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

Fieldnotes by UncleRob

Latest Posts
Showing 1-20 of 49 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

Dibden Inclosure (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

A single bowl barrow, in woodland and easily found alongside a track. This is only a few minutes from the Dibden Inclosure car park and if you are nearby, you should definitely also visit the Beaulieu Road barrows.

Herm

Herm is a rather special, unspoilt place. No cars or motorbikes, and you can walk around its coastline in a couple of hours. There are several broken and battered small passage tombs, and we only stopped by one (Robert's Cross). There used to be an enormous menhir on Herm Common but it fell prey to unscrupulous quarrymen. After circling the island we stopped for a beer in the Mermaid and read our newly purchased book "Hidden Treasures of Herm Island" by Catherine Kalamis. I'm not sure that you could buy this anywhere but on the island, but I recommend it for the in-depth history of the island and its owners over the years. Many of them, it seems, found the Common a weird and almost threatening place. I can imagine it gets pretty windswept and bleak, but to us the whole island seemed lovely and well worth a visit (boat from St Peter Port, Guernsey, several times a day). It was my first visit but my wife had been there many times as a child.

Le Trepied Tomb (Passage Grave)

Careful when you cross the road, kids! It is next to some cannons. If you spot the cannons, you're in the right place.

Dolmen Le Dehus (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

I make no exaggeration in saying that Dehus is possibly the most amazing long barrow type monument I have ever encountered. I suppose it is trumped by La Hougue Bie on Jersey, but Dehus has one very special feature: a man's face carved into a capstone, looking down at you. There are side chambers and an enigmatic central standing stone that does not reach the ceiling.

Delancey Park (Passage Grave)

Visited on holiday on October 2013. The location of the tomb is not marked or signposted anywhere in the park, but it is in the trees near the car park. Clearly some work was still going on then, or recently, as it was fenced off by some rather unattractive orange plastic. Medium sized stones of up to 5 feet length, arranged now in two elongated rows. The whole is in a hollow where it was (I presume) excavated and has a retaining wall on the higher side.

Dolmen de la Pierre-Pese (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

An elegant dolmen with a whopper of a capstone, a short walk through the steaming woodland on a summer's day. There is enough of a space to park one car at the brown roadsign. You have to be quick to spot it just to the east of the new TGV line under construction (not on Google Maps yet).

The nearby villages seem to be full of holidaying Brits, what what? If you get a chance, read the heritage information board in Hanc which describes village ceremonies conducted until recently that are straight out of the Golden Bough.

Menhir de Gargantua (Saint-Suliac) (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited this on a cycling holiday in Brittany this summer. Just before the bend in the D7 going out of Saint-Suliac, walk up the farm track to the right, and you will see a home-made sign to "Menhir". That leads you into an orchard (there was nobody around when we were there) surrounding this massive stone. It is a very rugged and irregular shape. Whether really a menhir or just a prominent erratic I know not, though the maps show it as prehistoric. There was a huge pumpkin nearby with the name Gargantua carved into it. Menhir a true word spoken in jest, as Obelix might have said (in English translation).

Dorset Cursus (South to Thickthorn Down)

Yesterday, the day before midwinter, I came over to the Cursus with three friends to see the sunset. Does it actually go into Gussage Down long barrow from the original east end of the cursus? (see this summer's blog at http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/77897/weblog/ ) I have seen only one photograph of this alignment, in Martin Green's book "A Landscape Revealed", so I was curious to see if it really happened as accurately as they say. I wasn't sure if my chums would think it was worthwhile, lacking in visible earthworks. We had just been to Knowlton in the dying rays of the sun. Nice midwinter alignment there too through the causeway in from the road.

It was about -1 degrees C as we left the warmth of the car and walked down the side of the field. Now in the low sun, the one foot high ridge that seems likely to have been the original eastern end and might have the platform for viewing the sunset was quite easy to see, until you are near it. We stood along the "ridge" and watched the orange sun slide through a thin strip of cloud, more horizontally than sinking. You could get the impression it is gliding down to rest on Gussage Down. A hare ran out in front of us, stopped and had a good long look. I realised that the appearance of that animal inside the cursus bank at the same time 5200 years ago would have been seen as pretty significant, the hare spirit coming to hang out with the high downland folk.

And yes, the alignment does happen. The sun hits the skyline at the long barrow's SE end and glides along to the NW end where there is just a glimmer left. It disappears into the ground right next to the NW end. These precise alignments are moved slightly by where you stand along the ridge, but not much, maybe half a sun-diameter (15 minutes of arc). When the bank of the cursus was a full 2 meters it would have interfered as well and I think the sun would not have appeared again outside the cursus. We took a few photographs but it was so cold I had to get my hand back in the glove pretty quick.

The sun was down and the old year dead (approximately). We stood there for a bit watching the snowstorm clouds billowing up on the horizon. I went to investigate what looked like some dead creature that had succombed to the cold in the field ahead. It was a battered motorbike tyre, and it had landed around the skull of a rabbit. The symbols abound when you start looking. Jeez it was cold. The flask of tea in the car went down a treat.

Happy new year everybody!

Pentridge III (Long Barrow)

Well and truly ploughed down, and fenced off from the plebs, this was once one of the long mounds flanking the eastern terminus of the Dorset Cursus. Alas, it is not doing well any more.

Grinsell claimed to have found it in 1938, when its ditches were "well-marked", and then noted that in 1954 when he came to write up "Dorset Barrows", it was ploughed to the edge of the mound. Sadly the tractors and harvesters and muckspreaders now go straight over the top of this integral part of our national heritage. He notes it as 95 feet long, 70 feet wide [which makes it oval more than long] and 3.5 feet high.

In "A Landscape Revealed", Martin Green says:
During Colt Hoare's brief examination of this mound he described it as 'surrounded by sarsen stones'. Indeed, even now [book published 2000] I have noticed large lumps of sarsen ploughed to the surface around the edges of this mound.

Devil's Den (Chambered Tomb)

Visited in July 2009 and found the site easy to access, though the base of the dolmen is quite overgrown. The surface of the field within about 8m radius of the dolmen is scattered with small stones and fragments of strange shapes and substances. Quite a few bits thin tubes of flint, some porous stone - or is it bone??? - and what looks like slag from very high temperatures. 'Tis devilry!

Croham Hurst Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

A very pleasant bit of wildish woods in the middle of suburbia. If you need to escape the city and pretend it's actually 2009BCE then you'd do worse than Croham Hurst. The hill is made of layers of unusual geology and drops away very steeply to the south. Also you can get here in about a fifteen minute walk from South Croydon station. There is little to see of the barrow(s) but the place feels really old and self-sufficient. Nice.

Marchwood Inclosure (Round Barrow(s))

This is a single round barrow on the false brow of the most obvious hillock in the area, overlooking a good expanse of heathland to the south and west. It also overlooks a busy and notoriously dangerous crossroads so don't expect it to be a sylvan idyll. There is no obvious ditch but that is understandable as a small brick hut was built on top at one point! You can still see the foundations and some bricks scattered about. Hampshire Treasures piqued my interest with the quaint words:
Disturbed by insertion of building.

Dibden Bottom (Round Barrow(s))

Fascinating group of four very small and very well-preserved bowl barrows. I wonder if they might be pagan Saxon; I shall have to delve into the records and get back to y'all on that. One of them (the southernmost) has had a big chunk of ditch and the outside edge of the mound dug away fairly recently. Why? Where has the spoil gone?

Holbury Purlieu (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

A group of 8 barrows, spread over an area about 500 x 200 metres. Some of them are on private land but up against the fence and easily visible. One has been heaped up with more earth to make an old rifle butt. The one I visited up close had been dug into in several places by large tunnels - badgers maybe. The soil is quite wet here and that perhaps accounts for the very shallow ditches which have filled up over the millenia.

Ipers Bridge Road (Round Barrow(s))

There are two large barrows togther here on the south side of the road. In passing, they may look like another clump of gorse but they are worth a look because they are quite unusual. Hants Treasures calls them bell barrows but using Grinsell's taxonomy I would say they are bowl barrows with an outer bank. In Dorset Barrows he has this to say:
Only a very few barrows of this type are known in the whole of Wessex

The bank is shared at the point between the two barrows, making a raised pathway pressed down either by human or equine visitors.

Unfortunately the well-preserved ditches have also been a convenient place for some cretin to dump two lots of concrete fence posts. Boo!

Beaulieu Road (Round Barrow(s))

An unusual line of three or four barrows, depending on how you count them. Hampshire treasures suggests there is a bell barrow, then a twin bowl, then another bell, though only two parts, the twin bowl and what I would think is a larger bowl, seem obvious on the ground. The twin has two excavation dimples on top and is more of a oval than an hourglass shape. No, I don't think it's a long barrow; it's aligned north-south, it has 360 degrees of ditches and there are no other neolithic sites in the area. There is a lot of gorse growing on the barrows but they are in good shape, over 2 metres high, and have well-preserved ditches of almost 1 metre depth. None of the barrows seems to have a berm at all. It's easy to access this site from the track parallel to the road.

Farley Mount Enclosure

On probably the last nice bright winter day before I go back to work on Wednesday, I headed up here today on a long walk out West along the Roman Road and back again. Cold but bright, one of those days that seems almost warm when you are sheltered by trees and catching the sun, but the yellowish snow clouds were never far away with the odd flurry.

And as it's the best time of the year to see tiny bumps in the ground, I wasn't disappointed. In fact I was delighted to find the slight ditch and bank visible as crop marks on aerial photos. This is variable and the tufty grass makes it hard to follow except for where it crosses a farm track at the North side of the field. The variation in the surface is generally no more than six inches (!) but there is a startlingly clear curving line of higher cornflowers which follow exactly the crop marks. If you are still reading at this point, then you might just find the images interesting, though I get the feeling I ought to draw a diagram on a napkin and scan it in.

The circle of crop marks seems to cut slightly across the path to the north so I was keen to have a poke around in the hedges and see if any better-preserved ditch was evident. Well, nothing is very conclusive because the path itself has quite deep ditches on either side which certainly post-date the enclosure, but there are deeper sections at two points where one would expect the enclosure ditch to be cutting across. Sheer conjecture and coincidence, I hear you scoff. Probably true. On the other side of the path, between these two intersection points, there is a little bank of about 18 inches height in the yew hedge which may or may not be of significance; it stops where I would expect it to if it was a relic of the enclosure.

One last observation before hitting the road home: the view once the snow clouds cleared is unparalled in this district. Danebury, Popham Beacons, some faraway stuff down southeast (is that Old Winchester Hill? Can't be Portsdown Hill can it?), St Catherines on the Isle of Wight. 270 degrees of fantastic views.

Kilmeston (Round Barrow(s))

As Hampshire Treasures rightly says, the entire parish of Kilmeston is in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Not rich in prehistoric sites, but what a pleasure to meander around these deserted lanes visting what there is. These three barrows are ploughed low so best seen in the bleak midwinter when the crops and the sun are both low. They were once pretty big but are near the bottom of a dip in the undulating landscape so not visible except from within a mile or so's radius. OS maps show the middle of the three to be oval in shape with major axis roughly along the line of the three barrows (NE-SW).

The Millbarrows (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

An Explorer map (1:25000) shows the detail. I went by at some speed today and it is indeed hard to spot them. The pub used to be called the Fox and Hounds but is now Milbury's (geddit?) and is a well-known landmark to anyone plying the road between Winchester and the Meon Valley.

Psychologically it feels like a real crossing point from looking to the East (Meon) and the West (Itchen). Only once you reach this ridge does the landscape switch from one direction of views to the other. And they are pretty good views. It is very, very quiet and empty to the East, which is nice but gets a bit creepy after a while, so getting back to the ridge and seeing the roadsigns to Winchester (rather than Royston Vasey) feels like a homecoming of sorts.

Cheriton Long Barrow

Three and a bit years (gasp!) after Jimit's fieldnotes, I dropped by today during a leg-knackering bike ride. Still being saved from the plough, hooray! And I was struck by its peaceful location above valleys in three directions. If you approach from the Itchen Valley west of Alresford and then up through Cheriton, you will be following the river to within half a mile of its source (at the other end it forms Southampton Docks). And I strongly recommend that as it's fairly unspoilt swampland down there (particularly enjoyed the old single track road around Ovington - not to be confused with Lovington, Yavington or Avington, which are all nearby) and you can almost imagine yourself out in your Neolithic get up, hunting ducks and chasing beaver and whatever else they got up to. Then you emerge from the riverland to this peaceful spot.

It's a rather short long barrow, and its ditches are lost under the plough as far as I can tell. Not clear if it has been excavated. The track which runs east-west past the south side of the field is in good nick and has a gap in the fence next to the long barrow where you can admire.
Showing 1-20 of 49 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
Twice and future Wintonian

My TMA Content: