilling to think of it stuffed with bones. However, it was weird - it was so high up on the mound. I imagined it would be low down like the side chambers at Belas Knap, but no. Weren't bones shuffled about and periodically added to at long barrows? So it couldn't have been just a sealed cist accessed from above? Was it just the end of a once longer passage? I dunno. I do know I kneeled squarely on a nettle when bending down for a look though. But in this position spotted that there are several lovely fossilised cockle-type shells on the rock: a deliberate choice or just local geology?

There's also the two stones at the far end from the gate. I couldn't tell if this was a 'false entrance' like Belas Knap, or another chamber positioned at the back end of the barrow instead (some research required). They were interestingly (naturally) striated and one of them had an excellent pink lichen on its inner face. It was more draughty sat here though, and the noise of the wind in the trees occasionally sounded like voices. As the rain set in it felt like quite a bleak and lonely place. But in sunshine it's probably an ideal picnic spot really.

The barrow is pretty overgrown at the moment - apart from round the chamber and the end pair of stones, which has short turf. There are nettles, brambles, wild strawberry, and pretty but poisonous woody nightshade. There are lots of lovely stripey snail shells in yellow and in pink to look out for, too.

Scrambling over all this I got to the end of the barrow nearest the gate, where it was quite clear and there were lots of flat stones like the ones in the walls. But - hang on a minute - I couldn't believe my eyes. Someone had carefully constructed a cross with them, flat on the ground, about 3 or 4 feet across! It was really carefully done, with the occasional straight edges of the stones deliberately chosen to form the edges of the symbol. It made me really angry - firstly that someone should be moving the stones (even if they had fallen out of a wall, or whatever), but secondly because I instantly presumed the symbol was made by someone trying to christianise this patently unchristian monument. Perhaps they weren't. Perhaps it wasn't even christian in intent. But that's what it looked like and I just set about demolishing their handiwork. Some people have some funny ideas. Not least pretty much illegally interfering with ancient monuments. But also, if that's what it was, trying to confer some kind of christian 'benefit' on people who lived at least 4000 years before christianity was even invented. In comparison with this, the roughly made plaited cornstalk ring I saw left at the entrance was a respectful and undamaging addition to the site.

Pfah. Anyway it was raining in big sheets now sweeping across the field and I had to leave. When I arrived I thought it was a strange location - there's no view at all. But on leaving it occurred to me that maybe that's the point - the barrow totally dominates the area which it is in, a constant reminder of the ancestors of the local inhabitants.

Langridge (Round Barrow(s))

I walked here along the Cotswold Way from the Bevil Grenville monument: it's a very pleasant walk, though it was extremely hot at the time. You do feel as though you are treading in the footsteps of people of long ago, as you walk along a secluded sunken green lane with water trickling down it. To add to Moss's nature notes, in the summer sunshine the route was full of fluttering butterflies of many different species.

The mounds were overgrown with nettles. It felt like a very domestic or specifically personal spot - the views are quite enclosed and limited really, and you could imagine that the people in the barrows were definitely the farmers of the valley below. The windows of the buildings down there stared up at me and I felt I was intruding. I followed a little path in the grass in an effort to find St. E..'s holy well*. I found a circular concrete capped well and assumed that was it (it was nice to think the water was still being used, even if it didn't look as romantic as I'd hoped). In retrospect I may have been looking in the wrong place - there are a lot of springs round here.

As I made back for the car I realised I could see Morgan's Hill from the top of Lansdown - practically Avebury and a long way away.

*finally found the name - St Eanswyth. Phil Quinn's book on the 'holy wells of Bath and Bristol region' mentions it being at ST734705. It's on the parish boundary and is on the Anglo Saxon estate charter of 931 as Eanswythe Wyllas (St Eanswyth's Well).

Oliver's Castle (Hillfort)

Oliver's Castle is truly fantastic. I'd go so far as to say it beats Adam's Grave hands down* (so long as you don't want a longbarrow)..

It need require no uphill walking, which will please some people. If driving here persevere and park at SU 004647 - the track is perfectly flat and navigable though you might initially feel you're heading off into the back of beyond.

Stroll down the path to the end of the fort.. and you will be gobsmacked by the view. Surely you can see the whole world from up here? Well of course you can't really, but it's a manageable size universe, and I think that's why it has such appeal. It looks like all the everything you could require. It might not be the grand vista from a more dramatic mountain, but it's more fertile and comfy.

The barrows couldn't be in a better spot, stuck out right at the end. But the manmade lumps and bumps are utterly overshadowed by their natural counterparts - to the north of the fort are the most amazing undulating intricately folded dry valleys. The light when I visited made them look even nicer. You want to roll down them or something.

The fort is sprinkled with beech trees, with their obligatory bubbled carved writing on the trunks, but they masquerade as scots pines from afar, because they are so wind blown. It is very windy up here. The site is a nature reserve, and is full of lovely plants at the moment - beautiful pink sainfoin, thyme and greater knapweed, and many others. [A few weeks later and it was a botanist's dream].

*Is this sheer exaggeration? You'll have to visit and find out.

Nesscliffe Hill Camp (Hillfort)

This is a very pleasant spot to stroll round - there is an air of a park about it, as the hill was planted with all sorts of trees at one time. But you can make out the earthworks, admire the view over to the Breiddin Hills, and visit Kynaston's cave with its attendant bats and folklore (Humphrey Kynaston was a bit of a local hero, with his Black Bess- style horse, Beelzebub). If you go out to the northwest tip of the fort, known as Oliver's Point (after Oliver Cromwell? I don't know - he's blamed for a lot of things), there are some strange ballaun-style holes in the rock underfoot. Perhaps you know what they are? Cos I don't.

Porlock Stone Circle

After the gradient-related excitement of Porlock Hill you feel on top of the world up here. You can see for miles and miles - back up to the Quantocks and out over the (yesterday, gloriously blue) Severn estuary to Wales. Exmoor ponies nibble around you while you lie back on the heathery/bilberried slope.

Typically I had no idea at the time that this site or the Whit Stones were up here.. but they're in the perfect spot and I can't say I'm surprised (which is why I feel justified in my fieldnote despite not seeing them..)

Kington Down Farm (Long Barrow)

I watched the sun go down from here last night (threading its way through the pylon lines. How romantic). It's amazing how different places are in different seasons. The mound itself has been largely cleared of vegetation and is covered in tiny nibbled clumps of grass surrounded by thousands of tiny sheepy footprints. No sheep about this time though, but their trails led up to the mound as though they like this for a place to hang out.

What I was delighted to see were some largish stones at the edges of the mound (the barrow being too overgrown for me to have seen them before): the largest 2-3ft long on the top of the barrow, right at the middle at the far end from the tree. Whether the farmer moved it here deliberately I don't know but it is in the perfect spot. I sat on it and realised that the mound is aligned towards the midwinter sunset. My shadow and that of the big oak tree stretched out behind us in the low light.

It's so noisy here though - the sound of the motorway is so loud and constant. But sat freezing on the barrow I tried to let it wash over me. I tried to think of nothing at all.

I really should do this more often.

Maes Knoll (Hillfort)

I'm sorry to start like this, but I have discovered it is a fact that some people (some people) from Whitchurch are pure scum. I'd driven up a tiny lane from this suburb of Bristol, up onto the plateau where the fort is, in a lazy attempt to avoid a climb. The views are fantastic - 'panoramic' doesn't even begin to cover it - the Clifton suspension bridge, the Severn crossings, the Welsh mountains behind. But some people don't register this. Some people prefer to sneak up here to dump their rubbish, set fire to bits of cars, and generally behave like complete fwits. What a complete shame - and shame on them. (If they can be bothered to make the effort to dump stuff up here, why don't they exert the same energy and take it to the tip? It's beyond understanding really. I'll probably be writing to the Daily Mail in a minute:). I backed the car up to a large forlorn sarsen blocking the entrance into a field, got out.. and decided that despite it being a quiet midday on a weekday I was too afraid to leave the car alone for fear of the wheels disappearing by the time I got back. So I'm sorry, if you can't handle a steep hill, you'll either have to park here or forget it.

Fuming I drove round to the other side of the hill at Norton Malreward and braced my unfit body for the climb. It's infinitely worth it though. Indeed, what can't you see from up here? I could easily spy the stones of Stanton Drew, looking like cows grazing in their field. Over to the east was Lansdown and Bathampton; straight ahead, Stantonbury; over the back the edge of Salisbury Plain where Bratton Castle is; the strange shape of Cley Hill; and to the south the Mendips and Beacon Batch.

Recovering, I followed the footpath to the Tump. Visiting this just underlines for me the absolute necessity of spending time at a place, not just assuming from a map. The tump (as RichardZ says in his comments on the attached forum post) - when you reach and climb it, the view opens out into 360 degrees. It's fantastic. It's a huge lump of earth and presumably it must have been created for the very purpose of raising you up above everything else to see. The view includes all the places I've mentioned so far, and would also include the line of the Cotswold Hills, if it weren't for some ill-positioned trees. Is it really part of the later Wansdyke, as has been suggested elsewhere here on tma? It feels as though it is older, part of the fort, because you 'need' this extra vantage point for visibility and defence, surely?

It was marvellously relaxing eating my lunch on the tump, with Bristol strangely still and quiet below, and listening to the sounds of insects, hay harvesting and dogs barking. Maes Knoll is directly on the flight path to Bristol Airport and the strangest effect happened when planes went over. The sun was bright and cast a clear shadow of the planes which moved quickly over the ground. It looked to me like a huge bird undulating over the landscape. In fact the whole place was 'birdy' today - there were crowds of crows sitting on the slope below like a van Gogh painting, and I'd surprised a bird of prey out of the hedge as I'd climbed up. More birds sat in a nearby ash tree like big black fruit, watching me, and flocks of pigeons wheeled over my head. It was hot though and there's no shelter (that probably explains a lot eh. But maybe, as I thought much later, they were just the legendary Birds of Rhiannon come to see me, as they might).

You can't walk across the inside of the fort, but you don't need to - the inside of the fort is not the point. Visit - it's so worth the climb.

Fromefield (Long Barrow)

I set off optimistically after these stones, hoping that things so sizeable would be easily spotted. I was wrong. It didn't help that I didn't bring the notes below with me.

It would certainly have been a good spot - high on the hill overlooking the river valley below. But now it's a sprawling housing estate which has lost its shine. It was muggy and uncomfortable, and people do give you funny looks when you're staring in their gardens in a cul-de-sac. I suppose I could have asked for help but I could just imagine the blank expressions so didn't have the heart. Perhaps the stones are still here somewhere. If you're ever in Frome please take a look. I want them to be here. I don't want to think that people would get rid of their stones - you'd think they'd make a nice landscaping feature. This was disappointing.

Beacon Batch (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

This is a true 'palimpsest' of a landscape. There are a lot of bumps, and yes, some of them are bronze age barrows. But some of them are actually the remains of a bizarre scheme from WWII: an attempt to recreate the street plan of Bristol on top of a heathy hillside, to lure the bombers away from the city. You can read more on MAGIC's extract from the EH schedule:

From up here you can see for miles in practically every direction, and I am sure this is where I could see from the outlying circle at Stanton Drew.
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This hill, it has a meaning that is very important for me, but it's not rational. It's beautiful, but when you look, there's nothing there. But I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to it.

-- Alan Garner.

...I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn...

-- William Wordsworth.

I'm currently mad on visiting Anglo-Saxon and Norman carvings and enjoy the process of drawing them:

and I've been helping digitise the Schools' Collection of the National Folklore Collection of Ireland... you can also at

Some interesting websites with landscape and fairy folklore:

My TMA Content: