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One doesn't go mad in Dorset

Back in Dorset again, in September. Can't ask for more really.

I came down on the friday from Bath and the clear air really opened my eyes to the enormity of Cranbourne Chase. This monster plateau rising up from the South must have been a dominant aspect of life in prehistory and maybe thats why the neolithic folk built such a monster monument as the Dorset Cursus. So before heading down to Dorchester, a second look at the monster.

Dorset Cursus (North to Martins Down) — Fieldnotes

[visited 10/9/4] Not much to see here that is recognisable really. As you approach from Bokerly Farm, the cursus is conspicuous by its absence on the right in a field where it once stood. And then in the next field where the goal should stand, Bokerly Ditch rises like a false dawn in the distance.

Now given that the remains on the map look like a C with long barrows attached, with supposedly the earthwork of Grim's Ditch just behind, one long mound took me a bit by surprise. I contemplated for a good 10 minutes whether the elongated mound in the middle of the field was actually part of the cursus and I think on reflection it probably is. It does kinda point at the obvious long barrow on the hill to the South and does also have a couple of dips, kinda like the map.

But ffs what damage and destruction the plough has wrought here. This monument was once one of the greatest ever built and I get the feeling 200 years (or even less) ago, we would have seen something of that greatness rather than the sad remains today. This field is still being ploughed, all thats left is the bizarre mound, the two sides are gone forever, as has Grim's Ditch it appears.

Worth a visitish, personally though, if you only see one bit of the cursus chose the middle bit by Oakley Down. Access is on flat ground via public footpath and probably through crops in summer. I parked in Woodyates village.

Just one day out and about this time, so a couple of oldies and a couple of newbies to keep me ticking over. As per the A35 features...

The Broad Stone — Fieldnotes

[visited 11/9/4] The idea that this sad stone could be part of a circle has excited me since I heard it, so I thought as I was site hunting about this way, I'd have a good walk about. I visited the actual stone again; its sad slow disapearance under vegetation & creeping topsoil continues. Never mind resurrecting it, I'm thinking a visit with a couple of shovels would be a good start.

I found one stone in the field next door and another in the field next to that. They are much smaller than the Broadstone, but as at Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas about a mile away, the size differential between stones is greater, its not a problem. I didn't see Moth's circle markers in the field and tbh if the circle existed, I imagined the road went straight through the middle of it. But I think thats just my fatalism.

Access to the Broadstone is from an AA layby along the verge of a very busy A road. Not for the faint hearted. Access to the other stones was (by me) over a fence from verge.

[update: december 2005] Was here to clear the creeping topsoil again and noticed the field next door is now being ploughed. A cursory look failed to locate the other stones, they may well have been removed...

Winterbourne Poor Lot — Fieldnotes

[visited 11/9/4] Quick look about after hearing of a metal detector in the Dorchester area digging into barrows. No real sign here, but a couple of the barrows have patches of bare soil, presumably from the sheep as they didn't look like shovel dug holes. I also had a quick chat with the owners of the house next door, who say they keep an eye on the place and certainly wouldn't tolerate treasure hunters.

Whilst you visit Poor Lot don't forget the woods just to the East, though watch out for gamekeepers as these be pheasant woods. There is a circular banked structure just before you enter the woods to your left, it used to be in the woods, but the landowner has removed the woods to iirc turn it into pasture. I preume this is the remains of a disk? barrow, similar to one at Oakley Down cemetary, but I'm not sure.

Black Down (Kingston Russell) — Fieldnotes

[visited 11/9/4] September in Dorset can really get chilly, especially on top of the southern hills. Don't let that stop you coming to look at this beauty however. Two bank barrows are marked on the map though only one is really obvious and its a delight. It points just to the North of the Long Bredy Bank barrow which is clearly visible on the hill to the west. Whilst not as big as that one, this is still longer than most long barrows and holds an unexpected delight. Unmarked on the OS map is a large round barrow with a huge sarsen stone on it top, a definate bonus. Looking at The Ancient Stones of Dorset, Peter Knight calls it "Kingston Russell Barrow 5".

Look to the South from up here and you can see the extended hill containing the Grey Mare and Kingston Russell circle. Poor lot is below you to the North and you can see to the horizon in most directions. I've been thinking a good deal about the purpose of these Bank Barrows and indeed similarly placed Long Barrows. Riding the crest of a hill, a man-made white streak visible for miles. A sign for the gods or a marker to all who enter these parts that this is taken. Access is up about 3 fields from the A35 carefully avoiding cowpats...

West Compton Down — Fieldnotes

[visited 11/9/4] As I was bombing past here on my way to Toller Porcorum, I stopped for a shufty. Basically its 2 (or possibly more) large stones together in a crop field. Luckily the crop was gone so I shinnied over the gate and went for a closer look. I presume this is the remains of a long barrow and in fact The Ancient Stones of Dorset has a picture from 1872 suggesting these may form two sides of a chamber. One thing is for certain not much is left to talk about. Good views though...

Access to the edge of the field is easy as its on a road, after that its a field...

Toller Porcorum Churchyard — Fieldnotes

[visited 11/9/4] Those that know me know my sceptical nature and I'd hate to disappoint. Umm... the church is certainly higher than the surroundings. There are certainly a couple of large stones in the entrance to the churchyard. It has a kinda circular churchyard. Thats about it really.

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a church, but I left feeling cheated in some way. On a plus note Access could only be easier if the place had a moving walkway taking you round it.

So then onto the Grey Mare, Kingston Russell and Tenants Hill collecting Blackberries as I went. Another nice day out in Dorset.
juamei Posted by juamei
6th October 2004ce
Edited 7th October 2004ce

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