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Menorca: Sant Agusti - 3 talaiots & a (bogus) taula

3 June 2005 - This is essentially a 'diversion' from">Jane's weblog of the same date.

On our last full day in Menorca, after visiting El Toro, we decided that as Jane and the kids wanted to spend the scorching day at their favourite beach, Binidali, I'd drop them off and head away to see some stuff on my own. The promise of 2 talaiots, one of which you can (unusually) get inside wasn't attraction enough, especially when Jane found out there was walking involved….

The journey
I headed west along the road from Mao to Ciutadella, and took the main left turn towards Sant Tomas. I passed through Es Migjorn Gran and about halfway from there to the little roundabout entering Sant Tomas, there is a dirt verge-cum-layby on the right. I know it's roughly halfway because I went right past to make sure it was the right place!

This parking place is effectively on a triangular 'island' between 2 arms (the second of which was pretty difficult to spot in the vegetation) of a farm lane leading to Sant Agusti Vell.

Setting off on foot up the farm drive ('no vehicles' sign), I immediately noticed what looked like an overgrown talaiot to the right, on a fairly steep hill. I figured it was probably way too soon for the 'main' Sant Agusti stuff, but had to have a stomp up to have a look. Apart from anything else, I didn't trust the tourist map I had….

A bonus talaiot

Bonus hilltop talaiot

The talaiot was a little 'knocked about' but I got some great views from its top, boosted by its hilltop location. Also got badly scratched legs from the viciously sharp dry vegetation and incredibly sweaty! Views were especially good of some caves across a valley to the west(ish).

Caves from top of talaiot

Roughly to the south/SSW I could see a couple of very clear talaiots on the horizon a km or 2 away. Target located! (There was yet another really trashed talaiot to the north too!)

Back on track
I descended to the farm track – scratch, scratch…ooyah, owwww! – and continued along the blessedly smooth track, but by the time I reached the farm buildings I hadn't spotted an definite path to get to where the site appeared to be.

Just as I reached the first byre, there was a farmgate on the right, with a nice herd of cattle in close attendance. This turned out to be the way I wanted to go, but I played safe and walked up to the farmhouse, to ask. Looking beyond the house, over the garden, I could see the talaiots still around a km away.

Gate by first farm buildings

Seemed to be nobody about, but through a little yard I could see a woman in the house, so dripping with sweat and dishevelled, I knocked at the kitchen door. Exclusively using the words 'por favor' (a lot) 'talaiots' & finger-walking signs (much as I had at">Torre Llisa Vell!) I was rewarded. The woman couldn't speak English but was very friendly & pointed me the way I expected – back to the cattlegate and round the west side of the farm buildings, following a grassy track. The talaiots were clearly visible.

Sant Agusti talaiots (top of pic) from farm path

After about 10-15 minutes, the talaiots were very close, but somewhat obscured by shrubby bushes between them and the path. Here I got a sign that the site's definitely supposed to be accessible to the public, as it has the familiar 'official' Menorca monument litterbin. Approaching the talaiots, I even spotted an info board!

Sant Agusti at last
Poblat and taula(s)
Two talaiots in pretty good condition stand in a poblat which is quite scattered and large, but close to them is largely a rolling sea of rubble with remnants of walls poking out. Between the talaiots I could see an oval enclosure with several fairly tall uprights – I took this to be the remnants of a taula-less taula sanctuary.

Poblat from eastern talaiot (western talaiot left of centre behind trees, possible taula sanctuary right of centre by trees)

I've since discovered comments on the rather 'quaint' (frames!) but useful">'The Archaeology of Minorca' website, that this makes sense, and apparently another enclosure is taken to be a second taula(less) sanctuary.

Possible taula sanctuary

I picked my wobbling way around the edge of the rubble sea to the south of the talaiots, by a (probably) more modern wall, spotting a series of cisterns as I went.

Most obvious cistern

But then, peeping over the wall…the unmistakeable 'T' of a complete Taula!!!! How could this not be mentioned in the info we had? I resisted the temptation of elation and having seen several other taulas during the week, I adopted a cynical view – it didn't seem to be in the 'right' place in relation to the other remains & the taula itself didn't quite look right.

It looks like a taula…

Getting a foothold in the wall where it passes closest to the 'T' of the 'taula', I peered over. The taula seemed suspiciously close to one 'corner' of the only very vaguely oval enclosure. The enclosure seemed unusually 'open', not particularly oval and rather 'plain' for a taula sanctuary. Not sure it's the 'real deal'.

As mentioned above, however, there is meant to be another taula sanctuary here, without a 'T'. I suppose this could be it, but with a 'modern' T....

Also in its 'favour', the 'T' at">Na Comerma) is very much in a 'corner' of its enclosure yet seems to be accepted as 'real'. The enclosure at Na Comerma is so full of rubble that it's difficult to tell what's going on, but it still manages to feel more like other taula sanctuaries than this one does.

And the final thing that makes me think I may be wrong to doubt its authenticity is that according to a taula 'reconstruction' diagram I've seen, (at least some) taula sanctuaries may have had many smaller 'T's on pillars round the edges of the sanctuary. And there is possible evidence of that here.

…I'm not sure!

Have a look & decide for yourself!

The talaiots
The talaiots both seemed relatively small compared with, say, Trepuco or Talati de Dalt (see">another of Jane's weblogs).

And to be honest, after a week in Menorca, the one to the west was 'just another quite nice talaiot', once I'd established that it wasn't the one that you can get inside. (It does have what look like a couple of small blocked entrances though.)

Western talaiot

But the other is a mindblast! This was the eastern one - nearest the path I described arriving by. From the outside it's the same, but….

Eastern talaiot entrance

Once you find the actual entrance…(round the 'side', facing the 'bogus' taula)…and look in - WOW!!! Suddenly vague thoughts of the vaulting of Orcadian tombs like the">Fairy Knowe come stealing in…. (Though without the ultra-classy Orcadian flag stonework and it wasn't built as a tomb!)

Looking into eastern talaiot – rucksack for scale.

Assuming that talaiots were indeed lookout towers, presumably the inside was used as a shelter for the lookouts or was where they lived. I've read that most or many talaiots had an entrance and/or 'room' either at the bottom or near the top, but I don't think I've read anything that said anything about the use of the inside.

Inside eastern talaiot

Well worth the walk!!! Having cooled off in the shade of the chamber, I headed back to the car and off to Torre d'en Gaumes where I asked the friendly lass at the gate for directions to Ses Roques Lisses, a Neolithic burial chamber, and Na Comerma, another taula sanctuary very close by. (See ">Jane's weblog.)

I got my directions, but after about 2 hours stomping around in the heat, I still hadn't found either! I returned to Gaumes and the lass was kind enough to say that if we came back around 8pm when she finished work, she'd take us to both!!! And well worth all the effort it was too!!!


(A bit) Lost in France

Walking in the rain
While Jane and I were in Brittany recently (">see her weblogs), at Erdeven, I went off walking while she painted from the car due to heavy rain. So I thought I'd better contribute the monuments I saw then to the 'tale'.

After wandering around the">Kerzerho Alignments I went off to see Les Geants. I would then carry on through the woods to see the Kerjean Alignments, the Mane Braz dolmens, and anything else I had time for and could find. The first setback was that I set off in completely the wrong direction! I walked down to the 'bottom' of the main alignments but it soon came apparent there was no path to continue on. I backtracked.

Les Geants de Kerzerho
The (signposted) path to Les Geants de Kerzerho actually sets off from very near the car park, on the left as you walk along the main rows from the car park. As I found once I was back in the dry, Julian does say in">The Megalithic European (TME) that they're to the north of the alignments…. I was already soaked. Whoopee!

So, a little way down the path, there they were. And very wonderful they are too. Must have been absolutely magnificent once, as they're still fantastically impressive in their ruin. What it must've been to see them and the other small patches of alignments still evident in the woods when they were all continuous! More of that later.

Bit battered, but huge

It was here I discovered the second setback. We'd forgotten to recharge the batteries on the digital SLR. Luckily I also had Jane's 'point & shoot', so it could've been worse. And it could've been raining. (Drip, drip.)

One of the largest Geants

As they're now quite isolated a short distance from the remaining main part of the Kerzerho alignments, it's kind of difficult to get a 'handle' on just why these extra large stones are bunched together like this. Possibly if the intervening stones were still there or if there wasn't vegetation inbetween, it'd make more sense.

Unfortunately, I missed the holed stone Julian mentions, as I was unwilling to get TME out of my rucksack in the heavy rain.

Kerjean Alignments
Following the signs through the woods towards Mane Braz dolmens (I was to find that the web of paths throughout the woods are pretty well signposted) it was only 5 or 10 minutes before I could see the Kerjean Alignments peeking through the trees to the right of the path. Might be more difficult to spot with growth on the trees in the summer, but shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Difficult to photograph Kerjean effectively

There are a fair number of stones left here, mostly smaller than the remaining Kerzerho alignments and far smaller than Les Geants. But still well worth seeing in their disarray, and helping to get a feel of what this area must've been like when the alignments stretched for kilometres through the now wooded area.

Just around one of the next corners, there are a few stones visible to the left of the path in the woods (probably quite a few if you're up to having a thrash about in the undergrowth). For the whole walk, it's well worth scanning the woods on both sides, as there are many small 'patches' of remnants from the originally wide-ranging alignments hereabouts.

Mane Braz dolmens
All along, I was very grateful that the paths were signposted, as it was so wet that I don't think the rain would have done a map or a book any good at all. And truth be told, the only maps I had would probably have proved sadly inadequate. Plus, trying to give directions would have made this weblog even more tortuous!

From Kerjean, the walk to Mane Braz was probably around 15-20 minutes, though it has to be said that the rain lent me speed! Just before I reached Mane Braz, the path started to climb a bit, and the land began to rise above me on my left.

Probably at around this point, Julian seems to describe the dolmens as being visible from the path, but I wasn't in the mood for stopping and studying the lie of the land any more than necessary, trusting completely to the signs. (I think there's probably also a shortcut at some point here but I didn't think it was worth trying, especially with limited time and the sopping undergrowth.)

Transepted grave in foreground

Eventually, a signpost sent me to the left, a little way up onto a mound at the edge of a smallish, more open area of land with a more 'heathlike' feel – reminding me of">St Just where we had been a few days before. And there were the dolmens.

'Simple' passage grave

Really beautiful on a thinly tree-grown, glade-like mound, there are 4 monuments here. The first 2 that I approached were a classic Brittany passage grave with transepts, and a 'simpler' passage grave. There is also a heavily denuded semi-subterranean one and, finally, the stripped remnants of another (that can hardly even be termed megalithic in its current state!)

Semi-subterranean passage grave

If only the sun had been out, what a place for a relaxing picnic, a chill and a chat!!! And the walk would be lovely in the sun! I've since learnt that there seems to be another very ruined dolmen to the SW of the mound, and a fallen menhir to the south. Ah well, next time. In the meantime, here's another photo of what I did see!

Stripped remnants

I spent 15-20 minutes at the dolmens and it wasn't nearly long enough. It didn't help that a fair bit of it was spent crouching in the chamber of the largest dolmen, juggling batteries, as those in the 'point & shoot' were now also practically dead. (Having not been fresh to begin with.)

So, all too soon, I set off to retrace my steps back to Erdeven where Jane was waiting.

Coet er Bei and La Chaise de Cesar
As I rejoined the main path, I remembered seeing signs to another dolmen, much earlier on the walk. I couldn't remember the name, but I noticed that there were signs to what I thought (possibly wrongly, in retrospect) was the same one, from here – Mane Groh.

It seemed to me that if I continued on the path, it would probably bend round on its way to 'the mystery dolmen', Mane Groh, and either allow me to see the dolmen on my way back, or just save me walking back the way I'd come.

I set off following the signs I'd spotted, onward towards Mane Groh dolmen. It soon became apparent that it didn't bend back round, but I'd come far enough that it was worth keeping going in the hope of a cross-path.

After around 15 minutes I suddenly saw a sign to my left for a 'new' monument. I'd completely forgotten about La Chaise de Cesar and Coet er Bei, but here they were! And even better, I could just see the stones through the trees.

Coet er Bei rows

La Chaise de Cesar is very impressive, and actually doesn't stand out quite as I expected, from a distance, anyway, as there are a few other stones around the same size here. It's impressive though, and its shape is indeed, very chairlike.

Interestingly, in TME Julian calls the La Chaise a "gorsedd". This seems strange to me, as a gorsedd in the sense he usually uses it is a natural rock formation (or so I always thought) whereas this is clearly an artificially erected stone.

The stones here are very scattered but impressive, and many are difficult to 'see' as rows. It's indisputable, but very difficult to imagine that they were once part of same alignments as Kerzerho, Kerjean and the various other groups I'd walked past. Especially as I'd walked, so knew just how far they once stretched!

Chaise et pouffe de Cesar(?!)

Then, as I wandered among the scattered stones, I began to get a strange feeling of deja-vu. Suddenly it dawned that I had indeed been here before – on a previous trip years ago, looking for a dolmen that I never found that time. But I had seen it only that morning. What was it called??? Ah. It was Mane Groh…! Curse my lousy memory – I'd been following signs to a monument I'd left only a few hours before!

More alignments at Coet er Bei

This meant that I was right back over by">Crucuno which in turn meant that I could call Jane on my mobile and get her to pick me up!!!

So, all was well that ended more than well. As well as seeing the stuff I really wanted to, I'd seen La Chaise de Cesar and Coet er Bei, discovered that I'd already seen them, which also enabled me to put a name to a monument I'd previously not had a name for, and I'd got a lift instead of having to walk back to Erdeven!

I'd heartily recommend spending a whole day here wandering these paths – there are more dolmens within walking distance than I had time for. Start at Mane Groh or Erdeven and just do it. Don't forget to tell us all about it though!

Oh, here's a nearly gratuitous picture of Mane Groh to end with. Hope you like it.

Mane Groh


Moth flies south - part 3

On the Thursday I'd been hoping to meet up with HH & TMAer Nat (and maybe flog her some more megalithic photies). Unfortunately her boss had other plans, so it was just me and John again.

This was about the only day when we weren't blessed with bright sunshine, but it was dry and fairly warm, so that wasn't a problem at all. In fact, John found the slightly cooler weather a bit of a relief.

To the Land of the Giant Thursday 18 September 2003
After a quick detour to Yeovil for John to meet up with an old mate of his (and - incredibly subtly - see if he had any work going), we headed for Cerne Abbas and the Giant.

The detour had put us a little late (not a complaint Mr John) so I stepped on it a bit, esp on the road heading east from Holywell (hmmm?) on the A37 to join the A352. John' s knuckles looked a little white at times, but soon we were safely in the car park looking up at Giant Hill and scoffing lunch.

Cerne Abbas Giant — Images

<b>Cerne Abbas Giant</b>Posted by Moth

Cerne Abbas Giant — Fieldnotes

Access hmmm, didn't actually go up to 'the man', but I guess this might still be useful to someone.... Tarmac car park is signposted from the A352, on the left heading south. This is the best observation point for seeing the Giant on his hillside, which is of course the only way to really see the figure properly (other than from an aircraft!).

Thursday 18 September 2003
I'd been looking forward to seeing ye-probably-not-quite-so-old-as-perhaps-was-thought-but-who-cares Giant for quite a while. Pretty damn impressive the old boy and his Belisha beacon are too!

Although I still find the evidence not completely conclusive, I'm quite happy with the notion that it's a later figure on a long-significant hillside. And even if the theory that it's supposed to represent Ollie Cromwell is right, it's still a cool sight/site.

Although not quite steep enough for perfect observation from below, Giant Hill gives a pretty good view from the car park. We didn't bother climbing the hill, as we were on a pretty tight schedule and wanted to see quite a few sites on our only day in the 'far' south.

Trunk Road Stone Circle
Our next stop was the Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas - another much anticipated site for me.

For some reason despite being passionately in love with stomping around the countryside miles from anywhere, I'm often perversely fascinated by sites that are 'urbanised' in some way. I think it all started at Leys of Marlee....
<b>The Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas</b>Posted by Moth

The Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas — Fieldnotes

Access difficult. We parked at the Little Chef, as suggested by Julian in the big papery TMA. What he fails to mention is that it's a fair distance (mebbe 300-400 yards) along the very narrow verge of the pretty busy A35. So add my voice to the others saying 'park at the layby'!!!

The very small layby is on the opposite (north) side of the road to the circle but much closer. To actually get to the circle, you have to cross the road and a roadside ditch by a short but rather narrow concrete 'walkway'. Once into the trees surrounding the stones, the ground is fairly uneven.

Thursday 18 September 2003
It might be me, or it might have just been the day I was there, or maybe I was uncharacteristically fazed by the running of the A35 'gauntlet', but I can't agree that this circle had any peace to it!!!! At all.

Which is a shame, because it's a cool little circle of wildly differing stones, the largest of which is a great example of the weird 'gravel-and-flints-welded-together' stone that appears in some of the other 'monuments' in the area. (That's the geological name for it, honest.)

I think I'd be saying that the trees ruin it anyway actually. Don't get me wrong though, I liked it and it's still certainly WELL worth a visit.

Heaven and Hellstone
Having had our fill of the Nine stones, we walked the perilous walk back to the Little Chef. Resisting the culinary temptations and the urge to yell "WTF are you looking at" at the clientelle gawking out at us, we set off to the Hellstone dolmen.

We didn't stop at the Valley of Stones as we had a busy 'itinerary' (nothing so grand really!) and the weather looked distinctly changeable. Another time maybe.

The Hellstone — Images

<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by Moth

The Hellstone — Fieldnotes

Access a bit of a walk, maybe half a mile, with a few stiles. We parked in a layby on Portisham Hill, next to the farm at SY601879. Phil's map and description would have been very helpful, as we only had a Landranger map and would've been helped greatly by knowing where the site is in relation to field boundaries.

Dunno how everybody else seemed to find it so easily!!!

Other than using Phil's map or an Explorer/Pathfider map, the easiest way to find the dolmen is simply to follow the path leading east from the layby.

Although strictly speaking, the Hellstone is in the third field on the right, after passing into the second field, start watching the (near) horizon on the right and you'll see the dolmen and it's companion tree.

There is a stile (though on our visit no signpost) and you can reach the Hellstone by crossing or skirting the field towards it. The way is up a fairly gentle hill at this point and obvious once you spot the stones. Annoyingly we didn't do this and missed it, reaching it by a far more haphazard route!

Thursday 18 September 2003
In a pretty good spot at the crest of the hill, this is a nice dolmen, if slightly unusual (due to the reconstruction perhaps?) and the extent of the original mound is much more evident than at many similar sites.

Interestingly, to me anyway, the actual stones of the dolmen themselves seemed to be on quite a raised platform. More so than most dolmens I've visited I think. Although I guess this could also be a legacy of the reconstruction.

'Duck pond'? That's a bit grand. I'd read 'big muddy puddle'. And the ducks were right back way down the hill as if giving it a wide berth.

Hmmmm(pton Down)
Crossing the road on our return from The Hellstone we headed towards Hampton Down stone circle. Burl's description sounded interesting but confused, confusing and not altogether encouraging. So we went not expecting a great deal.

This is often a good thing, as it avoids disappointment!!! So it proved in this case....

Hampton Down — Images

<b>Hampton Down</b>Posted by Moth<b>Hampton Down</b>Posted by Moth

Hampton Down — Fieldnotes

Access Walk of around half a mile. Leaving the car in the layby next to the farm at SY601879 on Portisham Hill (same as for The Hellstone) we crossed the road and entered the farm gate on the west side of the road. We followed the track through the farm past docile cattle.

I'm pretty sure that at the far end of the farm itself there may have been a stile, but I think when we visited the gate was unlocked anyway. Up a fairly gentle hill, the stones are in a little fenced off area at the top of the hill, to the left of the path where it crosses a(nother) stile.

Thursday 18 September 2003
As mentioned by Burl and other people on this website, it has been considerably 'messed-about-with'. It's quite pretty despite that and the views must be great (though it was too misty when we were there).

Definitely worth a look for so little trouble, especially if visiting other sites in the area, especially the Hellstone.

They shoot horses, don't they?
Back at the car, we made the short drive to park for the Grey Mare and her Colts. I must admit there's often an extra tingle of expectation when I'm visiting a site covered in the big papery TMA.

Julian's descriptions are usually so involving and personal that they pique my interest. The Grey Mare was no exception, and because he's had to be pretty selective, most of the sites in the book are pretty damn special.

But for once, neither Julian nor the site quite 'did it' for me.

The Grey Mare & Her Colts — Images

<b>The Grey Mare & Her Colts</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Grey Mare & Her Colts</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Grey Mare & Her Colts</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Grey Mare & Her Colts</b>Posted by Moth

The Grey Mare & Her Colts — Fieldnotes

Access getting on for a mile walking I guess. Fairly flat and good going along a bridlepath. Could get fairly muddy. OS map helpful.

We parked at a junction between lane, farm track and bridlepath at SY499868. Dickie gives good directions here.

Thursday 18 September 2003
Hmmm, must admit to being a little bit underwhelmed with this one. I felt it was very reminiscent of a trashed Waylands Smithy.

This may have been because the although by no means bad, the weather wasn't conducive to sitting and chilling and it was a bit too hazy for good views of the surroundings.

Had a good go at trying to see or hear (trying to cause echoes by shouting and tapping) whether any chamber was vaguely intact under the collapsed capstone. It seemed unlikely.

Another 'well worth seeing', but for me, it turned out to be an 'incidental' on the way to Kingston Russell Stone Circle a bit further along the path.

What do you call a royal megalith in a paper bag?Kingston Russell!!!!!!
"Shall we go have a squint at this one a bit further up the track?" I asked John, pointing at the map. We were both a bit doubtful, but it was on the same track as the Grey Mare and her Colts so it seemed silly not to bother, and would've gone right against my grain.

Right decision!

Have since read on this website, that the hut circle nearby at SY578881 is well worth a look too. Curses!!

Kingston Russell — Images

<b>Kingston Russell</b>Posted by Moth<b>Kingston Russell</b>Posted by Moth<b>Kingston Russell</b>Posted by Moth<b>Kingston Russell</b>Posted by Moth<b>Kingston Russell</b>Posted by Moth<b>Kingston Russell</b>Posted by Moth

Kingston Russell — Fieldnotes

Access getting on for a couple of miles walking I guess. Visit Grey Mare and her Colts on the way. Fairly flat and good going along a bridlepath. Could get fairly muddy. OS map helpful.

We parked at a junction between lane, farm track and bridlepath at SY499868. Dickie gives good directions here. (The barrow he refers to is of course, the Grey Mare and her Colts.)

Thursday 18 September 2003
We weren't expecting much. After all, it's not even in Burl...!

WRONG!!!!! Having since read the reports on this website, I know we're not alone, but we thought this is an unsung marvel. I'd not researched it, just spotted it on the Landranger earlier in the day while doing a bit of 'on the hoof' planning....

So OK, all the stones are down, but they're BIG, there're loads of them and they form (get this) a BIG CIRCLE!!!! Looked like the views would be superb on a clear day too!!!!

Where we got lucky was that the field was well stocked with (stop reading Ocifant!) stubborn but placid, big but hungry cows. And the reason this was lucky is that they had obviously been grazing here for quite a while and the circle was not overgrown AT ALL, making viewing it much easier!

After stomping around the circle taking photos, our bovine friends finally took the hint and left the circle, meaning I had the opportunity to take the same photos without the friesian ornamentation. Which, of course, I had to do.

For the record (in the absence of Burl providing statistics) and as a shock for anyone who knows me, we paced out the diameter of the circle and made it around 26-28 yards across. I also uncharacteristically counted the stones and made it 18 OR 19 - diplomatic huh? (See other fieldnotes below.)

We did however wonder if some of these stones were broken parts, and reckoned that the original circle may have 'only' been 16 stones. As the vast majority, if not all, seem to have been around 5 feet or more high, this wouldn't have taken away from what would have been a pretty spectacular circle!

Another one that I'd love to see re-erected!!!! I'm soooo glad we didn't miss it!!!!

'Half-mile' stone circle
Having seen everything we'd planned, we headed back via Winterbourne Abbas for some 'on spec' sites that looked close to the road to maximise what time we had left.

So next was the Broad Stone (we thought)....

The Broad Stone — Images

<b>The Broad Stone</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Broad Stone</b>Posted by Moth

The Broad Stone — Fieldnotes

Access pretty easy to see if you park in the layby on the left of the A35 travelling west, at approx SY598904. The stone we saw is over the hedge just a few yards further west from the layby. Just need to walk a few yards on the reasonably even grassy verge. The 'Broad Stone' itself is right by the roadside, in the verge....

Thursday 18 September 2003
So is this the remains of the circle that, according to Julian and Burl, John Aubrey mentioned as 3 stones, half a mile west of the Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas? It's in about the right place.

There's only one small stone visible in the field, but the grass was in just the right state that we could clearly see a number of slight tussocks forming what looked distinctly like a circle extending towards the road. The circle looked to be around the same size as the Nine Stones just up the road....

Unfortunately, the dense and vicious looking hedgerow and lack of time meant that we couldn't enter the field to investigate further.

So anyway, I probably shouldn't mention that we totally missed the Broad Stone itself. (See Juamei's picture.) Or that we thought this possible circle stone must have been it. Which it wasn't. QUITE.

BECAUSE I do also now notice that Juamei reckons that this stone AND the Broad Stone could have both been part of Aubrey's circle - which makes sense. And means that we must have virtually have stood on the Broad Stone itself. Ooops! And we'd been doing so well all day!

Forgive us our trespasses....
Next up was a standing stone marked on the Landranger, the name of which we knew not (yet)....

The Helstone — Images

<b>The Helstone</b>Posted by Moth

The Helstone — Fieldnotes

Access depends whether you take notice of signs saying things like 'private'. If you didn't, you could drive quite close along a tarmac access road. To walk to the stone from there, you'd just need to cross the intervening hundred or so yards of field - depending whether in crop or not.

Otherwise you could follow">Juamei's instructions

Thursday 18 September 2003
Juamei's fieldnotes say just about everything. All I want to add is that something about this site, maybe the openness of the valley that Juamei refers to, made me feel quite strongly that it may originally have been a circle.

No evidence. No signs. But then the field has so obviously been ploughed and cultivated for so long that once any stones had gone, there'd be no evidence. And then again, why leave this stone and clear the rest? So perhaps it's just me.

Traffic traumas
Fairly nearby was a place (unusually for this particular sheet) marked on the Landranger simply as a 'Burial Chamber'. We found this vaguely stood out simply due to the plethora of 'Barrows' and 'Tumuli' along with the occasional 'Long Barrow', so we thought we'd have a look.

Travelling west once again along the A35, this proved more difficult to get to than we expected. Not for any accessibility reason inherent in the site, however, but due to 2 bloody great coaches performing a precarious back-and-forth dance at the entrance to the right turn we needed to take to approach the site. Traffic in all directions was forced to halt for some time for the duration of their manoeuvres.

We were just on the point of giving up and heading for home when the opposing coaches managed to resolve their predicament and head off in their desired directions. So we were finally able to head off in ours....

West Compton Down — Images

<b>West Compton Down</b>Posted by Moth

West Compton Down — Fieldnotes

Access can be seen easily from the road at approx SY554938. We left the A35 at SY555917, heading north towards an aerial mast near West Compton. We took a left at the first t-junction and after about 100 yards, the stones were around 50 yards away in the field to the north of the road.

Depending on the state of crop in the field, it lies around 100 yards from a path that leads north from the road around 100 yards east....

Thursday 18 September 2003
We didn't have time to investigate closely, but this looks like around 3 or 4 large stones left from a collapsed burial chamber, but collapsed in such a way as to be recognisable.

Like to get a closer look, but goodness knows when I'll be back in these parts and there's just so much to see!

Homeward bound Leaving the burial chamber behind, we headed back along the A35 for home, leaving the main road for a while on reaching Winterbourne Abbas once again.

I'd spotted a farm selling some wares that I fancied, and we needed some snap to sustain us on (what certainly proved to be) the long journey back to Burnham. Quite handily this took us past the - pretty spectacular even from the car - 'back' end of Maiden Castle. Another one for 'next time'!


Moth flies south - part 2

BIG AND BOLDBecause John had never been down this way before and I haven't seen all that much, especially over the last few years, there were plenty of 'high-profile' sites we were both keen to visit.

We'd already set aside Wednesday as a full day in and particularly 'around' Avebury. And Friday we'd be travelling home to Leeds, slipping into a few interesting places on the way.

So that left Tuesday and Thursday to fill with the delights offered by Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire.

Who's this Stanton, Drude?Tuesday 16 September 2003
First stop of the day was the Weddings at Stanton Drew. Remarkably enough for me there wasn't much to say about the journey from Burnham, other than it took a lot longer than I expected. And I don't think it was John's navigating - just a lot of fairly little winding roads.
Tuesday 16 September 2003
Access coming from the west, we took the B3130, turning right at the signpost for Stanton Drew. This junction is remarkable for a strange little cottage on an 'island'. One of the most bizarre domiciles I've ever seen - looks more than a little like a toadstool. Shame about the incongruous big brick chimney.

Driving into Stanton Drew, the circle is clearly signposted to the left. There's a small car park, and entrance to the field where the main circles stand is by a (kissing?) gate with an English Heritage honesty box.

And if you're lucky (we were) a little stock of b/w photocopied A4 single page info sheets. Nice touch but makes it annoying that they don't do it more often!

There's another kissing gate just before you reach the Great Circle. Looks bizarre because (at least at the moment) the only fence either side of it is a single string! This is not visible from more than a few yards away, so it just looks like a gate standing in a field!

The ground around the main and north-east circles is reasonably even, on a gentle slope.

Access to the south west circle is, from memory, over a stile and possibly through a gate too. Or 2 gates. Or 2 stiles. (Sorry!) The small field is also considerably less even and level.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
I'd been looking forward to this one for a very long time, since spotting it in Burl's ...Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany - many years ago, not long after I got the book.

Despite having read quite a bit about it, the place still surprised me, particularly just through the sheer size of the Great Circle, and I guess, the cohesiveness of the whole 'complex'. Guess it's not ALL that often that you visit sites that are so distinctly and unavoidably inter-related. Shame about Hautville's Quoit....

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.
<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by Moth
See main Weddings at Stanton Drew page for Access notes.

Tuesday 16 September

While there John and I had the Great Circle down as marginally smaller than Long Meg and her Daughters but when I looked in Burl later, it's actually a bit bigger. As my copy of Burl lives in my rucksack I really ought to remember to look at the damn thing on site a bit more often!!!

As we walked round the Great Circle looking at the fallen stones, it became simultaneously easier to imagine the circle when the stones were standing and more frustrating that the vast majority are fallen.

This is an amazing place, that would be truly mind-boggling in a Hurlers, or Machrie Moor way if only the stones were standing!!. Kind of almost in an Avebury way if you look just at Avebury itself, the West Kennett Avenue & Longstone Cove. (Leave out Silbury & everything else though, because that's where Avebury leaves everything else trailing!!)

John's still slowly converting me to the opinion that more circles should be 'restored' - not in the Cullerie sense, 'just' re-erected as well as possible. Never would've said that a few months ago! (I'll probably change my mind again anyway next time I see a 'badly' or 'overdone' one!!!)

In fact, you only have to look at the damaged but BEAUTIFUL NE circle to see what I'm on about. If the Great Circle was anywhere near as complete as this, we'd all be mind-blown bunnies I reckon.

Big stones, most of them standing. Nice proportions

Maybe it was the defiant insubordination of the smaller circle in close proximity to a much bigger 'monument', or maybe it was something about the proportions. Or maybe it was something else. But somehow, the NE circle in relation to the Great Circle put me in mind of Cnoc Fillibhear Bheag in relation to Callanish.

Well, I know what I mean, even if nobody else does!

(The Avenues are sh**ged and seem very strangely aligned, but they're still a nice little bonus!)

Also see South West Circle , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.

The South West Circle — Images

<b>The South West Circle</b>Posted by Moth

The South West Circle — Fieldnotes

See main Weddings at Stanton Drew page for Access notes.

Tuesday 16 September 2003

It is (now) possible to approach this circle directly from The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues.

Considerably more unkempt than the main site as a result of being in an apparently uncultivated field, the stones here are all fallen. And a bit overgrown. And almost impossible to photograph.

But this doesn't prevent this from being a nice circle featuring large and interesting and aesthetically pleasing stones. Ace.

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.

The Cove — Images

<b>The Cove</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Cove</b>Posted by Moth

The Cove — Fieldnotes

Access Going south through the village, when the circle is signposted left keep going. (It might even be signposted too.) As you reach the far end of the village there is a bend left with the Druids Arms on the left. Immediately after the pub there is a small car park. Park here.

If you can resist going straight for a pint, there is a gate from the car park to about 5 fairly steep steps up to the beer garden. When the back door of the pub is unlocked you can also get through that way, but it still involves steps. The stones are set in well kept grass on a gentle-ish slope in the beer garden.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Well, when we arrived the beer garden was deserted and the setting seemed fine. (Sorry Oci!) We had a look at these BIG old rocks and stood on walls at the top of the beer garden working out the relative position to the Great Circle etc and the SW Circle.

This was relatively easy. We orientated ourselves by the tops of the trees in the Great Circle's field, the Church - which lies between the Great Circle and The Cove (...hmmmm!), and, less pleasantly, a farmer's huge stockpile of old tyres that we'd noticed not far from the SW Circle!

This gave useful visual support to John Wood's observation a couple of centuries ago (related by Burl) that The Cove would align on a straight line through the centre of the NE and Great Circles. (He also says that Hautville's Quoit aligns on a line through the centres of the SE and Great Circles.)

Curiously none of this is mentioned in English Heritage's little info sheet, though it does give loads of interesting info about a geophys survey of the main site. (Once you've waded through the usual woolly 'what stone circles were for' and 'folklore'.)

Anyway, nice Cove! Inevitably a little reminiscent of, but very small in relation to, the Avebury one(s) - but still big stones in comparison to an awful lot of megaliths! Wonder what coves were? (I've read a few theories of course.) Pre-dates the circles according to Burl.

Have to say being sited in a beer garden quite appealed to us. (Ahem, what a surprise!) So, better to enjoy the ambience, we grabbed a pint of Wadswoth 6X each and drank to the glorious Mr Stanton Drew....

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle and Hautville's Quoit.

Hautville's Quoit — Images

<b>Hautville's Quoit</b>Posted by Moth

Hautville's Quoit — Fieldnotes

Access at farm on right of B3130 travelling east. It's just possible to park by the gate to the farm. Ask to see the 'stone'. They might snigger - the old chap painting the gate did when we asked! The stone (what there is to see!) lies on the farm side of the hedgerow to the east of the farmgate.

I emphasise this because the aforementioned 'old chap' didn't bother to point this out, letting us set off blithely down the roadside verge.... (I hope he did it out of cantankerousness, otherwise he was just annoyingly unhelpful!!!)

The ground may be a bit rough if you have trouble walking, but the stone is only about 100 feet (?) from the farmgate, next to the hedgerow under a tree.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
No dog in evidence today. Good job. Had no biscuits.

You will think 'is that it?' You almost certainly will think 'why did I bother?' But you'll probably also be glad you did. Me and my imagination were.

To confirm what Kammer says, I've read (can't remember where, other than Burl's mention) that the stone did, relatively recently, used to be bigger. Considerably bigger I believe.

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle and The Cove.

Stony Littleton — Images

<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stony Littleton</b>Posted by Moth

It ain't little and it's only stony on the inside (mainly)Next up was Stoney Littleton Long Barrow. Again it seemed to take an age to get there just because of the nature of the roads, though we didn't find it difficult to find Stoney Littleton 'village'.

What we did find was nowhere decent to park! Which from reading people's fieldnotes makes me think we might've gone a different way to everyone else!!!!

From the Landranger it wasn't even apparent whether to approach from Stoney Littleton or from Wellow. So, as I do once in a while when using a Landranger, I consulted Mr Cope. It has to be said that Julian's instructions in the big papery TMA aren't his most helpful....

One way or another, we got there....

Stony Littleton — Images

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Stony Littleton — Fieldnotes

Access using the route we did, it's a fairly long walk (a few miles). A lot is uphill, some fairly steep. Ground is largely pretty even. Couple of stiles and a few gates.

We parked in a passing place-cum-layby which was plenty big enough to still be used for passing even with my car parked at one end! This was at approximately map ref ST727565.

Bear in mind that other people on this website have left their cars somewhere they refer to as a 'car park'. While references to this seem to be tongue in cheek, it was almost certainly at least as good if not better than where we parked!

We walked down the hill to a left turn heading north east along a lane which runs alongside a small river. About a quarter of a mile along, we turned right, through a kissing gate I think (though it could have been a stile). The path crosses a narrow grassy area, through the trees and across a little bridge over the river.

At the other side (east) of the river, the path heads briefly uphill across a field, meeting a farmtrack or bridlepath running roughly north-south. We turned left and followed the track northish.

The track stays maybe 50-100 yards from the river for a few hundred yards, but before long we could see a hill in front of us and the river was getting further away. There are some farm buildings just the other side of the river.

Very soon we could make out the profile of the barrow up on the hillside in front of us and to the left. About halfway up the hill I guess, we took a lightly worn but distinct path off to the left across the field, still going uphill. At the hedgerow was a stile and, I think it was here that there was a signpost to the barrow.

Over the stile and right, along the field edge following the hedgerow, slightly uphill I think. After only 100 yards or so I'd guess, there was a collapsed stile back to the other side of the hedgerow. The barrow is clearly visible and close, side-on straight up the hill from here. I think there is an English Heritage sign. There may be one more fence and stile, more-or-less directly in front.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Reaching the barrow, I commented to John that the final approach from this direction was a tiny bit disappointing, being uphill and from the side.

I feel it would be more impressive if you could approach the barrow directly towards its entrance, by continuing up the main track to the level of the barrow and then approach it by turning left. John was quite happy with it the way it is!

Maybe I'd been expecting something a little more overtly striking because I'd been looking forward to 'meeting' this place for a few months.

Approaching from the side, the first thing I noticed was the low retaining wall round the bottom of the long barrow's embankment. It seemed incredibly neat and well-preserved. I was pleased with how well it had survived and wondered if it is one of the elements of the barrow that has been restored.

Round to the entrance and the barrow took on an extra beauty for me. It's proportions are lovely and the stonework around the portal is beautiful (except for the scar where there has been a nasty plaque on the right.

I was proud to have remembered my torch for once, so we took a look inside. And discovered that the batteries were sadly inadequate!!! One day I'll get it right!

Quite a few signs of the repairs and reinforcements made before the chamber was reopened to the public. They don't exactly look subtle, but I suppose they're better than nothing. I'm no structural engineer so I'd better not complain. Funnily (?) enough, they're even more evident on my photies....

Speaking of photies, I was going to take one of the legendary giant ammonite on the left upright of the entrance. But we couldn't find it!!!

I have to say that at the time I couldn't remember where it was and hadn't seen a photo. Having checked on this website since, I really can't see how we missed it. Unless we missing it because we were too close and it's SO big?! Guess it must still be there?! My only photos of the entrance are a fraction too distant to make it out now I know where it is.

But most of the stones throughout are just dripping with chunks of shell and stuff - never seen owt like it. I was impressed. But then, I'm not a geologist either & know nothing about shelled creatures!

The chambers themselves are impressive, possibly even more so because it's a bit of a squeeze to actually get in there and manoeuvre about to see them - or is that just me being perverse?

Probably not, as this really is the first barrow to even vaguely make me feel 'cocooned' - or perhaps what I really mean is 'cockooned' given the spectacular feminine imagery of Severn-Cotswold style barrows like this!

Woodhenge — Images

<b>Woodhenge</b>Posted by Moth

Woodhenge — Fieldnotes

Access we headed north off the A303 up the A345. Woodhenge is well signposted and has a fairly small car park across the road. There is a gate or kissing gate into the 'monument' itself.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Well I expected weird and I got it. Goodness knows what anybody who hasn't read a bit about this site would make of it. I guess the info boards would help, but I still had difficulty even vaguely making any kind of sense of it!

If you're going, read up first to get anything out of it!!! Also, get an OS Explorer or be with someone who knows what's what if you want to see Durrington Walls.

Although I thought I knew which direction was in, we were unable to work it out for ourselves even though we later found it had been staring us in the face! (It turned out to be where I thought but we hadn't recognised it because I had no idea of the size or where the main visible bits are....)

Weirdness 'n' wallsRight up until the last moment when planning today's trip we'd been 'umming' and 'aahing' about where to go after Stanton Drew and Stoney Littleton. Well, I had anyway - John just gave his usual 'what ever' response. Note that as the English 'what ever' not the US 'whateverrrr...'.

John wasn't especially interested in the most obvious nearby sites - Glastonbury & South Cadbury castle. I'd been to both before and don't particularly feel the need to revisit. So it'd have to be somewhere a bit further afield.

My original half-plan was that we could head south and take in the Cerne Abbas Giant and maybe some other sites around there.... Luckily I rethought - no way would we have had time to do anything justice given the time when we finished at Stoney Littleton!!

We'd instead settled on the wacky idea of going to Stonehenge. We were giving priority to Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and the general area, but we agreed it'd be daft to miss out Stonehenge itself if we had time, as we'd each only ever been once (me about 8 years ago & John when he was a nipper).

It didn't take all that long to get to Stonehenge's car park. John jumped out to go and see if he could get an OS Explorer of the area (we'd drawn a blank at all the local garages etc we called at on the way). But of course you can't get to the shop unless you pay to get into the monument....

So off we went, to find Woodhenge using the road atlas. Pretty easy actually.

Stonehenge — Images

<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Moth<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Moth

Interesting little place....After not being sure where Durrington Walls was while we were at Woodhenge, we finally tracked down an OS Explorer at a petrol station in Durrington. This was when we discovered as I'd suspected, that we'd been staring at Durrington Walls just about the whole time we were looking for it!

Luckily we were able to spot the embankments as we headed back to Stonehenge. We'd pretty much decided that there wasn't much point in going looking at barrows - after all, you can't turn around without falling over one in this part of the country.

Arriving back at the Stonehenge car park I suddenly remembered - I thought they were starting to charge for parking?! If so, they'd stopped by about 3 or 4pm the day we were there seem!!!! Or did I get it wrong?

As it happens john saw Glastonbury Tor and Weary-All Hill on the way home anyway, as we went though Glastonbury on the way back to Burnham.

Stonehenge — Images

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Stonehenge Cursus Group — Images

<b>Stonehenge Cursus Group</b>Posted by Moth

Stonehenge — Fieldnotes

Access ahem, I won't bother with directions! The tunnel has ramps. The path's pretty good. I assume everyone in the world knows you can't get right up to the stones which are roped (or more accurately, 'stringed') off. £5 entrance fee on 16 September 2003. Various concessions. (Except if you forget your relevant documents as John forgot his UB40 or whatever it's called at the moment!)

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Oh bl**dy hell! I've always said it's not 'overrated' and it's not. Sad? Yes. Undignified? Something like that. Overrated? No. How can it be? It's both spectacular and totally unique. AND it's a whole complex of 'monuments'.

Of course it's horrible having to share it with so many other people. And of course they're irritating especially when they're not very interested, 'over-interested' or just plain too damn loud.

But I found I can 'tune them out' and really feel like I got a lot out of the place by being patient waiting for it to happen. I can't say it's easy and maybe I'm just lucky or less easily disturbed or something. I don't know.

Once that happened though, I found that I could see or imagine all the things that I can remember hearing about the place - some of the sight lines and so on. The avenue, the place of the monument in the overall 'landscape'.... Of course there's no point in me describing it - we pretty much all know it back-to-front.

Time flew. One of these days I'm going be able to give myself enough time for a proper look around. Maybe I just need to go more often than after 33 years and then 8 years!!! I've had a pretty good look at the stones and the henge now. Cursus and a few of the barrows next I reckon.

It is a mindbender and I'd love to be able to do it justice. I'd love even more if it could do itself justice. I suppose English Heritage don't do such a bad job in some ways given the amount of attention (positive and negative) the place gets. But there must be a much better way. It should at the very least be free to people who can't afford to go!!!!

And you should be able to book to go right up to the stones without extra charge. And they do seem to use Stonehenge's entrance fee to subsidise EH and its other places, esp non-prehistoric ones! And...and...and....

The Polisher — Fieldnotes

Access a walk of at least 2 or 3 miles from the nearest parking place. Walking as we did from Manor Farm to the east of Avebury, the Ridgeway is a reasonably evenly surfaced bridlepath-type track. The gate to the bit of the down where the Polisher is has been locked both times I've been there, but isn't difficult to climb if you can climb at all.

Wednesday 17 September 2003
When I was here before I thought it'd be a cool place to sit & chill in good company. I was right.

Also had a stomp about looking at the sarsens in the area. Loads of them are beautiful and impressive. Made me want to go down into the Mother's Jam etc & just wander about looking at stones, but didn't have time!

Found a couple of stones nearby with holes in, but probably not 'the holed stone' that people talk about. Didn't find the 'cup-marked one' either. Didn't much care. This is such a special place.

Windmill Hill — Images

<b>Windmill Hill</b>Posted by Moth

Avebury againWednesday 17 September 2003
A reasonably early start in order to meet up with Jane at Avebury. Rendezvous successful, we headed off in Jane's car to park at Manor Farm on the lane east out of Avebury, to save a little time on the walk up the Ridgeway to our first stop, The Polisher.

Stonehenge — Images

<b>Stonehenge</b>Posted by Chris

Wowed on WindmillNext stop was Windmill Hill, which none of us had visited before. I don't think any of us really knew what to expect, though I'd read a few bit and pieces including Julian in TMA and the various posts on this website.

Having already walked up the Ridgeway to the Polisher, Jane (the non-walker of our little trio) seemed extremely relieved to find that Windmill Hill is actually a very short and gentle climb from the A4361 north out of Avebury.









Back to BassettLunchtime beckoned so we returned to Avebury for a slightly over-priced but pleasant enough meal at the Red Lion (we couldn't be bothered to go looking for anywhere else).

After a brief foray to the Henge Shop (mmmmm, boooooks!!!!), John stayed in Avebury to do the 'detailed tour' with my copy of 'Burl'. Jane and I headed off to Winterbourne Bassett, both of us being fairly familiar with Avebury itself.

Jane had never seen the circle at Winterbourne Bassett and I'd only visited briefly with John 2 days before, so off we went to d some exploring.







The horse doesn't hack itWith a little time available before we'd arranged to rejoin John at the ubiquitous Red Lion, Jane suggested a quick zip up Hackpen Hill and having a look at the White Horse before returning to Avebury.

Over the last 6 months I've learned that any elevated view of the Avebury area (or most places for that matter) is worthwhile, so up we went. We were disappointed when we read the very modern date of the horse though.



Seeing Avebury in a new lightWe rejoined John at the Red Lion and decided to put off eating until later in order to enjoy the evening light on the south west of the circle. Our short visit to the pub was enlivened by a quick and inept bit of juggling by me, dropping a bottle of fizzy water which exploded on impact with the ground, leaving a damp and disgruntled US tourist in the bar... Oops!

By the time we started to lose the light on the stones, all of us were pretty hungry and we made the unanimous decision that a curry would fit the bill nicely. So, quickish scoff at The Raj in Marlborough then off in convoy as far as the M4, where Jane headed for home & we dived off back to Burnham.

A wonderful day that I was sorry to see the end of!















Moth flies south - part 1

Leeds to Burnham (with a couple of stops en route....)Where the hell's Burnham on Sea?...Is what I would've said up until about 9 months ago.

But around that time, a chain of caravan parks offered me, my then partner, and our little boy, Callan, a dead cheap Monday-Friday deal. We had a choice of Parks and went for the one that looked good for both sea (for her & him) and stones (for guess who)!

As many TMA regulars will know, that partner and I then split up (not long after booking the holiday, actually... I wonder if that should tell me something?) so I invited the stone-loving Ginger John along for the ride.

A 'new acquaintance' and some 'old friends'
Monday 15 September 2003
Picked John up from his home in south Leeds. M1, A42, M42, M5. As we'd be passing close by, I had intended dragging John to Belas Knap and Hetty Pegler's Tump - particularly the latter, as my previous visit had been spoilt by revolting weather. But sometimes plans change!

We'd set aside Wednesday to meet up with Jane at Avebury, but when I discovered John was an Avebury virgin, I figured we'd need more than one day for that little lot! Out went Hetty & Belas, in came some Avebury stuff.

This being so, I can't remember why we left the M5 on the A417 rather than the M4, but we did! And very glad I was too!

When I visited Hetty & Belas back in July (see my Glos 'n' Oxon weblog) I'd driven straight past Cold Slad on Crickley Hill partly due to the inclement (!!!!) weather conditions and partly as I was still seething about scraping my car earlier in the day.

So it was a nice surprise to recognise the road up the hill past the village of Cold Slad - and take advantage of the beautiful weather we were blessed with this time to go and have a look at Crickley Hill's finest!

Crickley Hill — Images

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Crickley Hill — Fieldnotes

Access sorry to say I can't really remember, but here are my vague impressions.... It's got a big car park and I reckon you can have at least a bit of a look around without having to go up steps or over stiles.

There might possibly be a gate or 2 that could be a bit awkward for wheelchairs. The ground is certainly fairly uneven in places and being a hillfort, there are some reasonably steep bits. The one thing I DO remember is that the (pretty helpful) info boards about the fort & settlement are on a raised platform that I'm pretty sure can only be reached by steps.

Monday 15 September 2003
I'd better start by saying that I know even less about hillforts, settlements and enclosures the like than I do about other stuff. And I don't regard myself as very knowledgeable about the other stuff!

I must admit that they don't interest me as much. I'm sure I'm missing out, but try as I might I can't find the same 'glamour' and 'mystique' as at a stone circle or stone row, a long barrow or dolmen.

I do like 'em though!!!

Probably the least surprising and certainly the first thing that struck me was that the views are stunning - looking out as Crickley Hill does, over miles and miles of plain, the Severn Valley and on to the Malverns. (Yes, it has those boards to show you notable places in the landscape, otherwise I'd not have known what I was looking at....)

The earthworks of the enclosure are fairly impressive, but I have to say that the mounds and dips where the settlements were left me fascinated but bemused. Couldn't really work out what was going on there, even with the help of the informative info boards. Perhaps it was just me.

I ended up simply enjoying wandering around for half an hour, looking and wondering. It's good for you sometimes I think - much better than giving yourself a headache trying to get your head round stuff that just won't sink in.

Certainly a highly significant and interesting place and I'm heartily glad to have been there! Wouldn't mind going back for another look sometime.

Zipping back out of the car park we headed to Marlborough, and Marlborough Mound.

Marlborough Mound — Images

<b>Marlborough Mound</b>Posted by Moth<b>Marlborough Mound</b>Posted by Moth

Marlborough Mound — Fieldnotes

Access as it's in the middle of Marlborough College, the areas leading to the Mound are all pavement and tarmac. Other than if you want to climb the Mound it doesn't necessitate any steps, unless you wanted to view it from the chapel that backs onto the road.

Monday 15 September 2003
Visiting for the second time (this time when the students/pupils were about) I get the impression that most people'd only stop you if you were acting exceedingly suspiciously. Walking purposefully probably helps as may (in this context) carrying a camera!

This time I had time to climb the mound, and as Baz has said it's well worth it. It seems even bigger from the top, and apart from owt else, you can see the (from here, rather small) 19th century Marlborough White Horse.

Also had time this time to walk round the mound and found that there are some quite nice views of it from the side nearest the college churchy-thing.

Still a bit of a shame it's covered in trees. And a hell of a shame it's surrounded by the bl**dy college buildings! I'm surprised they didn't build the college gym on top of it! (Ah, but then where'd they have put the water tank...?)

On to Clatford Farm and the familiar parking place for the Devil's Den.

Devil's Den — Images

<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by Moth

Devil's Den — Fieldnotes

Access I think the gate at the bottom of the track opposite Clatford Farm is OK, but it could be a kissing gate. Think the main gate might've been unlocked anyway though (sorry, I don't seem to have had my useful-observation head on that day...!)

The walk is not terribly long (15 minutes for me and I'm reasonably fit) but the track is pretty rutted and often very muddy. The final part of the path is overgrown (not too badly this time...) and access to the field is over a (low) bit of a barbed wire fence/stile arrangement, so not very handy! The dolmen can be seen fairly clearly but not closely from the path.

Monday 15 September 2003
Nice to see the dolmen again, but without the strange (to me) chest high 'bean-like' crop it had in July. I do like this spot and could return again and again. It's such a short walk I'll probably come just about every time I visit Avebury!

Worth reporting that in common with some others, my friend John felt that the concrete 'repairs' spoil the site. It doesn't really bother me that much. It'd be better if it had been done more subtly, but it's such a nice place and a wackily distorted dolmen that I still like it very much.

John loses his Avebury 'cherry'
Our next stops were(for want of a better phrase) the central Avebury 'monuments'.

First was the Sanctuary, for John's first 'half-glimpse' at just how extensive the Avebury complex is, and my second crack at getting my head round this particular site.

The Sanctuary — Images

<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by Moth<b>The Sanctuary</b>Posted by Moth

The Sanctuary — Fieldnotes

Access through kissing gate. Well kept and smooth grass area around the markers.

Monday 15 September 2003
Ha! Got my head a lot further round it this time! For some reason (no other visitors, maybe) I could visualise and imagine the whole thing much better.

Was also able to spend a while spotting the other visible Avebury 'monuments' properly this time! Still missed the West Kennett Avenue which I didn't realise you could see. (Thanks FourWinds! I'm in a huff now!)

I'd had a good look at Saerfon Barrows before, so John crossed the road while I stayed and pondered the landscape I'd somehow not managed to really see last time!

Then it was onwards to West Kennett Long Barrow and views (and sadly views only of course) of the still amazing Silbury Hill.

West Kennett — Images

<b>West Kennett</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett</b>Posted by Moth

West Kennett — Fieldnotes

Access kissing gate I think. Slightly rough path up to barrow, but path is being re-jigged at the moment. Walk is around 10 minutes if you're reasonably fit I guess.

Monday 15 September 2003
Haven't been up here for years. Only took about 3 photies before, as I was only just getting interested in stones 'n' bumps. Unfortunately had a frustrating time with the camera this time, as our visit coincided perfectly with a (small but big enough!) coachload of tourists....

Must admit I was probably a bit less impressed this time than I expected, having seen numerous other barrows and burials of many kinds since that first visit. It remains an absolute classic though and seems quite a bit bigger than East Kennett (I know it's not).

So, here follow some banal comments, for the record. It really is a very long barrow, isn't it? And I suspect it takes quite a few visits to get used to the sheer size of the entrance stones. Smaller inside than I remembered. Oh yeah, the skylights spoil it a bit I think.

Silbury Hill — Images

<b>Silbury Hill</b>Posted by Moth

Silbury Hill — Fieldnotes

Access none at present due to well documented subsidence and English Heritage's inability to get its finger out. May be able to walk around it at ground level. Can view from road. (And various other points around the area!)

Monday 15 September 2003
This is one of those 'what the hell can I say that hasn't been said?' places isn't it? One thing I have to mention however is that my ass is numb from kicking myself for not walking up the damn thing back in 95 or whenever it was....

What the bl**dy hell DO English Heritage think they're playing at?

Most impressively viewed (in my opinion) from the hill above and to the west of East Kennett Long Barrow, the field below West Kennett Long Barrow, the bank of the Kennett on the way from Avebury, from Windmill Hill and, best of all, coming round the top of Waden Hill from Avebury.

Heading back along the A4, I was a little frustrated by my suspected lack of worthwhile photographs of the long barrow and, perhaps as a result, missed the the lane that runs with the West Kennett Avenue to Avebury. Suffice to say we turned around pretty sharpish.

But of course I might have missed it because there's no signpost and because I've never been to the Avenue before, (other than the stones right at the Avebury end)!!!!

The reasons are 'shrouded in the mists of time', but on my first visit to Avebury about 8 years ago, we walked from Avebury to West Kennett long barrow and back along the river Kennett in both directions, rather than along the Avenue. Weird and unlike me, but a fact!

I'm glad to say that this is now rectified, as John and I entered Avebury by walking up the Avenue....

West Kennett Avenue — Images

<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth<b>West Kennett Avenue</b>Posted by Moth

Tigh Na Ruaich — Images

<b>Tigh Na Ruaich</b>Posted by Chris

Arriving at Avebury via the WK Ave really does make it more special, though I suppose you could argue it makes the circle stones themselves marginally less spectacular. But I'd now rather not do it any other way.





With time pressing we walked back up the WK Ave to the car but then nipped up the track on the other side of the road, right opposite the end of the Avenue to check out the remains of Falkner's Circle. I was certainly glad I knew what to expect, or I may have been a tad disappointed....





Time was still drawing on but as the reception process at the caravan site sounded really painful (meet in 'Jester's Funhouse' or summat like that) I was quite keen to arrive after the time when all you had to do was to report to 'security'! Another factor was John's plainly stated desire - "I wanna see some more rocks!"

So, off to Winterbourne Bassett we went, though I had intended to 'save it' until meeting up with Jane on Wednesday, as I knew she'd not been there before. Never mind, I'd take her there on Wednesday anyway.




Perhaps inspired by the pleasant surprise of Winterbourne Bassett, or by the quick bite of bread & cheese, we decided to stop quickly at the Longstone Cove before leaving for Burnham.








As we prepared to leave Adam and Eve behind and hit the road, John suggested a quick squint at Beckhampton Long Barrow. So we squinted.



Finally the moment to head for Burnham could be postponed no longer, so onto the A4, past Cherhill Down (closer look next time) and away we went.
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Though I'd been interested in both for a long while, I finally got into stones & Cope relatively late in life and at around the same time (mid 90s). I guess my girlfriend at the time has to take the blame. She bought me 'Peggy Suicide' and she used to get those nice megalithic postcards from Mr Julian.

At first, looking at stones seemed just like a good excuse for stomping around in beautiful countryside. Little did I know how much more it would become. And that they're not always in beautiful countryside....

At the time I was living in Tufnell Park in London so started off with a lot of southern stones 'n' bumps, particularly on holidays to Devon, the Lands End peninsula and the west country in general. Since then, holidays became increasingly megalithacentric, and are now mainly wildlifecentric (tho often with some stones thrown in)!

A couple of years later I moved back to Leeds where I lived for much of my adult life (I'm originally from Kent) prompting numerous visits to stones 'n' bumps in places like Derbyshire, Cumbria, N Wales and of course Yorkshire. I now live near Oxford (see 'Life?').

I've seen stones all over the UK & further afield, including (but not limited to) bits of France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Menorca, Sardinia & even Jordan.

Strangely enough however, my most visited and probably favourite 'stony areas' are Aberdeenshire and Perthshire, though I've been to quite a few all over Scotland. This is again thanks to a (different) ex-girlfriend who comes from Montrose and is the mother of my glorious son Callan, who at the time of updating is now 21....

As you may have guessed, Callan is named after Callanish - at the time of his birth this was a long intended but unmade pilgrimage for me. Happily I've now been twice & hope to go again for the next 're-gleam'.

Currently living just to the north-west of Oxford with the gorgeous Jane (we got married in October 2004). Seafer (Jane's dangerous 'n' stripey cat) is no more and for the last 8 years we've been in the custody of Officer Dibble and Skipper (also cats). Jane's also responsible for increasing my love of travel & the expansion of my love of wildlife!

I'm an editor really, but now have a nice easy admin job 4-days a week working for a tiny IT training company who do expensive niche training for IT professionals.

In a varying order

Wildlife & bird photography and watching
Stones, walking, and the countryside, obviously
Various music, especially heavy rock and funk
Real ale & real ale pubs (though as Jane can't drink for medical reasons we don't often go to pubs)
Single malts
Bourbon (of the whisky persuasion - not the biccies)
Red wine
Roast tatties and chips (not usually together)
A lot of other food that never had a face
Talking bollocks
Having a good moan, especially about the Tories

Vital statistics?
Height 5'8"
Chest N/K (medium t-shirt size)
Waist 32-34" depending how fat I happen to be at the time
Inside leg 32"
Aged 60 but we don't talk about that
Hair Long mostly grey (used to be brown)


updated 2 September 2022

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