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Stonehenge visitor centre and road closure project starts
A £27m project at Stonehenge to build a new visitor centre and close the road alongside the monument has begun.
The centre will replace existing buildings. After the closure of the A344, a shuttle service taking visitors to and from the stones will start.
The existing car and coach park next to Stonehenge will also be removed.
English Heritage said the work would "restore the dignity" of the stones' setting and "minimise the intrusion of the modern world".
The 3,500-year-old World Heritage site receives more than one million visitors a year.
English Heritage said the closure of the A344 would reunite the monument with The Avenue - its ancient processional approach. The stretch of road to be closed will be grassed over.
Stonehenge is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons up to 4,000 years ago
Its stones are believed to be from Pont Saeson in Pembrokeshire - more than 240 miles (386 km) away
Recent pagan celebrations at the Henge began in the 20th Century
On Summer Solstice (Litha), the central Altar stone aligns with the Heel stone, the Slaughter stone and the rising sun to the north east
Read more about the history of Stonehenge
Find out more: BBC Religion Paganism
Head of Stonehenge Peter Carson said: "It's a really fantastic day for Stonehenge.
"What this does is address a lot of concerns that people have had at Stonehenge for decades. It will remove the inadequate facilities and it will mean that we have an open landscape that people can explore.
"I'm absolutely delighted and it will transform the experience for those who visit in the future."
When finished, the visitor centre will be situated at Airman's Corner, about a mile-and-a-half (2.4km) west of the stones, and is expected to open in autumn 2013.
The centre will include exhibition and education facilities, a cafe, shop and toilets.
The area near the stone circle will be restored to grass in summer 2014.
A grade II listed Airman's Cross memorial at Airman's Corner was recently removed to make way for work to upgrade the road junction.
It has been put into temporary storage and will be re-sited in the grounds of the new visitor centre once work is completed.
Stonehenge was built to unify Britain, researchers conclude.
Building Stonehenge was a way to unify the people of Stone Age Britain, researchers have concluded.
Teams working on the Stonehenge Riverside Project believe the circle was built after a long period of conflict between east and west Britain.
Researchers also believe the stones, from southern England and west Wales, symbolize different communities.
Prof Mike Parker Pearson said building Stonehenge required everyone "to pull together" in "an act of unification".
The Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP) has been investigating the archaeology of Stonehenge and its landscape for the past 10 years.
In 2008, SRP researchers found that Stonehenge had been erected almost 500 years earlier than had originally been thought.
Now teams from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London, have concluded that when the stone circle was built "there was a growing island-wide culture".
"The same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast - this was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries," said Prof Parker Pearson, from University of Sheffield.
"Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them.
"Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification."
Stonehenge may also have been built in a place that already had special significance for prehistoric Britons.
The SRP team found that its solstice-aligned avenue sits upon a series of natural landforms that, by chance, form an axis between the directions of midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.
"When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun's path being marked in the land, we realised that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance," said Mr Parker Pearson.
The winter solstice is also believed to have been of more significance to Britain's Neolithic people
"This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else.
"Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world".
Previous theories suggesting the great stone circle was inspired by ancient Egyptians or extra-terrestrials have been firmly rejected by researchers.
"All the architectural influences for Stonehenge can be found in previous monuments and buildings within Britain, with origins in Wales and Scotland," said Mr Parker Pearson.
"In fact, Britain's Neolithic people were isolated from the rest of Europe for centuries.
"Britain may have become unified but there was no interest in interacting with people across the Channel.
"Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture, which was isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel."
Stonehenge: Closure of A344 near monument to go ahead.
Plans to close a main road running past Stonehenge are to go ahead.
English Heritage wants to stop traffic from travelling close to the stones and "restore the dignity" of the World Heritage Site by closing the A344.
The road from the A303 at Stonehenge Bottom to west of the visitor centre has already been approved for closure.
Now, following a public inquiry, Wiltshire Council has approved an independent inspector's report to close the remaining section of road.
In June 2010 the council granted planning permission for a new visitors centre at Airman's Corner, 1.5 miles (2km) west of Stonehenge.
And in November, roads minister Mike Penning approved plans to close an 879m (2,884ft) section of the A344 from its junction with the A303 at Stonehenge Bottom with a stopping up order.
Now the council has approved a traffic regulation order (TRO) for the remainder of the A344 to Airman's Corner.
But proposals to close a number of byways around the ancient monument were refused.
Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon said the inspector's recommendations and resulting council decision had "erred on the side of common sense".
"I invited the inspector to recommend a modification to the order be made in that should the stopping up order be placed on the lower section of the A344 the remaining section of the metalled road be restricted by a traffic regulation order as requested.
"And he recommended that the proposed TRO be made with modification to the A344 only, leaving the byways in the World Heritage Site still open to all traffic, as they have been."
Bronze Age hoard found in Manorbier, Pembrokeshire.
A collection of Bronze Age artefacts found by a man with a metal detector in a Pembrokeshire field may end up at the National Museum Wales.
The tools, a weapon, and other items which were found by Gavin Palmer near Manorbier have been declared treasure by the county's coroner.
The museum says the find helps shed light on how people lived in west Wales 3,000 years ago.
It is having the find independently valued with a view to buying the items.
The money would be split between Mr Palmer and the landowner.
The items were buried around 1000 to 800BC.
Mr Palmer came across the 19 objects while metal detecting in the corner of a field in August last year.
They can be dated to the Late Bronze Age and were buried around 1000 to 800BC.
An archaeological survey of the area was subsequently carried out by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust.
It suggested the artefacts had once been buried together as a hoard in an isolated pit.
No further Bronze Age objects were found and a geophysical survey did not reveal evidence of a settlement or monument in the immediate vicinity.
Adam Gwilt, curator of the museum's Bronze Age collections, said: "This varied group of bronze objects helps us to understand the kinds of tools, weapons and personal dress items that were in use and circulation in west Wales towards the end of the Bronze Age.
"The hoard may have been buried during a ritual ceremony held by a nearby community of farmers and metalworkers."
He said the museum planned to acquire the hoard following its valuation.
Bronze Age finds at Llangollen's Pillar of Eliseg.
Remains dating back to the Bronze Age have been uncovered by archaeologists excavating the site of a 9th Century monument.
The finds were made during the latest dig at the Pillar of Eliseg near Llangollen, Denbighshire.
Possible cremated remains and bone fragments are now being examined.
The experts said the finds had complicated the picture regarding the site's historical significance and make it worthy of more investigation.
Bangor and Chester university experts and students have been involved in a dig with historical monuments agency Cadw to conserve and better understand the mound.
They gave updates, and shared photographs and films via Llangollen Museum's Facebook page during the dig.
Last year's excavations focused on the mound, which was identified as an early Bronze Age cairn.
It is said the local landowner Trevor Lloyd re-erected the monument on the mound in 1773 after it fell over and found a grave with a body inside along with pieces of silver.
The experts have been trying to find if there any truth to the story which some think is legend.
Prof Nancy Edwards from Bangor University said to establish any truth in the story they had to clear away debris left by Lloyd more than 200 years ago.
"We have been digging that out to reveal what we think are the Bronze Age remains underneath," she said.
"We have had what we think is an early medieval long cist grave so it is looking even more complicated now and also what may be evidence of Bronze Age cremations."
The Pillar of Eliseg was originally a tall stone cross but only part of a round shaft survives set within its original base.
It once bore a long Latin inscription saying that the cross was raised by Concenn, ruler of the kingdom of Powys, who died in AD 854, in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg, who had driven Anglo-Saxon invaders out of the area.
An update on the latest finds will be published in the near future.
Mysteries of Cumbria's Ancient Stones Unlocked.
A BOOK which sets out to fill the 'black hole' in Cumbria's prehistoric past has been published by a Cambridge academic.
Dr David Barrowclough, a Fellow in Archaeology, has pulled together decades of research to come up with new interpretations about how ancient Cumbrians lived and why they built some of the most impressive stone monuments in England.
One theory Dr Barrow-clough propounds is that patterns and marks carved on some of the ancient stones, such as Long Meg, in Eden, could have originally been 'map'symbols' to guide people from valley to valley.
This early 'rock art' eventually was used to chart the movements of the sun and moon and rituals associated with passing from life to death, says Dr Barrowclough.
His book, Prehistoric Cumbria, also suggests that thousands of years ago the Langdale Valley was a centre of 'professional' axe-head production, with part-finished products being manufactured for both local and 'export' trade, overseen by organised groups.
He reveals that the axe-heads, which were finished by polishing in lowland Cumbria, have been found in excavations as far away as the Yorkshire Wolds and the Thames Valley.
But ancient Cumbrians were not just exporters of weaponry.
Dr Barrowclough writes that by the Bronze Age the area was a net importer of a range of manufactured artefacts, many of which were deliberately thrown into bogs and rivers — a practice known as 'deposition'.
"To an outsider, there would be nothing to indicate the long-term history of deposition in a moss or river.
"Yet particular locations were selected time after time for such actions; in the case of the Furness Peninsula, from Neolithic through to the end of the Bronze Age.
"The repeated use of the same places must have been deliberate: such places were meaningful and historical and imbued with memory," says Dr Barrowclough.
He suggests that depositing imported artefacts in bogs and rivers was a 'compelling way to realign a foreign idea' and 'to make alien, ambiguous items morally acceptable at home'.
Dr Barrowclough claims there was previously a 'proliferation of misconceptions about the region's archaeology; in particular, that it was in some way a 'black hole in prehistory'.
"This book takes the opportunity to publish details of excavations that have in some cases only been hinted at in previous works, and in other cases not known of at all," he said.
* Prehistoric Cumbria is published by The History Press at £19.99. ISBN 9780752450872.
Carlisle based museum and art gallery, so could appeal to a couple with two different tastes - one with an archaeological bent, and one with an arty bent, or one with an archaelological bent, and one with a Primark bent, who leaves you there and sods off into the city centre.
Well, just read th'website to find out. Looks like it'd appeal to those without a car or push-iron. Won't appeal to the the ice-cream and boat-ride brigade, so you could be in some good company on this rascal. Looks like the boss might know his stuff too, instead of the usual crap that's spouted.
Basic. Yup, that's about it. Still, there are contact details if you want to tell 'em summat, or even join. Too few links under the Cumbria area, so this could be a starter for ten for someone.
Framework. I hate that phrase, me. Stinks of pretentious prats being overpaid to come up with fancy words for basic stuff. Still, it's not as tedious as it suggests, but make your own minds up. Enter at your peril, those of you expecting great things. Don't say you haven't been warned, 'cos you have.
John Moores University, Liverpool website, dealing with Cumbria. On the face of it, it looks ok. Funny script thingy causes a delay, but if you click "yes" when the option pops up you'll be alreet cocker.
This is a local history groups website, dealing with the Duddon vally, also known as Dunnerdale. Of interest to TMAers will be the recent ring cairn excavations at Seathwaite Tarn, now used as a reservoir. The valley is a gem of the Lakes, with very few visitors, and peace generally reigns. The track to Seathwaite Tarn isn't too hard, and, once you've turned your back on the dam, you'll find yourself in a beautiful mountain coomb.
Based in Ambleside, at the bottom of the Kirkstone Pass, this is a small museum with local finds, and wider ranging finds from Cumbria. The Great Langdale stone axe factory features.
A useful site to compare with its rival MWIS. An assessment of both will probably be good enough for those going up high to view some of the high cairns, circles, ring cairns, and axe factories. I personally find MWIS the more reliable, but in winter this site has the benefit of giving snow conditions underfoot, i.e. ice, the need for crompons, avalanche/cornice riske etc.
Orkney Venus Misses Out on Archaeology Award.
A tiny neolithic figurine from Orkney has missed out on a prize at this year's British Archaeological Awards.
The 5,000-year-old Orkney Venus, which was discovered during excavations in the island of Westray in August last year, is the earliest representation of the human form found in Scotland.
It was up for Best Discovery at British Museum awards in London.
But the title went to the Staffordshire Hoard - the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold - discovered in 2009.
The Orkney Venus, a female carving, is just 4cm tall and composed of sandstone.
Second Orkney Venus Found at Orkney Dig.
Archaeologists have unearthed a second ancient figurine at a dig on Orkney.
The discovery was made at the same site as the Orkney Venus, the earliest representation of a human figure to be found in Scotland.
The Orkney Venus, a 5,000-year-old female carving which was found last summer, was just 4cm tall and composed of sandstone.
The new find is the same size and shape as the original Venus but is made of clay and is missing its head.
The older Venus is one of three finds which have been shortlisted for Best Discovery at the 2010 British Archaeological Awards.
Both pieces were found at a Historic Scotland dig at the Links of Noltland on the island of Westray.
Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "It is excellent news that a second figurine has been found at the Links of Noltland dig, giving our team of archaeologists more information in piecing together what we can know about the lives of our ancient ancestors on Westray.
"Although these figurines are tiny, their significance is huge and it's exciting to speculate whether there may be more, waiting to be discovered."
The Orkney Venus, known locally as the Westray Wife, is currently on display at the Westray Heritage Centre.
It has already been viewed by more than 100,000 people as part of a special Historic Scotland touring exhibition which has visited Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Kilmartin House in Argyll and Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.
The carving features a human face with heavy brows, two dots for eyes and an oblong for a nose.
A pair of circles on the chest has been interpreted as representing breasts, and arms have been etched at either side. A pattern of crosses suggests some form of fabric.
Its name comes from its resemblance to similar figurines classed as Venuses from elsewhere in Europe and beyond.
The Orkney Venus is facing strong competition in Monday's British Archaeological Awards.
The carving is up against a collection of copper and tin ingots discovered by divers off the coast of South Devon, and the Staffordshire hoard - the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.
Dig Aims to Unearth Tullos Hill's Secrets.
Archaeologists are calling for volunteers to help unearth the secrets of a historic site in Aberdeen.
Tullos Hill has long been known as an important archaeological site because four Bronze Age burial cairns are located there.
But interest was renewed several years ago when a survey revealed new historic and archaeological features.
Archaeologists now want the public to help search for artefacts which reveal more of the hill's intriguing past.
Until recently, it was believed few archaeological remains survived on the hill because of its use as a landfill site since the 1970s.
However, a survey by CFA Archaeology in 2004 revealed further evidence of prehistoric activity and more recent structures associated with the 18th to 19th Century development of the Tullos House estate.
Interest was further boosted last year by the discovery of the remains of what is believed to be Aberdeen's last surviving World War II prisoner of war camp.
Hill The site also features the remains of a heavy anti-aircraft battery situated some 300m south west of the summit.
The aim of this week's dig is to examine some of the features identified during the 2004 archaeological survey more closely. It is hoped this will help determine the nature of the finds and establish their age.
The excavation is being directed by Ian Suddaby of CFA Archaeology, who undertook the 2004 survey.
Judith Stones, Aberdeen city council's curator of local history and archaeology, said: "This is a great opportunity for local people to work alongside professional archaeologists to discover more about this rich historic landscape, and for visitors to understand more about the past, present and future of Tullos Hill."
Volunteers interested in taking part in the dig, which runs until 21 July, must contact CFA Archaeology to book a place.
Pillar of Eliseg: Archaeologists dig beneath 9th Century monument
Archaeologists are to start excavations on a suspected ancient burial site to try to understand the significance of a Llangollen landmark.
But the team will have to work carefully because the 9th Century Pillar of Eliseg, a CADW-protected ancient monument, stands directly on top of the barrow - burial mound - and the archaeologists can't disturb it.
Medieval archaeology Professor, Nancy Edwards, from Bangor University says it is the first time the site has been dug since 1773 when, it is believed, a skeleton was unearthed.
"We are trying to date the barrow in its broader archaeological context," she said, as the site could date back to the Bronze Age.
The history behind the monument and why it was erected on the mound in the late 1700s by Trevor Lloyd of Trevor Hall, who then owned the land, is not yet understood.
The earliest known picture of the pillar, dated 1797, courtesy Llangollen Museum
However, separate work has been carried out to try to decipher original and additional faded inscriptions by experts from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW).
Originally a cross, it was first erected at nearby Valle Crucis Abbey to commemorate an early medieval leader, Eliseg (or Elisedd).
Today, only the shaft of the cross remains and its inscription, which was already almost illegible when the antiquary Edward Lhuyd tried to transcribe it in 1696, has disappeared.
Some of the 18th Century inscription describing the re-erection of the cross on the barrow has since been discerned by the experts, but nothing that reveals why it was relocated.
Joining Prof Edwards on-site for the dig will be colleagues from the University of Chester and with help from Llangollen Museum.
The plan is to open one small trench within the barrow and three others in close proximity within the field which is owned by a private landowner.
Dai Morgan Evans, visiting professor in archaeology at Chester University, has his own ideas as to why the monument was relocated to the mound.
Abbey and the Holy Grail legends
He told the Leader newspaper that Trevor Lloyd could have been implying he was related to the Welsh king named on the inscription and those in the burial below.
During the dig, David Crane from Llangollen Museum plans to blog regularly via the museum website to give people updates.
And the public will be allowed on-site during an open day (31 July), between 11am-3pm.
Historic finds made by archaeologists in the Duddon Valley
Archaeologists in the Duddon Valley have uncovered over 3,000 previously unrecorded historic sites after a four-year survey of the area.
The Duddon Valley Local History Group, in partnership with the Lake District National Park Authority, found ring-cairns that could date back to the Bronze Age.
Two of the most exciting finds uncovered in the 90-square mile survey include ring-cairns found at Seathwaite Tarn and Lead Pike. Although excavations of the cairns establish their origins back to the Bronze Age, the purpose of the constructions is still unknown.
One theory is that the cairns, which are ring-shaped banks of stones ranging up to 15 metres in diameter, were held for ceremonial purposes.
At the Seathwaite Tarn Cairn, which took a month to excavate, old copper and iron ore mines were found, as well as evidence that iron smelting works were in the region.
The team also found a series of longhouses, which people would have lived in around the eighth and ninth centuries. Standing stones and burial cysts were found around the valley as well.
"We've ended up with more questions than answers," said John Hoggett, chairman of the DVLHG. "Our survey gives an almost complete history of the Duddon Valley.
"What we've recorded shows that over the past four or five thousand years there has been very heavy activity in the Duddon Valley, almost industrial activity. We've seen massive coppicing of the woodland and evidence that suggests there were Viking settlements here.
"The magic of this was that people went out with a sense of anticipation that they would find something that was exciting. It wasn't always necessarily a big find but it was something new.
"The thing that emphasises the success is that we started with 20 volunteers and ended up with 30 people who were still going after four years."
Mr Hoggett went on to thank farmers and the National Trust for co-operating with their work, and allowing them to use their land.
The DVLHG will now re-survey some of their earlier work to check that nothing was missed, and there are hopes to widen the search to areas such as the Lickle Valley. They are also spending time on areas like the longhouses to better understand how they worked, and to try to specifically date them.
Their current finds will be preserved at the sites where they were found.
The Heritage Lottery-funded project is outlined in a book called 'Ring Cairns to Reservoirs', which the DVLHG launched last night (March 24).
Presenter Julian Richards, best known for presenting the BBC programme 'Meet the Ancestors', spent the day looking over some of the sites, and spoke at the book launch.
The book is available from the Henry Roberts book shop on Stramongate, Kendal.
Virtual Stonehenge launched online
Wiltshire is now on the virtual map, as Heritage Key have just unveiled a 3D virtual Stonehenge web experience.
Heritage Key is an online community aimed at those with an interest in history and culture.
The site combines content such as podcasts, YouTube videos and news articles with an online 3D virtual experience.
This virtual environment is used to recreate worldwide archaeological sites.
Visitors to the site can now explore a highly detailed virtual recreation of the ancient site from the comfort of their own living room.
Key features of the virtual experience include the chance to explore Stonehenge as it once stood over four thousand years ago in a dynamic living environment filled with wildlife and where the sun rises and sets.
You can also visit the nearby Neolithic settlement of Durrington Walls and interact with the people of the time, as well as take part in an ancient sunset ritual.
Continuing the interactive experience, you will also be able to discuss your experience with other visitors in Heritage Key's virtual visitor centre.
Jonathan Himoff, CEO of online virtual environment company Rezzable, says: "Stonehenge raises just as many questions as it answers about life in prehistoric times, but if those stones could talk they would tell us the story of the last 5,000 years of British history.
"Heritage Key is bringing this story to life through our virtual experience, as well as the varied media resources available online to complement it.
"In reality, Stonehenge is now fenced off from the public to protect the site from over-tourism.
"Not only can Heritage Key's virtual experience allow you to wander amongst the stones, we can also take visitors back in time to when the site was first built.
Heritage Key allows visitors to learn about the origins of the site, as well as the life and customs of the indigenous people, so that their experience of Stonehenge in the flesh can be even more magical
Jonathan Himoff, Rezzable
"Heritage Key allows visitors to learn about the origins of the site, as well as the life and customs of the indigenous people, so that their experience of Stonehenge in the flesh can be even more magical."
This immersive adventure is complimented with a media-rich website. So, whether you want to step back in time and see Stonehenge, watch YouTube videos on your iPhone or post comments on the latest expert articles, Heritage Key lets you discover history the way you want to.
As an interactive community, Heritage Key also allows visitors to join lectures and meet with people from around the world to share and discuss their experiences.
The Stonehenge virtual experience is being launched as part of Heritage Key's Ancient World in London festival, a series of online and real-world events celebrating the ancient world that is just underneath the skin of modern Britain.
To find out more information, and to sample the Stonehenge 3D experience, visit the Heritage Key website.
Archaeological project in Blandford gets lottery grant.
An archaeological scheme to investigate an area of Blandford in Dorset where ancient settlements have been found has been given £23,100 of lottery cash.
In 2008 a dig was carried out on the site earmarked for the new Milldown Primary School in the town.
It found evidence that the site was lived on between the end of the Stone Age and beginning of the Bronze Age, between 5,000 and 4,000 years ago.
The money will pay for further research into signs of settlements in the area.
The Blandford Schools and Communities Project will bring together schools and local groups with archaeologists at events where they can learn more about Milldown's past.
During the excavation a large number of flint tools and indications of pits and ditches were discovered.
Nerys Watts, the Heritage Lottery Fund's head of region for the South West, said: "We are delighted to be supporting this exciting project, which will enable Blandford's whole community to gain a real sense of its history.
"In particular, it is great to see so many young people given the opportunity to investigate their heritage and ensure that it is preserved for future generations to learn about and understand."
Ancient arrowhead a 'chance find' at Sutherland school
Archaeologists have made what they described as a "chance discovery" of a stone arrowhead in the garden of a ruined schoolhouse in Sutherland.
Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (Guard) said it may have been dropped by a hunter.
It added that it may have arrived from elsewhere and then been lost by a local collector or a teacher at the former parish school in Durness.
The 3cm relic was made from a sedimentary rock called black chert.
In a report by Guard made available on Highland Council's Highland Historic Environment Record, archaeologists said the find had "cast an unexpected light" on the area's prehistoric times.
The spot on rocky ground between two lochs was a perfect place to stalk game, they said.
But the archaeologists added that it could have been lost from a private collection after being found somewhere else locally.
Guard's investigations at the schoolhouse at Loch Croispol is part of community company Durness Development Group's wider efforts to interpret the area's past.
Durness Parish School in the far north fell into a ruined state after its last master was sacked in 1861.
Built in the 1760s, following a campaign by local minister the Reverend Murdo MacDonald, the school had a classroom and accommodation for its teacher.
03/10/09 The Siren Call.
Autumn truly arrived to the fell country on a day that saw me wandering alone amongst the Great Langdale stone axe factories. What lay in store should have been obvious when I was halted in my tracks by the wind, a fiendish rushing of air that nearly flattened me, raging down Mickleden, as if it was trying its best to pick up the ancient cairns dotted around and fling them as far as Ambleside. What followed next can only be described as taking an outdoor power shower. It was hard to see through the deluge, and, with the wind, it was painful to any exposed flesh. Well, the forecast had said to expect gusts of 85mph.
My main objective was an exploration of the Martcrag Moor site. At the head of Mickleden, by the old sheepfold, I headed up the Stake Pass track, the beck roaring down on my right. Some of it was roaring down anyway, with the exception of the waterfalls, which were being blown vertically upwards.
With some relief I managed to cross the beck at the top, and was soon on the top of Martcrag Moor, taking welcome shelter behind the rough grey rocks that mark the highest part. By now shafts of sunlight were stabbing into the valley from a tempestuous sky, storm-wracked and spectacular. Would the axe-makers have turned out in these conditions, I wondered.
Between Martcrag Moor and Pike of Stickle there is a flat col, known for its peaty, boggy ground. Erosion repair was under way, the workers absent, with sheep fleeces being laid as a base, before compressed gravel was laid on top, in order to prevent the repaired track from sinking. An ancient practice, apparently. It is around this spot that I had found flakes from axe production before, exposed where the peat had eroded away. They were there again, more being exposed by the increased erosion. There is a certain excitement for me in seeing the clean stone, as if it had been worked last week, with the purcushion marks clearly visible. The outer stone is a whiteish colour, but inside it is a wonderful blue-green. No doubt other evidence of working floors exists beneath the carpet of peat, but I can't see any excavations taking place in the forseeable future. Despite a good search, I couldn't find any other sites.
I went up onto Pike of Stickle, with the wind rushing up its precipitous slopes, before going down to the top of its huge axe factory scree. This is a very impressive place, with a humongous amount of stone. Pity most of it has headed valley way.
Not for me the precarious descent today. I was heading for the Thorn Crag site, taking in the Loft Crag site en-route. It was still a tad breezy, the difficulty not being finding the prehistoric evidence, but keeping on my feet. Loft Crag has stone chippings emerging from the peat on its eroded sections, but the peat is a much shallower deposit hereabouts. The clean chips are easy to spot, with very sharp edges. It's hard to believe what your eyes see. Prehistoric "finds" are usually to be found in museums, not to be found at random on a days wanderings.
A couple of hundred yards away, over at the Thorn Crag site, I inspected the stony depressions that mark the quarry. Here again is evidence of stone-working, with flakes, and larger pieces, broken to expose the beautiful blue-green core, surrounded by a shell of white or terracotta. A lot of the debris lie over the edge, down in the upper reaches of the aptly named Dungeon Ghyll. As an aside, "Ghyll" is a Victorian affectation for the Norse word "Gill". Both spellings can be found on maps of the area. I made a note to go down into the gill on another day, and take a look at the spoil.
I hadn't met another soul, which was hardly surprising, as the saying goes that only mad dogs and TMA-ers go out in the morning storm. I finished the day with an ascent of Harrison Stickle, just for the view, as there were one or two sunny spells appearing, and the wind had reduced to a mere gale. Down by Stickle Tarn I went, where evidence of temporary occupation and working by the stone axe makers has been found, followed by a descent to the valley beside Mill Gill, a truly spectacular waterfall today, foaming white the whole length of its dash to the dale.
I had been a rewarding day, what with the battle with the elements, the stupendous mountain scenery, and last but not least by the site of something tangible from the past: a link with the industry of our Neolithic ancestors, the by-product of their labours.
Visite 09/07/09. Flamin' Hell, this is a big, impressive site, with banks and ditches of almost Avebury proportions. Obviously it's been tamed, and spruced-up a tad, with a modern, slightly-pisses-me-off entrance. But, did I want an overgrown site, which was hard to see and interpret, and an entrance which was overgrown and hard to find? Yes, and no. Can't have both, can I? So, it's the modern take, and the huge, cleared centre.
It's definitely easy to appreciate how massive this place is, and the info boards are full of info, as you'd expect, even directing you to the archaeologist who dug the site, which is helpful, 'cos so many lay-people who visit the lesser-known sites don't always know where to find more knowledge.
The area is massive, once housing up to 1,000 people, and it just has to be seen to be believed. The views from the bank are superb, south across the flatlands of Hampshire, and with the various hills in other directions. It's a very quiet spot, and the wind rustles gently through the surrounding trees. On my visit I had the place to myself, and it was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been, with an atmosphere reeking of the past.
Visited on 06/07/09.
It's in a lovely setting, this Iron Age hillfort, on the edge of a rolling down, and now occupied by a farm. It's now a series of ploughed-out banks and ditches, barely discernible in the field, and hardly worth a visit, unless you're passing. In fact, you wouldn't know it was there if it wasn't for the fact it's marked on the O.S. map. I can't see many photos of this site being posted. I didn't bother taking any. Go to the Bell Inn at nearby Wylye instead.
"Small hillfort levelled by ploughing. From the excavation of 1959-64:- a pedestal base and bead rim sherds from the lower silt of the ditch and pre-camp Iron Age 'A' occupation material. A collection of brooches and a ring found in 1863 plus an iron arrowhead are in Salisbury Museum. A watching brief during 2003 produced no information or features." according to Wiltshire and Swindon Sites and Monument Record Information website. Sceduled Monument AM449.
Visited on 08/07/09. This is Burl's "the last round barrow", as is the caption of the photo in his "The Stonehenge People". It is Scheduled Monument, number SM10371.
It is pretty much ignored, except, perhaps, by the occasional interested people passing by in a car. It lies just east of Stonehenge, and most people will be seen with their backs to it, staring at the enigmatic sarsens of that great circle.
I wandered over, as cloud shadows chased across the landscape, the sound of the traffic close by. I have never seen anyone approach it, and I had it to myself. There is an impressive ditch with berm, and a patch on the SE side has been eroded away, probably by rabbits. It is quite an impressive barrow.
The ubiquitous Hoare dug here, discovering, beneath an upturned urn, bone tweezers and a cremation, as well as bluestone fragments.
Next time you manage to dodge the obscene admission fee, and sneak into Stonehenge over a distant fence, walk across to our old friend, Amesbury 11, and keep it company for a while, as it's a lonely old soul.
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Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.
T.S.Eliot "The Hollow Men"