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Fieldnotes by wysefool

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Hackpen Hill (Oxfordshire) (Round Barrow(s))

The morning looked bright and clear, and so a quick visit to this barrow (i only live minutes away) seemed an easy option to grab some photographs.

The barrow is located above the Devil's Punchbowl and not far from the Ridgeway itself. I parked where the Ridgeway crosses the Lambourn Road, and where the Model Aeroplane Club have their site.

By the time I got half way across the field, I realised that I wasn't dressed up enough to cope with the icy wind which blasted away and nearly took me hat with it a couple of times.

This was a nice reminder for me of what I always preach to others, which is: always go properly dressed if you're going up the rudge. It may be pleasant and warm down in the valley, but it's amazing how a few hundred feet up the chalk, the wind, temperature and weather can be totally different!

Away to my right, and on the distant horizon, I could make out the large hump which has Beacon Hill Hillfort on its crest. The view down into the Vale is outstanding on a clear day, and to my left I could see over to Boars Hill. Ahead, the towers and chimney stack of Didcot Power Station dominate the landscape. Glancing over my shoulder I could make out the denuded barrow of Pigtrough Bottom and wondered if the two graves were related in any way (same period, or possibly even same tribe?).

The lump lies next to the fence and nearly adjacent to a small stile. Once across, I had a close up look. There's a single Elder bush next to it that seems to be doing quite well, given the exposed location. The usual bunny holes have penetrated the barrow in a few places and were quite deep. A quick rummage around the spoilheap, but no treasure was found!

The grave sits not far from the edge of the punchbowl and I thought about all the times I've walked here and never gone the extra few feet to investigate. The Punchbowl is an impressive piece of topography, in a funny kind of way, like the manger below Uffington Castle, although not quite as stunning.

The last time I was in the vicinity was to walk my friends lurcher, Lenny, who sadly passed away (old age) a few years ago, he'd definately of flushed any bunnys out and had a good time!

I took a few snaps (before I lossed all feeling in me paws) and wandered over across the ploughed piece towards the edge of the punchbowl. An object caught my eye on the ground, and I bent down to pick up a coin. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a half penny of George VI from 1949 in very good nick.

Happy that I'd found treasure (a stone with a hole in it is a valuable treasure to me - i'm easily pleased), I started back to the motor and it was good to finally get out of the wind.

PS When I got home, i looked on Google Earth and you can make out lots of marks on the ground near this site - could those be remains of the workings that J R L Anderson saw when he visited?

Little Coxwell Camp (Hillfort)

The rain broke in the afternoon, and having some free time, I decided to scout the hillfort.

Herein lies the problem with some sites, some of them are private property (cue Marxist rants) and being of the opinion that it is better to err on the side of caution, I donned the trusty combats and DPM jacket and proceeded with caution in the horseless carriage up the road to the site.

Following the OS map, I meandered through the wonderful villages of the vale, made a few wrong turns (ok, nobody's perfect), doubled back and eventually made landfall near the site. Parking in the access road for St. Mary (bless├ęd be her name) Lodge, I clambered out of the motor and grabbed the faithful digi (including spare battery) and eyed the landscape.

A hedge and a barbed wire fence pose little issue with a country lad, so I tramped in a straight line across from the motor and launched myself through the hedgerow and over the wire.

The field had many established trees in it (and a herd of cattle who thankfully were far away to my right - bulls and bullocks can be troublesome), and I could see the rise of the topography clearly ahead. A cracking view of Uffington and the White Horse is clearly visible from here. Was this place in opposition to the Atrebates? With the river Thames and its tributaries being the possible tribal boundary, it may be and it's obvious from this hillfort location, that you could keep an eye on Uffington.

Across another fence (with the music from mission impossible rattling around me skull) I came across a road and could see the tell tale embankments of a hill fort in front of me. Being conspiciously camoflaged, I looked left and right and with confirmation of the coast being clear, dashed across into cover.

The whole site is very overgrown with mature trees and established 'jungle'. This makes it very difficult to work out what it what and where is where. A little tree strewn valley led me up to the earthwork. It seemed small to me, until I realised that I was on the edge of the fort and not in it (init!). The bunnys had moved in and there was plenty of burrows to see.

I explored more and found a fence with open fields beyond. Was that it? Cos it seemed a tiny hillfort to me. I realised that the piece I'd been in was just part of the complex. Beyond the fence I could see the buildings of a large private house and more earthworks. Keen to explore without being exposed, I followed the fence line (crossing more barbed wire) and could then see the bigger picture. This hillfort runs the length of the contour and I'd just been at the beginning!

The ditches and banks are less defined than, say, Uffington, but if the field beyond is the interior of the fort, then it's a biggy. Being in full view of the house didn't seem like a good idea, so I grabbed some snaps (the bunny's didn't mind at all) and headed back whence I'd came to explore the other side.

A lovely tree lined avenue headed towards the house and looked tempting, but I avoided the temptation and went back to where I started. Whoops - a car came up the drive and I mingled nicely into the background. The site is adjacent to the road and every engine noise put me on edge.

I footed back over my original path and looked at the field below the site. Like all hillforts, you can see the problem with charging uphill and attacking - you'd be exhausted before you reached the fight!

I did spot a lovely earthwork circle in the field below. Didn't look like a barrow, but def a circular earthwork of some description. Maybe it was a hut circle? Feeling vulnerable in the middle of a field with no cover, I twitched as another car came up the drive - better safe than sorry I thought, and I guess my luck had run out, so I headed back to the car and over the hedge and barbed wire. Sat in the car, I couldn't help thinking that I might be a looney-tune, and that it was OK to go a stomping and that we have a right to see our heritage. But, I know how precious landowners are 'bout their little bit of land, and I know gamekeepers that carry shotguns (OK, so I'm a big rabbit) and was thankful that it's better to be 'invisible' if you can.

I guess it's a different mentality than wandering moors and fells, were nobody gives a toss what stones or lumps and bumps you're looking at, in the South it's more a case of 'Get orf MY land'... or else!

And was it on a Mary or Michael Ley Line?



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

A quick flyby in the motor today and the hill that is Goldbury still fascinates. I often drive on the A417 and sometimes there is a lovely optical illusion of cows 'flying' on the downs.

Yes, the farmer hates people actually getting on it (his cow shed is at the bottom) - so don't annoy him!

No, there is no/very little archaeology on it.

Yes, there's an Anglo-Saxon cemetery near to it

But maybe, it is something...

I always describe this hill(ock) to people as 'a perfect hill'. It's cute, it's round and attached to the ground! (cue football chant)

The name evidence seems attractive: 'Gold' and 'Bury', the bury bit seems straightforward - its a hill (not a barrow or an ancient fort). The Gold bit could be sun worship (i'm thinking temple like lowbury), but then these placenames do have a nasty habit of being corrupted and twisted over time. 'Cold' could be a contender (i'm thinking Mr Watkins) and therefore a folk memory of some ancient use.

It's damn close to the Icknield Way, and I mean 'an icknield way' not 'the Icknield Way'. A way is a way and not just a road. This is like the ridge 'way'. There were many tracks and paths and roads that would have been the Icknield Way, but modern agreement is that the A417 to the north is it. (What Wantogians like to call the Port 'Way'). Confused? Can't find your 'way'?

At SU447882(ish) is the turn down to the Holy Trinity Church and next to a Thatch cottage. Look at the kerbstones in this little dead end road. There are two sarsens opposite each other, still in the kerb. I reckon they're waymarkers for an Icknield Way. Through the church and crossing Ginge Brook are two more on the 'ickle' bridge. I'm quite open to the two on the bridge being reasonably modern and maybe 'faux' markers. But, those ones in the kerb... When the workmen originally surfaced that road and added kerbstones, why didn't they just move the two old pieces of stone and fit a new kerb? I'm guessing (again!) but if those workers were local (highly likely) and those stones had always been there, then the cheeky little buggers built the kerb around them.

If you scout around the area, you'll find more waymarkers of sarsen and I see plenty of 'em around the Vale.

And this is my point on the Icknield 'Way', there are many of them not just one. Look at the OS map for the area and you'll see many paths and tracks heading in a generally E-W direction and they are all the Icknield Way. There's one that you can see from East Lockinge that runs past Hagbourne Hill and turns into the Chilton Road before reaching Upton and then becomes 'Common Lane'. (for example).

Given the proximity to Ginge Brook (and the Treacle Mines! - ask a local) and the Icknield Way, I'd say Goldbury is something. What (sacred hill?), is still a mystery. Will someone please dig?

Perborough Castle (Hillfort)

Grey and rainy all morning, but the sunshine came through by the afternoon. I did visit Perborough many years ago, so I knew where to go and how to get there.

The site is comprised of a hillfort and a lot of lumps and bumps on one side. Approaching the site you pass a barn and a huge pile of shit (not a good omen). The banks on the flatter land to the right are very distinct, and very angular. They stretch across the whole field which has a few clumps of trees scattered in it.

Crossing one of these banks you head up a steep slope and up towards the actually hillfort itself. The wind was a blowin' and I was glad I'd had a large lunch to keep me attached to the ground. The entrance was open and the bank of the hillfort has fencing atop it (all the way around).

The soil here is extremely flinty and very red in colour. A few sarsens are dotted around (although if they are contemporary with the hillfort or just ones moved out of the field to the edge by the farmer is anyone's guess) and strangely some old broken asbestos sheets (def not contemporary).

The ditch and bank doesn't seem to extend all the way around. It is more defined on half the site. The other side doesn't have much of a ditch or bank at all, and it would be easier to just walk into it from that side. If that was how it was originally, then maybe it only defends from attack from one general direction.

Part of the interior has been ploughed - it looks like someone's been practising for a ploughing championship.

The interior of the hillfort is not really flat, it seems to rise at the middle and slope down to the edge sharply on one side. The size of the interior seems like Uffington to me, but it must be smaller. The views are certainly stunning, you are surrounded by the 'downs' in the truest sense, with lots of wooded hills and valleys.

Walking back around to the entrance, you can really see the ditches below you in the field and there's lots of 'em.

Walking back to the motor with the wind blowing, I was glad I'd come here. It's less busy than Uffington (OK much less impressive), but it's nice to visit a hillfort and be on your own - you kinda get the place to yerself.

Very little seems to be written/known about the place and it wasn't included in the 'Hillforts of the Ridgeway' project by Oxford Uni in the 1990's. An enigma, but a pleasant one.

Alfred's Castle (Hillfort)

Before work, I managed to sneak in a quick stroll up to the site this morning. The mist was burning off and no other soul was about so I had the place to myself (excluding a few ponies).

The site is classified as a hillfort (gentle-rise-fort doesn't exist yet!) and was investigated as part of the hillforts of the ridgeway project in the late 1990's.

At the start of the track leading up to the site is a large pile of field cleared sarsens and the track has the remains of a low sarsen wall running parallel to it. The views of Ashdown house are stunning.

The site itself still has lots of sarsens scattered about (remains of a wall no doubt) and you can still make out the 'bump' in the middle of the fort, where the Romano-British farmhouse once stood. Erosion protection is still in place on parts of the banks (much as the last time I visited a few years ago).

The view to the ridge opposite, shows three bumps of round barrows on the skyline. There is also a ploughed out barrow site on the other side of the woods. I spent a few minutes enjoying the silence and then plodded back to the car and unfortunately, back to work.

If ever you visit for the day, a tour of Ashdown house (stunning views from the top) plus visiting this site (and the sarsen field in front of Ashdown house) and maybe a picnic, would, in my humble view, be a nice day out. It's close enough to Waylands and WHH aswell.

Lambourn Long Barrow

This long barrow is adjacent to the LB7 bronze age group. The hill adjacent is called 'Crog Hill' (Meaning 'hill of the dead'). What was once a mighty stone age tomb, is now no more than a bump in the ground.

I often come to this site, but this visit saddens me. It appears the local landowner has driven a fence right across the middle of it and removed the smaller sarsen stones from the site and piled them up. Two large pieces of sarsen still remain in situ (I guess they weren't strong enough to move them too).

Isn't this damaging a listed ancient monument site?

Angry of Wantage...

Sparsholt Down (edge of) (Round Barrow(s))

Adjacent to the road that passes close by and in a clump of beech trees, is a worn out barrow. A circular ditch can still be made out that surrounds the central (and much denuded) burial mound. I suspect that it is bronze age (its close to the lambourn seven barrows group and opposite a tumulus on the other side of the road).

The fence that now runs down the side of the road was added a few years ago. The other clumps of beech trees that occur along the road may also be barrows, but it is difficult to be sure. This one has a definate circular ditch around it.

Kingston Lisle Tumulus (Round Barrow(s))

Just visited yesterday. It is located at the extreme north end of the village (opposite the modern cemetary), in a break of trees, marked on the Explorer 170 map as 'TUMULUS' (in capitals - which Rhiannon advises me - means it's Roman)

... and it's in someones back garden with an unfriendly dog.

Hagbourne Hill (Round Barrow(s))

This barrow sits on the south side of Hagbourne Hill, sort of on its own crest. It has been planted with some trees and seems to have avoided the plough. It is very 'flattened' now. From the Ridgeway (at bury down car park near West Ilsley) if you know where to look (or have a good pair of binoculars) it can be seen.

Round Hill Mound (Artificial Mound)

Round Hill Mound

Marked on the explorer 170 map as 'mound'. The site is to be found on a track leaving the east of Wantage. The site is much worn down and appears to have been used as BMX track for some time!

(added 14/02/2007). Musings on what it is: If marked as mound and not tumuli, then I suspect (and only that!) that it may be a moot point similar to scutchamer, except on a smaller scale, and NOT a burial site. Please bear in mind that I've been wrong before (I said Didcot FC would win the championship one day..... :-)

Scutchamer Knob (Artificial Mound)

Just visited the 'Knob' this spring (2005) and have seen new changes. There is now a fence around the base of the knob and there has been some clearing of the scrub and trees on top. Guess I kind of liked it better before!

Fox Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

(26th September 2002)

This round barrow sits on the side of the hill here and has a track running past it which heads up to East Ilsley. It is well worn down, but still is a large clump of earth. It sits right on the modern county boundary which then appears to follow the line of Grims Ditch in some places. From this vantage point the other barrows in the Churn Knob area are clearly visible.

Why it is called fox barrow and is named, (as opposed to some of the others in the immediate area) I do not know. It was clearly a well known barrow as it was used for a county (and probably parish) boundary. This is quite common in the area.

You can just see Wittenham Clumps from the site as well.

Bledlow Cross and Wain Hill (Hill Figure)

(28th May 2003)
There is no obvious path up to the cross that I could find, so after tangling with the undergrowth and struggling up the steep slope, I came across it in a small open area. It is slightly overgrown and hasn't been cleaned (scoured?) for a while I guess.

It sits on a slope, slightly facing downhill and the ends of the cross are not a perfect square, rather they appear to 'flange' at the ends.

The view from the site seems to be over towards Henton rather than Bledlow, but the naming could be to do with the importance of the settlement of Bledlow over Henton, or simply because Bledlow is nearer. With the trees cleared, a view across to Bledlow would be plausible.

As to its prehistoric antiquity, it seems possible that it is prehistoric in date, given the position close to the Ridgeway path and the location of some round barrows close by. A Carbon dating of the sub soil (similar to that performed on the White Horse at Uffington) would be conclusive.

Expect to sweat to get here! Only for the fit and healthy!

Rams Hill (Enclosure)

Rams Hill lies adjacent to the Ridgeway between blowingstone hill and white horse hill. It is very easily missed as all that remains is a prominent, but gently sloped hill.

If you look carefully, you can just (and I mean just!) make out the much eroded remains of a single bank and ditch just below the crown of the hill. The hill itself is small but sufficient to stand out in the surrounding topography.

On the OS map, Rams Hill is marked as a 'fort'. This is slightly misleading. It is not a hillfort of the Iron age, but a neolithic structure known as a 'causewayed camp'.

Its original use seems to have been as a meeting place for trading and possibly ceremonial purpose. Its position relative to the White Horse and Uffington castle should be noted. Also, on foot it is not far from Lambourn Seven Barrows.

Dragon Hill (Artificial Mound)

Natural or man made?

A question that has been bothering me for quite some time (and indeed every time I visit) is:

Is dragon hill a natural formation, or is it man made?

I have found some archaeological references to it and all indications are that the geology is natural. I agree, except to add that the top may be artificially flattened. I believe it is 'man-enhanced', that is to say, that it is a naturally occuring piece of geography and that prehistoric man may have added to it to perfect the shape.

Also, note the similarity of it to Silbury Hill. It is like a 'mini-Silbury' to me.

Pigtrough Bottom (top of) (Round Barrow(s))

A much denuded round barrow is sited just of the Ridgeway path here. It is just next to a small break of trees where the Ridgeway crosses the B4001. It is positioned with a wonderful view over the Vale of the White Horse looking down on Childrey village.

If you approach the area on the Icknield Way (B4057) from Wantage you get a wonderful view of Pigtrough bottom (it looks like a giant pigtrough from a distance, hence its name). Best viewed on the junction of this road and 'Silver lane' - just before you reach the dip next to Childrey.

Scutchamer Knob (Artificial Mound)

Just a quickie, I visit this place often and it is in a break of trees on the Ridgeway path. It is much worn down and used by trials bikes and mountain bikes for practice (shame!). There is a fair amount of rubbish at this site from campers who don't pick up the litter (shame again!).

The original shape has long gone and as the centre has collapsed, it resembles more of a dougnut with a hole in one side, than a conical mound (which it once was). All traces of the ditch which once must of surrounded it are also gone. It is still quite a height (20 feet or so tall) and offers a good view out on one side. Try to imagine the original construct and the fact that the trees would not have been there. It sits atop the crest of a hill and would have offered an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

It is a very large mound, and although it resembles a large barrow (or a mini silbury hill depending on your presuasion), I have found no evdience to support its prehistoric antiquity. All references to Scutchamer Knob are in the early Anglo-Saxon period (400-600 AD).

A pleasant and historically important site (see the folklore), but also a very busy one as the Ridgeway is well used (especially at weekends) and adjacent to the site.

Cherbury Camp (Hillfort)

I visited this site in earlier this summer...

Cherbury is a iron age fort that is situated (geographically) on reasonably level ground. Compared with others in the area (Uffington, Segsbury et al), it is not a hillfort. Its position might be thought strange (in the middle of level ground and therefore easy to attack), but I suspect its siting is in opposition to the Atrebates hillforts up on the ridgeway and as such offers good views (on a clear day) to Uffington and the Berkshire downs.

Cherbury has a triple ditch and bank surrounding it and is oval in shape, covering an area of about 9 acres. In a 'Guide to Prehistoric England' by 'Nicholas Thomas' (batsford 1976) it is described as being probably built in the 5th-4th century BC and being abandoned in the 1st century BC.

Defending Cherbury from attackers may at first look difficult, but it is hard to imagine what an impressive triple bank and ditch plus high wooden fence might have looked like. The triple ditches are still visible and can be made out. The final rampart still has some remains of stone in it (just under the turf) and so some low stone wall must have been present to add to the defence. Surrounding Cherbury is a number of small streams. The land around the camp is very marshy with a clay subsoil and I suspect this might have been put to the defenders advantage in the siting of the fort. If surrounded by marshy ground, then charging the fort by would have been extremely difficult, wetheer on foot or horse back. Being bogged down in front of the camp would have made you a very easy target for missle fire from the defenders. Look out for the marsh grass if you visit, you'll see what I mean.

The size of the site is impressive, and although rarely visited, is definately worth a visit - if for no other reason, than to see a triple ditch and bank defending it. If you are in the area visiting Uffington or Segsbury, then I recommend a detour to Cherbury.

Lambourn Sevenbarrows (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

The L7B site is a major site in the area, in my opinion as great as White Horse Hill or Waylands Smithy for archaeological interest. Although not seven in number (more like 30 plus!) it is a major bronze age barrow cemetry, akin to normanton et al.

I recommend that visitors to the site should also look at some other areas of interest nearby:

1) the remains of a neolithic long barrow (as marked on the OS map 'Explorer 170 - Abingdon, Wantage and the Vale of White Horse') just on the edge of a small copse NW of the main site. Some sarsen stones remain (please, please leave them there for others!) and the 'hump' of the remains of a long barrow can still be seen. This continuity of a sacred burial site (neolithic through to bronze age - covering a good 1000 years or more) is simply amazing. The hill marked on the OS map adjacent to the long barrow site is still called 'crog hill'. This is an iron age (celtic) word which means 'hill, mound or tumulus' (Crug). Indicating that with the arrival of the iron age, the celtic peoples recognised the place as a place of the dead and this placename has survived right through to the modern day. Again, simply amazing!

2) A nearby approach road to the area (B4001) as it crosses over the ridgeway and past Sparsholt firs (the big radio tower). Has a very well preserved barrow adjacent to it (marked on the OS map). It is just inside the trees there, and its edge would have crossed the tarmac'd road. Although the main hump of the barrow is well worn, you can still see the circular bank and ditch around its circumference. The area has been recently fenced off by the local landowner (September 2003). From this view point, you can look down into the L7B area. Carrying further along the straight tarmac'd road here are a few other breaks of beech trees. Some appear to contain possible barrow sites - make your own mind up if you visit.

3) Between postdown house and sevn barrows house on the other side of the road from the main site, are more barrows worth exploring. Also further past the site on the road between 'scary hill' and 'sparsholt down' are even more barrows. Study the OS map and take a look.

All in all L7B has many sides to explore in terms of neolithic, bronze and iron age interest. Take time to visit the centre of the site, but also explore the environs, they are interesting too!
Live near the Ridgeway and most interested in sites 'up the rudge'.

Hates: people leaving rubbish at Wayland Smithy (groan, gripe, rant, rage, dribble etc!)

Loves: people taking their rubbish away with them in bags. And yes, that includes nitelites, coins (at least make them silver!), glass, sweet wrappers and dog ends.

Q. what's brown and sticky?
A. try collecting firewood at Waylands.
THINK. would you shit in a church?

... ... ... here endeth the rant

} cUrReNt NoNsEnSe {

Doesn't pagan to a roman just mean some old person who lives in the sticks?

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?"

"God dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor not a Dealer"

"We have sat waiting like this many times before. Sometimes I tire... of the fighting and killing. At night, I can hear the call of my race. They wait for me. When I join them, we will be forgotten."

"We're dealing with a Gnome! A Devil!... A Devil? Now you listen to me. The Devil in the Keep wears a black uniform, has a Death's Head in his cap, and calls himself a Sturmbannf├╝hrer!"

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