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Ellsnook (Round Barrow(s))

Finally got to visit this one and to be honest I wouldn't recommend it.

First off while it's just off the old A1 and there is parking close by the woodland between the barrow and the road is jungle like with no clear paths - not an easy 100m to get through.

Second when you get there, there is very little to see. A semi-circle has been cut in the woods and the records show this as the site of the barrow but there is nothing obvious there - through there is a clear ring of bracken growth so the soil is obviously different. You'd need a full day with an industrial strimmer to see any features.

Thirdly the site is close to the A1 so there is lots of noise and very little atmosphere.

All that being said there are some points of note:

1) This barrow hasn't been built to be seen from a distance. It's not prominent at all and seems to have been located here either because it was close to water (stream nearby) or close to an ancient trackway. It does lie on raised (slightly) ground.

2) There might be a second barrow in the field between the trees and the A1 (or the original position might have been out and this is the barrow). This looks like an over-ploughed feature on top of a raised area of land - roughly 50m from the marked site.

Both can be seen from the A1 if you are passing but don't blink or you'll miss it.

On the way back through the trees I came across what looked like a large piece of worked stone - 1m or so in all directions, roughly rectangular and looked like it had split at some time. Not sure what this is/was but it stands out as an "erratic" in that it's very large and has no obvious context. It's on the north edge of the woods near the stream as you work back from the barrow to the old A1. Photos attached.

Heifer Law (Enclosure)

Finally got a chance to visit here - put up some photos. Field notes follow.

I'd put this one down as one to visit mostly due to the lack of any scenery or sense of place until you get nearer the site, then the wonderful views to the west when you get to the site.

Very easy site to get to, park on the old A1 at the edge of the woods and walk in. Best to park north of the pathway shown on the OS maps as the road is very narrow here and there's nowhere to pull in.

Easy walk in through woodland but no obvious paths so some trail making required. As you follow the rising ground up towards the site it's easy to see that is wasn't built to impress when coming from the East. For a start there is much higher ground to the east. You'll see this as pass the 15th century tower. This is higher than the main site but much smaller in area. Had a look up here (hard going) and no obvious ditches or platforms.

As you pass the tower the ground flattens and you can see the end of the tree line in the West. While the site has been over planted with trees these are far apart and don't interfere with viewing the site.

Main features of the site are as follows:

1) Double ditch with bank between, very easy to see at the Eastern end, less obvious at the west end where there seems to be one larger bank and single deeper ditch. Bank around 1.5m high at the highest point near the western entrance.

2) Round/Oval in form, around 100m across at the widest point.

3) Number of features inside the ditches, bumps, hollows, etc. What looks like two well features - rectangular holes with iron railings over them.
Had a look round the web and this isn't a well feature but the entrance to an underground shelter that would have been used by the British resistance forces if the Germans had invaded in WW2 - link at http://www.coleshillhouse.com/heiferlaw-auxiliary-zero-station.php

That's a first for me!

4) What looks like two entrance gaps in the main bank, one to the East (South East), with the most obvious one at the western end.

5) Obviously built with a "western aspect" in mind. When you get to the Western entrance its obvious that the site would have been most impressive and most visible from the west where it would have been approached up a steep slope from the valley. Views from the site to the west go off to other sites such as Jenny's Lantern, White House Farm, Hunterheugh and the edges of Beanley Moor.

6) As with many "forts" in the area the site doen't look like it was mainly built for defence. From the East there is both higher ground and a wide area of flat land outside the ditches and the ditches here look the least impressive.

7) Possible "mound" feature inside the western entrance, but this also has the entrance to the underground shelter in it so could well be WW2 in date to hide the entrance.

8) Worked stone in the western wall - see photo - probably much later in date.

The views to the west are stunning and my photos don't do them justice - well worth the short walk from the car.

Bruan (Broch)

Royal Commission Site summary:

"A robbed broch represented by a turf-covered stony mound about 10ft high and 50ft in diameter, surrounded at a distance of about 31ft, by a wall about 4 1/2ft high which stands on the inner lip of a ditch about 28ft broad and 3 1/2ft deep from the top of the counterscarp. Except on the W, the ditch has been almost destroyed by cultivation. "

Elsay (Broch)

Notes from Royal Commission Site:

"Broch, 'Cairn of Elsay', Staxigoe, was excavated and planned by the late Sir Francis Tress Barry. The wall was approximately 17ft thick, enclosing an inner area with a diameter of 29ft. Any outbuildings which may exist around the broch have not been uncovered. The plan shows an outer casing wall on the S, through which an entrance passes, but this is not now apparent.
RCAHMS 1911.

The broch is a grass-covered mound situated on level ground close to the shore. It is 18.0m in diameter, has a wall 4.8m thick and stands to a maximum height of 2.7m above the level of the ground at the base of the mound. A fragment of the inner face of the wall is visible on the E side only, but the outer face is exposed to a height of 1.2m and for a length of 7.0m on the NE side; fragments are also visible on the SE side.
The entrance, in the SE, is 0.7m wide, its walls exposed to a height of 1.2m at the outer end.
The court is now a rubble-strewn hollow 2.6m below the top of the broch except for a large, stony, grass-covered mound 1.2m high which extends from the centre to NE of the entrance. In the centre of the court is an upright stone slab 1.0m high, 0.4m wide and 0.1m thick.
No trace of any outbuildings was seen around the broch."

Nybster (Broch)

Nybster Broch - reported on BBC News and added site.

Royal Commission Site entry states:

"Nybster Broch was excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry about 1900, revealing neither guard chamber nor mural cells. It has in internal diameter of 23ft and a wall thickness of 14ft. In 1910 the maximum height of the walls was 5ft 3ins.
The broch is defended by a possibly later forework and the whole is fronted by a ditch about 20ft wide which cuts off the promontory on which the broch stands. To seaward of the broch practically the whole promontory is covered by well-built out-buildings, oblong, circular, and irregular in plan.
Finds include a fragment of 2nd century Samian ware, as well as the more usual bone and stone objects."

Charles Head (Round Barrow(s))

Bronze Age Round Barrow - scheduled monument. Has a dry stone wall going over it.

Reed Hill (Round Barrow(s))

Bronze Age Round Barrow - scheduled monument.

Clearly visible at the top of Reed Hill. Shown on some maps as a cairn but was excavated in 1911/12

"It was surveyed and excavated in 1911. The mound itself was composed of closely packed pebbles and covered in a turf layer. The primary burial was a chamber built of gritstone in the form of a beehive. Sunk into the mud floor was a mass of cremated human bones. A secondary stone cist was found but there were no human remains inside."

Craster Heugh (Enclosure)

Visited the site in July 2010 and took some photos.

Access to the site is best from Craster village itself. Follow signs for the smoke house (home of Craster Kippers) and turn right up Whin Hill just after the smoke house itself. Go straight up Whin Hill, straight across the first road you meet (slight, left, right kink crossroad) and Whin Hill turns into a track bearing left. A little later the track starts to turn to the right, ignore the right hand fork here and proceed west up the main track. Ahead you'll start to see the banking of the enclosure on the skyline.

The site is listed as being an Iron Age enclosure. The "defended" area makes use of the natural cliffs for protection to the north and west, with raised banking (with at least a single ditch) to the east and south.

Roughly rectangular in shape around 50m North/South and 25m East/West at it's widest, tapering towards the north.

Bank and ditch are impressive from the east and look defensive in scale. The cliffs to the west offer great protection (careful here as there is no fencing around what is a 20+m drop) and great views.

Further Harrop (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Bronze Age barrow - marked as "Tumulus" on OS maps. Easily seen from the road side in the corner of the field between the small corpse of trees and the road, around 15m in diameter and 1m high.

One reference (see below) states this is a "roman barrow" and that it was excavated by the University of Manchester in 1936 but I can find no no other references to back this up. Claims of grave goods - "there was a pot inside with all the jewels in the middle" in this reference but again references to back this up.

Checked with "Barrows of the Peak District: Recent research, Barnett & Collins, 1996" and there is no record there of any excavations at this site so nothing to back up the roman point above.

White House Folly Hill (Cist)

Discovered details on the cists and the grave goods found there in "The history of the borough, castle, and barony of Alnwick" by George Tate, 1866.

Google books link at http://www.archive.org/stream/historyboroughc01tategoog/historyboroughc01tategoog_djvu.txt

Text below based on a clean up of the Google scan.

"On the White House grounds, now forming the north-west corner of Holn Park, three other sepulchres have been discovered.

One was opened in 1818 and contained a skeleton, by the side of which stood an elegant shaped drinking cup, covered with zigzag scorings ; it is said to have contained ashes — Plate II, fig, 1. This is the shape most usually met with in Ancient British interments in North Northumberland; elegant in form and in ornamentation, they exhibit no small degree of artistic taste. Another cist-vaen in this locality
was found in 1833 ; but of this we have no definite information; beyond the fact that the direction of the grave was from north to south. Of the third sepulchre, however, which was opened in 1863, we have more particular knowledge. The cist-vaen was as usual formed of sandstone slabs, the length being 2 feet 9 inches, the width 1 foot 10 inches, and the direction from N.E. to S.W. ; within was laid a skeleton with the head towards the south-west end, the body bent, the knees being drawn up towards the head ; and nearly in the centre stood an urn or vase, which is 5 inches in height, with four knobs at the side, and ornamented with characteristic zigzag scorings — Plate II, fig, 3. The skeleton was that of a young person, about 12 years of age ; for the temporary canine teeth had disappeared, and the permanent canine teeth were making their appearance; while also the sutures of the skull were very distinct. Unfortunately the cranium was broken and incomplete ; but so much remained as to admit of its general characters being determined ; it was a short, broad, and compact head; the longitudinal diameter being 6.3 inches and the parietal diameter 5 inches, giving a proportion of nearly 10 to 8, which marks the cranium of the Brachy-cephalic type. The form is well rounded, but there is a peculiar flattening from the occipital protuberance to the foramen magnum, probably due to artificial compression ; for Dr. Barnard Davis, the distinguished author of the "Crania Britannica,'' has shewn that some ancient tribes modified by artificial means the natural form of the skull. Even now some of the American Indians distort the heads of their children by the use of a cradle board. Singular is it, that in the sepulchre of so young a person, there was a rude flint arrow head about one inch in length, and of the same character as one found in a similar interment at Wandylaw — Plate II, fig, 9. Other vases of the same kind from the district, preserved in the Alnwick Castle Museum, shew a gradual advance in Ancient British fictile art ; one from Warkworth has, in place of mere knobs, small but well shaped perforated handles."

Added the three plate pictures referred to in the text to the site.

Sea Houses Farm (Cup Marked Stone)

Cup marked stone discovered when walking back from a visit to
Howick Settlement and Howick Hillfort.

Original photo was put up as a possible cup mark at the hillfort site and Rockart contacted me to add to BRAC, so it looks like the real deal.

The main image shows the cup marked rock. There is one deep cup at the top and other possible cup marks below. The rock itself is only partially exposed so there could be others marks. It appears to be gritstone type rock.

Access is easy, parking near Sea Houses Farm south of Craster then a short walk down access road to the sea side path. Go south down this till you come to a style and then cut back on yourself to the left and up the path to the top of Rumbling Kern.

You can clearly see the path I mention going diagonally up from left to right on Google Earth. The path cuts through gorse (darker green in the photo view on google earth) at the grid ref given and the panel is visible (on the ground not on Google earth) at the left hand edge of the gorse patch on
the right hand side, right next to the path.

You can combine a visit here with a trip to both Howick Settlement and Hillfort - image showing round trip path added to help.

Howick Hillfort (Enclosure)

Visted the site on a cold December day with a wild sea and lots of mud on pathways! The route I took to and from the hillfort is shown in the images for this site.

Easiest access is from the Northumberland coastal path/national bike route. Park on the flat grass next to the road on the access to Seahouses Farm, just at the 90 degree turn in the road.

Walk south, through the first set of gates along the bike route down a local byway, clearly marked on the OS map. Although part of a national cycle route this is a farm track and is very muddy in the winter.

Through 2nd set of gates and the views to the sea open up on the left. Although the sea would have been much farther out in prehistory this would have been the first high ground ancient people would have met, coming West from the sea. In the distance you can see the roundhouse reconstruction close by the site of the oldest house found in the UK. http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/5689/howick.html

After a visit to the roundhouse (which has a couple of nice text and picture boards outside) you continue south through the 3rd set of gates.

Look diagonally across the field on the right at this point and you will see Howick Hillfort on the horizon before the woodland.

Follow the path down the hill towards the burn, at the bottom of the hill there is a gateway, look to the right and there is a small gate in the fence with a footpath marker "Howick Hillfort". Also a "Beware of the Bull" sign - so check before you go a walking!

Through the gate and follow the fence on your left up towards the hill fort, access via a clear path past what looks like a small recent quarry full of farm rubbish.

At the top of the hill the rampart is clear and easy to see. About 3m wide and still standing 1m or so high, the whole extent of the site is easy to see. The rampart looks to be of stone construction and what looks like like two courses of stone construction are clear due to erosion on the south side.

There are possible entrance gaps to the North East and South West and a possible outer ditch to the North/North West. There are signs of a possible excavation of the rampart just North of the North Eastern "entrance" where a rough rectangular feature crosses the rampart (possible section through the rampart?).

The site is well protected by a natural slope to the South and there is no sign of a ditch there. To the North the ground is very flat and it looks like there was a single ditch to add to the defenses at this point. This "hillfort" seems very similar to a number of lowland sites in the area, being similar in size, close to a local stream/river and using the steep slopes created near the river on one side as part of the defensive construction of the site.

There are no obvious signs of any features inside the rampart.

Return back to the coastal path. As an alternative to retracing your steps up the coastal past go south through the bike route gateway at this point and turn immediately left to join the marked "Northumberland Coastal Pathway".

This takes you along the edge of the high ground with great views out to sea - there was a wild Easterly blowing and a heavy sea when I visited and this sort of walk is what "Bracing" is about!

Along this path you come down to a small beach. At low tide the sand/grit stone rock outcrops here have clear signs of fossilised wave action from tides or stream action, look for the flat rock between the beach and the sea.

After the small beach the path gets wider and you go across two stiles. At the second stile there is a gap in the ground to the right with a view out to sea. Turn 45 degrees right here and go up the path to the top of the high ground. Where the path meets the gorse there is a partially covered rock on the righ with a possible cup mark.

At the top of the high ground there are great views down on Rumbling Kern http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/447102

Rejoin the path and climb up the hill to the farm track, turn left through the gate and walk back to the car at the road ahead. Look to the North West at this point and the high ground on the horizon (Hips Heugh) has clear signs of earthworks. According to keys to the past these date from the middle ages http://www.durham-pa.gov.uk/durhamcc/K2P.nsf/K2PDetail?readform&PRN=N5689


A nice short walk (60-90mins), no steep climbs but can be very muddy in winter.

Harlaw Hill 2 (Cist)

Bronze Age Barrow with a cist, a skeleton in the crouched position was found here in the 19th C.

Corby's Bridge Enclosure

Prehistoric circular enclosure.

Site sits on a flat area of ground on the steep slopes above Corby's Bridge.

Settlement is about 60m across, with a rampart and ditch. The entrance looks like it lies on the east side with causeway across the ditch.

West Brizlee (South) (Enclosure)

Iron age circular defended settlement.

Close to the other site at West Brizlee, just south on the same parkland road.

Roughly 40m across with a substantial rampart (1.8m high) and ditch surrounding the site. Possible entrance on the south east side.

West Brizlee (Enclosure)

Iron Age defended settlement. The sire lies in forest and is partially cut through by Moorlaw Drive.

Two ditches and ramparts surround a circular enclosure approx 50m across, the enclosure lies at the end of a promontory overlooking the River Aln.

There appears to be an entrance on the eastern side with a causeway across the ditches.

Craster Heugh (Enclosure)

Partially visible on Google Earth this Iron Age settlement is rectilinear in shape, protected on the western side by cliffs. There are ramparts on the other 3 sides, rising up to 1.8m high and 10m across at places. Looks to be defensive in nature.

The site lies about 200m south of the Caster road near public footpaths.

Swarland Camp (Enclosure)

A round enclosure, probably Iron Age (according to Keys to the Past) approximately 70m across.

On the ground the some of the inner rampart and parts of the ditch can be seen. On Google earth the camp shows up well in the surrounding farmland.

Easy to reach, about 2 mins drive from the A1 the best access is from the road to the south. This enclosure sits at the highest point on a finger of high ground pointing towards the NE.

Bronze age axes have been found nearby (exact location not clear) and two Bronze age cists were found near Swarland old town hall (Keys to the Past) so the area was obviously in use for some time.

Chester Cottage Settlement (Enclosure)

Iron Age defended settlement with double bank and ditch. Approx 55m across.

Visible from the road to the South of Hinding Lane just before it joins the B6346 north of Alnwick, almost direct access to the first ditch from the side of the road.

In trees so original views etc somewhat obscured.

White House Folly Hill (Cist)

This site has two entries listed on Keys to the Past. One cites the cairn/barrow/cists at the top of the hill. The second cites the three ring features around this cairn but lists the date of these as "uncertain" stating they are probably "tree rings" and therefore not ancient. I'm less certain of this interpretation and list a number of the features here in support of this. This is one of the most interesting sites I've visited and given its closeness to Alnwick and the A1 I'd recommend others visit - if only to comment on my interpretations!

Have a look on Google Earth and a number of interesting features stand out; three ring features on the hill top ranging from 50m to 70m across, rock outcrops along the west side of the hill and large stone features to the north and south of the hill.

Park off the Alnwick to Eglingham road near White House farm and walk along the right of way to the west of the site going north. Cut east through the trees and approach the hill top from the south west. The first things you see are the rock "gate" (photo) to the south of the site and the rock overhangs (photo) in the forest plantation to the west of the site.

There are lots of rock outcrops in the slope before you reach the summit but only one I looked at (I didn't check them all) had an interesting feature. This is vertical sided "bowl" (photo) around 15cm across. Pass this and climb to the top and you meet the first ring feature.

The main features of the site are:

1) Rock "gate" to south of site. This is probably made by a fallen overhang but gives a very dramatic "entrance" to the hill from the south.

2) SE Ring, this is the most prominent of the three.
The ring is around 50m across and lies on a slight slope towards the SE, to the SE of the Trig Point. There is a clear raised rock circle but no obvious ditch inside or out of this. There is an entrance on the SE (150 deg) and a flat "platform" (photo) inside the ring next to the tree and the NE of the ring. This platform has a semi-circle cut into the bedrock around 4m across and facing east. None of the rings look defensive in nature.

3) Cairn, Cist, Barrow, when you reach the top of the hill it's obvious that the Trig Point is not at the highest point on the hill. The reason for this being the long (20m) rock cairn just to the north of the TP.
Multiple cists were opened here in the early 1800s.

4) NE Ring, largest of the three (around 70m) but less distinct than feature 1. Again with a raised ring (some rock showing) but no obvious ditch. Lying to the NE of the TP this again is on a slight slope, this time to the NE. Again there are "platform" features inside the ring, offset toward the TP from the centre of the ring. There are at least 2 of these but they are less clear than the platform in the SE ring.

5) NW Ring, this is the least distinct on the ground an unlike the first two has been cut by field boundaries so the whole ring is not clear. Construction appears similar to the other two. The exception being that there is a central rock "cairn" feature which looks disturbed. This is the only ring of the three to have a central feature.

6) Rock overhang outcrops along the west side of the hill. After looking at the rings I retraced my steps back to the south and descended the western slope to cut across to the first (from the south) overhang. The outcrops are in a forest plantation with young trees so is easy to view and access but will become less so as the trees grow. In 5-10 years or so the outcrops may not be visible.

There are about 5-6 major rock outcrops (photos). All have some form of overhang on the west side and offer both protection from the elements and great views to the west. The level of protection gets better as you move north.

6a) "Hole" feature (photos). This is in the second major outcrop from the south end of the plantation, slightly higher up the hill and north of the first outcrop. A crack in the rock face seems to have been enhanced by the addition of a deep horizontal hole in the rock face at the top. The whole thing could be natural but the possible sexual connotations are none too subtle. This hole feature is almost identical in size and context (west facing vertical face of rock outcrop) to one at the Beanley Plantation Site (see link below to photo there).

6b) "Cup" features (photo). These are on the top platform of the 3nd major rock outcrop on the west side.

6c) Potential vertical "Peck marks" (photo). One of the rock faces has twin vertical lines cutting directly downwards, offset from the natural grain of the rock. These could be natural weathering, I don't have enough experience to tell.

7) The final feature is to the North of the site on the slope of the hill down to White House Folly farm. A large "standing" stone (photo) sits next to a pillbox. I wasn't able to get close to this as it was lambing time and the field was full but this is an impressive piece of rock and shows up well on Google Earth.

The earliest maps in Keys to the Past show a circle of trees where the SE ring is now and this may be one reason for the interpretation given for the features. It is however interesting that the old northern boundary wall (since moved) for the site on the same map seems to respect the curves of the most northern part of the two rings north of the TP. Hinting that the rings pre-date that boundary wall?

Overall the whole site is fascinating and worthy of a visit. There is so much exposed rock that I probably looked at less than 5% of the total in the 2 hours I was on site.

One I'll go back to again soon.
Showing 1-20 of 27 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
Based in Cheshire but spend a lot of time in Northumberland I've always been interested in things Iron Age and earlier.

I now have the time to combine this interest with walking and taking photos so I hope to add content where I can.

My TMA Content: