|Today's task, on the face of it, was impossible. Find a henge monument in Hertfordshire!
We started the day with a warm-up at Stevenage Six Hills, a series of Iron Age barrows.
I was quite surprised when I found out where these were. A few years ago, before my TMA interests, I’d attended a job interview in the modern office block that overlooks the mounds. I remember assuming at the time that they were just a modern landscaping feature…
Antiquarian descriptions state that the mounds were once all surrounded by ditches and outer banks, but these are no longer visible. What are visible today are the inevitable cycle tracks across the tops of the mounds, which are situated a short walk from the shopping centre. The mounds are fairly evenly spaced, on a N-S line. Only one is undisturbed, three having large depressions indicating where shafts have been sunk, and the two most southerly have been tunnelled from the sides.
All in all, a bit of an anachronism in the modern(!) town, but I’m glad they’ve managed to survive.
After a quick (2 hour!) visit to a craft fair for Mikki, we headed north toward Baldock, and Weston Hill Henge, which was easier to find than I'd expected although I needed the GPS to confirm the location, as there's not much to see at ground level.
This is definitely one for the completists. The henge does not appear on the OS map, but is mentioned on the MAGIC web site as a scheduled monument. The henge is about 1m in height, and around 65m in diameter. There are apparently two opposing entrances, identified from crop marks, in the East and West. The Icknield Way passes by and is visible to the NE.
I approached on the path from the NW. The henge site can be seen across a field surrounded by barbed wire, showing signs warning of Rat Poison and other evils. Staying on the path (marked on the OS Map), and skirting around this field leads to the field with the henge in it. Luckily, the crop had recently been harvested and I crossed to the henge site itself, which was heavily overgrown with weeds. Sadly, there’s really not much to see here, unless you enjoy staring at an uncultivated patch of land surrounded by farmland.
The site is associated with a local legendary giant called Jack O' Legs who was supposed to have lived in a cave nearby.
Various versions of the story exist. See http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/hertfordshire/weston.html
The henge can faintly be seen, in the dark field, just south west of the trees.
On the way home, I decided to push my luck and seek out some barrows in Graffridge Wood, near Knebworth. The wood is wonderful, and teeming with life – game fowl abound, and the insect life is diverse and colourful. I managed to find the Roman barrow (TL 217209), but failed on the Bronze Age bowl and bell barrows (TL214208), mainly because the fern and bramble undergrowth was so dense. I had a nice walk in the woods though, which made up for the disappointment.