The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Belas Knap

Long Barrow


I’m excited to be coming back to Belas Knap. It’s been over three years since I last came up here, when the mound was buried under snow as deep and pristine as Christmas cake icing. In contrast, today is a proper spring day. The late winter has left some snow in the hedges and verges, but the twitter and trill of birdsong and the sunshine slanting through the trees on the approach instils a sense of renewal and rebirth.

I don’t have the place entirely to myself on arrival, but the two walkers I meet are readying to leave and I’m soon alone. This is a wonderful monument; the restoration work detracts not at all from the splendour of curved forecourt, whaleback mound and welcoming chambers. What does detract however, is to be confronted with a swastika daubed on one of the stones in the NE chamber. It’s never nice to see damage of any sort at an ancient site, but the fact that some meat-headed moron has chosen to bring their far-right idiocy here is doubly upsetting. The swastika is black, it’s not clear what has been used, although it’s not paint – perhaps charcoal. Ugly, in every sense.

More people arrive, but the mound is so big that it’s possible to feel alone here even when you’re not. I come across another swastika in the western chamber, which I manage to partially wash off with water from my bottle. Looking out from the chamber, I realise that the masts on the top of Cleeve Hill are visible. The last two times I came here, visibility was reduced by hillfog, so it’s great to be able to see so far.

There is some temporary wooden fencing at the eastern tip of the horned forecourt, where people climbing up onto the mound have eroded the earthwork. It looks as though some repair work is underway here, from the little pile of stacked limestone pieces. I return to the NE chamber and find to my sadness two further swastikas that I hadn’t seen the first time. Awful.

Emerging back into the sun, I meet three guys from Edinburgh, who turn out to be actors come down to Stratford for a play. They tell me that they usually come out to the Cotswolds for a walk on their trips down here, showing what a pull this area exerts far and wide. We chat for a bit and they head off towards Brockhampton, leaving me alone in the sunshine for a while longer.

Before eventually leaving, I have a quick look at the almost-gone round barrow in the field to the WSW. Like the similarly denuded example at nearby Crippetts, it was obviously placed here in a relationship with the earlier long barrow, but is so reduced as to almost escape notice, even if you are looking for it.

Although I’m considerably saddened by the neo-Nazi nonsense I’ve found here today, I’ve nevertheless enjoyed the re-visit to Belas Knap greatly. A fine example of how sympathetic restoration can really work, I’m lucky to have such a wonderful site so close to home. Adieu, for I shall surely return.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
14th April 2013ce

Comments (5)

I dont think its fair to assume they are neo nazi. The swasti is sacred in my house and is added to everything. faerygirl Posted by faerygirl
19th April 2013ce
Well, that's okay then. Just meat-headed morons working under a misguided belief that damaging scheduled ancient monuments with sacred symbols is A Good Thing. Shame they didn't add a few cocks as a pagan fertility symbol while they were at it.

For what it's worth, I think that the swastika is way too loaded with right-wing connotations, whatever its origins, sorry. The right is on the rise, so now really isn't the time to be festooning things with that symbol, sacred or otherwise. Just my opinion, obviously.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
19th April 2013ce
TSC is dead right re the graffiti, its irrelevant what the intent was, its criminal damage to a 5000 year old tomb. juamei Posted by juamei
23rd April 2013ce
I don't think any of us would ever condone mindless grafitti or vandalism but up until 1920, when it was first used by the Nazi party, the swastika itself as a symbol could be traced back to the Paleolithic, as well as being used in religions, specifically in Hinduism, Buddhism.

I'm not saying It's ok, but I refuse to let one group of idiots hijack something they had no hope of understanding. It still means something to some groups of people.

I don't want to cause an argument or anything, I know some threads get that way quickly, just wanted to give a bit of info. Hope I haven't offended anyone.

Posted by MoonShadow
6th September 2013ce
Hello Moonshadow,

Thanks for the comment. I'm pleased to report that subsequent visitors have found the swastikas gone, so no long-term harm anyway.

I get what you're saying, but there are two problems for me personally:

(a) If someone had gone into the chambers and written "peace and love to everyone", it would still be vandalism to an ancient site

(b) As I (poorly) tried to say to FG above, the symbol, whatever its origins, has become so loaded down with far-right connotations that if someone uses it at all, it will almost inevitably be seen and interpreted in that context. I've read a lot about "reclaiming" the swastika, but I'm afraid that in Europe, while people are alive who remember Nazism and the Second World War, or whose parents and relatives died as a direct result of that ideology, I don't think it's likely to be possible. The scars are too deeply felt still. Obviously an entirely different position in the east.

Just my thoughts, and certainly no offence here.

thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
6th September 2013ce
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