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

Fieldnotes by thesweetcheat

Latest Posts
Showing 1-20 of 552 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

Phillack Towans (Standing Stone / Menhir)

I read about this stone in a little book of Penwith monuments I bought a few years ago. Visited 19 June 2021 at the end of a very pleasant beach and cliffs walk from Godrevy Sandshifter to Hayle Towans.

After leaving the coast, we head past Phillack Church and the Bucket of Blood to the point where the road bends sharply south-east. From here, a path heads north-east then north through a scrubby wood and out onto the dunes. The stone is reasonably easy to find, next to a fence separating the open dunes from a house and garden. It's a nicely tapering 7 foot+ granite monolith, partially covered in hairy lichen.

Looking at the angular edges, my feeling is that it's more likely to be medieval or post-medieval than prehistoric, although its tall height would be unusual for a boundary stone of that type. There are other boundary stones nearby, none of which come close to the height of this one. The Cornwall & Scilly HER says:
Boundary stone. A tall block of granite, about 7 foot above ground, about 1 foot in section, tapering to a point. Possibly a re-used menhir. The stone marks the bounds of Phillack Towans and Kernick Towans and is indicated on the 1842 Tithe Map. Its height, shape and tapering form suggest an early medieval or prehistoric origin, if not always in this location, certainly here for some time.
After a bit of wandering about in the towering dunes, the sky takes a turn for black and the sunshine of earlier is replaced by a swift rain front, so we beat a hasty retreat back to Hayle before the soaking arrives.

Venton Bebibell (Sacred Well)

This one has been on the list for a few years. It's been a bit lost over the years, but is now kept clear and is used in an annual "dolly dunking" ceremony.

We're quite a way into our walk from St Just (18 June 2021), taking in Tregeseal stone circle, Kenidjack Common, Boswens Croft, Chun Quoit and Castle and a rare revisit to Men-an-Tol.

From the latter, a path heads south-east, slowly descending into a shallow valley. In other years, this area is a bog and we're very fortunate that it's dry underfoot for us today. I only have the vaguest idea where the well is, but I figure that when we reach the stream we can just head north-east and eventually we'll find it.

The further we get upstream the boggier it gets, although it's still perfectly passable today. The vegetation also gets higher, blocking sections of stream bank from easy exploration so that looking for a well-head becomes harder.

We press on, and we're rewarded by the sight of some granite slabs protruding from the bank across a small pool - we're here! It's a lovely spot, the relative low-level compared to the rising moors giving a feeling of seclusion and peace. There are tadpoles swimming about in the pool, which is quite deep, and lovely and cool to a hand (we don't sample the water's healing properties!).

Really pleased to have found this and to come on such a lovely day. From here we head north towards the Four Parish Stone, which is probably an easier place to come here from once you know where you're going. Then it's up to Nine Maidens, our place of pilgrimage above all others.

Cape Cornwall (Cliff Fort)

Cape Cornwall is an obvious landmark on the coast, especially from Sennen and Land's End. Sometimes dubbed the discerning person's Land's End, to distinguish it from the tourist trap of the real thing, it has featured in the peninsula's human history going back to the Iron Age (probably) and the Bronze Age (definitely). Sadly there's nothing left to see of either, but it's well worth a visit.

Today we've come along the coast from Botallack, after a revisit to Kenidjack Castle. It's a steep drop and re-ascent from Nancherrow stream, a lush valley filled with vegetation at this time of year. Dropping back down from the "mainland", the neck of the promontory is occupied by lush green fields, and the early medieval St Helen's Chapel. Sadly there's no sign of the ramparts reported by Borlase.

The last and only time we've previously made the climb up to the chimney was in June 2001, almost two decades ago to the day. At 64m above the crashing waves below, it's not a huge hill, but it seems quite a stiff little climb on a warm day and I'm glad to reach the chimney. The top of the promontory is rocky and it's hard to see that this part of the headline would have supported habitation, but it would be a superb place for a lookout or beacon. It's quite busy up here today, wildlife photographers and people out to enjoy the stunning scenery. The wind is blowing strongly here, but not enough to stop us having our sandwiches and taking a good break. One nice touch is the plaque on the chimney recording the fact that the headland was bought for, and donated to, the nation by Heinz. Beans means Iron Age promontory forts, right on!

From here it's a steep drop (another) and then a steep climb (another) up to the Carn Gloose road to revisit another old favourite, Ballowall barrow.

Kenidjack Cairn Circle

We first walked this stretch of the coast in June 2001, but we didn't visit Kenidjack Castle for some reason, and we must have walked right past the cairn circle without even realising it was there.

I intended to put this right a decade later in June 2011, when we did manage a visit to the excellent cliff castle, but I failed to find this in tall undergrowth around the ruined mine buildings. With hindsight I was probably looking in the wrong place.

Seeing Costa's photos a couple of years ago had me kicking myself. So 20 years after first walking past, and 10 years (less one day) to the previous failed attempt, I'm definitely not missing out this time. We walk from the main road at Botallack, round the coast path past the evocative decaying buildings of Botallack mine. It's an easy walk to come here, and there are a fair few folks about in the glorious Summer sunshine.

I can't believe I've missed this before. The site is completely clear, surrounded by cropped grass. The granite blocks making up the kerb are big, similar to several of the other kerbed cairns of West Penwith. The kerb appears to be mostly complete, although there's no sign of any central mound that may once have filled the inside.

Although obscured a bit by the mine building, there is a fine view of Cape Cornwall with The Brisons beyond. Looking back inland, the most prominent feature is Carn Bean (with barrow) and Carn Kenidjack rock outcrop next to it. The ground drops very steeply to the south, down to the steep-sided valley of Nancherrow stream, which has wended its way from the edge of the moors and through Tregeseal.

From here we head down to the cliff fort for a revisit, then come back for a second look. An excellent monument, I can't quite believe it's taken me 20 years to come and see it.

Onwards to Cape Cornwall and Ballowall barrow.

Symonds Yat (Hillfort)

A summer's day revisit (11 June 2021). Fancying a trip to the Wye Valley and realising it's been a decade since my previous visit, this seemed like a good place to combine with a couple of quiet hills on the border between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

The bus drops me at Goodrich, and a steep climb takes me up Coppet Hill from where I can survey most of western Herefordshire, across to the Black Moutains in the west and even as far north as Titterstone Clee in Shropshire. Everything is beautifully green and lush. A superb start to the day.

From here I can also see The Queen Stone, which I've never visited but which I really should. The excellent aerial view unfortunately also reveals that the farmer is busily spraying the crop in the stone's field today, which puts paid to that idea. Instead, after a pleasant wander along the ridge to take in the excellent views, I drop down to the valley and cross the river over Huntsham Bridge (not a very nice road for pedestrians).

A footpath runs southeast along the banks of the beautiful Wye, through lush grasses, to the bottom of Huntsham Hill. From the riverside there's a fine view up to the sheer cliffs of the hillfort and Yat Rock. The towering location of the fort is very imposing, clearly no-one would be attempting any kind of attack from the river.

Leaving the river bank through a short stretch of chest-high nettles (shorts seemed like such a good idea earlier), I climb up through Elliot's Woods to the top of the hill, before heading to Yat Rock for the stupendously picturesque view of the Wye and back towards Coppet Hill.

A quick cup of tea at the cafe, and it's into the trees for a revisit to the fort. The last time I came was September, it was really quite overgrown but just starting to die back. Unsurprisingly, June is just as bad in this height of the growing season. The western ends of the ramparts are a choked tangle of briars, hazel and nettles. Luckily, the tall tree cover is thicker to the east, so the shin and ankle shredding undergrowth is less deep and difficult to get through.

I'd forgotten just how impressive the inner banks and ditches are, the earthwork standing well over my head from the ditch. A winter or spring visit would almost certainly be better to reveal more, but it's very pleasant here in the trees and no-one else seems inclined to leave the paths and roads.

After exploring as much as the vegetation allows, I head off along quiet footpaths, to catch a bus from English Bicknor. It's been a lovely revisit to this scenic part of the Wye Valley, and definitely worth approaching the fort from below to truly appreciate its daunting location.

Carn-y-Defaid (Cairn(s))

A revisit towards the end of an excellent bank holiday Monday walk from Blaenavon over Mynydd Coety and Cefn Coch (31.5.2021).

It's taken me over a decade to make the revisit I promised myself after stupidly missing the northeastern cairn in worsening weather last time. No such problems today, the sun is shining and dehydration is a greater threat than lack of visibility. Heading over the heathery moors from the WT station at Cefn y Galchen, I meet a women who has walked up from somewhere on the eastern side of this high ridge. She tells me she's a farmer and a grandmother, and she's obviously fitter than I am. Like me, she's come up here to get away from everyone and everything; she expresses a vague plan to drop down to Abergavenny, but clearly intends to go where the mood takes her. I like her immensely, we chat for a while and wish each other well on our walks.

I brave the pathless heather for the yards to the big cairn that I visited last time. It's a really decent monument, a huge pile of stones with its central scoop not really detracting. The northeastern cairn that I missed last time is not far away, slightly downhill and hanging right on the edge of the escarpment. As such, it enjoys the better views off the ridge and towards Ysgyryd Fawr. A great place to stop for a while and just let everything melt away.

At length I make myself leave, it's still quite a walk back to Blaenavon for the bus. On the road, I catch up with a huge shirtless man, with bottle-thick glasses, who wants to chat about all the pubs in the town and slows me down greatly. I don't begrudge him, it's that sort of day. I'm knackered by the time I get back to the valley and the bus stop, but it's been brilliant to come back to today's sites, with fresh enthusiasm and a decade's worth of familiarity with this upland landscape.

Carreg Maen Taro (Standing Stone / Menhir)

A long overdue revisit on a hot and sunny bank holiday Monday (31 May 2021).

I arrive here the long way round this time, after a lengthy walk from Blaenavon over the moorland tops of Mynydd Coety and Cefn Coch. Descending to Waun Afon, I'm glad of the dry weather as the causeway across the moor (complete with mostly-stripped, overturned car) is partially under water. Once I reach the road, the landscape turns rather grimly industrial, gravelly tracks winding up the humps of disused mining and quarry tips. The scars on the immediate foreground are greatly compensated for by the terrific panoramic views along the northern skyline though, from Pen y Fan to the northwest, Mynydd Llangatwg and the Black Mountains north, and the Sugarloaf/Mynydd Pen y Fal and Blorenge northeast.

The stone is as small as I remember, although at least it hasn't got any smaller. The last time I came, I came straight up from Blaenavon and I barely knew any of the skyline hills by name, let alone by personal experience. Now I return to a landscape where I recognise all the distant hills and have climbed most of them, so the landscape context is greatly enriched on this second visit. I still have doubts about the age of the stone, but there's no doubt at all about the pedigree of its placement. I'm glad to be back here, and it's especially good to return to South Wales after what seems like a very long time.

After a nice rest and some food, I head up over the tall spoil heaps to the east before heading to the heaving bank holiday carpark by Pen-ffordd-goch pond, then on to the gentle (and thankfully final) climb to the masts on Cefn y Galchen and an equally overdue revisit to Carn y Defaid.

Cutsdean Hill (Round Barrow(s))

After leaving an overcast Condicote Henge, the Gloucestershire Way takes me northwest along a muddy track before crossing a minor road near Crabs Corner (1.5.2021).

The sun is now shining, at least for the moment. Looking south I can see the prominent mound of Oak Piece long barrow, a site for another day. The Gloucestershire Way parts company with the Diamond Way on the eastern slopes of Cutsdean Hill; I take a detour along the latter south of Cutsdean Lodge, as I want to visit this round barrow. Past a pleasant little wood, the bridleway turns into a minor road and the round barrow is clear in the field on the south side of the road.

It's a really decent mound, not the usual ploughed-down to nothing monument that this part of the country seems to prefer. Today it sits resplendent in Spring sunshine, with this year's new lambs playing about on the mound. I don't venture into the field, as the mothers won't be happy and I don't want to spoil this fleeting idyll. A dark bank of cloud is building quickly to the south, so I don't linger.

Cutsdean Hill rises gently from here. Despite being the third highest hill in Gloucestershire it's pretty innocuous from this direction. On my way to rejoin the Gloucestershire Way, I pass the summit trig sitting forlornly in the verge, surveyable views westwards blocked by trees. Across the gallops the ground drops quite quickly to Ford, but the rain arrives before me, becoming torrential by the time I reach the little settlement - so heavy that I take refuge in the decommissioned phone box for 10 minutes. Once it passes, I have a clear sky to take all the way to Winchcombe, thankfully. I'm glad to have detoured to see this barrow, it's a good 'un.

Condicote Henge

A revisit on an overcast May day while walking the Gloucestershire Way from Stow-on-the-Wold to Winchcombe (1.5.2021). In contrast to the lovely warmth of the previous weekend's walk, a cold wind is blowing across the wolds today, and rain is threatening to arrive from the east.

It's been over a decade since I last came here, less than the blink of an eye for the henge. Last time I came, the southern part of the henge was accessible through a little pedestrian gate from the village hall. Sadly the gate is now locked, possibly a reaction to the ongoing pandemic, although it's pretty unlikely that anyone will catch Covid in an empty field. The road runs right through the middle of the earthwork, but this ain't no Avebury! The dull weather makes photographing the almost-gone earthwork from the road even less easy than before.

I content myself with sitting on a bench and having a snack, on the edge of where the henge once was. It's a survivor, but only just. A rarity in Gloucestershire, so worthy of the revisit for that novelty. Onwards!

Cold Aston (Long Barrow)

After leaving Hazleton long barrows and rejoining my route, the Gloucestershire Way takes me through Salperton Park and the pretty Cotswolds villages of Notgrove and Cold Aston (26.4.2021).

I'm not sure what to expect in the way of access to this next site, although I've seen it standing prominently in its field from the bus window on many occasions. It turns out I needn't have worried, as the field is open from the Camp Farm track to the south, and there are also numerous gaps in the hedge separating the barrow from the footpath.

It's a superb barrow, very reminiscent of East Kennett with its crown of tall trees and isolated setting, on top of the high ridge separating Cold Aston from the Windrush valley to the north. The earthwork is well-preserved and stands proud above the field surface. It's the jewel of today's three sites, and one of the best long barrows in this part of the Cotswolds.

At length I resume my walk, dropping down to the Windrush at Aston Mill, then re-ascending the next ridge. Looking back from here, the barrow is a very obvious landmark across the valley. Getting tired by now, I head to the tourist trap of Lower Slaughter ("private property" signs abound) and then have a final, tiring climb up Stow Hill to finish today's section by the Tolkein-inspiring church door. A good day out.

Hazleton Long Barrows

After a very enjoyable visit to Salperton Park round barrow (26.4.2021), I head south along a surprisingly busy road to Hazleton long barrows.

I've been aware of these long barrows for years, but knowing that they were in a pretty bad state I've never made the effort to come. However, as I'm now walking the Gloucestershire Way less than a mile away, it seems rude not to finally come and have a look. Older StreetView images suggest that the southern barrow lies open to the road, but sadly someone with a penchant for barbed wire has put an end to that.

The site of the nothern barrow reveals nothing much, other than what appears to be a lighter scattering of limestone on the planted surface of the field. The southern barrow is better, a reasonable mound right next to the road. The barbed wire doesn't invite a closer look, but it's not really a monument you need to get up close and personal with, sadly.

Still, it's an easy visit and I'm glad I've finally made the effort. Of course, post-visit the barrows have taken on a much wider fame, courtesy of careful DNA research. All this is still to come though.

From here I rejoin the Gloucestershire Way route, which will take me past Salperton Park, through Notgrove (Notgrove long barrow is sadly too much of a detour today), then onto Cold Aston, heading across the Cotswold plateau via a few minor ascents and descents. The final barrow of the day will be the best though...

Salperton Park (Round Barrow(s))

The first of three new-to-me sites visited while walking the Gloucestershire Way from Shipton Oliffe to Stow-on-the-Wold (26.4.2021).

A grey morning start and a cold wind blowing across the Cotswolds plateau is slowly giving way to brighter skies as I head north-east from Shipton. There's a good retrospective view towards the ridge surmounted by St Paul's Epistle round barrow, prominent on the skyline to the west.

Salperton Park round barrow is in a narrow band of pleasant woodland immediately north of Penhill Road. The trees are a mix of deciduous species which provides a nice open canopy at this time of year, but unfortunately also allows plenty of light to support tangled vegetation at ground level. The barrow is quite overgrown, but also large enough to still be easily seen. In contrast to many ploughed down Cotswolds barrows, this is a large mound. It appears oval on plan, and I wouldn't be entirely surprised to find that it was the remains of a truncated long barrow rather than a round barrow. As I poke about in the brambles and branches the sun breaks through the cloud, filtering a lovely Spring light through the canopy.

Well worth the detour from my route. Buoyed by decent barrow and improving weather I head off to Hazleton long barrows.

Emma's Grove (Round Barrow(s))

A revisit while walking the Gloucestershire Way (17.4.2021) after the usual dice with death crossing the road by the Air Balloon roundabout from Crickley Hill.

I last came here a year ago and was depressed by how overgrown everything was getting. It's still knee-deep in vegetation this year, but there seem to be fewer nettles and the whole wood is beautifully pungent with wild garlic in the lovely Spring sunshine. It's a cheering, restorative place to visit after the road crossing, and I look forward to the re-routing of the road in a few years that is planned to incorporate wildlife and pedestrian bridges.

From here my route will take me to an old favourite, Coberley long barrow. I set off with a renewed spring in my step.

Crickley Hill (Causewayed Enclosure)

Walked up from Shurdington at the start of my sixth section of the Gloucestershire Way (17.4.2021) on a beautiful Spring morning.

The walk has already had a set-back due to the farmer at Greenfield Farm blocking the path, which leads to an annoying detour west then south, followed by a steep climb up from the A417. I'm out of practice at hills after a couple of months of being largely inactive as the latest lockdown combined with rubbish weather has kept me at home. My Gloucestershire Way efforts resumed a couple of weeks back on the flatlands of the Severn, this is the first uphill section since leaving May Hill and the Forest of Dean.

I've not come up here on this route before, and I had never heard of a limestone block called the Devil's Table until route-planning. Like the Devil's Chimney at nearby Leckhampton Hill, this appears to be a remnant of quarrying rather than a natural feature. When I get up there, puffing and panting, I find it's partially buried in brambles, but it offers an excellent place to stop for a while, cool down and take in the extensive views across the Severn vale. I idly wonder why the quarrymen were so keen on giving Devilish names to their workings.

From here it's a short pull up to the fort itself and familiar territory. It's great to be back here on such a beautiful morning and the fort is quiet.

After a wander around in the sunshine, my route heads off through the lovely beech woods to the Air Balloon and then to Emma's Grove round barrows.

Castle Hill Wood (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Visited 5 December 2020 as dusk was approaching.

Nearing the end of an unexpectedly arduous section of the Gloucestershire Way from Mitcheldean to Huntley via the summit of May Hill, made difficult due to the incredibly slippery mud that seemed to coat every hillside and every field, which has had me on my arse three times in the first few miles.

The visit requires a detour from the Way at Gander's Green, so I approach through the forestry to the southwest. The tracks are initially good and easy to walk, but then drop steeply to a little valley to the south of the earthwork. From here the going is hard, pools of water concealing sticky mud. Once I reach the bottom of the valley, the track climbing up towards the earthwork was so slippery with mud I begin to wonder if I'll ever get up it. But like Macbeth, I'm stepped in mud so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.

Eventually I round a bend and the gradient levels. From here it's an easier walk to the earthwork, which turns out to be right next to the path. It's been cleared of trees at some point, making it easy enough to follow the single bank round. Like all woodland sites that are not kept clear, it is already teeming with self-seeded brambles and what will no doubt eventually become more trees. It's a well-preserved site, although I'd still not like to guess whether it's Iron Age or medieval. It crowns the top of the little hill, but any panoramic views are sadly restricted by the trees on all sides.

The light is failing and I'm tired after the mud-slogged miles. But I enjoy the short visit here before plunging back into the woodland. Rather than retracing my steps down the mudslide southeast, I head westwards. The path soon becomes a wide and impassible pool, forcing a detour into a clear-felled area where I somehow manage to avoid tripping over hidden roots and stumps and eventually rejoin the path proper. It's been a harder visit than I had expected, but it's a nice site and worth the detour. A spring visit would probably be best, as long as it's been dry.

Withington Woods West (Round Barrow(s))

Visited 30 August 2020 after leaving Withington long barrow. I thought this one might be harder to find in August vegetation, but it proves to be easy. It's visible next to one of the main paths running through the woods, prominent above the immediate surroundings and sporting a fine crown of ferns.

It's pretty big and appears to be well-preserved, although the vegetation makes it difficult to properly see the extent of the mound. On its top, beneath the ferns and brambles, it appears to be constructed of limestone rather than being an earthen mound.

One word of warning - even in pleasant summer weather, the tracks through the woods are very muddy. I pass a couple who have come to pick blackberries, and white trainers maybe weren't the ideal footwear.

From here I head northwest to seek out the multiple banks of a cross-dyke shown on the OS map. It proves to be a very reduced monument, struggling to be seen above calf-height undergrowth. Still, it's a pretty spot and I stop for lunch.

I leave the woods to the northeast and drop down to the pretty villlage Withington, where the cool interior of the church is open for visitors, the first I've been inside this year. From there it's an easy stroll back to Colesbourne and the bus home. The monuments in Withington Woods aren't of the first rank, but in this strange summer of limited travel and adventures close to home, I'm delighted to have visited some new-to-me sites in such a lovely woodland setting.

Withington Long Barrow

Of the four new-to-me Gloucestershire long barrows I visited during the post-lockdown summer months, Withington is both the best preserved and potentially the least easy to get to. Visited 30 August 2020.

I start from Colesbourne down in the picturesque Churn valley, a nice summer Sunday stroll along a quiet lane heading east then north up onto the high ground of the west Cotswolds. A bridleway from Hill Barn provides somewhat muddy access to Withington Woods. I get the feeling that this woodland is a 'country pursuits' kind of place, as various quad-biking lads wearing gillets and farming gear pass me en route and the distant crump of shotguns, a Cotswolds staple, breaks the peace.

Once in the woods I'm foolishly confident of choosing the right forestry track from a selection, but not sure how overgrown the barrow might be at the tail end of August. In any event, I end up going round in a circle, as the barrow isn't apparent on my initial pass of the area where I think it is. Second time around, I realise that I missed it because it's actually inside a high-fenced pheasant or partridge enclosure. Luckily the gate into the enclosure isn't locked, otherwise there would be no way of getting to the barrow.

The barrow is actually much better than I'd expected, a fine upstanding mound covered in pieces of limestone under a sparse covering of shrubby bushes and less undergrowth than I envisaged. I find no sign of the chamber referred to in Chance's miscellaneous notes but it's still an impressive monument.

Despite the nice woodland setting, the barrow isn't a particularly inviting place to hang around, as being effectively enclosed by 7 foot high wire mesh with only one way in or out kind of kills the atmosphere. Still, it's really pleasing to find a decent monument here, the main threat to which seems to be tree roots and some light animal burrowing in the flanks.

Having escaped the wire, I head northwest along a broad track to seek out Withington West round barrow.

Cotswold Park (Long Barrow)

After leaving Woodmancote round barrow I head to the little village of the same name, from where a bridleway heads westwards. The landscape ahead is open and I can see the next site of the day as a lighter patch in a field across the dry valley dropping away on my left.

The path enters a little wood and turns right, and here a field gate allows access into the fields adjacent to the long barrow. Skirting around the top of the valley, the barrow's field is margined with bright blue cornflowers, but the barrow itself is crowned only with long grasses.

It's clearly been ploughed over the centuries, as it's quite reduced in height. It's nevertheless a good length and has enough left of its mound to be obvious. Now unploughed, it's a nice place to sit for a while, as banks of cloud rush over. The crest of the hill blocks views to the west, hedges to the north, but to the southeast I can just make out the distant edge of the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.

From here I rejoin the bridleway to Cotswold Park and then up onto prominent Pen Hill to the north. Making my way up to the clump of trees on the top, the clouds that have been building all morning finally decide to drop their load on me, a temporary blip on an otherwise hot and sunny day. After a lunch stop by the trig, I drop down to Colesbourne and munch on a ice-cream before deciding on an impromptu revisit to Norbury hillfort and a long walk back to Cheltenham.

Woodmancote (Round Barrow(s))

An easy stroll up from the bus stop at Rendcomb on a warm August day, the sun playing hide and seek behind billows of Cotswolds clouds.

The tree-covered barrow is prominent in a field next to the minor road east of Woodmancote. It's at the top of steeper slopes dropping down to the picturesque River Churn, hidden by woodland from the barrow itself. There are neither crops nor livestock on my visit.

The trees make the barrow an obvious landmark and appear to have saved it from the plough, although the mound extends outwards into the field from the wooden fence surrounding the trees. The drawback with my summer visit is that the trees conceal the barrow beneath a deep covering of nettles, which also guard the site with a knee-high barrier. Clad in shorts, I make a half-hearted foray but am quickly stung in multiple places and retreat from closer inspection.

Vegetation aside, it's heartening to find a Cotswold round barrow that hasn't been ploughed down to nothing. The situation is pleasant, but the lack of longer views and the proximity of houses on the edge of the village stops it from really being a place to spend very much time. Worth the visit though, especially as I haven't been here before.

I head off to Woodmancote itself, then on to Cotswold Park long barrow. A good start to the day.

Ysgyryd Fawr (Hillfort)

Visited 7 March 2010.

A visit to the "Three Castles" of Skenfrith, Grosmont and White Castle with some friends includes a walk up Edmund's Tump (Graig Syfyrddin), a prominent hill in eastern Monmouthshire. A lovely spring day, a bit of a chill lingering from a cold morning, the mud still firmly frosted. From the hill, an impressive view stretches west across the Monnow valley to the Black Mountains, but the real draw for me lies nearer at hand in the form of the wedge-shaped Ysgyryd Fawr, an outlier of the bigger hills, sharp-crested and solitary in its elevation above the valley. It looks close enough to touch.

After leaving White Castle, a hasty plan is made to climb Ysgyrd Fawr before the light fades. We park to the south and make our way through woods to the steeply rising ridge. The sky is a deep blue, the ranks of hills, ridges and mountains themselves hazy in powder and periwinkle, ice and Delft.

It's cold on the top, the summit is exposed to winds that didn't register down below. The views are wonderful though, I watch a couple of planes leave their high altitude vapour trails, the only mark on the otherwise flawless sky. There's little to see of any hillfort, although scant remains of the later chapel are discernable. But coming here isn't really about the archaeology, it's a matter of location and landscape.

It's not long since I climbed the neighbouring Blorenge, a first foray to these South Wales peaks. By now my appetite is properly whetted and I long to visit the hills I can see spread before me. I won't be waiting long.
Showing 1-20 of 552 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
"The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body." Alfred Wainwright

"The movers move, the shakers shake, the winners write their history. But from high on the high hills, it all looks like nothing." Justin Sullivan

My TMA Content: