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Fieldnotes by Cursuswalker

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Hunter's Burgh (Long Barrow)

Hunter's Burgh lies right on one of the major corners on the Downs, with views to east and west that disappear as soon as one travels either way. It has a clear shape from three sides, particularly approaching from the top of the hill. From the north, down the slope, the edge is very unclear and seems teardrop shaped.

To the East lies Eastbourne, and above it the Neolithic Combe Hill Causwayed Camp with its associated round barrows. to the west Firle Beacon, with its Long Barrow, and Mount Caburn, with its Iron Age hill fort and possible earlier use in the Bronze Age.

This is the largest barrow on Wilmington Hill. If I am right about the barrows on the summit they may only be smaller due to ploughing out, or similar activity, as they lie on level ground. Hunter's Burgh's saving grace may have been the slope it lies upon, suited only to grazing.

Or maybe it was always the largest, in which case why so far down the hill?

Wilmington Hill (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

This cemetery is not marked on OS maps. It lies around the trig-station on the summit of Wilmington Hill, consisting of one definite round barrow to the west of it and two more possible barrows to the east.

The Long Man of Wilmington (Hill Figure)

My wife went and took more pictures for me on 28/7/06.
As I was putting them up on TMA I discovered that the CA have put the original article on this BACK on their website, including the offending picture.

Considering the fact that the damage is still visible at the Long Man I find this unbelievable.

I visited the Long Man again last Friday (21/7/06). The vandalism caused, or at least supported, by the C*ntryside Alliance is still very much visible, as the quality of vegetation is different where the letters were burnt on the hillside.

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures. I'll try to get back there sometime soon.

I still have a copy of the web-page on which the CA condoned this action. They took it down originally as soon as they realised that it might not have been such a bright idea after all.

Mount Caburn (Hillfort)

Mount Caburn means a lot to many people in the town of Lewes I think.
It was the nearest settlement of any size to the site that Lewes was eventually founded on by the Saxons and can be seen from much of the town.

The skyline of the hill from the town means that the ditch and bank of the fort seems to cut it off from the rest of the ridge on which it stands. The hill the fort was built upon is fairly distinctive anyway, being a dome with broad slopes sweeping down from it to the south, while it seems almost to be the head of a giant downland animal, the rest of the downland ridge that it forms part of trailing behind the hill to the north. This ridge is the only block of the South Downs that is not a part of the main ridge along which the South Downs Way runs, having been cut off from it by the Glynde Reach river, that you will see joining the river Ouse to the south west.

When you approach the fort from the north the ditch and bank are very prominent, but the part of the hill still inside the fort protrudes above it still, giving an impression of a round hat, or, one might say, a flattened Dalek's head!

Once inside the fort one seems simply to be on a hill, as the whole ditch and bank becomes far less obvious. This is particularly true on the southern side, where the defences are far less spectacular. I have always been told this is because on this side any attacker would have had quite a climb first. I'm not entirely convinced though, as this does not take account of attackers circling from the northern side. For me, the steep hill suggests some erosion of the defences on this side, though I have no evidence for this either way.

In any case the view is very impressive for a hill that is not actually that high (150m above sea-level), particularly of the downland ridge to the south. Firle Beacon and Windover Hill, home to the Long Man of Wilmington, can also be seen to the south east.

Croham Hurst Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

I came up here to photograph the site two days before the Solstice as the light was good considering the time of year.

It is a very low barrow that does not come out well on camera, though is easy to make out while actually there. The setting is perfect for a bronze-age burial and it is still very easy to imagine what the view looked like before London existed.

On the Winter Solstice the Sun apparently sets along the Crooked Valley that apparently gives Croydon its name. This is the valley through Purley that the A23 now follows.

In the woods to the south east, along the ridge, there is a raised area of ground that looks like it MAY be another barrow, but I can't be certain. It isn't marked as such on the OS map. The established barrow is at TQ338632 and this other area is at TQ338631. The path divides either side of it and when I was there it was a distinct area of greenery (See picture)

Butser Hill (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

The hillside is covered by an ancient field system and finds at the top indicate an Iron Age settlement up there. I have to admit to not having seen many signs of ancient remains, but I wasn't hanging around to look to be honest..

Excellent views though.

Nearby, in the Country Park, the type of settlement it is thought to have been has been recreated (See links).


It's a shame you can't get into the chamber at Knowth. The artificial room that tour parties are led into might as well be in the Visitor Centre.
The view from the top really gives you a sense of the place of this tomb within the landscape and I could spend hours looking at the rock-art on the displayed kerb-stones.
The later use of the site by Celts and Normans are also of interest, in particular the creep passage east of the main mound. Children of all ages (!) can crawl through it during the guided tours.

Newgrange (Passage Grave)

Newgrange looks amazing from the outside, but is blatantly too good to be true. The chamber is beyond belief. I just wish I could spend some time in there without an official guide's voice as accompaniment.

Boyne Valley Complex

I've been to the Complex three times now. On the whole the preservation of the area, and the way tourism here is carefully managed, seems understandable, bearing in mind that people live here and don't need their roads choked with cars. The Visitor Centre is also impressively unobtrusive.

I just can't help getting the urge, though, to stick two fingers up at the buses that you are strong-armed into using in order to get to Newgrange and Knowth. On all three visits I have wished I walked to the tombs instead and this has been the source of a couple of heated discussions with my partner.

I just can't stand feeling openly "managed" at such sites.

Carrowmore Complex

We visited Carrowmore on a drizzly day and missed much of the view of Sligo one gets from the complex, which was a shame.

There are an impressive number of tombs here in a tiny area, and in various states of preservation. Being with non-megarak family members meant I couldn't help feeling self-conscious gleefully bounding around the place photographing every rock that stuck out of the ground.

My family were interested at first, but after about an hour of being rained on, the advantages of walking around a field full of rocks were rapidly waning as far as they were concerned. We returned to the Visitor's Centre and I was granted a brief visit over the road to Tombs 1-7, with strict orders to return quickly or lose body-parts.

Tomb 7 I will not forget in a hurry.
As soon as I had settled myself in the chamber of the dolmen for a brief bit of megalithic contemplation, a bullock nosed right up to the entrance and stood sniffing the air in the tomb inches from my face. I don't mind admitting I can be a bit of a big girl's blouse when it comes to bullocks and on this occasion I froze and felt my heart begin to leap into my throat.
He obviously could not see me and my smell was making him nervous. Looking back now it's obvious that one movement from me would have caused him to bolt, but at the time this didn't even occur to me. Eventually he got bored and walked off.

I can't convey it in writing, but it was somehow an incredibly intense, and not entirely negative, experience. Being one of those druidy types I tend to like reading meaning into such encounters. The meaning I gleaned from this incident, distilled into a phrase, was "Fair enough. Have your little sit in here, but remember you actually belong elsewhere"
Such overactive imaginings can make sense when one is sitting in a tomb, I always find. Walking away from Tomb 7 I was smiling at my unexpected experience, as the visit to Carrowmore had been very practical and down to earth up to that point.

"Fair enough" I said to myself, with a last, very respectful, glance back at the tomb.

Ranscombe Camp (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Though it is called a camp on the map, it is actually an Iron Age boundary dyke or an unfinished hillfort, depending on who you listen to. From the aerial photo on multimap I must admit that the latter seems more likely. There is also evidence in the link posted by wideford that further justifies this conclusion (Evidence of post-holes for example)

I have seen it from the road, or from Caburn just to the east, for years, but never visited it. I plan to remedy that soon...

The Tump, Lewes (Artificial Mound)

As a Sussex schoolboy I was always told that the Tump was a Calvary Hill, used by the monks of the nearby Priory as a punishment, the idea being that they had to carry a cross to the top. However, apparently a fragment of Neolithic bone was found when the new path was created, so that puts paid to yet another "lazy monk" theory of ancient-site creation, as far as this druid is concerned.

At some point in the late 19th or early 20th century Lewes Bowling Club, who own the site, decided to carve a huge chunk out of the side of the mound, in order to accommodate a bowling green. This act of vandalism also cut into the original spiral path, which originally began around the northwest sector and ran anti-clockwise to a small platform on the summit.

Most of the spiral path is still intact, and can be reached via the new tarmac path, which runs clockwise from the southeast sector. Once on the spiral path, you can leave the world of tarmac behind, and what remains of the spiral is a gentle and beautifully simple short stroll. However, the fact remains that this site is right on the edge of a built up area, and technically in the town, all the land to the south being taken up with sports pitches. Expect to find the evidence of teenage drinking at the top, as I have most of the times I have visited.

…Which brings us neatly on to the Hole.

The Hole is a square concrete-sided monstrosity which was dug into the top of the Tump at some point (I can only assume in the sixties) in order to hold the cross that Lewes Christians carry to the summit every Good Friday.

The rest of the year it holds empty lager cans (see picture).

I actually don't begrudge them this tradition that much (The cross that is). It only stands there for a few days and actually looks quite impressive. In 2000 they re-enacted the crucifixion up there, leading "Jesus" through the town from Lewes Castle. I tagged along and found it fascinating, as an outsider.

What does really anger me is the way they leave this ugly concrete thing exposed for the rest of the year. A few years back local Pagans used to go up there, once the cross was gone, and fill in the hole again. Unfortunately this has to be a covert activity, due to the Bowling Club locking the gate from the car park in the evening, so I am naturally not advocating such action. That would, clearly, be wrong.

If you visit the Tump during the day you will not be hassled at all. Many people climb it in the daytime and this does not seem to be a problem. However, I remember climbing it to watch the midwinter sunset a few years back. Sitting there, minding my own business, I heard an upper class voice shout from below:

"Excuse me! What are you doing?!"

Two instincts fought for supremacy. The first said "Apologise at once and get orf their land!" The other said "What the hell does it LOOK like I'm doing?"

I looked at her as if she was mad and asked her what she meant, which she didn't seem to have an answer for. She disappeared.

I have to admit to having not stayed too much longer after that. She had succeeded in spooking me, and the moment was lost. As I drove away I saw her again. She looked at me as if memorising my face for a police line-up. I looked back, I hope in the same way.

Another time, during the day, I faced the four quarters on the summit as part of a private druid working. No robes. No chanting. Just a bloke in jeans and t-shirt, facing four directions and lost in his own little world.

That was until I noticed a man who broke off from the bowling taking place below (On the green that cuts into the Tump) and, hands on hips, stared at me as if I was smeared in goat's blood and howling to Satan.

Just be warned: this is the attitude you risk encountering if you stray onto the Lewes Tump after sundown or looking remotely "alternative".

In summary the site is a bloody disgrace (albeit delightfully manicured), but sitting on the summit on your own, feeling the wind on your face, it is possible to forget that, for a little while at least.

Liddington Castle (Hillfort)

I loved this place, though I don't especially know why.

It felt very isolated, mostly explained by not being actually ON the Ridgeway or any public right of way, and I saw no one else there, despite staying for a while.

The path starts at the B4192 at SU218804. After climbing the hill you are directed around the side of a field on a permitted path.

The strange thing is that from the M4 Liddington looks quite nearby. The view north is dominated by urban sprawl of Swindon, and the new hospital was going up, which totally dominated the view. It must do so even more now it's finished.

I wouldn't have minded so much if I could have seen the County Ground...

There is a plaque at the north-eastern entrance, which reads:


It's probably just as well they can't see the view now...

The Millbarrows (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

When I passed this site on the South Downs Way all I could see was this one mound, which looks like a round barrow. But it is referred to in the plural on the OS map and has a nearby pub named after it, so that's good enough for me

Ridgeway (Southernmost Remains) (Ancient Trackway)

These are stuck in the middle of a field south east of Alton Barnes and you wouldn't look twice at them normally. But the fact remains that these are the southernmost visible traces of this ancient route.

All you can see is some raised ridges in a field.

Just to the north you can actually join the Ridgeway for the first time (unless you feel like hopping into the field!) while walking through Alton Priors, at SU110622, though the official beginning of the Southern Ridgeway is signposted just north of the village, at the start of the climb up to Adam's Grave (SU110623).

Cliffe Hill (Long Barrow)

This barrow, more oval than long really and possibly an example of a transitional style, lies in the middle of Lewes golf-course and is used as a hazard on one of the holes, so you visit at your own peril...

It is visible throughout much of the town, with its distinctive dug-out shape.

See also the Tump:

Firle Beacon (Long Barrow)

I've been to this place many times. The barrow itself is a little difficult to make out as a long barrow, once you are actually standing on it, but the view will make up for this!

The visit that stands out is when I reached it from the east on my walk of the South Downs Way on 17th April 1999.

I had reached Bo-Peep Bostal car park just as a hail and thunder storm started, and waited there for it to pass. Thinking it had passed, I carried on on my way, only to hear more thunder approaching just as I was approaching the Giant's Grave. This meant I was in the middle of a thunderstorm and just about to reach the highest point for many miles around.

I stood there nervously, wondering whether or not to throw myself to the ground (This would have been very sensible I have since discovered!).

Eventually the thunder and lightening passed and I carried on. My photo of the Giant's Grave was taken just as the clouds parted and the sun came out. I had miles of downland all to myself, as the storm had cleared the whole South Downs Way for two miles either way, as walkers legged it back to their cars.

Standing there on top of the barrow, relieved and completely on my own, with melting hail glistening in the surprisingly warm sun, was an incredible time, especially with the views of the Way for miles to the west that had just come into view as I reached the summit.

To the east Windover Hill was white with hail, as the storm had reached it by then.

Truly a memory worth getting wet for…

Long Burgh (Long Barrow)

Not an impressive Long Barrow, in terms of its definition within the landscape, but it does cover quite an area.

It occupies its own enclosure within scrub growth along the South Downs Way and is easy to miss. Stand upon it and look at the view east and it's easy to see why it was put here.

Kingston Barrow Cemetery (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

A small collection of round barrows, of average size for this part of East Sussex, that lie at the junction between the South Down's Way and the southern spur of the bostal from Kingston to the top of the ridge.

From here the view of Lewes and the surrounding area is beautiful. I can only assume some of the first chieftains of whatever settlement lay where Kingston is now were buried here.

In 1999 it is from this spot, while on my walk to Wiltshire, that I diverted from the South Down's Way along the path to Kingston, to the grave of my grandfather in Lewes, taking a sprig of gorse to leave there.
Showing 1-20 of 40 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
I am an Atheist Naturalist Humanist Neo-Pagan Ritualist Revivalist Philosophical Druid (Yes that title is tongue-in-cheek), living and practising in Sussex.

The Long Man of Wilmington is a site of great importance for me and was the first with which I feel I connected spiritually. In 1998 I started walking extensively in the area of the Long Man as well as taking an interest in its history.

Both my grandfathers died in early 1999 (See my fieldnotes on Windmill Hill). As a way of honouring them, between April 1999 and August 2000 I walked the route from Eastbourne, in East Sussex, to The Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, via the South Down's Way, Winchester Cathedral, the Clarendon Way, Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, the Vale of Pewsey, Avebury and the Ridgeway.
The walk also took in visits to both of their graves, in Sussex and Wiltshire, en route.

In 2001 I extended this walk from Salisbury Cathedral, West to Wells Cathedral and then on to Glastonbury Tor.

Nearly all of my earlier pictures were taken during these walks and I tend to focus, overall, on Sussex and the South Downs.

In recent years I have also taken an interest in Ireland, as marrying into an Irish family does tend to mean one visits the place from time to time!

Although I have become an atheist, I still class myself as a Pagan. This can give rise to interesting discussions!

My TMA Content: