Pierre-aux-Dames - Musée d'art et d'histoire
Visited 17 September 2008
South of Geneva lies the small municipality of Troinex. This area was absorbed into Savoy in 1754 to become Troinex Savoy, before returning to Geneva in 1815. A treaty was signed on 30 May 1817, making Troinex an independent municipality. During this period an official census of the region was conducted and 1819 finds the first recorded account of the Pierre-aux-Dames.
Several prehistoric monuments were recorded including a large mound with the Pierre-aux-Dames resting upon it's top, accompanied by two or three other megaliths.
In 1877, the area began to be developed with roads and building plots. The mound was cut into revealing seven tombs dating from the late Bronze Age. According to the discoverers, whose excavations are poorly documented, the graves contained the bodies of a man and several women. It is unclear if the mound was completely destroyed at this point but the megalith was classified as a historic monument in 1921 and has been "maintained" at the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, since 1942.
The 2.5 meter long stone rests in the inner courtyard of the Museum and has doubled up as a water outlet for the garden. It is difficult to imagine how the stone originally rested on the mound as its base has now been levelled with concrete.
The municipality of Troinex asked for it's return, but the Museum refused on the grounds of security, so in 1998, a high-quality copy was commissioned by the female mayor, M I Beatrice Luscher and created by sculptor, Lukas Grogg. This copy, as well as two other small megaliths, stand outside the Troinex town hall, the Place de la Mairie, on Chemin de la Grand Cour 2, 1256.
Fieldnotes - 15 September 2010
Came by this site earlier today, so stopped and had a look.
No easy way in so climbed over the hedge onto the reservoir from the road. Completely overgrown and unless you knew there was a barrow here, you would dismiss it as just a small spinney. The reservoir looks like it was built in the 1940's and I would imagine it feeds an MOD site rather than the village of Box.
The "visible" barrow like the reservoir is very overgrown with three trees growing on top of it, a horse chestnut and two oaks, along with much elder and hazel. The mound stands about 2.5m high and about 20m in diameter. The surrounding ditch is more defined on the north east, about 5m wide and up to 0.5m deep but you cannot get a good impression of it due to the undergrowth. It would appear that this one barrow must have been twice the size of the other two, very similar to the bowl barrows found a few miles away at Colerne Park
Really needs a site visit in the depth of winter when the vegetation was died back.
Although not listed on the MAGIC website, there are a number of other round barrows within a mile of here, but the two I visited on the Kingsdown golf course were extremely reduced. Will revisit the area later in the year to get a better impression of the pre-history.
Wildkirchli Caves - Fieldnotes
If Wildkirchli sounds like a wild place, that's because it is.
Wildkirchli means "little church in the wilderness" and collectively refers to a system of caves in the Alpstein massif of Appenzellerland. This region lies in the northeast corner of Switzerland and is entirely surrounded by the Canton of St. Gallen. The town of Appenzell is at the heart of the Appenzellerland and can best be pictured as something out of Willy Wonka's chocolate land. The Wildkirchli cave system itself is found on the south east flank of the Ebenalp Mountain, which at 5,381 ft above sea level, is the most northerly summit of the Appenzell Alps.
The mountains, with their clean air, became a popular tourist attraction and in 1955 a cable car was built from the village of Wasserauen in the valley below. The cable car station of Ebenalp allows access to the mountains' high plateau where hiking trails lead to a network of mountain huts and gasthauses,(guest houses). The Wildkirchli caves are a short 15 minute walk below the Ebenalp cable car station. Beyond the caves is a guest house serving light refreshments. The mountain is a popular hiking destination attracting up to 200,000 visitors a year.
The Wildkirchli caves have been a refuge from the outside world for thousands of years. Their isolation at an altitude of 4770 feet cuts them off almost completely. Evidence suggests that the caves were inhabited by cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) throughout the various ice ages, dating back to 90,000 BC. The caves were first mentioned in a description of the Pilatus Mountains by Joachim Vadian in 1524; although the first detailed description by the Capuchin P. Clemns from Appenzell did not appear until 1716 in the book, Naturhistorie des Schweizerlandes, (Natural History of Switzerland) by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer.
In 1621 the caves where first visited by P. Philipp Tanner, after which time the first altar was built. This so-called "cave shrine" consisted of a shallow barrel vault, and had an entrance porch which was later extended. Hermits sort refuge in the caves, the first being Paulus Ulmann in 1658 to 1660. From this time these hermits became known as Waldbrüder. In 1853 the last hermit died after he took a purler when collecting leaves. Various parts of the caves were re-modelled or sealed up with the current altar back wall dating from 1785. In 1860 a new bell tower and small "guesthouse" was constructed, which in 1972 became a small museum.
Between 1903 and 1908, the caves were partly excavated by the St. Gallen archaeologist Emil Bächler (1868–1950). Bächler discovered evidence of habitation dating back to the Palaeolithic period, 50,000 to 30,000 BC. These included traces of Neanderthal humans who he believed may have co-inhabited the caves with hibernating cave bears. Bächler had carried out investigations at other cave sites and in 1940, published his findings in the book, Das alpine Paläolithikum der Schweiz im W., Drachenloch und Wildenmannlisloch.
Although bear worship or arctolatry as it is collectively called, does exisit in many different forms and cultures throughout the world, Emil Bächlers' speculation on Neanderthal mans' practice during the Palaeolithic period is today regarded with some scepticism. I have included links to various web sites and downloadable pdf's with regard to this subject.
The remains of Oldbury long barrow lies on the narrow neck of a prominent chalk ridge towards the west end of Cherhill Down, 85m west of the Cherhill Monument.
The area around the barrow has been greatly disturbed by chalk digging which makes it difficult to define, although a mound 31m long by 20m wide and up to 2.2m high still survives, orientated east to west along the ridge top. This is thought to be the truncated end section of the barrow, the eastern portion having been levelled. The barrows' original length may have been up to 52m. It's stated dimensions in 1864 was length 60 feet, breadth 26 feet, and about 3 feet high.
Due to the barrows position on its narrow ridge, there are no surface indications of flanking ditches from which long barrows are normally constructed. These may have been destroyed by slope erosion or the construction method may have been different. The subsequent and extensive chalk workings have reduced any investigations to mere speculation.
Tumulus du Montioux - Sainte Soline
Visited 15 September 2008
This was the final site we visited in the Poitiers region and the nearest to Chaunay where we were staying. The site lies south of Poitiers on the N10 by Chaunay. Turn right at Chaunay then take the D55 to Str-Soline. Turn right again to Bonneul and the site is in a field on the left.
The site is sign posted; and was partly excavated in 1995. It dates from the bronze to Iron age (1800 - 500 BC).Finds include ceramics, flint tools and a sepulchre was discovered under a stone slab. The site consists of a single, unexcavated round barrow and a 50 m long mound with four funeral chambers. See site plan. These date from the Angoumois period and have an Atlantic type layout with a 11 m long corridor with polygonal Cambers.
The walls of the access corridor are composed of pillars alternating with dry stonewalls, but unlike West Kennet Long Barrow, the end chambers have been left open so the feeling of a confined space is lost.
The oldest of the group appears to be the unexcavated round barrow.
La Pierre-Levée (Poitiers) - Fieldnotes
Visited September 14th 2008
My hosts had set aside a Sunday afternoon for the exploration of Poitiers. Having owned a local property for over twenty years, they had shown numerous visitors around it's ancient streets, cathedral and past Aquitaine splendours. It came as some surprise when I asked to visit the megalithic remains, as they didn't know of any.
Poitiers was founded by the Pictones tribe and their fortified centre or oppidum was named Lemonum, Celtic for elm, Lemo. Although the Pictones assisted Rome and accepted Roman control when Caesar defeated the Gaulic tribes at the decisive battle of Alesia in 52 B.C., Lemonum became the scene of resistance and it's oppidum was raised to the ground. Although La Pierre-Levée escaped this destruction, the might of Rome was to be felt alongside it with the construction of the major road from Lemonum (Poitiers) to Avaricum (Bourges) and onto Lugdunum (Lyon). When Poitiers became the capital for the roman province of Gallia Aquitania, aqueducts, baths and a vast amphitheatre, larger than the one at Nîmes, were constructed Unfortunately this was destroyed in 1857 during a period of "modernisation" of the city. Remains of Roman baths complex, built in the 1st century and demolished in the 3rd century, was uncovered 1877 and led to a more civilised conservation approach to the city's antiquities and history. In 1879 a burial-place and tombs of a number of Christian martyrs, hypogee martyrium were discovered on the heights to the south-east, the names of some of the Christians being preserved in paintings and inscriptions.
La Pierre Levée is located outside the old city walls in the district known as the Dunes. This lies across the river by Le Pont Neuf, which is the start of the old Roman road to Lyon (N151). If following this road into the city, when it becomes the Rue de la Pierre Levee, turn right at the cross roads with Rue du Dolman and the Pierre Levée is in front of you. If travelling out of the centre on Le Pont Neuf, you will need to turn right onto Allee du Petit Tour and then cross over Rue de la Pierre Levee onto Rue du Dolman. La Pierre-Levée is a cultural icon of the city and is well sign posted. La Pierre-Levée lies south-east of the city in the Dunes. Its sandy soil would have yielded poor crops and seems to have been set aside by the Pictones for the revered ancestors. A short distance away is the hypogee martyrium which is also a pre-roman sacred site.
La Pierre Levée means the raised stone or rock and is 22 feet (6.7 m) long, 16 feet (4.9 m) broad by 7 feet (2.1 m) high with a rectangular chamber. The large capstone sits on several supports along the southern side, but is broken and falls to the ground at the northern side. This damage apparently happened in the 18th Century, but facts are unclear as to what caused it. There are accounts of several stones, presumably the "pillars" which held up the northern side, being removed from the site and taken into the city. The site is mentioned in various records from the Middle Ages, with its Latinized name in different ways: Petra-Levata in 1299, Petra-Soupeaze in 1302, Petra-suspense in 1322. The Charter of 1302 also indicates its position: Super dubiam, the Dunes.
Church records indicate that the site was used as a public meeting place and several festivities were held here including the great fair of Saint Luke. The city prison used to stand behind the site but this was demolished after WWII and the area redeveloped.
Hypogee Martyrium - Fieldnotes
Visited September 14th 2008
The Hypogee Martyrium lies a short distance from La Pierre-Levée in the Dunes suburb of Poitiers. The area would appear to have been set aside by the Celtic Pictone tribe for their revered ancestors, if not their deceased.
The ancient heart of this half-buried tomb was only unearthed in 1878 by Father C. La Croix. Notarial and oral tradition had preserved the memory of this field "Chiron martyr" or a "path of martyrs". In exploring the necropolis, Father C. La Croix. discovered it contained exceptional carvings and inscriptions from the very early Christian period. It would appear that the site had been a place of worship since the Neolithic period and then used by the first Christians before Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire. The tomb contained the martyred remains of some of these persecuted Christians, together with their earlier pagan companions.
Although we found the Hypogee Martyrium, there was an official notice informing us that the site had been closed to the public by municipal decree on October 5, 1998. It would appear that the museum service of Poitiers had decided the site was in need of restoration and had closed it until this could be carried out. I had to make do with taking a few pictures from outside the gates.
Further information and pictures of the interior can be found on the official museum service web site, along with a tourist guide for the site from 1911.
Pierre du Sacrifice (Boixe A) - Fieldnotes
Visited September 13th 2008
Came to the Forêt-de-Boixe at the end of a long hot day travelling around Charente with some English friends who owned a house in the region. These were normal, non-megalithic folk and were more interested to walk in the forest then looking at barrows or discarded old rocks. We parked up at the side of the road, just off the D18/D116 and as a consequence missed the official car park along with the information board giving details of the monuments, site layout and the history of the forest.
While the rest of the party headed off down the main track to the large clearing in the Chalet Boixe, I scouted around the forest looking in vain for the main tumulus, the Tumulus de la Boixe. After getting disorientated (I'm only told to get lost), I retraced my steps and came upon a little wooden sign saying Dolmen. Thinking this was the Tumulus de la Boixe, which was said to be 30m in diameter and 3m high, I was expecting to come out into a sizable clearing in the forest. Alas the primary objective of the mission was not to be and I had to contend myself with the secondary one in the shape of the Pierre du Sacrifice.
This stone is impressive though being around 4 metres long, 2 metres wide and about 1 to 1.5 meters in thickness. The official national de forest have provided an information board with some interesting facts about it, and artist impressions of the tumulus it came from. Apparently this was, until fairly recently, the largest tumulus in the area, measuring 45 metres in diameter, and standing 4 metres high with a circumference of 140 meters. The board then goes on to say that the tumulus was destroyed in the 19th century during construction of the D18 Mansle to Saint Amant de Boxie road, although this road was originally the old Roman road from from Périgueux to Poitiers called Chaussade Shod or path. Maybe the tumulus was destroyed for its building material when the road was "improved" and this stone was considered to be "cursed" and so is all that remains. See the section on additional folklore which is included below for more on this.
Tumulus de la Boixe - Fieldnotes
Almost visited September 13th 2008
Although I came very close to visiting this site, we parked on the wrong side of the road and missed the offical car-park and the Tumulus completely. See fieldnotes for the Pierre du Sacrifice for the full story.
This site has been now been included on the TMA Google Earth so check it out before visiting and you won't make the same mistake as I did.
Lake Barrow Group
Field notes - Visited 5th Aug 2007
There are three different and separate barrow groups south of Normanton Down, all of which are within the Wilsford cum Lake parish. Apart from the Lake group, there is the Lake Down barrow group (SU 117 393) which is actually on Lake Down, east of Druids Lodge and above Spring Bottom. The other group is known as the Wilsford Barrow group (SU 118 398) and this sits on the spur between Wilsford Down and Lake Down, on the western slope of Spring Bottom.
The Lake group are located just off the track that runs past Normanton Down and onto the A360 at Druids Lodge. These barrows are on private land but in order to get permission to view them you need to walk past them to Westfield farm.
This group contains at least fifteen bowl-barrows, four bell-barrows, two disc barrows and a long barrow. The farm track separates the main barrows of the group, the northern set containing the long barrow and disc barrows sit in a wood, while on the southern side of the track are two bell and three bowl barrows, one of which has been greatly reduced. To the north-west lay a satellite group of four bowl barrows which were completely excavated by Professor William Grimes in 1959 due to the damage they were under from being ploughed down.
Although Colt Hoare and William Cunnington carried out a lot of the excavations in the area, many of the barrows in this group including both the disc barrows, were opened by a former proprietor, Rev. Edward Duke, unfortunately with little, if any record. The Neolithic long barrow however, aligned north-west to south-east, 42 metres long, 23 metres wide and 2.5 metres high, appears never to have been opened or excavated in any way. The bell and bowl barrows which stand in the triangular open area between the two arms of the wood are the best preserved although the one furthest west is greatly reduced. These were the subject of Duke's excavations in 1807, but there is doubt as to what he found in which barrow.
The barrows within the wood were difficult to photograph when I visited at the height of summer due to the extensive vegetation. There was a stench of death and I think a badger set had been the scene of slaughter. Some of the barrows had certainly been damaged by burrowing, if not by the tree roots that had engulfed them. I couldn't get too far into the overgrowth to see the disc barrows or the so-called, Prophet Barrow which was said to be the place a French prophet preached from in 1710.
An interesting barrow group if you have the time to walk down from Stonehenge and get permission to look around them but I would recommend you did this in the winter months when the trees are bare and you can get a clearer view of the barrows.
The Grafton barrow cemetery consists of three disc barrows, two of which overlap, and a bowl barrow which form a unique site. Of the various types of round barrow, nationally disc barrows are rare, with about 250 known examples, most of which are in Wessex. While Bowl barrows are the most numerous form of round barrow, dating from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age, most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. Disc barrows, the most fragile type of round barrow are of the early Bronze Age, with most dating to a much shorter 200 year period, possibly between 1400-1200 BC. The setting of this barrow group on a gentle west-facing slope above the floor of a dry valley and not on a more level part of the undulating chalk downland, has added greatly to it's survival.
When I visited the site in May 2009, I came along the footpath from the Fair Mile to Scots poor. The first section is a good made up road but once the path drops into the valley it becomes a dirt track. The height of the trees surrounding this barrow group makes it a frustrating site to try to photograph. It makes me wonder why the hillside was chosen. The two joined barrows sit on the lower slop with the single disc slightly higher. The Bowl barrow sits on a spur high up the side of the hill and is the most visible today.
Of the three disc barrows, two overlap and have been classified as a single monument by English heritage, although the Wiltshire SMR lists each barrow individually. The two conjoined disc barrows, aligned broadly north- south and set on the lower slope, are both about 46 m in diameter, the northern barrow has a central mound 10m in diameter and 0.75m high surrounded by a berm 7.5m wide. The southern barrow has a central mound l2m across and 0.75m high surrounded by a level berm 10m across.
Both show a hollow on the mound measuring approx 5m by 0.5m and are the results of the 1952 partial excavation by the Newbury District Field Club.
Surrounding the berm of the northern barrow, is a ditch 6m wide by 1m deep and a high outer bank on the west side of the mound, 6m wide and 1.5m high. The southern barrow's ditch surrounds it's central area, except to the north where it abuts the southern part of the ditch surrounding the adjacent northern barrow. This may indicate that the order of construction. The ditch has been partly in filled over the years but survives as an earthwork 5m wide and 1m deep. An outer bank defines the maximum extent of the monument, at least on the downhill side where it stands 1.5m high and is 5m across.
The other single disc barrow, SMR No.SU25NE618, National Monument 12267. is called the Heath Copse disc barrow. The English heritage report says the barrow mound stands 1m high surrounded by a berm 9m wide and a quarry ditch 3m wide, the central mound stands 1m high and is c.10m across. Surrounding this is a level berm 9m wide and a ditch, from which material was obtained during construction of the monument. The ditch has been partly in filled over the years but survives as a low earthwork 3m wide and 0.5m deep. This disc barrow is an outstanding example with no evidence for excavation.
The burials, normally cremations, are frequently accompanied by pottery vessels, tools and personal ornaments. It has been suggested that disc barrows were normally used for the burial of women, although this remains unproven. However, it is likely that the individuals buried were of high status.
To get an impression of the site size, along with the surrounding long and round barrows see this aerial view from the SMR http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/smr/getsmr.php?id=17835
Site and Area Visit 30th to 31st May 2009
Although Fosbury is officially classified as an Iron Age bivallate hillfort, it's origins probably go back to the Neolithic, if not the Mesolithic. Haydon Hill, upon which Fosbury is constructed, is like a flattened volcano with natural deep ditches all the way around it. These would have formed ideal pens in which to trap wild animals when hunting and it is easy to imagine the hunter-gatherer culture being drawn to this site throughout the seasons.
The hillfort encloses about 25 acres and has an in turned entrance on the eastern side. The Northern side is bordered by Oakhill wood and as the name suggests, contains the remains of some ancient sessile oaks. The area occupied by the hillfort itself is known as Knolls down and contains two natural ponds that were purposefully encompassed when the bivallate banks and ditches were created in the Iron age. When Colt Hoare writes about his visit to the hillfort in Ancient Wiltshire, he states that the ponds were reputed to "never run dry" and they certainly add to the general mood of the site. One could easily imagine offerings being made here in the distant past. The presence of so many Neolithic long barrows within the immediate vicinity would point to an advanced farming community using the natural landscape over many generations. The many pits would also point to a vast storage network of sustainable produce, be it grain, fruit or other food items. Fosbury would appear to have been occupied and possibly fought over, by many tribes and emigrational groups. The Belege would have been the major influence behind the creation of the nearby Grafton disc barrow group and for the Romans to have rebuilt and improved the causeway running around the fort, may also suggest it being a special site and worthy of the investment they made here.
I travelled around the fort using the Roman road, the Chute causeway, from Scots poor. This was after field visits to the long barrows of Fairmile Down and Tow Barrow. You can clearly see the remains of storage pits, field systems and defences as you traverse the causeway with Fosbury on left. I made my journey by cycle and although tiring, it gave me the opportunity to use the ancient trackways which surround Fosbury. I know that the TMA eds have stopped adding facilities to the database but I'm going to mention The George Inn at Vernham Dean on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border, SP11 0JY (01264 737279). When visiting Fosbury, this is both the best and safest place to leave your car, even if it adds slightly to your walk. In my case, it was also the only place I could get any mains feed water. Walking from the pub back over the county line to Goudyses Gate, there is a footpath next to a cottage that leads up to Fosbury. Following this along the edge of the wood will bring you to the original eastern entrance of the hillfort.
When I visited on Saturday night with my bike and wild camping provisions, I had no idea I was walking in the footsteps' of the ghostly rector (see the folklore post below). The bike had a puncture and with the light fading I decided to set up my hammock under one of the ancient beech trees and cook my evening meal. I didn't see any people till 11 am the next morning but the site was teeming with wildlife. First were a pair of owls, a young vixen, then a doe, and later 2 very playful young badgers. There might have been other visitors in the night but I fell into a sound sleep till 7 am and missed them. I had breakfast, walked around the site taking photos and notes until fixing the flat tyre and leaving along the Western track, past Fosbury farm and on to Tidcombe Long Barrow.
My visit was on May 30-31 2009 and there had been considerable effort put into erecting a new stock proof fence along the ancient Iron Age defences. The ground did not have good pasture, so I assume the site would be home to "beef follow on" i.e. young bullocks who would be left to fatten up before slaughter. If this is the case, future access, although along a footpath, might be problematic. Never the less I would highly recommend visiting Fosbury, both for the views and history. Sleeping in a ditch with the wildlife and the ancient dead is another matter.
I spent a day wondering along one of the best parts of the Icknield Way last summer. Me and a friend had spent the night on the Ridgeway opposite Waylands Smithy. Duty had called him back to Avebury and I found myself with time to explore Hardwell Camp, Woolstone Wells, Dragon Hill and the campsite at Britchcombe Farm.
I was dropped off by the Knighton war memorial at the junction of on the Icknield Way and Knighton Hill. (SU 28288 86813). I have travelled this section of the Icknield Way many times before, but never on foot. That Saturday morning the traffic was light but I still had to keep my wits about me as the cars sped past.
The road in front of Hardwell Camp has been secured with a deer proof fence. The interior of the camp is an ideal retreat for the deer and some would have jumped out into the road. I found my way up the footpath which runs alongside the western edge of the hillfort. There seems to be a natural entrance at the top but in the height of summer, the mass of vegetation and overgrowth was too extensive to make any clear picture of it's shape. Defiantly a site to explore during the winter months.
This section of the Icknield Way follows the contours of the hill just above the line of the numerous springs. My next stop was the springs know as Woolstone Wells which form the River Ock. These springs should be seen in the same way as the Swallow Head springs are in the Avebury landscape. One of the many legends surrounding these springs is that the Uffington white horse is said to be a mare, and to have her invisible foal on the hill beside her. At night the horse and foal come down to eat at the slope below known as the Manger, and to drink the mystical waters. The Woolstone Wells are said to have been formed by a hoof print from the horse and the Icknield Way follows this line precisely. Unlike the Swallow Head springs, these springs were flowing freely and did not seem to have been tapped by the water company. There wasn't any parking on this section of the Icknield Way, so I guess very few people take the time to explore this site.
Walking onward, a footpath is available on the right which winds past Dragon Hill, crosses Dragonhill road and continues up the side of the hill to join the Ridgeway. I carried on walking down the Icknield Way and watched Dragon hill change shape. At the cross roads with the Icknield Way, the hills flat top is most prominent.
By this time, I was in need of refreshment and the welcome thought of a cup of tea spurred me on to Britchcombe Farm and the formidable Mrs. Marcella Seymour. Rated as one of the best located campsites in southern England, Britchcombe Farm was busy with happy campers, although I could have done without the screaming kids. The Tearoom on the farm is open Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from 3 - 6 pm. Someone once told me that Marcella was the Dragon from the hill, but I found her to be very approachable. I asked her about the rumour of lighting fires and she gave me an info sheet with all the campsite details. Fires are allowed, if you ask her first. Please have a bucket of water ready before you light your fire. Keep the size of your fire to no larger than 18" square. Bags of suitable kindling and logs are available at £5 per bag from the farm. As for the camping charges,
cost per night is £6.00 per person per night for adults. Under 5 year olds are free of charge, Age 5-14 is £3.00 per person per night.
Gazebos are £6.00 per night. Showers are inclusive. Electric Hook Up's £6 per night. Washing up facilities and Showers are available next to the toilets. Although this facility has been posted to the TMA, it has not been listed as a facility of the Uffington area. http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/facility/514
Full details are Mrs M Seymour, Britchcombe Farm, Uffington - SN7 7QJ
Tel: 01367 820667 Fax: 01367 821022
Although much reduced in height, this is one of at least nine Long barrow which survive in the Stonehenge area.
Situated just north of the Packway, within the MOD perimeter of Larkhill Camp, the area is prohibited photograph territory. It is easy to miss this barrow, which is orientated north west - south east, is up to 1.1m high, 46m long and c.16m wide. In the right light, flanking the mound on the north east and south west sides, the side ditches are visible as earthworks up to c.7m wide, created when material was quarried, during construction of the monument in the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (3400-2400 BC).
Long barrows represent an important group for understanding the historical context within which Stonehenge developed during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods. The long barrow in Larkhill Camp survives well and will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Maybe one day it will be excavated with the latest techniques and solve another piece of the Stonehenge mystery.
This Long barrow lies next to a now disused drover's road. I had great trouble identifying this barrow and so have marked it down as destroyed. The photos showed the area and where the barrow should be. I could find no unploughed area, so must assume that the barrow is under cultivation.
English Heritage's Official record list a long barrow set on a gentle south-facing slope in an area of undulating chalk downland.
They state, the barrow "survives as a low earthwork orientated NW-SE and is rectangular in plan. The barrow mound is 60m long, 28m wide and stands to a height of 0.6m. Flanking ditches, from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument, run parallel to the NE and SW sides of the mound".
Easy to reach, the barrow lies a short distance from tarmac but I would suggest a winter visit to see if anything is visible after the crop has been harvested.
This late Neolithic long barrow is short at 30m long and only stands 1.5m high by 22m wide, but has only been partially excavated, just before the outbreak of world war one in 1914. Few notes survive of the findings made by O.G. Crawford and Hooton, with some of the Neolithic pottery now housed at Harvard University in America.
The long barrow survives well as an earthwork, orientated SSW-NNE on the crest of a west facing slope, surrounded by several later Bronze Age round barrows, most examined at the same time in 1914.
Like most of the long barrows, the flanking ditches, from which material used to construct the mound was quarried, run parallel to the north and south sides of the mound. These have been partly infilled during the years but survive as earthworks 5m wide and 1m deep on the south side and 6m wide and 1.5m deep to the north.
The barrow is easy to reach from the fair mile and a farm track runs up to the top of the hill with a water tower.
I travelled up by cycle but you should have no trouble if you want to try driving up to it. If not, park up by the Fair mile and walk up the track, past Ash Tree Dryer and walk into the field along the fence line. I visited at the end of May and the surrounding field was sown with barley. Cross into the pasture and follow the fence to view the later round barrows.
This site should be viewed in conjunction with the other long barrows, disc barrows and bell barrows within the 3 mile radius.
Use the Magic site or Google earth to get the bigger picture. Here's a link to try
This long barrow lies on the side of a hill above the village of Collingbourne Kingston. Very easy to reach, it appears to have escaped any serious excavation, although the uneven surface suggests partial excavation of the site, probably in the 19th century.
The B road running along the crest of the hill, named fair mile, seemed to me to be as ancient as the long barrow itself and could be traced running for miles through and past many Neolithic sites. This is worthy of a separate blog in it's own right.
To the east of the road lies another long barrow, Tow Barrow and a km south, the Grafton disc barrow group.
I cycled the area and came in along the fair mile. There is no sign for any of these barrows, but a byway sign and a convenient pull in off the road marks the track leading down the hill and past the long barrow. I cycled down this and left the bike by the fence just before the wood. I climbed over a fence and walk along the field boundary until I reached the field with the barrow in it. Gates have been provided to access the barrow and the land owner should be praised at the level of upkeep this barrow affords.
The barrow itself is fenced off but a gate is provided and access could not be easier. The only problem I encountered was a herd of bullocks who where over friendly and came a bit to close for comfort. I armed myself with a big stick and kept the at arms length as I made my way into the barrows compound. Once inside I made a little offering to the ancestors in the form of a cap full of water anointing the barrow. It might sound a bit daft to some people but I fell it is a mark of respect and I always like to make an effort to get into the right mind space when visiting these burial sites. I don't know quite what happened next but something spooked the cattle and they all turned and fled to the furthest part of the field and left me in peace for then on.
As you can see from the pictures, the long barrow survives as a substantial earthwork, a length of 41.5m, is 20m wide and 2.5m high at the higher east-end. The orientation is east-west and is ovoid in plan.
Flanking ditches, from which material used to construct the mound was quarried, run parallel to the north and south sides of the mound. The northern ditch adjoins the barrow mound and is 7m wide and 0.75m deep. The southern ditch, which is separated from the mound by a narrow berm 2m wide, is 9m wide and 1.5m deep.
A very fine, mid to late Neolithic long barrow and one I would highly recommend visiting, along with the other barrows mentioned above. I would suggest winter or early spring the best time as the pasture would not have become so dense and the cattle in the field.
Chance - June 2009
Field Notes - 26-08-07
Ashdown Park natural sarsen drift SU: 28496 82083
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 170 - Scale 1:25000
Abingdon, Wantage and the Vale of the White Horse
When describing the remains of this natural sarsen drift, it is important to view them as one piece of the overall landscape. The majority of the remaining sarsens lie in Sarsen Field, although sarsens are scattered along the length of the estate boundary, as well as, the medieval farmstead at the rear of Ashdown house. Sarsen Field is fenced off and does not seem to have public access but lies right beside the B4000. This road may be a prehistoric trackway and appears to have been used to transport the stones north to the Ridgeway and south to Lambourn.
Stones from this sarsen drift can be found in the prehistoric monuments of Waylands Smithy and Segbury Hillfort. Even the Blowing Stones' of Aldbourne and Uffington may have come from this drift, if not from this area.
The drift lies at the bottom of a dry valley named Kingstone Down over looked by the magnificent Weathercock Hill to the east and to the West, by the Bronze age barrow cemetery of Idestone Down, Alfred's Castle and the Ridgeway. The ancient trackway, The Sugar Way, also passes to the south as it makes it way from Botley copse over Fognam Down and on to Upper Lambourn and the Seven Barrows group.
This area is very confusing to classify using the county boundaries. Ashdown Park appears to have had the county lines drawn around it's estate and since 1974, now lies in Oxfordshire, while much of it's history is claimed by both Berkshire and Wiltshire.
The area has seen constant cultivation from the earliest times and the downs above the site show the Celtic field systems and their later Roman replacements. The woodland to the north of the park also contains many Celtic field systems.
Ashdown lies in the manor the Ashberry, which was formed in Saxon times. The estate passed to Glastonbury abbey in the 10th century, and by 1342 it had been partially enclosed (fenced) to create a deer park to supply Venison.
It is unclear to the number of sarsens removed during this period, but the beautiful medieval farmstead at the rear of Ashdown down house is testament to their use by stonemasons of that period. John Aubrey gives an account of large sarsens being taken from Alfred's castle, at the back of the estate, in 1662-3 to build part of the present house. This might indicate that the drift had already been severely depleted by this time.
I was left with the impression that Sarsen Field was a remnant of "the wild downs" and something to be viewed from the drawing rooms of the large house. Like the sarsen drifts on Fyfield Down and Piggledean, the Ashdown drift is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). The rest of the parkland is laid out in the formal styles of the 17th century, with four rides or avenues radiating from the house through dense trees.
After Lord Craven's death in 1697, ownership of Ashdown house and the estate continued in the Craven family for nearly 300 years. The house, a derelict, and 40 acres of land, were given to the National trust in 1956 with an endowment and covenants for over 53 acres of surrounding land by Cornelia, the countess of Craven. 452 acres of farmland, woodland adjoining the house including the North Ride and Weathercock Hill, were all later purchased by the National trust in 1983. The last addition to the estate was the Iron Age hill fort of Alfred's Castle, which was purchased by the National trust with grant aid from English Heritage in 1992.
Field notes - Sunday 28 June 2009
Visited this site after an afternoon looking around Membury fort. Parked just off the road by the old drovers track, (marked by a well on the OS map), and walked along the hedge trying to find easy way in to the field. Met a local who lived at the White house and when asked, he had never heard of the long barrow and was shocked when I showed it on the O.S. map. Decided to act like a badger and went under the hedge like the other animals. Walked through pasture and along the edge of Ballard's Copse to the spot marked on map, just below the crest of the hill.
The barrow has been severely reduced and the official record of its 1.2m height, 27m length and 23m width must have been from the initial measurements done by Grinsell in the 1950's, when the long barrow was first scheduled. The stated orientation of ENE-WSW was also hard to work out, as was the remains of the flanking ditches. I took a score of pictures but the light was against me and a small bump in the grass is all that can be made out. There was a large depression, 30 meters directly opposite the barrow, and it looked like some form of excavation had taken place around the site, although no records exist of the long barrow being opened or examined by known archaeologists. 1km directly east, lies a round barrow and to the north east is Membury fort, all point to an area of continued habitation and cultivation from the Mesolithic period right up to the roman occupation.
The area had a very mellow vibe to it and the view from the valley below to the long barrow on the crest of the hill would have "claimed territory" written all over it in the Neolithic. Not an impressive site itself, poor access but still a link between the modern world and the ancestors.
Hail and Welcome
Chance was born in Ratae in the year of the Rat, and grew up in the territory of the Corieltauvi. Now living days walk west of Wale-dich (Avebury), on the border between the Atrebates, the Durotriges and the Dobunni.
Practical experience of excavation on Neolithic, Bronze-age, Roman sites.
Enjoys exploring on bicycle, with wild camp provisions along Roman roads and ancient Celtic tracks. Interested in the various tribes, how they divided their land, their agricultural calendar, their common beliefs and ritual systems. Often attends the tribal meetings held at Avebury and Stonehenge.
Contact - Chippychance on UTube