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I feel compelled to post about this very special place. It's our 3rd day in beautiful Aberdeenshire & we visited yesterday. Now isn't it strange & wonderfully thrilling when some stones knock you sideways.
We have seen some stunning places already & have more to come but Tyrebagger stopped us in our tracks & my itinerary flew out of the window. This means that we'll lose out on other sites due to time constraints but what the hell, it's about here & now ain't it.
We struggled to get there; there's a lot going on construction wise in Aberdeenshire at the moment isn't there. Ugly gashes across the landscape etc etc, but what do I know? nothing that's what! We drove up a private road & tentatively asked a resident householder if it was ok to park up & search for the circle. He was graciousness itself & said it was fine, but didn't know where it was. He lives not 10 minutes away, how can this be. Anyway he was smashing. It tickles me how most people react when I ask about stones. I find that they most often glance sideways at me with a knowing smile twitching about their lips & their eyes follow you as you march away. Anyway am blathering as per.
I immediately felt blown away by Tyrebagger. I felt altered, my being expanded, my brain chatter ceased & I worshipped; now I don't use that word often. I also nearly broke my bloody ankle on the hidden stones underfoot. I started to march around the circle but gave up & sat with my back resting on the carved tree ( somebody's carved "fuck", I mean what the fuck!)
My bloke has a loud voice & I noticed an echo. I got him to shout & the echo was astonishing. It felt as though that shout would be heard for miles & miles. Much further shouting ensued; a herd of sheep came to investigate. The echo only seemed to work when we stood opposite the recumbent stone. It truly amazed us. Will the new road ruin this?
Eventually he quietened down & I sat with eyes closed. I felt a bit dizzy with exhilaration. Suddenly I smelt a strong whiff of perfume. It wafted around me for a few seconds & was gone. I couldn't identify it;it wasn't either of us & nobody else was there.
I'm not given to flights of fancy, I believe something shifted at Tyrebagger; something encircled me. I'll be ringing bells next!
We stayed for hours & the sun shone.
Sorry nothing about the actual stones which are of course magnificent. I'm glad we got to experience this place before new road starts roaring. I hope the rumbling doesn't render them unstable. A new favourite; thank you ancestors:)
Posted by carol27
29th August 2016ce

Medway Megaliths

Medway Megaliths

For various reasons the last couple of months has seen my wife and I bobbing back and forward to France through the euro tunnel and every time we drive down the M20 I whine about not having time to stop off and see the megaliths. Well with 2 clear weeks before our next trip away my wife suddenly said 'Right, no excuses get yourself down to Kent and take a look at those bricks on the M20' As the shock of what she had just said sunk in I quickly loaded up the van and set off that very evening while the weather was still hot and sunny.
Next morning I found my way to a lay by near Kit's Coty House and set off to find it. Not difficult, however, no signage and so you need some idea of where to look, as it turned out it was in a field right next to the track off Pilgrims Way. Nice sight, however, imprisoned by railings and doesn't set the heart racing in the same way say a Cornwall Quoit does but does have a presence all of its own. Next a life threatening walk down the road to find the Coffin Stones which are smack bang in the middle of a very well maintained Kent vineyard. Not sure if I was supposed to wandering among the vines, however, glad I found it, an interesting collection of what looks like the capstone and side supports now collapsed onto each other. Risking life once again I set off further down the road to Little Kits Coty House. A very nice sight next to the main road but completely hidden by hedge and a small pathway. Spent a long time here trying to work out what was support and what was capstone.
Next it was off to the White Horse Stone, sorry, no matter how long I looked at it I couldn't see the horse just a large lump of chalk rock, none the less an interesting site, then onto the field where Smythes Megalith once stood. So much is written about it that I thought there must be something there, no, just an empty field. I questioned my own sanity when I found myself taking a photo of the field and made a note to seek counselling when I get back home. Finally went further inland to visit Julliberries Grave long barrow. Nice walk but not a lot to see and I resolved to call it quits for the day.

Next day went West to the Coldrum stones. What a magnificent site this is. Wonderful walk to it and the stones are set atop a mound giving incredible views over the Kent wheat fields. The tree overlooking the stones were covered in ribbons, trinkets and notes to various spirits. It was hot and sunny and I didn't want to leave and settled down with my back to the stones. Not sure how much time passed, however, I woke up to find a family peering down at me relieved to find this weather worn old man wasn't dead. I quickly grabbed my things and wandered off down the track and set off for Addington long barrow, another interesting site spread over both sides of the road (who allowed that?) and must have been a huge site in its prime. On to the Chesnuts and rang the number on the gate 'not available today' 'tomorrow?' 'Busy' OK best I leave it then. Not sure whats going on however I didn't encounter the friendly reception I have read so much about.

So with that one disappointment I worked my way back up the motorway system to Lincolnshire and thought what a lovely way to spend a few days and how kind of my wife to suggest I just get off and go. The phone went, it was my wife 'About that kitten I mentioned' I just caught myself in time and pretended to be disinterested, thought there is more negotiation to be had here than a couple of days in Kent!
Posted by costaexpress
20th August 2016ce

North Wales, a few walks into prehistory

North Wales, a few walks into prehistory

My wife and daughter were busy helping out a friend which gave me an opportunity to squeeze in a couple of days in North Wales. I wanted to walk some of the tracks I had read about on this site
First stop was the small village of Rowen, easy access road and a big layby at the start of the village for the van. My aim was to walk the old road above Rowen to the Cerrig Pryfaid stone circle.
A very steep climb out of Rowen sees you gain height very quickly with magnificent views over Conway Valley and the sight of two Buzzards (huge birds, I think that's what they were) circling above it was a great start to the walk.
Just about out of breath when I came upon the Carhun stone which marks the start of a series of megaliths close to the track. A bit of looking around (surprisingly well hidden) led to the Caerhun chambered cairn and then on down to the small but perfectly formed Maen y Bardd (thought I was in Cornwall), where the sheep scurried away giving me disapproving glances at being disturbed. The track led on to the Ffon y Cawr standing stone and then to the Cae Coch stone and eventually the stone circle of Cerrig Pryfaid. Very small stones almost hidden by the grass, however, the two outlying stones and potential alignments, the location high above the valley and the true peace of the site makes it a very worthwhile visit.
Retraced my steps to Rowen looking out for ancient hut circles a burnt mound which I am not sure I found and back down the steep hill into Rowen. About 3 1/2 hours in all and guessing could be done in less if in a hurry.
Next up was a much easier walk, however, very rewarding. I parked up in Conway Falls cafe car park and walked up the steep track opposite, through the campsite and over the hill to Capel Garmon. What a shock, the site is in much better condition, larger and had more to explore than I was expecting and indeed as the sign said was very reminiscent of a Cotswold Burial Chamber. All in all 1 1/2 hours including lingering too long at the site.
Next day, it was pouring down and boy can it rain in North Wales, with no sign of let up I pulled into Penmaenmawr and parked the van up, no choice but to get on with it if I was going too see the Druids circle. The ascent was a bit of a shock, easy walk out of PMmawr up through the houses and access through the side of the farm, thereafter it was a steep accent through dark mist and pouring rain to the trackway on the top of the mountain. I could not see anything through the mist and navigation was impossible. I staggered around trying to keep to the well defined paths hoping I could easily retrace my steps if necessary. Eventually no choice but to pull the gps out and hope it was waterproof. As it turned out I was almost at the Craig Lwyd cairns so I started there, took some pretty damp photos and followed the gps up the circle 278 and then on to a very atmospheric druids circle where the mist suddenly lifted and all was revealed, wet feet, well wet everywhere, it was all now worthwhile. On to circle 275 and the weather closed in again as I dropped down to the Maen Cryn stone and the remnants of the Red Farm stone circle. It was hopeless by now I couldn't even see the path in front of me, so I navigated to the mountain road and followed it down into PMmawr, found the van dried off and changed my clothes with an uncontrollable smile as the weather turned to bright sunshine and I thought 'You B@stard'!
Next, as a little treat before heading home I visited the Bronze Age copper mine on the Great Orme which I really enjoyed, a final look at the stone row descending down the mountain to the sea (why there?) and time to work my way home. All in all a great way to spend a couple of days, just take a change of clothes.
Posted by costaexpress
9th July 2016ce

North East Scotland road trip

North East Scotland road trip

I had been planning this one for a while, however, it was shelved for a number of weeks due to an irresistable urge to go to the Hebrides to see Callanish and its environment. So the day finally came, I had taken my wife away for a short break before setting off to set aside all guilt feelings associated with yet another trip, and I was really focussed. Despite so many sites I resisted all temptation to stop until I got to a Clava Cairns just short of Inverness. Huge site and well cared for by Scottish Heritage, a little sanitised for my liking but a welcome stop. Next up to see the Hill o many Stanes like a Carnac for a model village, a short drive to the unbelievable Grey Cairns of Camster which I crawled into all of the available chambers, this is a real crawl not a stoop. Set in a remote part of Scotland they are still well cared for with a proper board walk across the boggy ground to the Cairns and demand your time and consideration, if they were in Wiltshire I am sure they would be among our most treasured sites. Over the hills to see the Achavanich Stone Circle or U shape to be exact, the stones face inwards rather than sideways and no one knows why. The whole area oozes evidence of a Neolithic presence.
Time waits for no one and I needed to be on the 7pm ferry to Orkney.
So much has been written about this place I will just comment on what I found useful
Get up early, like 5.30 am early and you can have the standing stones of Stennes, the Ring of Brodger and Barnhouse village to yourself
Go to Skara Brae after hours by walking up the beach to it, the tourists during the day will do your head in. You can go to the visitors centre and pay if you conscience troubles you (I did)
During tourist hours you can visit the fantastic Unstan Cairn, the wonderful walk to Wideford Hill Cairn, and the atmospheric Cuween Hill Cairn. On the South side of the island, and free of tourists whilst I was there, are Tomb of Eagles very much worth a visit for its dramatic cliff top setting and best of all the Tomb of the Otters or Banks tomb as it used to be called. This is a live site only partially excavated and he closest you will come to feeling like Indiana Jones, assuming of course you want to feel like him.
Maeshowe is fine, even though on the tourist route you only get in with a timed ticket and so is not overbearing
Finally a couple of warnings. I went for a second visit to Cuween Hill very early in the morning and when I crawled in I was shocked to find someone sleeping in their, banged my head on the ceiling when my torch light caught him, and the second warning, under no circumstances descend into the closed Minehowe pit. Pure evil resides their and I will post a seperate forum link about it
In summary Orkney is just magical, however, with days running out it was time to drive the van on the overnight ferry to Aberdeen where I wanted to get a first hand view of the recumbent stone circles unique to this area. The showpiece sites like Easter Aquhorthies, Cullerie, Tomnavarie, Midmar Kirk and the Loanhead of Daviot were fabulous, however, more interesting results were to be found at places like Cothiemuir Wood, Old Keig, Whitehill, Sunhoney, Nine Stanes and Esslie the Greater where the stones are scattered and the sites overgrown, the sites felt alive and real rather than recreations. I was unable to make any connections regarding alignment to the sacred mother hills, lunar observations and not in all cases alignment, what I did feel however was a strong sacred presence and a place to grieve for the dead. Time has run out and I am now on my way home, stopping for a coffee and to write a quick blog, hope I have not gone on too much
Posted by costaexpress
17th June 2016ce

Wicked Stepmother

Wicked Stepmother

I have spent 4 days in Cornwall recently at the behest of the above; it wasn't pleasant but I managed to escape periodically to a magical land. It saved my soul. The sun shone & everything glittered, like only Cornwall can for me. I'll post my inadequate photos, but really how my eyes & senses continue to be opened.
Firstly a thankyou again for the wonderful blogs & pictures on this site. I would never have dreamed as a young girl that I'd switch off the telly & read & marvel at these places. It's soppy, & sounds over emotional ( a woman's lot - joke) but you strangers enrich my life. Ok enough of that.
On the way down to Corny, a 7 hour drive, we visited Stoney Littleton. It pissed it down. The brook was overflowing; the uphill walk was slippy; the stiles were tricky for the continuing hop a long ( hip replacement imminent) but we both breathed & laughed. First time for a while. It felt like freedom.
From then on in, escaping from a nut job of a non blood related relative became easy & she affected me not.
Most vivid memories; a group of women strategically positioned around the Hurlers with a collection of crystals placed in the centre of the biggest circle. A clamber to the Cheesewring missing Rillaton Barrow yet again. Trethevy quoit meister! Feeling decidedly dizzy in Carn Euny fougou. Not being able to brave visiting Brane too closely because of vicious looking bovine creatures ( a first for me, I'm used to benevolent cows, I live in Lancashire!) The Pipers; what! Boscowan Un, a nurturing sanctuary. Lanyon Quoit, the retriever. Men an Tol & I schleped through the hole whilst worrying about whether or not I was adding to potential wear & tear a getting a bit mucky; also whether I was doing it from the right side, & whether once was enough. Is once ever enough?
Then the Nine bloody Maidens, Stones, whatever, up the hill from Men an Tol. Yeah, found them TSC! It took me an hour. I knocked on a local farm door (no answer). I asked two delightful locals walking; they'd no idea. I then approached a scantily clad young couple who were out & about & they guided me on my way. A beautiful spot. Unassuming & magical. Like my beloved Sunkenkirk this place swims in & out of view; well to me that is. Now I KNOW where it is. All of a sudden I can see. There's stones all over the place up there, I was bewildered.
We met a lovely woman whilst on our travels called Linda, who we took to the stones, she was overcome by the "energies". I liked her, we're still in touch. She asked if I could feel it. I said I felt grounded & happy; I think that was ok, but secretly I kind of knew what she meant; I think.
To stop myself from committing step matricide, & to balance my chakras for the journey home I focused on a tiny bit of Dartmoor, which made a 7 hour journey home more like10 hours but it was well worth it. The stone rows, the Plague Market blew me away. How beautiful are they? How exquisitely beautiful. What on earth?
I'm aware I'm doing the touristy bits but you've gotta start somewhere. That bloody Plague Market.Wow:)
Posted by carol27
11th June 2016ce

Rather blustery at Callanish

Rather blustery at Callanish

I decided, at the last minute, that there was just enough time to squeeze in a visit to the Callanish Stones over the Bank Holiday, I then realised if I travelled over night I could make up enough time to walk Kilmartin Glen on the way up there. And so it was, I made the bed up in the van, threw some food in the fridge, packed my wellies and joined the A1 just North of Peterborough shortly after 10.00pm. I briefly stopped just short of Kilmartin to look at the standing stones around Bridgend and Dunadd Castle although it was still dark, blowing a gale and pouring down and so I didn't really get much done, and being 6.00am there wasnt much light. Drove on a little further to the start of my walk at the Ballymeanoch Stones and Duncraigaig Cairn, up to Ri Cruin and on to Temple Wood. From there past the various ' Nethers' and finally Glebe Cairn behind the church and back to the van via the Nether Largie standing stones and stone row. This is a fabulous walk through history and didn't take as long as I had expected. Temple Wood was particularly fascinating although so well restored it wouldn't look out of place on a roundabout leading into Milton Keynes. Not a sole around as you might expect early on a Sunday morning and really pleased to have spent time there. Onward through Skye and onto the ferry at Uig for a very rough crossing to Harris and Lewis. The morning didn't start well, gale force winds, heavy rain and hail, however, no option but to press on. Callanish 1 was even more inspiring than I had expected, a real temple of its time and definitely felt like there was some huge religious significance to it regardless of all the theories from a Astronomical Clock to a Time Machine. Callanish 2 was a wonderful place to be as you look out over both 1 and 3 and it all feels very interconnected. Both were under water and the wind so strong you needed to cling to the stones for protection. Callanish 4 was just about possible with wellies, however, the more remote sites were going to have to wait for another visit, for which I cannot wait.
I went on to see the huge Truishal Standing Stone and a few other sites, however, with little time left I went back to Callanish 1 to spend more time in the central stones and contemplate how the site had been developed over 1000 years and the changes in the outlook and religion of the people involved.
Dreaming over, another sick inducing crossing of the Minch and a very long drive home. Would I do it again? Tomorrow (subject to permission from my long suffering wife)
Posted by costaexpress
6th May 2016ce

Getting high by staying low.

Getting high by staying low.

It's been quite a while since the last Sweetcheat/postman mountain excursion, so when asked what do I fancy I went straight to the top of the list and suggested the Nantlle ridge in Snowdonia. The suggestion was greedily accepted so long as the ice and snow line was higher than we were going, there's not much need to risk life and limb in either of us. As the universe works in mysterious ways everything was working in our favour for a change, the snow was higher than we were going and even more miraculous we could see the tops of the mountains, six or seven times out of ten the clouds will be low and we'll be walking in a white out, it's invigorating to say the least but it's not conducive to wonderment at the world.
With the car parked in the all but empty car park by the lovely Llyn Dywarchen, the same parking place as an ascent of Mynydd Mawr, we turned to face our adversary, that sounds a bit negative maybe, see it as not an enemy to be fought but rather as an assault course to get through, or even as a beautiful woman to be wooed, because climbing a mountain is a lot like, yes, you've guessed it, making love to a beautiful woman, it's really not, but I could give a pretty good argument that it is.

The first twenty minutes are easy enough, hands in pockets dodging wet spots, stop and turn for a slowly getting better view of Snowdon, but then the ground gets steeper and steeper and the legs try harder and harder to propel one forwards and upwards. The way is easy to keep to, but it is still very hard work, I find it all but impossible to grasp the fact that some people run up and down mountains, my job requires me to walk ten miles a day with a heavy bag over my back, but it in no way prepares you for staggering up a mountain.
Thankfully, our first stopping point is only 400 meters higher than the car park, a very good pair of cairns upon a summit called Y Garn.
Both cairns are taller than me and made up of large blocks of stone of which there are plenty of round here. About forty meters separate them, shallow scoops have been dug into them both by shelter hungry walkers, which is twice as stupid as it sounds seeing as there is a wall right by the cairns, this is where we sat and had butties.

Y Garn, Nantlle Ridge — Images

<b>Y Garn, Nantlle Ridge</b>Posted by postman

Y Garn, Nantlle Ridge — Images

<b>Y Garn, Nantlle Ridge</b>Posted by postman

As impressive as the cairns are the eyes are drawn far more to the rocky pyramid Mynydd Drws y coed, iv'e been here before but chickened out of a solo climb, instead I went as far as I dared and just sat there for a bit, but not this time.

We approached with extreme trepidation, ten feet to the right of us is a vertical cliff, a direct one way ticket straight down to the inevitable big crunch. As we climb the rocks higher and higher, fear of imminent death makes my legs shake, looking almost anywhere results in overpowering dizziness, we are maybe ten feet from what looks like the top of the rocky pinnacle, Alken somehow has the ability to stand upright, I am now on my belly staying low clinging on for dear life with all four limbs, unable to go any higher, with a note of disappointment I have to admit that I can go no farther this way. So we both come down a little and find an easier way round the rocks of absolute mayhem, legs still shaking, I lean away from the down bits, always having hands on to something, rock, grass, heather, anything to ensure a grip, I haven't been that scared since Crib Goch. But with something like determination and the help of a friend I eventually made it to the top.
Analogies with the final act of making love to a beautiful woman aside, this is one of the best feelings in the world, not only did we conquer the heights but also my almost crippling fear of falling, i'm fine with being high up, it's the fall i'm deathly afraid of.
The views are brilliant, Snowdon dominates, as only the biggest mountain in the country can, Mynydd Mawr and Moel Eilio to Snowdons left, to its right Yr Aran and further round is Moel Hebog and co. In the opposite direction to Snowdon is the rest of the Nantlle ridge and other mountains with cairns on them, they all have names of course but you need a mouthful of phlegm to pronounce them, I have a real problem with the Welsh language, I believe it was created solely to confuse foreigners, ie the English.

Moel Hebog — Images

<b>Moel Hebog</b>Posted by postman

Mynydd Mawr — Images

<b>Mynydd Mawr</b>Posted by postman

Anyhow, we continue our walk along the Nantlle ridge, the ridge is not as terrifying as where we've just come from but it does get quite thin in places. At one point the ridge has a hole in it, which has to be climbed down then back up, I employed a method now known as reverse spider walk, basically it's the crab position, getting down is easier than getting up, for me at least.
The last peak has now been breached, Mynydd Tal y mignedd, you wouldn't know by looking at that Welsh word but there are two th's in there. This last peak of the day has no cairn, but it does have a Queen Vic obelisk on it, a small point of interest it must be said, but as most mountain tops have nowt on them, you get your interest when you can. The next mountain top along the ridge does have a cairn on it,

Craig Cwm-Silyn — Images

<b>Craig Cwm-Silyn</b>Posted by postman
and the next one, but we've run out of time and these must be saved for another time. It only remains to decide upon a route back to the car which is now two miles away, instead of going back up and down over those scary heights we aim for the road north of the ridge then strike in a fairly straight line back to the car. It does afford a great view of Snowdon

Yr Wyddfa — Images

<b>Yr Wyddfa</b>Posted by postman
and a small hill fort across the road somewhere, whose position is only determined by close inspection of the photos at home later, and of course we can look up and wonder at the ridge unbelieving almost that we were up there just a short while ago.
postman Posted by postman
2nd May 2016ce

Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway

My schedule for last week took me to Barnsley on the Tuesday and Ashington, Northumberland on the Friday, so I suggested to my wife that it would be a good opportunity to visit a few of the better known sites just over the border. 'Not another Jolly, surely'? 'Its not a Jo...', I realised there was no point arguing and took it as acceptance that it was OK to go, unfortunately I would have to leave the van behind and go by car.
A longish drive from Barnsley found me at the Loupin Stones car park in Eskdalemuir. What a beautiful location right alongside the river with a short walk to the Girdle Stone Circle less than 1/2 mile away. The Loupin Stones are particularly fascinating and the circle itself appears to be just part of a far larger complex. The stones appear to be part of something called the 'Prehistoric Trail' which I had not heard of before, not sure where it goes and what other sites are included in the trail, however, resolved to find out more. Spent way too much time in the valley and realised I needed to get a move on if I was to see anything else.
Next, I drove down to Dumfries to visit the 12 Apostles. GPS took me right to the site which was fortuitous as there are no signs indicating this huge and significant circle. Very difficult to photograph because if you move back far enough to include all the stones they just appear like small dots on the final print. Left wondering why this circle does not attract more attention, as usual I was the only person there.
Next day, sun shining and a very pleasant drive down the coast to Carsluith the visit Cairnholy 1 and 2. These sites have been given the status of a large brown tourist sign off the main road and easy to find although the last 1/2 mile or so is up a very narrow single track road. These are two wonderful sites, well maintained with information boards and designated parking (posh!) and between the stones and the farm wall was a perfect sun trap where I sat and read few chapters of my book, daydreamed a little and eventually realised the day was passing by, so up and off again this time to find the old military road and The Glenquicken Stone Circle. GPS absolutely essential for this one, no signs, no footpath and not visible from the single track road. Very much worth tracking down, a complete circle with a central cuboid shaped standing stone, remote and peaceful setting, a place to linger.
From here it was off the easy to find Torhousekie Stone Circle which commands its own layby and information board. An interesting and very well kept site. The OS map indicates a lot of other activity in the area with evidence of a cairn and a stone row, very much worth a visit.
From here I decided to visit the Wrens Egg. Once again no signs and GPS essential, although obvious once you get to the road alongside the Egg. Over the stile and across the field, the Egg is accompanied by 2 standing stones and they all sit on a small hill (or barrow?). The Egg is a curiosity and difficult to understand how natural or how much shaping has taken place.
A short stop in Port William and the day was gone leaving the only other site on my list, Glentirrow, unvisited, however, the perfect excuse to return to this delightful part of the country.
Posted by costaexpress
23rd April 2016ce

Megalithic route of culture - Germany

Megalithic route of culture - Germany

I wanted to check out this route having been intrigued by its concept, was it all bouncy castle and ice cream, would there be any dignity? It also seemed a natural follow up visit to a recent trip to the Hunebedded in the Netherlands. So, when the Emsland tourist board map and detailed booklet arrived I realised I had no excuse.
Prepared the van in a hurry followed by an evening trip through the tunnel and an easy but surprisingly busy run up through France, Belgium the Netherlands and into Germany found me outside the first site waiting for it to get light.
There are over 80 sites divided into 33 locations. The general route is over 200 miles long and signposted with more detailed signs once in the actual location. Multiple sites in a location can be either next to each other or spread miles apart, no rules. I found gps best between locations and the road signs best for individual sites. Both gps and road signs readily take you up unmade roads and forest tracks
The sites vary from a broken capstone to the mighty Kleinenkneten 1 and 2 which truly rival West Kennet. This site is worth the visit to Germany alone having been restored over 80 years ago and now set within a modern wood it is pure fantasy land transporting your imagination back over 5000 years seeing and breathing imaginary sights and smells.
Without wishing to upset the purists this route is just great fun, seeking the next location, hopping out, taking photographs, letting your imagination run riot. The sites for the most part are set in woodland and easily accessible (although my van didn't like bouncing down the forest tracks and I wasn't 100% sure it was meant to be there)
The route is well documented on the web and it is well signposted, a tourist trap, however, it is not. At each and every site I was the only person there with the exception of golfers at station 9 (they have built a golf course around 3 of the sites) and people in a car doing unmentionables at station 16.
As always it was over too soon, I had promised to take my wife to see the latest incarnation of ELO and it was time for the long slog home. All in all a great fun, fascinating culture and pleased I made the effort, certainly less clinical than I was expecting, however, not the same sense of walking on the shoulders of history as eg walking down the Ridgeway or up to Sunkenkirk at first light
Posted by costaexpress
15th April 2016ce

Mendip First - 2 April 2016

Mendip First - 2 April 2016

It’s six o’clock in the morning, and I’m the only person in this house that’s awake. My bag is packed and ready for a trip over the mountaintops of South Wales, but the forecast is looking uninspiring. Rain until early afternoon, which suggests little enjoyment for most of my walking window. Widen the forecast out though, and it looks like sunshine galore to the southwest. Hmmm.

A quick burst of complete replanning, frantic printing of different bus timetables and I’m off to Bristol to catch the “Mendips Explorer” and head into an area I’ve never been to before. A look at the Cheddar Gorge and Mendips West map opens up a huge amount of possible destinations, barrows seem to ooze from every km square around here. There’s also a decent amount of open access land, which promises a day free of the irritations of blocked paths and muddy farmland.

The bus climbs out of Bristol, offering a view of Maes Knoll before passing the Stanton Drew turning. I’m tempted, but not enough. The Priddy complex is only a couple of miles west as well, but I’m not in the mood for farms today. One connection later and I’m heading through Cheddar to a little strung-out hamlet called Sandford Batch, not quite on the hills but not right down in the low-lying vale either. A path heads eastwards into community woodland, scarred by quarrying and with an impressive limekiln left as a visible reminder of industry.

Further east the woods open out to fields and as the path starts to descend I’m rewarded with a view of my first objective of the day, Dolebury Warren. From here it looks like short climb, but my route drops right down into Dolebury Bottom gorge first, adding significantly to the amount of the steep ascent. The overcast morning is slowly starting to lift, so I shed my coat and fleece before starting on the uphill.

Dolebury Warren — Fieldnotes

The approach is through woods, climbing fairly sharply although not quite taking the direct route up the scarp. I’m anticipating a slog but in fact the ramparts come into sight pretty quickly – after spending so much time in the Welsh uplands it’s easy to forget that the hills here are not very big, for all that they’re very steep-sided. The sun starts to break through as I reach the western entrance.

It’s immediately apparent that this is a first rate hillfort in great preservation. There are two lines of ramparts, the inner one much higher than the outer and built of stone blocks. The western entrance is at the lowest part of the fort, which continues to climb steeply towards the top of the hill a good 30 metres higher than where I’m standing. The banks are inturned and the entrance appears to be an original one.

I follow the rampart along its northern side, steadily climbing as it goes. The fetish for building shelters that has damaged so many Bronze Age summit cairns is in evidence here too, with the plentiful stone of the rampart obviously being too difficult to resist messing about. Actually, it’s a pretty windswept place. Although the sun is now out, when it occasionally dips behind ragged cloud there’s a serious chill and I’m quickly reminded that it’s still early in the year to be wandering around a hillfort in a t-shirt.

As the rampart climbs, the views open out wonderfully in every direction but east. The Severn is the main event, looking towards Steep Holm and Flat Holm islands that we got familiar with walking the coast path on the opposite side. I also recognise Brean Down and assume the urban sprawl to be Weston-super-Mare. Almost due west a wooded hill with open interior is the neighbouring Banwell Plain hillfort.

The ditch between the ramparts is overgrown in places, but there is obviously regular clearance of scrub going on. A couple of dog walkers and a couple of walkers are dotted around the fort, but it’s a big place and there’s no sense of intrusion. Reaching the very top of the fort there’s another entrance facing east, also looking like it’s probably original. The views are now magnificent, right across to South Wales – if the cloud and rain lifted there, I’ve no doubt the Brecon Beacons would be readily visible. To the south the high ridge of the Mendips blocks the view, open moorland that will be my next objective once I leave here.

But first there’s the southern circuit and interior. On the south side the rampart is less built-up, but the reasoning is obvious as the ground falls very steeply away to a lovely wooded gorge below. Rowberrow church is visible across the ravine, and in a field beyond there is a sizeable round barrow that just manages to be obscured by trees no matter where I stand on the rampart. I head back up into the fort’s interior, which is heavily scarred and pitted. The fort’s name gives the reason away, as it was the site of a huge artificial rabbit warren in the 17th century. At the highest part of the interior, just inside the eastern entrance, there is a low curving linear feature with a square structure inside. This was apparently the garden wall and footings of the warren-keeper’s house. I wonder what it must have been like to live here, surrounded by rabbits and the ghosts of the original inhabitants. Whatever, it makes a great spot for an early lunch before heading east.

A final touch as I leave is the way Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel is framed by the eastern entrance. What a great place this is. I reluctantly turn away, hugely impressed by this great fort with its sweeping views.

Dolebury Warren — Images

<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Dolebury Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Rowberrow Warren — Fieldnotes

To the southeast, the route drops gently towards the upper end of a valley. On the other side is a dense conifer forest that wouldn’t be out of place above the South Wales valleys. Somewhere over there the OS map shows a pair of cairns, which I’m intending to call in on before climbing onto the main Mendips ridge. The first thing that stands out is a large area of felling – the cairns are somewhere in it, which will either make them easy to find or impossible.

Luckily there’s not a huge amount of height loss to cross the valley at its head. Bridleways head off in several directions – to get to the first cairn I take the one heading west then a fork to the southwest, which slopes gently uphill into the felled area. The map shows the cairn at a bend in the track, right in the heart of the felling. I could be back in the Welsh forests here. Forestry clearance is a messy business, often leaving deeps ruts from the machinery and then a burst of vegetation as the tree covers disappears. This is no exception. I find the cairn right by the track, hidden at first glance by the high verges pushed up by logging vehicles. It’s in a sorry state, the edge has been damaged by the felling operation and it’s covered in a tangle of brambles and bracken. The only redeeming feature is a single silver birch, left to grow on the western side of the mound.

Once over the pitiful state of the immediate surroundings though, the location can be appreciated. The cairn looks down the steep-sided valley between Dolebury Warren to the north and the high Mendips ridge to the south. As with many of the upland cairns of South Wales, there seems to be a definite relationship between watercourses and the placing of these Bronze Age funerary monuments.

I head back the way I’ve come to the junction of paths. The second cairn is also in a felled area, this time a narrow triangle of land between tracks. The OS map shows it as right next to a bridleway heading onto Black Down. Unfortunately the felling here has left behind a deep tangle of bracken and water-filled ruts and ridges. I head uphill, but the track seems to follow a slightly different route to the map and after a while of fruitless prodding about in the bracken and tree stumps I reluctantly abandon the search. I’m sure it’s still here somewhere, but I won’t be the one to find it this time.

Rowberrow Warren — Images

<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rowberrow Warren</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Read's Cavern — Fieldnotes

Before heading on to the open moorland, the map offers one more site: Read’s Cavern. Heading ESE from the junction of paths, the track follows the course of the stream, soon opening onto a small clearing with a seat. The cavern lies immediately to the north, where the fast-running waters, cold and crystal clear, disappear into the side of the hill. The cave appears to be accessible, but only if you’re prepared for a proper caving expedition. The limestone rocks around the entrance are liberally decorated with fossils of sea-creatures from impossibly distant epochs of time.

The entrance is very small and the water pouring in suggests an instant soaking. A sign fixed to the rockface above gives an emergency call-out number in case of difficulties. I’m not equipped either mentally or physically to go pot-holing on this trip, so I sit near the entrance for a while and watch the splash and sparkle of the water.

Read's Cavern — Images

<b>Read's Cavern</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Read's Cavern</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Read's Cavern</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Burrington (Black Down) — Fieldnotes

There are more barrows shown to the northeast, as well as another cave called Aveline’s Hole. I pass various deep sinkholes, glorying in the names Bos Swallet and Rod’s Pot. Some of these are huge scoops in the ground. As the path gives way to a metalled road, a proper look at the map shows Aveline’s Hole is actually on the other side of a steep gorge, so I reluctantly abandon any idea of a visit today. There are however three barrows (the OS shows one cairn and two tumuli) in an open area of common below the northern slopes of the moorland proper.

This area is deep with the brown stalks of last year’s bracken, which makes barrow hunting somewhat difficult, although not as much as it would be on a summer visit.

I start off looking for the cairn, the northern of the three monuments on the map. After foolishly hacking my way into and back out of a briar patch thinking it was the barrow, I realise that it’s actually a very prominent feature crowned with a stand of silver birch trees. On closer inspection it’s a beauty, lots of stonework and an crisp footprint (although no kerb as such). The trees are no doubt causing damage but enhance the atmosphere immensely, especially as the sun at its zenith is now beating down through a cloudless blue sky. Something of an unexpected highlight, and definitely worth the visit.

Heading south the other two marked barrows are less easy to find. The middle barrow is a low mound next to one of the many paths that criss-cross this open area. It’s misshapen and has hawthorn growing on it, assuming I’ve even found the right thing under all the bracken. I can’t find anything in the marked position of the southernmost barrow, although I think it’s likely to be somewhere near a single silver birch, as these trees seem to feature close to many of the barrows in this area. Either it’s deeply buried in bracken or the map has it in the wrong place.

Burrington (Black Down) — Images

<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Burrington (Black Down)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Black Down (Priddy) — Fieldnotes

By now I’m feeling the need to press on, with the biggest hill of the day looming ahead, so I don’t stop very long to search. It is worth pausing to look at the unfolding view of the limestone cliffs across the gorge to the north. Somewhere in that hillside is Aveline’s Hole and there appears to be a hillfort or settlement on the hilltop above it. A good reason to come back to the area anyway.

The climb up onto Black Down is not too bad, a good clear path running above West Twin Brook. The excellent views north across the Severn/Bristol Channel give plenty to admire on each pause for breath. At the top of the ridge, the path is very eroded and muddy and I’m grateful that we haven’t had huge amounts of rain recently. The top of Black Down is a sponge that would make for a challenging visit in wet conditions.

There are plenty of people up here and it’s easy to see why the main path running east-west along the top of the hill is so churned up and eroded. Unfortunately, the same is also true of the pair of barrows immediately beside the path. The northeastern one has been worn down to its stonework and is in a sorry state, crossed directly by the path. The northwestern barrow has fared slightly better than its companion, not being quite so close to the main line of the path. A sparkly slab lies on the edge of the mound, crystals catching the beautiful spring sunshine.

The erosion is a shame as these are excellent barrows, substantial and upstanding, with terrific views. I look down on a now-distant Dolebury Warren and reflect that this walk is probably going to be a bit longer than I thought! Across the Bristol Channel, the hills and mountains of South Wales are still lying under dark clouds and I’m not in the least sorry I decided on the last minute change of plan this morning.

I head south across tussocky and damp ground to the possible third barrow in the group. This one is lower and difficult to discern under dense vegetation. So dense in fact that I startle and flush a deer from the side of the mound, watching it gracefully bound across the treacherously boggy ground.

Black Down (Priddy) — Images

<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Black Down (Priddy)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Beacon Batch — Fieldnotes

Back on the main path, the summit is obvious straight ahead. The map shows a big group of barrows and it’s coming back to me that Thelonious posted some photos a while ago. The going is not too bad as the weather has been dry, but would be horrible in wet conditions.

The first barrow (Burrington 11) is to the north of the path, another substantial mound despite erosion and probable excavation. From it the barrow that the trig pillar sits on obscures the linear group to the east.

The summit mound (Burrington 13) has obviously been resurfaced fairly recently with a new cap of stonework to protect it from erosion. This is the highest point of the Mendip hills and a fantastic viewpoint. As well as the views north and west that I’ve had for most of the day, there are now views south that take in Glastonbury Tor as well as Exmoor away to the southwest.

It’s a well visited place as you’d expect, and while I’m here there are walkers, cyclists and horseriders at various times.

The linear barrow group (Burrington 14-16) immediately east of the summit is also cracking, with wooden signs warning visitors that it is ancient monument and to keep off to prevent erosion. I imagine that the summit barrow itself was always going to be the target for most visitors, so this seems a good way to compromise and keep the other monuments from further damage. Two more barrows (Burrington 18 and 19) lie to the south, providing an excellent spot to head away from the other people and admire the linear group profiled along the skyline.

On such a lovely day, with the wind and sun on my face, this is as good a place as I could wish to be. But by now it’s getting on for 3 o’clock, so I bid a reluctant farewell to the barrows and head east. The path has been resurfaced here and initially provides nice easy going after the boggier ridge. There is a last barrow on the south side of the path (Burrington 20) which sets me on my way downhill.

Eventually the path comes to the edge of the open access land, with fields laid out to the east and another path running north-south. Right at the junction of these paths is another barrow (Burrington 22), but it’s low and buried in heather, offering little in comparison with the group on the summit. I head north briefly to look for a final barrow (Blagdon 1). It proves to be buried under the fence line and badly eroded.

From here my path goes southwest, becoming increasingly wet and marshy. I’m soon hopping precariously from tussock to tussock, and it should come as no surprise to learn that one of the tussocks proves to be less solid than it looked. My tired legs refuse to keep me upright and I’m down on one knee, with an unpleasant feeling of cold, black water trickling into the top of my boot. Gah.

Beacon Batch — Images

<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Beacon Batch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Feeling irritated/damp I carry on to until the path leaves the open access land at the ruins of a World War Two bunker. A couple of fields later and I’m back on proper terra firma, on lanes and a farm track. I’m really close to Gorsey Bigbury henge here, just a field away. But I’m also tiring now and it’s getting on, enough to stop me from the effort of seeking permission from the farmhouse – one for another day then.

Rhino Rift Barrow — Fieldnotes

My route heads east again, passing one barrow on the map that doesn’t appear to exist anymore, a load of the cutest spring lambs you ever saw, and then the obvious mound of Rhino Rift barrow. It’s perched above the edge of a steep sided wooded ravine, which presumably is the Rhino Rift itself. The barrow is not round, rather it’s an elongated shape, higher at one end than the other. I’m not surprised to read Chance’s post that it has been considered as a possible long barrow, although it’s not that long.

Rhino Rift Barrow — Images

<b>Rhino Rift Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rhino Rift Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Rhino Rift Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Another descent, this time into Black Rock gorge, which reminds me strongly of the limestone country of both the Gower and Peak District. I’m nearing the head of Cheddar Gorge now, and I’m not really sure what the pedestrian access is going to be like. It’s also getting busier, as families have come here to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. With this in mind, when I see a finger post marked “Cheddar” I decide to take it. There’s an initial steep climb into some woods, but then the horrific sight of steep steps ahead. I push myself up them, creaking and groaning at the seams now.

Finally at the top and a narrow path skirts along the north of the gorge itself, over exposed and uneven limestone. The scenery becomes spectacular, looking along the gorge through the cliffs at its end. A little stile with a sign warning of the drop gives access to a sloping grassy area right on the edge of the cliffs. The view drops straight down to the road, where miniature people and cars bustle far below. For the first time I can recall I’m vertiginous, not helped by the family of sheep of some ancient breed that scamper about the hillside around me. I beat a hasty retreat to the stile, pleased to put a wall between me and certain death. The path downhill becomes steeper and steeper and by now my feet are aching from the rough terrain. I had hoped to explore the gorge itself, but I’m exhausted now and just want to stop walking.

By the time I reach the village I’ve missed the bus and could do with having a lie down. This last section has proved to be very hard country, especially at the end of a 12 mile walk. But boy has it been rewarding. From the brilliance of Dolebury Warren, the long views of the southwest and Wales, the superb barrow cemetery on Beacon Batch and the spectacular scenery of the gorge at the end, this is definitely an area to come back to. Perhaps with a little more planning next time though. Adios Somerset.

Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave — Images

<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cheddar Gorge and Gough's Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
10th April 2016ce

A lot happened on a short trip!

A lot happened on a short trip!

I was heading North on the A1 and decided I would break the journey with a stop to see the Duddo stone circle and the rock art at Roughting Lynn.

First I had no idea Duddo was such a major stone circle, I guess I'm getting too used to finding a few fallen stones long hidden by gorse and heather. The 20 minute walk to the stones is an absolute delight with the stones soon visible on the hill and beckoning you forward growing in stature with every stride. The walk back has the Cheviots in the background, covered in snow at this time of year and leaving you with the feeling this part of the world must have many other long lost monuments to the past. There are 5 major stones standing, however, there are a few other partially buried stones within the circumference of the circle, not sure if these are part of the original circle, just dumped there or some form of broken alter like the recumbent stone circles of Aberdeenshire.

Secondly, I had no idea that rock art would be so fascinating, are they pictures, hieroglyphics, maps or just ancient artwork. I felt quiet distressed as I am too early in my personal voyage of discovery to visit all the sites outlined in Julian's two books to be distracted by this new area of interest, however, I see no other option than to devote some time to understanding and unlocking the meaning of these works of art.

And finally when I arrived at my destination I checked my photo only to discover my camera had failed and I had no photos of my visits. I was strangely annoyed. Although the main purpose of my visits are to take communion with whatever force remains I was still disappointed not to have a record of my visit and know already that I will return just to take photos. I also know that I will not go on a field visit with the phone in the car charger, it will always be in my pocket as back up.

Regardless, it was a nice change from stopping at the usual service stations
Posted by costaexpress
28th February 2016ce

Weather 1, Man 0

Weather 1, Man 0

Well we are well into February and still no end to the wet muddy weather, fed up of moaning that I am fed up with the weather I made the bed up in the van loaded the fridge with food, grovelled in front of my wife and set off for Dartmoor to visit Merrivales famous stone avenues and to undertake a reccy ahead of my planned summer walking trip to visit Dartmoor's more remote stone circles.
I made my way down there via the A303, not the obvious route from Lincolnshire, however, I just love the way the road sweeps past Stonehenge and soon I was on Dartmoor and ready for a drive around just to get my bearings. The temperature plummeted to -4 overnight and I awoke to heavy continuous rain. Not to be deterred I set off for Merrivale where even the footpaths had been washed out and were now fast flowing streams, on with the wellies, two waterproof jackets and up into the complex, needless to say I had the place to myself, and wow, what a site, multiple stone avenues, stone circle, standing stones, broken cairn and multiple ancient dwellings. I soon abandoned the rough site plan and just staggered from site to site. The complex just keeps giving and despite the heavy freezing rain demanded a lot of time to fully explore and enjoy. I returned to the van and needed a complete change of clothes, glad there was no one else in the small car park. This is one of the most amazing sites I have ever visited, no information boards or visitor centre, no ice cream van (can imagine it is the complete opposite in summer) just a huge window to our past.
The weather really dictated what sites I was able to visit and so I moved around to Grimspound as it is only a short walk from the road. I had not expected a site on this scale and once again demanded a lot of time to fully explore, strangely despite the poor weather this site was quiet busy with four or five other people milling around and enjoying all the sites within the pound
The weather killed off any more visits that day and I returned in the morning for a wonderful walk in bright sunshine, moving out from Postbridge down to the lovely stone circle/circular cairn called Sousson Pound set into a clearing on the edge of the woods, into the woods to visit the two circular cairns and leave my footprints in the snow that was still lying there, clearly no other visitors pass this way and then the longish haul up to the Challacombe Stone Rows. I was knocked out by this site despite some dispute over how accurately the stones had been re erected. The row appeared to be aligned with the Tor and stretched up hill to a large single marker stone. The avenue itself seemed to have three chambers/cairns/holding pounds built into it. The remote setting coupled with its wonderful views of Grimspound in the distance really made the walk worth while.
The following day the weather worsened again and I spent the day around Sharpitor and Black Tor tracking down the stone rows, cairns and settlements, all within easy reach of the road and hence the van for shelter from the squalls as they came in. No footpaths and bog and marsh to negotiate I more than once breached my wellies and started to wonder if I should stick to warmer climates at this time of year. Exhausted, wet and tired I was happy with my few days on the moor and it certainly 'wetted' my appetite for my return in the summer.
As I pulled on the drive I realised I had not bought anything for my wife, might just sleep in the van again tonight!
Posted by costaexpress
21st February 2016ce

They say Giants built them

They say Giants built them

I was fed up with the mild and wet weather we have been having, every time you venture out the sites are either waterlogged or you have to plug through mud. Anyway, I was browsing Julian's books looking for inspiration, in particular somewhere that is not located on the side of a mountain nor on a remote moor and there it was, the Hunebedden in the province of Drenthe. 54 of them to chose from, all well documented with a rich and interesting history.
That was it, mind made up, I booked the tunnel for two days ahead, a day to get the van ready and a day to pick up courage to tell my wife I was off. The research would have to be done on the hoof.
It took all day to drive there, however, it left me ready for an early start the following morning. D53/54 came up first and immediately got me thinking. Nicely reconstructed hunebed, wonderful setting in a heath and woodland location, however, something was wrong. The stones were dead, lifeless, soulless, field art, and this set the pattern as I visited the next few Hunebedden. All wonderful places to visit but essentially dead.
Then a strange thing happened, as I saw more and more of them I started to feel the history and significance I had not felt before and I started to realise the power of these stones is in the whole and not the individual, as I continued my visit I realised they are not separate sites but one huge site spread over a 30km radius and the trip began to take on a new and exciting interest.
Over the next few days I worked my way around 25 to 30 of the sites and found myself eagerly anticipating what I might find next whereas I must confess after the first few sites I was beginning to think they are all the same, just outdoor sculptures.
I must just mention that at sites D12 and 13 in the village of Eext I met a most interesting keeper of the local history and believer in ancient religions. He generously showed me around the two sites pointing out interesting carvings and shapes in the stones, explaining the force fields generated by a combination of their locations on ancient pathways and their relationship to each other. He was very old with long white hair and long white beard, in fact he looked exactly like you might expect a wizard to look like in a film, he was of course incredibly knowledgeable and when we parted company he gave me a small stone with a tiny hole in it. He said it would protect me into the future, however, when the time was right the tiny hole would appear like a great window to the Other World and I would be ready to climb through - although hopefully not too soon!
All in all a most enjoyable field trip, and a welcome break from the winter blues.
I stopped off at Brugge on the way back to buy chocolates for my wife, when I gave them to her she said great when are you off next? Seems I have found the key.
Posted by costaexpress
5th February 2016ce

Open Data LIDAR: Henges

Open Data LIDAR: Henges

Image source
The following images are obtained from the recent releases of open data LIDAR by The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales. I've used this amazing dynamic map which has been created to use the open data. Thank you to all concerned for your time and resources!

Picture Selection
I have gone through all sites categorised as Henges on checking if a) LIDAR exists and b) they are visible to my untrained eye. This has unfortunately trimmed 70% or so of the listed henges.
All henges in Scotland and Ireland are right out. A high percentage of those left are missing LIDAR. Thornborough North and Central, Arbor Low, The Bull Ring and half of Mayburgh are some of the better known casualties. Those where LIDAR exists but we don’t see them can be categorized as small henges less than 20m wide which presumably have shallower ditches, lost to quarrying, buildings and agriculture.

Each picture is at maximum resolution, so you can download two (or twenty) and directly compare them.

Arminghall Henge — Images

<b>Arminghall Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Avebury — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by juamei

Castell Bryn-Gwyn — Images

<b>Castell Bryn-Gwyn</b>Posted by juamei

Castell Mawr — Images

<b>Castell Mawr</b>Posted by juamei

Castilly Henge — Images

<b>Castilly Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Castle Dykes, Wensleydale — Images

<b>Castle Dykes, Wensleydale</b>Posted by juamei

Devil's Quoits — Images

<b>Devil's Quoits</b>Posted by juamei

Durrington Walls — Images

<b>Durrington Walls</b>Posted by juamei

East Marleyknowe — Images

<b>East Marleyknowe</b>Posted by juamei

Ferrybridge Henge — Images

<b>Ferrybridge Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Ffynnon Newydd Henge — Images

<b>Ffynnon Newydd Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Flodden Camp — Images

<b>Flodden Camp</b>Posted by juamei

Gawsworth Henge — Images

<b>Gawsworth Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Great Wigborough Henge — Images

<b>Great Wigborough Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Groat Haugh — Images

<b>Groat Haugh</b>Posted by juamei

Gunthorpe Bridge — Images

<b>Gunthorpe Bridge</b>Posted by juamei

King Arthur's Round Table — Images

<b>King Arthur's Round Table</b>Posted by juamei

Knowlton Henges — Images

<b>Knowlton Henges</b>Posted by juamei

Little Argham Henge — Images

<b>Little Argham Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Little Round Table — Images

<b>Little Round Table</b>Posted by juamei

Long Ivor Farm — Images

<b>Long Ivor Farm</b>Posted by juamei
<b>Marden Henge (and Hatfield Barrow)</b>Posted by juamei

Maumbury Rings — Images

<b>Maumbury Rings</b>Posted by juamei

Mount Pleasant — Images

<b>Mount Pleasant</b>Posted by juamei

Newton Kyme Henge (Site) — Images

<b>Newton Kyme Henge (Site)</b>Posted by juamei

Nunwick Henge — Images

<b>Nunwick Henge</b>Posted by juamei

The Weddings at Stanton Drew — Images

<b>The Weddings at Stanton Drew</b>Posted by juamei

Stonehenge — Images

<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by juamei

Thornborough Henge South — Images

<b>Thornborough Henge South</b>Posted by juamei

Weather Hill — Images

<b>Weather Hill</b>Posted by juamei

Woodhenge — Images

<b>Woodhenge</b>Posted by juamei

Woolhanger Henge — Images

<b>Woolhanger Henge</b>Posted by juamei

Yarnbury Henge — Images

<b>Yarnbury Henge</b>Posted by juamei
juamei Posted by juamei
7th January 2016ce

The Gorse awakens

The Gorse awakens

This year the solstice turned out to be on the 22nd, not the 21st, and most definitely not on the 20th, but seeing as the first two dates are work days and ive not got the option of going off sick, Sunday the 20th will have to do.
At least there would be no part time enthusiasts clogging the place up, the place in question being the oh so divine Druids circle above Penmaenmawr, it is a wondrous place, big mountains to the south and west, and north down hill to the Irish sea. Plus it is not alone on these hills, the Druids circle is just one out of at least ten places that are well worth a visit. Also the almost complete lack of gorse is very heart warming.
So far, I have witnessed the sunrise here on the summer solstice, an equinox, and one more for the complete set, a winter solstice. The actual moment of sunrise was obscured by a mountain, but even when the sun came above the mountain, clouds got in the way, and it was windy, so windy that just standing up straight was exhausting, even stringing several swear words together didn't help, well not with the standing up anyway.
At the summer solstice the sun rises up out of the sea, a spectacle to behold I can tell you, the equinox sun rises above some low hills, more or less marked by Maen Penddu standing stone and Cefn Maen Amor stone circle, that was a good sun rise, but it's no summer solstice.
The winter solstice sunrise, some might say that the sight line is blocked by a mountain, but when that mountain is Tal y Fan, the most megalithically covered mountain in Britain, one has to consider the idea that it is intentional.

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by postman

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by postman

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by postman

At the stone circle itself there is a couple of platforms from which a view of the circle is best seen from, The highest platform is also the perfect viewing place from which to watch the sun rise in mid winter, the second platform is perfect for viewing the equinox sun rise over the middle of the circle, and the lowest platform, I say platform but it's not really is where the summer sun can be seen best rising over the circle.
I cannot say that the platforms are constructed, or meant to be used to observe the sun rises, but it's really too much to put down to coincidence, perhaps the least one can say for certain is that the circle was carefully placed. Possibly.

Anyway, I've been up here for five hours now and it's time to go and see some gorse, wonderful stuff gorse, well, it is when you've cut it down and thrown it far into the wind, unlike Han Solo.

Carnedd y Saeson is one of the best sites along the North Walean coast
but like lots of places it is being choked by and disappearing under gorse.
Fifteen months ago Thesweetcheat and I went there and trampled the stuff as best we could, but whats really needed is a flick saw and a few hours. I gave it both.

Carnedd y Saeson — Images

<b>Carnedd y Saeson</b>Posted by postman

The big gorse bush by the cist is gone as is most of the gorse covering the southern arc of stones, work is ongoing. I myself am in two minds about undergrowth removal, I am aware that the authorities could take a dim view, and I am not unsympathetic to the free growth of all living things, but in some places it just has to go.
What I really needed was a big light saber and Anakins lust for cutting down younglings.
My arms and chest muscles hurt for several days, and right after the exercise my hands stung like a snake bite, it crossed my mind that I should leave Wales to clear up it's own stone circle themselves, then the inner voice said yeah right and chuckled long into the night
Work is ongoing.
postman Posted by postman
28th December 2015ce

Lanyon Quoit

Lanyon Quoit

Well I painted the spare room and my wife unexpectedly declared she did not mind if I wanted to fit in another field trip, so in a state of shock out came the books, maps, gps coordinates and of course the internet (I really enjoy the planning phase before a trip) and I decided I would like to see Lanyon Quoit as it looked like my Golden Retriever poised waiting for the command to fetch. Van loaded, waves from the kitchen window, dog barking I left Lincolnshire for the run South to St Just where I would hole up for a few days. I had just passed Bristol when the phone went, 'I don't like the colour want to change it to Tunsgate Green, no worries you can do it when you get back' grrr! My first visit was to the complex which includes the Merry Maidens, Tregiffian Burial Chamber, Gun Rith and Pipers 1 & 2. I spent ages trying to figure out any kind of alignment of the stones and eventually moved on to the unexpected highlight of my trip Boscawen - un. a short walk over the brow of the hill and there it is below you looking like a giant sundial enclosed by a stone wall and hedge. I assume the central standing stone was originally straight or is it aligned to a date in the calendar? This was a wonderful place and if it wasn't so damp and muddy I could have spent much longer there. I had read about people experiencing a rebirth down in the Fogou's, reckoned that would be good for me and so headed of to Carn Euny village to search for the mysterious glowing algae and to be reborn. Although blustery and raining I decided to park up at Carn Brea and walk across the moors to the village, this took me past the Holy Well, the adjacent trees suitably covered in multi coloured plastic and cloth ribbons and then I descended down into the Fogou. The mysterious algae was in fact everywhere and not difficult to find and I thrust my way back into daylight arms outstretched - Reborn - Sadly no, I was still old and now also covered in mud. Next day I just had to see the Quoit and it did not disappoint, waterlogged and alone it seemed to pointing somewhere into the distance. Up the road and a good walk up to Men an tol. With no one around I was able to try getting various parts of my body through the holed stone. Remembering the fertility rites associated with this place I decided to leave fearing I might have gotten myself pregnant and set off for the Nine Maidens stone circle further up the moor. I had read it was just up the path, well I can assure you in late autumn it was no stroll. The path was flooded and eventually ran out and I struggled up through the water filled ruts in the heather passing a lesser circle and broken cairn until eventually reaching the circle. It was raining, the site was waterlogged and a more desolate spot on earth I don't think I have come across. The circle was brooding and menacing and I wanted to get away from it. Setting of down the hill through the heather I couldn't stop myself panicking slightly and tripping over from rut to rut and was pleased to make the good path back at Men an tol. I climbed in the van, made a pot of coffee and gave myself a good talking to. Anyway I soon cheered up and walked along the cliff tops to find Ballowall Barrow. Overnight a tremendous storm blew up and my planned walks to Chun, Zennor and Milfra Quiots looked in danger. I set of aiming for Chun, however, the whole moor was now fast moving streams and pools, I got close enough for a photo with the zoom lens but that was it, my wellies had flooded I was wet and beaten. I decided to head East to easier targets and visited the newly erected Quoit at Carwynnen. Nice little visitors area however it is difficult to reassemble ambience and atmosphere so I moved on to see the mighty Trevethy Quiot, very different to the others more like a box with a huge capstone. Whats the hole in the roof all about, original or new? Whilst in the area I visited the Duloe stone circle which was really worth the detour, every single stone in the small circle is of great interest and spent a surprisingly long time there. Next I moved on to the Hurlers multiple stone circle. Looks like a tourist spot in summer, however, deserted today. The rain did not allow me to do the site justice and the whole area deserves a further visit just to this one spot. And so that was it early next morning I set of back for Lincolnshire doing one last detour to Stanton Drew, Wow! Its just there, no fanfare, no gravel pathway, no visitor centre, no mown grass, just this major prehistoric site with huge stones and multiple circles, just an honesty box to let you know its there. This is a full afternoons vist and by the time I found the cove in the pub garden I realised I would be late home. Picking up a couple of tins of Tunsgate Green at Homme e basse on the way back I dropped them on the chest of drawers in the bedroom, my wife looked up with one eye open and asked where is the Cornish fudge and clotted cream, I decided this was not the time to tell her I might be pregnant.
Posted by costaexpress
20th November 2015ce
Edited 21st November 2015ce

Le Petit Menac

Le Petit Menac

Following numerous field trips this year my wife had asked me to hold off any more visits, at least until the spare room has been decorated in time for Christmas. this was not an unreasonable request as I had started to decorate the room some two and a half years ago. So it was with some dismay she caught me in the study with Julians book open at the section about Carnac. 'Trust you are not thinking of going there any time soon because you can think again'. 'no, No, NO!, how could you think such a thing, I know my priorities'. Anyway, over a glass of wine that evening I realised that there was no way out of this mess and I blurted out that not only was I thinking of going but that I had already booked the van and myself on the Eurotunnel leaving Saturday morning. I made the bed up in the van, stacked the fridge with food and beer and waved cheerio to an empty kitchen window and blew a promise on the breeze to paint the spare room immediately upon my return.
The 640 miles to the Arzon peninsula (my first port of call to visit the cairn du petit mont) proved easier than I had expected and I was there late afternoon having left home at 1.30am in the morning giving me time to drive past the main alignments as a taster for Sunday morning.
I decided to start at the Kerzerho alignment at Erdeven. What an amazing place with the main stone avenue gently progressing down the hill away from the main road. As I walked down the avenue I encountered a large group dressed in Brittany kilts enacting a strange ceremony including a mock beheading on one of the flattened stones, whilst not threatening my presence wasn't really appreciated and I took some photographs and left knowing I could come back later. as I approached the main alignment at Menac I could not believe the car park, everything I hate, kids running around spilling ice cream, dogs barking, groups preparing for Sunday cycling club and adults wondering as far as the information booth. It got worse as I approached the stones and discovered I could only enter with a guide, however, putting all to one side the scale of the alignment simply took my breath away. I knew it would be big, but not this big, where do I start, how do I get to really appreciate it? After a short while I realised I needed to move on and went to the Kermario alignment. Wow, just two cars and totally free access to the stones which wound there way first down the hill and then back up towards Kerlescan. Here I was also able to visit the Dolmens of Kermario and Kercado and a wonderful walk up to the Giant de Manio. It was then on to the alignment at Kerlescan and a walk around to the Menhir behind it. Next on my agenda was to find the alignment of Petit Menac, not as easy as it sounds. Following a few false starts I crossed the main road and followed the path into the forest, and wow what a magical, mysterious place it turned out to be. The stone avenue is clearly visible despite the growing vegetation and the mature woodland slowly winding to the left and then up the hill into the wood. I was there for over one hour and not one other person ventured into the woods it was impossible to compare it with the crazy going ons at the main Menac alignment, so peaceful so full of atmosphere with the suns rays penetrating the trees and illuminating the stones
So what are they all about, why are they there? They certainly convey a great sense of ceremony of a grandeur on a scale we do not see any where else. Was one erected for every birth, for every death, are they a silent army or are they standing stations for a grand ceremony?
The next day was spent visiting some of the seemingly never ending number of important sites in the area in particular the megaliths of Locmariaquer where on one rather touristy site is the broken menhir of Er Grah, once the tallest standing stone in Europe and the Table de Marchand and the Er Grah Tumulus which at 460 feet long was on a scale I have not seen before.
I spent a further day travelling across country to La Roche Au Fees and the Dolmen de Bagnieux. The first being one of the most impressive megaliths I have ever seen on a huge scale in a woodland setting. Once again I had the place to myself to enjoy and to wonder. The Dolmen at Bagnieux was a real let down, stripped of all dignity and a 4euro side attraction to the local café, really wished I had not seen it. I wanted to release it and set it free although I knew it was already long dead.
And so that was my short trip, you will be pleased to know I bought a tin of white gloss on the way home, having read the multiple warnings on the back of the tin I have locked it in a cabinet in the back of the garage afraid of what damage it may do and in any case my wife said she would have preffered flowers!
Posted by costaexpress
15th October 2015ce

Learning how to see & breathe.

Learning how to see & breathe.

I've tried the field notes thing, but there's really nothing I can add other than my own emotional experience, & I'm not sure that's what field notes are about. I'm in awe of people who can photograph, measure, detail & wonderfully describe these fantastic places. Drew, please take note, how am I to learn?
It occurred to me , on holiday in Cornwall, on my last day that I chose, after all the neolithic adventuring, to devote a day to getting in the sea. In fact that is always the highlight of time spent in Cornwall. And whilst in the sea, I found myself thinking what must our forebears have made of this. How awe inspiring must this of been for them, just as it is for me & then I thought how can you leave a lasting testimony to the sea? Sea henge & the footprints at Formby Point?
Anyway the whole point of this post is that I drove home from work today & I saw the hills, & the lumps & bumps on the horizon. I watched the bluest sky & the way the sun shone through the greenest tree overhangs. The darkness & the light. The sparkling water. The red & gold turning foliage. The mist, the frost & the stones ancient or not. And I realised that this has been the gift given to me.
Posted by carol27
2nd October 2015ce

Sunkenkirk & Long Meg

Sunkenkirk & Long Meg

I took my mum, as promised to Sunkenkirk last week. We parked in a little lay by fairly near to the site as she isn't too steady on her pins. I took my wild flower book TJJ & managed to identify a few blooms! She kept asking me what had "happened" to me over the last months & that I'd changed; I was more settled & less giddy. Sunkenkirk really enchants me; twice now on the approach I find myself questioning where it's hiding, & if I'm in the right place. I know where it should be but can't see it when all of a sudden it appears over the slight crest of a rise on the path. Like Castlerigg it sits in the centre of the landscape.
She wandered around & around touching the stones & exclaiming at their size & the effort involved in erecting them; & "what are they for?" She told me that she feels about trees the way I feel about stones & that she stands & hugs them; so we hugged some stones together! She commented that if anyone was to see us they'd suppose we were " off our rockers"! On the path back to the car we constantly turned back for one last look & she said she didn't want to leave. When we lost sight of the circle we found a tree & hugged that as well.
Next to Long Meg.; she got a fierce hug & some passers by stopped to chat & laughed with us. Mum traced the carvings with her finger & tears came to her eyes as she wondered about who'd gone before. Some ramblers who looked nearer mum's age passed by saying they should strip off & run around naked & find a sacrificial victim! A young goth couple from Italy set to & explained perfectly the known history of the place; the ramblers soon quieted & left with far more knowledge about their own history than when they'd arrived. The Italian couple had been to Castlerigg & I was proud to direct them to Little Meg. We discussed the journey to Sunkenkirk which they also hoped to see. They were to stop at Avebury on the way down South to Dover on their journey home. They were so excited & knew so much about our places. The boy told me they didn't have circles, cairns or barrows in Italy. They looked fantastic with their wild black hair & studded leather. We ate strawberries together which they'd offered me & mum. Their rickety old car didn't look capable of the distances they had to cover but they had every faith. We counted the stones together. My mum was blown away, as was I. Who'd have thought it she says.
Posted by carol27
6th August 2015ce

A Holyhead bloodbath

A Holyhead bloodbath

I've just been to the big white stones of Henblas cromlech, and was very disappointed to find the footpath overgrown and never used, but it still didn't take long to beat a path through the undergrowth, I very much enjoyed my time here, until I received a phone call asking if the kids and me wanted to go out for tea at the Plough, I said OK even though it meant a visit to Trefignath was not going to happen, but I was adamant that the burial chamber that no ones ever heard of near Holyhead would not escape my attention. I found the path back to the car more easily on the way back, aint it always the way.
Back in the car I put my foot down and soon we were going the wrong way in the mental labyrinth that is Holyhead, god I hate this town, cant really say why, it just seems a hopelessly depressing place, the best thing about Holyhead is the road and ferry out of it. Sorry, perhaps its me, not you. Eventually after much cursing I found ourselves on the wrong side of the island and stuck behind the worlds most inconsiderate motor home driver, ever. I've only got a short time before we have to start back, I can feel my hackles getting up, but happily we parted company at the turning for Penrhos Feilw, which we passed by with no more than a glance. Once the two standing stones were out of view behind us I started looking for a suitable place to park.

Having not found one I squeezed in at the side of the road by an opening for a horse paddock, as I wasn't going to be gone long I left daughter in the car with her I phone and two big horses for company. I jumped the gate and started off, over another fence and I was in the open countryside. I could see the upright stones on top of the hill, not far away, 300 yards if that. But getting there was proving difficult, walls of thick gorse blocked my route, and I had to weave a path of my own around and sometimes through, it hurts does gorse, I don't like it, not one bit. The going was hard and time was short, I got to a likely looking rocky outcrop from which to look over the sea of gorse to the site i'd come to see. Crap ! I'm not wading through that lot, I sat for a minute, then decided that I would actually wade through that lot, it's nearly a hundred miles from my house, am I really going to give up when I'm so very close......nope.
I sent a text telling them I would be a touch late for tea.
I actually found a good path through the vicious barbed gorse, it took me all the way to the foot of the Gorsedd, only to be faced with a twelve foot vertical rock climb, I don't like rock climbing, like football it all seems a bit unnecessary.
I struggled through the shaky legs and came out on top, just, I threw my hands up in the air and said out loud nature nil, postman 1.

Gorsedd Gwlwm — Images

<b>Gorsedd Gwlwm</b>Posted by postman<b>Gorsedd Gwlwm</b>Posted by postman<b>Gorsedd Gwlwm</b>Posted by postman

This site is not on any map, thanks be to coflein for pointing it out to me.
Only three stones remain standing of the chamber or large cist, and maybe a couple of kerb stones hiding among the gorse, by now I've decided not to call it gorse anymore, but by the more colourful
name of M*t**r - F*c**r, that's a bad swear word there.
All the time I was here a Buzzard circled me overhead screeching, if this was a western film it would soon be curtains for me.
The view was terrific, north is the Holyhead hut circle group and the fort on the mountain, south is Angelsey giving way to distant Snowdonia, east and west is the Irish sea, and of course that little town.
But, all too soon I must go, I scrambled back down the cliff and followed the path back to where I got on it and then passed that place, only for the path to stop at a dead end, the grass was well trampled, sleeping horses, frolicking humans, or even a Bigfoot nest (they're everywhere you know ).
This is where my time in hell began, I could see no way out, there was nothing for it but to simply wade through the m****r - f***r. Growling, shouting and swearing at the top of my voice did nothing to stop the pain. I remember a wally from long ago saying he was impervious to m****r f****r pain, I didnt believe him then and now I know he was lying. It was like being attacked by a dozen Leprechauns with sharp swords. Every now and then brambles would grab my leg and threaten to pull me over, once when I did go down I lay there for a few seconds thinking "oh well, so this is where they find my body, if you're going to die in the countryside this isn't a bad place to buy it, my ghost wouldn't half laugh at the people who come to remove my body, but lieing down and dieing isn't the postal way, get up man, keep going.
I imagined myself as a soldier enduring some form of jungle warfare, only without the incredible pain in my legs.
Half way back now and i'm so very tired, I look at my hand and it's bleeding quite badly, the sweat pouring off my forehead tastes bloody, and I realise that I've been wiping my sweaty brow with my bloody hand, god I must look a right state. Sometimes it gets easier to move forward, sometimes I'm just stumped and don't know where to go. Continuous swearing seems to have done the trick, I'm nearing the end of my ordeal, my legs are really stinging, I'm dreading having a look at them. Only one barbed wire fence to go, it's covered in brambles, but by now the pain is becoming normal, I bash as much brambles out of the way as I could with my camera bag, lob it over and haul myself over.
I've done it, a plain and normal field to cross and I'm back at the road, what I really don't need now is some Welsh farmer telling me i'm on private property, and that's precisely what doesn't happen, a good job too, I think I might have done away with him.
Next was the priceless look on my daughters face, Dad ! your covered in blood whats happened, now is the time to have a look at my legs. Oh shit look at that, I took a picture of them because in time the scratches will be gone and all this will be a memory. What I really need now is medical attention of some sort, instead I think I'll drive a hundred miles to a posh pub for a well deserved pub meal. One of the good things about going out with my Ex wife and her mother is I can turn up stinking like a torture victim.

So, in summary.
This site is a good one, you will have the place to yourself, views are good, but for the love of god come from the north.
M****r f*****g gorse should be wiped out, extinctified, by flamethrower, bagsy first on that.
postman Posted by postman
21st July 2015ce

Offa’s Dyke VIII – Four Crosses to Buttington Bridge 16.7.2011

Offa’s Dyke VIII – Four Crosses to Buttington Bridge 16.7.2011

It’s unusual for one of my walks to avoid the hills, but that’s exactly what this section of Offa’s Dyke Path will do. Since leaving the Clwydian range we've crossed several major watercourses on their way down from the Welsh uplands, but today we'll meet the mightiest of them all.

The bus from Welshpool drops us at Four Crosses, where we finished our last section back in May. This is a very low-lying settlement, not much more than 50m above sea-level on a wide plain stretching from Llanymynech Hill and Afon Efyrnwy to the north to the Breiddins to the southeast. The Dark Ages earthwork of Offa’s Dyke crosses this plain, but there was once much more going on here than the patchwork of fields now suggests.

The northern part of the village is called Llandysilio, one of many Welsh locations associated with St Tysilio, who died about 100 years before King Offa was born. In the fields to the east a huge complex of cropmarks has revealed a Bronze Age cemetery, now flattened, together with ring ditches and traces of field systems. There’s nothing to see now, but back in the Bronze Age this was clearly a place of some significance.

We follow the dyke itself southeast out of the village centre. It’s much reduced here, generations of ploughing cutting its height to barely a metre tall. Straight ahead is a dark bulk of hills. These are the Breiddins, rising near-vertically from the plain and site of a number of Iron Age earthworks that will be watching over our whole route today.

The section of dyke north of Rhos is very attractive, planted with a double row of oak trees. From here we have a nice retrospective view of Bryn Mawr hillfort, yet another prominent site overlooking this flat landscape that we're traversing. But our first – indeed only – site of the day lies just a couple of hundred yards away to the east.

Crosswood — Fieldnotes

Crosswood enclosure could be seen as part of the complex of sites around Four Crosses and Llandysilio. It’s a circular enclosure with an internal ditch, bisected by the road from Rhos to Llandrinio. The road crosses the site about a third of the way from the northern part of the arc, so it’s not an obvious re-use of any original entrances. Sadly the earthwork has been much reduced by ploughing, rather similarly to the nearby line of Offa’s Dyke. It’s best preserved at the northwest, where both the bank and the internal ditch can be made out clearly, albeit not the easiest thing to photograph. Running east the bank gets even further reduced, to the point of near-disappearance.

On the south of the road we couldn't see anything at all, but this did involve trying to peer through a pretty thick hedge!

Not the most impressive place to visit, but as pretty much the only visible remains of the numerous sites on this flat plan, it’s worth a quick hello.

Crosswood — Images

<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Crosswood</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Leaving Rhos we rejoin the line of the dyke, heading arrow-straight across the flatlands. From here, the enormous brooding bulk of Breiddin Hill Camp increasingly fills our view as we cross the meadows. Quarrying has blighted the side of the hill, but nevertheless the positioning of the fort on its top is pretty formidable.

Breiddin Hill Camp — Images

<b>Breiddin Hill Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Breiddin Hill Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Breiddin Hill Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
It blocks views to the other forts beyond. Way over to the southwest, a further wooded hillfort, Gaer Fawr (Welshpool) rises prominently, with Crowther’s Camp another to the south. We are surrounded by these monuments to status and power, down here in the fertile land that sustained them.

Gaer Fawr (Welshpool) — Images

<b>Gaer Fawr (Welshpool)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Crowther's Camp — Images

<b>Crowther's Camp</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The hedgerows burst with cow parsley and the waving stalks of grass that’s too far out of reach of the cows that graze most of this landscape. The surroundings are increasingly marked with drainage cuts, keeping the fields dry from the overspill of the great river that we’re approaching.

The River Severn, or Afon Hafren, has made its way from its mountain source on Pumlumon and is now a fast-flowing obstacle, cutting across the broad plain between the rolling hills of Mid-Wales and the mini-mountains of the Breiddins. We will meet it again, at the very end of the Offa’s Dyke walk over a hundred miles away. By then it will be the mightiest of all British rivers, forcing its way out to sea against one of the most extreme tidal reaches anywhere on the planet. For now though, it will be our gentler companion for several miles south, as we search for a bridge to the other side.

A more pressing obstacle comes in the form of a huge lump of beef however. Our path follows the Tirymynach embankment, built to stop the river from bursting its banks and flooding the fields of the plain. This is dairy cattle country, and in summer bulls often share the fields with their families. One such bull has chosen to lie down bang up against one of the stiles along the embankment, blocking a narrow gap in a thick hedge. He seems unconcerned by our presence, but our only way onward would involve climbing over his back. This doesn't seem like the action of a sane person and we reluctantly have to turn back to Red House, adding unwanted extra miles and taking us away from the river temporarily.
<b>New Pieces Enclosure, Breiddin Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
From Pool Quay we follow the Montgomery Canal, now restored and navigable, outliving the dismantled railway that supplanted it. This low-lying plain has long been a transport route, just as the Hafren/Severn itself must have provided a terrific highway for the prehistoric people who built the hillforts, and even further back to those who laid their dead in the cemetery at Four Crosses.

The river crossing finally comes at Buttington Bridge, but this is also the end of our Offa’s Dyke mileage for today and instead we head westwards to Welshpool. A strange walk for me, avoiding the hills that stand so prominent to either side of us. But a useful new perspective, to view the forts from below, as the prehistoric farmers viewed them in their heyday. Did they see the suspicious eyes of warlike overlords, or a lofty place of refuge in times of trouble? I guess we'll never know, but down here the mother river flows on and on, untroubled by such concerns.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
7th June 2015ce

Anglesey May 21 & 22

Anglesey May 21 & 22

Just a couple of nights in Angelsey. Limited time & mobility due to partner's broken hip!
First visit Caer Lob an iron age settlement nr Brynsiencyn. Rectangle shape, with double ditches, could have been moated. Real clear delineation. On the way to Bryn Celli Dhu; a beautifully shaped burial mound with a little henge. There's a replica ? sentinel stone with carvings; zig zags & spirals. In the chamber there's a free standing stone that the chap from " Standing With Stones" series thought could be a fossil tree-I wonder if this has been investigated. There are 5 little stones placed in front of one of the entrances. Inside some of the stones had perfect little circle holes where you can fit your finger. The adjoining field has a large stone in alignment. At midsummer solstice the sun rises and shines through the chamber. Beautiful walk to the site. The hawthorne & bluebells out in force.
Then to Plas Newydd ( a gorgeous stately home, worth seeing in itself, looks out over the Menai Straits. Has a large trompe l'oiel by Whistler covering one wall - footprints of Neptune emerging from the sea onto the patio; an avenue of tall pines leading to the house which scent the air on the right day.) Saw the Plas Newydd dolmen which looks like it's been plonked onto the grass in front of the house as a tourist attraction! It's striking. Had to stop the car & wait while two beautiful red squirrels crossed the road.
Only had one day of exploring so off to Trefignath, nr Holyhead on Holy Island. It's mighty, a cairn. One chamber partially supported by an out of place bricks & mortar column. Another section reminded me of an old fashioned box bed; three large stones as a megalithic head board, absolutely gorgeous. The monstrous aluminium works across the road is easy to ignore, just turn your back to it. Some lovely pinky red lichen on surrounding stones.
In neighbouring field stands Ty Mawr, a solitary standing stone which looks like a cowled figure (Julian says a druid) & next door to that another field which looked like it had placed stones ( to me that is.)
On to Penrhos Feilw, two huge standing stones; the ground they're on looks levelled. This place reminded me of sites like Sunkenkirk & Castlerigg in that it has glorious panoramic views, off to the bay & up to the majestic Holyhead mountain. This site is tucked away off a single track road. It's beautiful all around this area; shimmering little bays & rocky outcrops, not many folk about. Breathtaking.
On to Holyhead Mountain where I walked in awe around the hut circles. They are delightful, so wonderfully situated perched together on the side of the hill. Stone circular buildings with entrances and pathways linking. I could imagine the homesteads there and found it powerful and moving. The paths were ablaze with bluebells and ? white stitchwort and ? maiden pink. Tried to look the flowers up in my wild flowers book, but not sure. TJJ May know. The views were fantastic. It must be wild in Winter. Holyhead Mt looms above & the distant bay glimmers in the sunshine.
Went looking for Lligwy dolmen but partner's leg sore & time running out.
It was a great visit with so much more to see. Angelsey is such a beautiful place; wild and in the past somehow, even with the jet fighters zooming about overhead. To TJJ, happy holidays and travels.
Posted by carol27
28th May 2015ce

Stone out of song – Bwlch y Ddeufaen and Maen y Bardd 9 July 2011

Stone out of song – Bwlch y Ddeufaen and Maen y Bardd 9 July 2011

Leaving the broad plain of the Conwy Valley, lanes wind steadily upwards, bound tight by stone walls and occasionally gated against errant stock.

The blunt form of Pen-y-Gaer (Caerhun) rises steep on the right, but that will wait for another day. Today we head towards the lower slopes of Tal y Fan, a mountain separated from the massive bulk of Y Carneddau by an upland pass. The pass was used by the Romans, but its name and origins are much older – Bwlch y Ddeufaen (“Pass of the Two Stones”). The sites we’ve come to see today line the track that heads east from the pass, contouring the southern flank of the mountain. They come in a rich profusion, an elongated string of megalithic jewels, in a concentration to rival any you might find in West Cornwall or North-east Scotland.

Cerrig Pryfaid — Fieldnotes

It’s always exciting to start the day with a stone circle, especially one you’ve not been to before. Composed of diminutive stones, Cerrig Pryfaid is certainly no Avebury in purely megalithic terms. But the setting elevates it to something quite special.

The near-perfect circle sits in an amphitheatre of rock, broken only to the southeast where Pen y Gaer overlooks the wide sweep of the fertile Conwy Valley. Even here the longer view is filled with rank upon rank of high hills. The southwestern prospect is entirely blocked by the towering wall of the Carneddau mountains, crowned by Bronze Age cairns on the summits of Carnedd y Ddelw and Drum. To the north Foel Lwyd, the western buttress of the Tal y Fan ridge, rises in a jagged jumble of boulders and outcrops.

Two small outliers stand to the west of the circle, both with tantalising sunrise alignments (midwinter, autumn equinox). But today it’s getting towards midday, in July. So we make do with the earthlier delights of the landscape and views before heading back towards the Pass and our next site.

Cerrig Pryfaid — Images

<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cerrig Pryfaid</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The Giantess' Apronful — Fieldnotes

From stone circle to cairn. Barclodiad y Gawres is a good size (15-20m irregular diameter), composed of large cobbles with a central scoop. It’s dotted here and there with clumps of stonecrop, the pink-white five pointed flowers a splash of summer brightness against the grey stones. We entirely fail to see the cist, or either of the other cairns that are supposedly close by. A little way to the southeast we come across a small arrangement of stones, which look like they’ve been placed deliberately but not as anything obviously identifiable. Blossom’s dogs find nice big boulders to stand on and survey the area.

The visual focus is the prominent Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen standing stones, visible from here, nestled in the v-shaped pass between the ridges of the Carneddau and Foel Lwyd. The flanking pylons fail to detract from the setting, despite their best efforts.

Elsewhere this cairn would be worth a proper stop, but here it’s probably the least arresting of the day’s sites. And we can see the next one already, so it’s time to head off.

The Giantess' Apronful — Images

<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Giantess' Apronful</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen — Fieldnotes

The two stones that give the pass its name are a big step up in size from the ankle biters of Cerrig Pryfaid. Both are taller than me, and there’s some serious girth going on too. The tapering southern stone is a beauty, Blossom and I struggle to reach round it with our combined outstretched arms. There’s a small, shallow drill hole on one side, as if someone foolishly attempted to convert this into a gatepost and was struck dead for their temerity before getting very far. I’ll leave Rhiannon to find some suitably doomy folkore to confirm the point.

By contrast, the northern stone is flat-topped and appears to shine out its whiteness against the dark heather. On closer inspection, the whiteness is entirely illusory, the stone isn’t quartz at all but a light grey. There are two further, shorter uprights close to the northern stone, one of which is indeed a quartzy rock. Their placement isn’t obvious but reminds me somewhat of a scaled-up version of the little followers of Maen Mawr in South Wales. In amongst the chocks at the base of the northern stone is one very dark rock, a matt coal black in colour. It’s not clear whether this is a later addition as it doesn’t seem to be doing much chocking.

We don’t realise that there’s a fan of much smaller uprights close to the southern stone, and in truth a visit in summer vegetation isn’t the best time to look for them. It is a great time to admire the purple flowers adorning the heather though.

Once again, the setting is excellent. The views are similar to those from Cerrig Pryfaid, but with added elevation giving a fresh perspective to the outcrops of Pen y Castell. The stones are not set on the crest of the pass, so there’s no view northwards to speak of. Instead they turn their impassive faces resolutely southeast, looking down the valley of the Tafalog, heading off to join the great Afon Conwy three or four miles away. Surrounded now by pylons and cables, yet they retain their dignity against these huge, transitory metal giants. Time is on their side after all.

I’m really taken with these stones. The sense of deep time seems to hang around them, from the ageless mountains, through the monument builders, the tramp of Roman soldiers, into a hinterland of iron and wire. Rather than detracting, the pylons add to this sense that we’re standing in the midst of a palimpsest, layers of time and people still there, just below the surface. And perhaps we’re a shadowy presence in earlier and later times, too.

Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen — Images

<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Reluctantly we head back to the car for a very short trip eastwards. It’s blue skies and sunshine as we get out again a mile on. The ribbon of sites continues on along the southern flank of Tal y Fan, a mountain almost completely encircled by cairns, standing stones, burial chambers and stone circles, yet itself devoid of monuments. Surely a deliberate omission?

Cae Coch — Fieldnotes

Cae Coch standing stone is first, just a short pull up a bracken and grass covered slope from the track. It’s one of those eternally pleasing stones with a completely different aspect depending on which side you view it from. The broad face is turned towards the track and is perpendicular to Pen-y-Gaer (Caerhun) hillfort, but side-on the profile is slender with a bend in the middle. The views across the Conwy valley are worth the visit alone. An unexpectedly good site.

As we approached the stone the blue sky had turned unexpectedly dark, and now looks like night has arrived early. It rains, just for a moment. And then it’s gone, so that by the time we regain the track much of the blue has returned.

Cae Coch — Images

<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cae Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Ffon-y-Cawr — Images

<b>Ffon-y-Cawr</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Maen-y-Bardd — Fieldnotes

Even the track feels ancient, a deep green channel between collapsing drystone walls enlivened by vibrant purple foxgloves at this time of year. We pass Ffon-y-cawr, leaning crazily on the other side of the wall. Another one to save for a proper visit, because from here we can see the main objective for today.

Maen-y-Bardd is at once bigger and smaller than I expected it to be. It’s perfectly proportioned and looks out over the wide valley of Afon Conwy, the river itself winding lazily through the centre. And there are mountains, and hills, and little fields, and a huge cloud-filled sky. What a place.

“Stone out of song” goes a poem I hold very close to my heart. But did the song come first, or the stone? Was a bard buried here, or did the place make poets of its visitors?

We stop for a good while. Even the dogs seem content to sit here.

At length an interruption comes in the form of a farmer in his tractor, cutting the bracken in the field next door. The spell is broken. We head uphill.

Maen-y-Bardd — Images

<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Caer Bach — Fieldnotes

Climbing directly up the grassy slopes of Tal y Fan’s southern flank, we pass a ruined homestead and regain a proper path. The map shows some cairns here, but we fail to see anything obvious. [Postie’s subsequent visit shows we weren’t missing much.]

Caer Bach now rises in front of us, flat-topped and dotted with gorse. Just before we get there, we come across a very strange “structure”, consisting of a huge oval boulder apparently placed over some supporting stones to form a small open-fronted chamber, which appears to have been lined with smaller stones. It looks constructed rather than natural, but what it is we have no idea. There’s so much going on in this area that it’s difficult not to imagine it having some significance.

Tal-y-Fan’s summit, crossed by a typically improbable drystone wall, now looms directly above us. It looks almost within touching distance from here, but it’s not on the menu today. Instead we head for the fort. The earthworks aren’t the most impressive, but as with every other place we’ve been today the setting is superb. The views extend to Pen-y-Gaer (Caerhun) and Cerrig-y-Ddinas, so whether the occupants were friend or foe they were certainly observable. It’s a neat and compact site, feeling quite sheltered in the lea of the mountain’s flank, despite its lofty position.

Caer Bach — Images

<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Caer Bach</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

We have a belated lunch, overlooking the Conwy valley. The lonely mountain watches over it all, serene within its encirclement of prehistoric riches. One day I’ll climb it, but today it’s enough to rest in its shelter for a while. The poet dreams on, of the song, and of the stone.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
19th May 2015ce
Edited 20th May 2015ce

The Mountains Are Singing - Penmaenmawr 2 July 11

The Mountains Are Singing - Penmaenmawr 2 July 11

Dammit, this train is getting later and later. Sometimes a delay is nothing, but today’s a big day of prehistoric excitement, if only I can ever get there. Last night a discussion on the forum led to an offer of a meet up at Penmaenmawr, in a part of Wales I’ve never been to, for a walk to the Druid’s Circle before a climb of Tal-y-Fan.

I ring my companion for the day, to tell her that Arriva are doing what they can to stop me ever getting there. Luckily the voice at the other end is one of calm reassurance, unphased by the changing timetable. This is my first contact with Blossom, who has offered the meet up.

By the time I get to Penmaenmawr, an hour and a half late, it’s shaping up to be a glorious summer’s day. Blossom is waiting on the platform, her dogs are waiting in the car, and without much ado off we head up the steep and winding road that leads to the Two Pillars carpark, at the top of the prosaically named Mountain Lane.

A broad and easy track climbs steadily from the carpark, carefully hiding the views south behind the flanking Foel Lus but providing a grand vista of the quarried and scarred Graig Llwyd and across to Ynys Mon – these are places I’ve longed to see, now laid out between azure sky and blue-green sea.

Graig Lwyd — Images

<b>Graig Lwyd</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

We emerge onto a hillside of well-made drystone walls and cropped grass. The long summit ridge of Tal-y-Fan is the principal backdrop, far off and high above.

Red Farm — Images

<b>Red Farm</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Maen Crwn — Fieldnotes

After passing Red Farm stone circle without a proper look, the impressive boulder of Maen Crwn is the first proper stop on the walk up towards the Druid's Circle.

Set in the V of a valley between higher hills, the long views are restricted. But it feels like a stone-on-the-way-to-somewhere stone, the kind you often find marking your path in upland Wales when on the way to exciting destinations. And given what waits above, it certainly performs that function beautifully.

The pull of the circles is too much to linger though...

Maen Crwn — Images

<b>Maen Crwn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen Crwn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Maen Crwn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Circle 275 — Fieldnotes

It’s a further steady slog of a climb up from Maen Crwn, and the excitement levels really ramp up from here on. Druid's Circle is already visible on the skyline above, but it's still worth restraining the urge to get there for a while with a pause at this lovely little circle.

Like something someone might build around a campfire, a simple ring of smooth stones, with a wonderful sea view. The dogs are very taken, sniffing around the inside of the ring. If it weren't for the fact that the Big Attraction is so visibly close, it would be easy to stop here for a good while.

But we don't.

Circle 275 — Images

<b>Circle 275</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Circle 275</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Circle 275</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Y Meini Hirion — Fieldnotes

It’s not much more of a pull upwards to reach the circle. There’s no-one else about so I can savour this beauty properly. The setting is as good as any stone circle I’ve been to, particularly on such a wondrous summer’s day. The sea to the north, the high peaks of the Carneddau mountains to the south. It’s a bit special this.

The stones are big, certainly bigger than you’d find in many Welsh circles. Each has character and there are veins of quartz here and there. Although some of the stones have fallen, it doesn’t detract from the overall impression.

Mountains, stones, silence, sea and sky.

I could write a few pages of superlatives, but really you should come and see for yourself. In the meantime, we have some lunch and take it all in.

Y Meini Hirion — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Monument 280 — Fieldnotes

Blossom has Frances Lynch’s excellent Gwynedd guide with her and we have a quick look to see what else there is around here. The prominent jumble of upright stones visible to the west is the most obvious place to head next. Unfortunately we don’t realise that Circle 278 is hidden away over a little crest and miss it completely. Drat.

Monument 280 (these numbers suggest a spectacular profusion of other sites crowding around us) is very difficult to get a handle on, even when you’re standing in its midst. A row of four uprights run north-south across the monument, while on the west an apparent kerb forms its edge. Shapes and patterns can be discerned, but are contradicted by other patterns. Truly an enigma.

Monument 280 — Images

<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Monument 280</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Cors y Carneddau — Fieldnotes

Having singularly failed to realise we’d missed Circle 278, we continue west along the main track. Cors y Carneddau circle is supposedly on the north side of the track. Surely this should be easy to find?
Well, no. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there are quite of lot of random stones in the grass here. Which ones do you choose?

Eventually we decide that a group quite near to the drystone wall, just east of a corner, is the best bet. There are at least four stones in a sort-of arc, with a couple of additional possibles close by. But I could be persuaded otherwise…

Cors y Carneddau — Images

<b>Cors y Carneddau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cors y Carneddau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cors y Carneddau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Cefn Coch — Fieldnotes

What is entirely certain though, is the massive Cefn Coch (“Red Ridge”) cairn. It would be impressive anywhere, but what sets it apart from comparable sites is the stunning backdrop of the Carneddau.

Turning its face resolutely from the sea hidden behind a ridge to the north, the cairn unquestionably looks inland towards the mountains. The very highest peaks of the range are hidden from here, but the skyline is filled with an array of summits all well above the 2000ft mark, several of which boast contemporary monuments.

It's a breathtaking sight and we sit in awe for quite a while.

Cefn Coch — Images

<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Cefn Coch</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

This stunning place will be our final outpost of the day. It’s getting on and my plans to head on to Tal-y-Fan, already compromised by the train delays, were abandoned as soon as I reached the circles. A first visit to this wonderful complex in such amazing weather deserves time to savour. Today I’ve had good company to savour it in.

We retrace our steps to the car and I know I will surely be back. What a perfect day.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
5th April 2015ce

49 Adventures - Wansdyke Wandering 28 May 2011

49 Adventures - Wansdyke Wandering 28 May 2011

The previous weekend I used the 49 bus service to walk to Avebury from the north, so a walk from the south seems a fitting follow-up.

I get off at Shepherds Shore, the handy point where the post-Roman Wansdyke crosses the A361. There’s a gentle climb up the shoulder of Roughridge Hill, following the earthwork and allowing an unfolding view of Cherhill Down and Oldbury and the extensive North Down barrow cemetery.

Cherhill Down and Oldbury — Images

<b>Cherhill Down and Oldbury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Roughridge Hill — Fieldnotes

The first stop off is Roughridge Hill long barrow. Well-defined on the OS map, the reality is rather less impressive. Unless you know it’s there, you’d pass by without a glance. All that remains is a low rise in the grassy field, hard up against the edge of the much bigger Wansdyke. The proximity of the dyke may suggest that the long barrow was a reasonably obvious landmark, perhaps a boundary feature, made use of by the earthwork builders when they were planning their route. Sadly it’s not so prominent now, not really worthy of much of a pause as I head across the hill.

Two lithe brown shapes dart into my path, then rise on hind legs to survey their route – it’s the first hares I’ve seen this year, always a great pleasure to encounter.

Roughridge Hill — Images

<b>Roughridge Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Roughridge Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Easton Down — Images

<b>Easton Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
I briefly contemplate a proper look at Easton Down long barrow, which appears as a much more prominent and upstanding feature than its nearest contemporary. However, it’s a bit off my route for today, so I head south instead, off the Wansdyke and across fields of dusty earth and white chalk. A lonely reservoir tower, stark and angular, is the only trace of modern presence here. Reaching the southern slopes of Kitchen Barrow Hill, rows of Medieval strip lynchets provide evidence of earlier occupations.

Kitchen Barrow — Fieldnotes

From the strip fields there is a great view of Kitchen Barrow Hill to the east. The south-facing scarp is steep and the presence of an intervening dry valley heightens the impression that Kitchen Barrow was placed to be seen from the neighbouring slopes. The area around the barrow is open access land, so there are no complications in getting to the site.

Pastscape records show a round barrow to the north of the long barrow, at a point where the fence changes direction. However, although there are several bumps alongside the fenceline, none is particularly obvious or convincing as the round barrow depicted on the OS map.

The long barrow is certainly obvious though, 30m or so long and a couple of metres high at its southern tip, with well defined flanking ditches. It lies along the sloping crest of the ridge, with its northeastern end almost blending into the hillside. The views south are extensive, as the ground drops sharply to the farmland and the valley of the Kennet & Avon Canal below. To the west there’s a great view of the multi-phase west end of Tan Hill, where more strip fields lie below a linear prehistoric earthwork and a group of Bronze Age round barrows are silhouetted on the skyline.

A good place to stop for a while and let the world turn, especially on a Wiltshire big skies day of fast-moving cloud. Regrettably today’s visit is under a rather more leaden variety.

Kitchen Barrow — Images

<b>Kitchen Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Kitchen Barrow</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Tan Hill (west) — Fieldnotes

Leaving Kitchen Barrow it’s an easy walk around the rim of the escarpment to the western flank of Tan Hill. The first encounter is with the linear earthwork running just below the top of the slope. Presumably part of the same thinking that constructed a much longer section of bank and ditch on the northwestern side of the hill, it’s pretty well-preserved, with the hillside falling steeply away below it.

A bit of further uphill huff and puff and I’m in the midst of the round barrow group that crowns the western spur of Tan Hill, a promontory separated by a narrower neck from the main bulk of the hill to the east.

Tan Hill is the second highest hill in Wiltshire, only fractionally lower than nearby Milk Hill and part of the same long east-west ridge. As you’d perhaps expect from such a prominent place, looking out across the downs in all directions, the ridge is covered in a timespan of prehistoric sites from the Neolithic long barrows of Kitchen Barrow at the western end and Adam’s Grave at the eastern end, through numerous round barrows and Iron Age earthworks, with Rybury hillfort on a southern spur. There’s a great view westwards, taking in King’s Play Hill and Morgan’s Hill, each topped with further barrows, as well as the unmistakable Cherhill Down and Olbury with its obelisk.

The barrow group includes three bowl barrows, in a NW-SE line, with a much larger disc barrow close to the two northern bowl barrows. All are clearly visible, if rather reduced by ploughing. The bowl barrows (particularly the one at the SE) bear clear excavation damage. They are all covered by sheep-cropped grass, so there’s no seasonal vegetation problem to contend with in a visit.

Although it’s the most damaged, the SE barrow is still pretty impressive and boasts very extensive views. The central barrow is bigger, well over a metre high despite the ravages of time and barrow diggers. The NW barrow is the runt of the litter, clinging to its sloping setting like a barnacle. All have well defined surrounding ditches. The adjoining disc barrow is great too, almost 20m across, including its outer bank. All in all well worth the effort of the walk.

Tan Hill — Images

<b>Tan Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Tan Hill (west) — Images

<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Tan Hill (west)</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
From here I leave the top of the hill and follow the prehistoric earthwork northeast, heading back down towards the ever-impressive Wansdyke. A pair of deer materialise in the fields below me, making their swift way across my line of vision. Hares and deer, it’s turning into something of a wildlife spectacle today.

Wansdyke is most impressive here, snaking its way across the northern slopes of Tan Hill. There’s also a decent view of a single, large round barrow on Horton Down, surrounded by gallops but covered in a darker green mantle.

Horton Down — Images

<b>Horton Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Allington Down — Fieldnotes

Sadly the barrows on Allington Down have been rather less well-treated than their neighbours up on the ridge. Once a group of six, there’s nothing to see of all but one now. The plough has taken care of the rest. However, the one that does remain is very decent. It’s quite overgrown with nettles and long grass, topped with three shrubby May Trees in bloom, making it difficult to see whether there’s damage to its top.

I can see Silbury, peaking out from trees and indicating how far I still have to go to get to Avebury today. So I go.

Allington Down — Images

<b>Allington Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Allington Down</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
Fifteen minutes’ walk brings me close to the undulating silhouette of West Kennett long barrow, attended by more people than I’ve seen in the three hours since I left the bus. I like its inaccessibility from this long approach, it gives a good appreciation of its setting, how the profile stands proud against the skyline.

West Kennet — Images

<b>West Kennet</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
My own route kinks east, then northeast, heading towards The Sanctuary. In the field immediately to the south, the mound of Avebury 23 round barrow can just be seen over the crop. More impressive is West Overton 1, the southernmost outlier of the long barrow cemetery stretching north of the A4.

The Sanctuary — Fieldnotes

I visited The Sanctuary once before, on my first trip to Avebury. On a day of first contact with heart-stopping monuments, the concrete-marked circle seemed an anticlimax, a curio and little more. Today I’m more receptive, especially after the long, peaceful walk over the downs to get here.

The place is deserted when I arrive, allowing a better appreciation of the layout and in particular the size of the rings. The outer circle is a wide 40m across, as big as almost any stone circle I’ve been to. Although the little concrete blocks are no substitute for stately sarsens or hefty timbers, there’s still much to enjoy here, if you can block out the steady roar of the busy A4 just over the hedge. Looking south across the low Avebury 23 round barrow, the tree-covered form of East Kennett long barrow can be seen from the circles. Such a shame that the original grandeur is lost forever though.

The Sanctuary — Images

<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

West Kennett Avenue — Fieldnotes

From The Sanctuary, a permissive path allows access to the remnants of West Kennett Avenue on the south side of the A4. This part of the monument seems to receive little attention, probably because of its separation from the better preserved section running northwestwards to Avebury.

However, it’s well worth a visit to make sense of the relationship of The Sanctuary and the henge complex. The first stone encountered is an enormous fallen slab, jutting out from the hedgeline. Beyond that is another fallen stone, apparently broken with a smaller piece placed on its top. The final stone in this group still stands, buried in the hedge and trapped behind barbed wire. It has been broken, leaving a short stump in place. Screened from the busy A4 by the thick hedge, this is a hidden spot, remarkably quiet for somewhere so close to the Avebury tourist hub. It doesn’t have the atmosphere or obvious draw of the well-known northern section of the Avenue, but it’s another part of the jigsaw that makes up this fascinating landscape.

Risking life and limb I cross the A4 onto the B4003, a narrow but busy road that runs parallel with the Avenue on its way to the henge. It’s worth stopping off at the single upright stone, separated from its companions by the road and hedges, looked down upon by the linear cemetery of massive round barrows along the Overton Hill ridge to the east.

West Kennett Avenue — Images

<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Falkner's Circle — Fieldnotes

By now the threatening skies of earlier have turned to a persistent drizzle, and contact with any vegetation leads to an immediate soaking. I decide to leave the road and Avenue and instead head east to look for the scant remains of Falkner’s Circle.

A path leads round the margin of the field, eventually reaching a gateway where a single standing stone marks the position of the poor old circle. Nettles surround it, neglected and lost, a sad survivor with no-one to talk to. I’d like to come back on a less gloomy day, perhaps in the winter when the nettles have gone. It doesn’t feel like a place to linger today though.

Falkner's Circle — Images

<b>Falkner's Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat
I’m on the last leg now, following increasingly wet and muddy tracks towards the village. Last week I sat in the sunshine and watched people in the circles, but today the wet doesn’t encourage sitting still. Even in the rain, Avebury is compelling; the massive stones silent and unmoving sentinels, watchful beneath the lowering skies.

Avebury — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Avebury</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

A final embrace with the Cove, and the 49 is back, to take me homewards from another glimpse of the vast landscape surrounding the beating heart of Avebury.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
22nd March 2015ce
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