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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.


Four stone circles and two henges, doodaa doodaa

A weekend in Avebury but with no opportunity for real site seeing put me in the mood for something special and as I've been meaning to do a few of the great rings in the Lake District for ages, they really were the only choice when I woke up this morning.

I got up later than I'd normally do for this sort of trip so I was time limited more than usual and hence really trimmed the possibilities to sites I'd wanted to see for ages.

Sunkenkirk — Fieldnotes

[visited 31/5/4] Wow this is a great circle and really set the tone for the day. I walked up from the road below wondering if the circle was over rated as it took an age to appear. Of course then it was suddenly there, fantastically set against the hills with a kite flying high above it. Access is good if you're prepared to drive up the track; a small car shouldn't have too many problems. Otherwise its a mile or so up a rough track.

Maybe it was the perfect weather or the random company (hi btw) but this circle rates as one of the best I've seen. It seems to compliment the surrounding hills, having spent so long together they are perhaps now inseperable. The portal is immediately obvious despite being the first I'd seen and provides a real focal point from the centre of the circle.

So, after the sublime I fancied the ridiculous and a reconstructed circle next to Nuclear facility seemed ideal.

Greycroft Stone Circle — Fieldnotes

[visited 31/5/4] Strictly not a visit as I only managed to get within 15 metres of the circle due to it being in crop. Access is poor, you could be best off parking on the street near the golf course and walking down the right hand side of the course. There is a stile into the field with the circle towards sellafield. A note on the site security guards, they drove past me carrying a large telephoto lense and didn't even blink, so I think the golfer mentioned here, should be ignored. :)

Oh and I had another encounter with evil cows (tm) as I walked through their field between the circle and the access road. Beware the cows!

By this point I was starting to run out of time due to excessive lingering at Swinside, so I abandoned any more thoughts of non-show sites and set off to see the obvious choices.

Castlerigg — Fieldnotes

[visited 31/5/4] My second visit here, the first being as a tourist many years ago knowing nothing about stone circles. Last time the surrounding hills were covered in mist & cloud and we left slightly disapointed not to have seen the expected supporting cast. This time however I was blown away. The circle is here to service the axe trade (amongst other things) but thats secondary to the placing, this circle was here and is here because of the amazing views. If you only saw one circle in your life, this one would not leave you disapointed.

Of course it is with its downside, tourists are highly prevalant and its ease of access means more dedications & bizarre stuff left in the name of belief. There was a weird circle of plaster druidesque figurines not 6 inches high in the centre of the circle and I didn't get a second alone here, but that changes nothing. I loved this so much I could share it with thousands and not care...

I was thinking 'time to head back home' by this point, but as I was going to Penrith anyway to get on the motorway, it would have been a waste if I didn't go see the bigsites nearby, wouldn't it?

Mayburgh Henge — Fieldnotes

[visited 31/5/4] I've wanted to visit this ever since I'd read about it, an 'irish' henge in England next to a classic style henge, how could I resist. Access is fairly good, you can park pretty much next to the henge and get in through a gate. So, I set off from my car almost at a run, straight up the west edge of the well preserved bank of rocks and pebbles. As I reached the top I looked down into the gloomy centre, the low sun not really lighting this place with its large tree and high banks. I inspected the remaining stone defiant in its solitude, Burl reckons it could be the last stone of a giant four poster, I remain reckonless.

A henge without an inner ditch is a weird one to see for the first time and I'm still left pondering who it was that built this. Was it irish traders in the Lakes backyard, maybe a permitted intrusion or was this a local tribute to a distant race or religion? Whoever it was this slightly foreboding henge is well worth a visit.

King Arthur's Round Table — Fieldnotes

[visited 31/5/4] Sitting almost in the shadow of Mayburgh is this Arbor Lowesque henge. Its a bit trashed by the road and forgotten by modern penrith but its doing remarkably well compared to compatriots about the country. Access is ok, I stuck the car on the verge next to the henge and shinied over the gate. I think you can get in without gymnastics though.

Henge complexes are reasonably common in Britain but I've not heard of two so dramatically different, being so close as this and Mayburgh are. Despite the closeness I feel this one is the true henge of the area, maybe the local henge for local people.

I'd now started to think up possible excuses for being late as I had one last visit of the day, a 'top ten' site I'd never been too, Long Meg.

Long Meg & Her Daughters — Fieldnotes

[visited 31/5/4] This is a cracker and in the low sideways light, Long Meg itself comes into its own, its spirals clearly visible even from a distance. Access could only be better if they built a track round the stones, you can after all park inside the circle. After 5 minutes here, I decided this was a cracker. Huge stones Avebury size, in a massive circle. Its reminiscent of Stanton Drew, both being colossal and bizarrely on slight slopes. This really is a circle to spend a day at watching the world go past.

Unfortunately I only had a cursory look, walked the circle, admired the spirals and left cursing the god that made each day only have 24 hours.

What followed was a mad dash south, but thats not really relevant is it?


Quick bank holiday drive round

Pre-snooker tomb fest was the aim and I kinda succeded. As I came to find myself in Northern cheshire at 10am, I headed further south to Staffordshire and my first site of the day, The Bridestones.

The Bridestones — Fieldnotes

[visited 3/4/4] I've been angling to come here for ages ever since I saw The Pikestones and wondered just how they got that far north. Access is good, you can park to within metres of the stones & then through a gate.

So accompanied by loud barking I got to see a very impressive chambered tomb facing almost true west. It used to be 100 odd metres long and had a cresentic forecourt with cobbling! Very similar in style to other outliers of the cotswolds barrows, a vein of which seem to be clinging to the western edge of englands central hills. If this mound was covered in white as per mounds further south, it would have been visible far out into the western plains.

I met a very helpful local who pointed out some stones can be still be seen in the small grove of trees on the way into the site and on the other side of the access road, but most were taken away when the road was metalled. Apparently the stones are named as a result of a wedding being held here in the 1930s, what they were called before then is unrecorded.

Next up was the 360degree viewpoint of The Cloud, I'm a sucker for good views ancient or otherwise and this was too close to refuse.

The Cloud — Fieldnotes

[visited 3/4/4] I eyed this up in the car on the way south to Congleton, on the OS map and as I approached the Bridestones, the recomendation by a helpful local was just the icing on the top! Well worth a visit for the views with amazing views in 360 degrees. Access is for the vaguely fit and up a muddy path.

You can literally see for miles from up here, it was too hazy for me but the helpful arrows-pointing-at-things-in-the-distance pointed at stuff 50+ miles away.

To have been buried at the The Bridestones would have been a momentous thing indeed...

Second and final tomb of the day was Long Low via some long distance Cairn viewing near Ilam.

Long Low — Fieldnotes

[visited 3/4/4] "Unique in england" according to Dyer and I'm sure he's not wrong about that. Dyer says this is a neolithic chambered cairn at the Northern end with a later southern barrow with connecting bank. The bank was built with two rows of upright limestone slabs and this is visible (I think) leading away from the southern mound. Burials were found in the northern end and cremations along the bank and at the south.

Access is inadequate, you can get to wall of the field it's half in by car but otherwise its through a stile thing or over a gate.

Well, I didn't know what to expect with this and left not quite sure whats going on. It is a little gem tucked away but spoilt somewhat by the fence and tank as stubob says. Its been dug into quite a bit as well, so don't come expecting a show site! That said it is a real enigma and I'm not surprised its been put in as a bank barrow. The connecting mound is large, 2m odd high and 10m across, but the dimensions as a whole are wrong in my opinion for it to be linked with say, Long Bredy bank barrow.

At this point in my day I ummed & arred about what to do next, Ronnie vs Graeme was on at 4pm, and I do like a snooker final... I settled on a flying visit to what is fast becoming an old favourate, Arbor Low. I meant to visit The Bullring as well so my brain could have a direct comparison, but after sitting for too long at Arbow Low, I missed the first half of the snooker as it was!


Pennines Ahoy!

My first trip out to a 'new' prehistoric area of the country in over a year, only my second trip out in about 4 months & my first visit to my new prehistoric stomping ground.

Certainly a cause for excitement & celebration.

First up, Cheetham Close, the closest Stone Circle to my house, a mere 20miles (compare & contrast to 100 miles...)

Cheetham Close — Fieldnotes

[visited 22/02/04] A brisk walk above Bolton leads you to this sorry site. It looks to be a dead ringer for an abused twin of Twelve Apostles, sitting sorrowful by the side of what is surely an ancient track. Despite the top of this windswept moor
doing steady traffic, I was the only person who stopped & walked over to the stumps, a somewhat depressing fact.

This circle isn't impressive, unique or even readily recognizable, but still it struggles on & fair play to it. Go visit & make sure it is less forgotten.

Now onto what I expect will be the mainstay of prehistory for me, the edge of the pennines and the two Severn-Cotswolds tombs bizarrely located on Anglezarke moor.

Pikestones — Fieldnotes

[visited 22/02/04] What a site for sore eyes this is, its condition reminds me of Grey Mare in Dorset, but the ground plan on the wellkept sign makes it look more like Hetty Peglars Tump. I parked on the corner & headed across open moor to the barrow. Its a bit trashed, but the location made up for it.

Didn't find the circle mentioned here, but did find a cairn with stones on the center which was approx 300m at 58 degrees from the Pikestones so maybe...

Black Coppice Chambered Cairn — Fieldnotes

[visited 22/02/04] I came here last on my day out to watch
the sunset over the lancashire plains, but changed my mind when I realised how likely I was to hurt myself going down the escarpment in the dark...
It really is a mess up here, I'm not convinced that much is prehistoric, given the huge industrial mill? stones just off the edge of the quarry. However if most of it is prehistoric then its a big cemetary, something like Raven Tor or even one of the barrow cemetarys down south (Poor Lot springs to mind.)
Well worth a visit, the views are spectacular & who knows what else is lurking under the heathery peat.


Wondering at Wilmington

Busy busy busy, but no so busy that I can't rearrange my life, get up at 4am, bomb down to the coast & back again in a mad 7 hour period, taking in 5 sites in one location. That location would be Wilmington Long Man & associated stuff.

Ok, it wasn't long before I realised that it was too far to do in a morning (especially as I had to be at work at midday in Richmond), but I was desperate for countryside so the traffic jams & being late for work were definately worth it.

The sites themselves were worthy. Enigmatic & holding views as good as Adam's Grave, shame I don't live closer really...

The Long Man of Wilmington — Fieldnotes

[visited 14/07/03] Been here a couple of times before, but this was the first time I've climbed the hill (Like Dyer says, you can see it with binoculors perfectly well from the carpark :).

It apparently dates from Saxon times, though as per the rumour is something was painted here well before that. I will say the hill surface it is on is surprisingly flat and to my mind marks the quarries, almost like a first attempt at a billboard!

Windover Long Mound — Fieldnotes

[visited 14/07/03] If I hadn't known this was a barrow, I would have thought it was either related to the fint mines next to it or some weird hillfortesque defense. The reason for my confusion is it seems to curve along the edge of the hill, though that could have been my sleep addled mind...

All in all its a good length, though fairly denuded & with a bit missing (the platform?). The question in my mind is whether the fint mines are contempory as Dyer hints.

Windover Cursus — Fieldnotes

[visited 14/07/03] Well, I'm by far a cursus expert but I always thought they were much wider and generally bigger than this. However look at the pictures; it is a very strange track, it heads straight to one end of the barrow and it does go straight up a very steep hill. I would guess the central mound (and it is raised) is about 5 metres across.

Unfortunately I didn't get to the end at the bottom of the hill due to time constraints, so I have no idea how far it went etc...

Hunter's Burgh — Fieldnotes

[visited 14/07/03] Amazing views to the east, spoilt by the low sun & the early morning haze, which to be fair made the whole experience seem more mystical. This mound is a strange one, I wasn't sure where the mound ended and the edge of the hill began. Of course being the wrong side of the barbed wire fence didn't help.

I'll be back to have a proper shufty at this, the other side of the fence.
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