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

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Achilty (Henge) — Fieldnotes

Visited 22.7.14

Next to a minor road, north-west of Contin on the A835

Spotted this on my O/S map.

This was my last but certainly not best site of the day.

You can just about make out the circular ditch of the henge amid the tall spiky grass which indicates how wet and bogy the ground is here. Not much else to say really.
On the plus side it is right next to the road so access is easy.

If you are in the area and only have time to visit one henge go and see the one at Cononbridge instead.

CANMORE states:
Contin (Henge): A monument of which there is certain room for doubt. At first sight it seems to be a Class I henge, 75' diameter, but the bank appears to run without interruption across the entrance causeway in the ditch. Only excavation could determine if it was a henge. Even so, it is extremely likely that it belongs to some obscure phase of the transitional period early in the 2nd or even late in the 3rd millenium BC.
R W Feachem 1963

Probable henge, as described above. Slightly mutilated in the W quadrant.
Resurveyed at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (R D) 20 January 1965

Classified as a henge, as opposed to a possible henge.
H A W Burl 1969

South Ythsie (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 27.7.14

About 1 mile east of the village of Tarves.

We parked on the minor road to the west of the site and myself and Dafydd made for the circle whilst Karen stayed in the car with Sophie. A small wooden sign points the way. It only takes 5 minutes to walk along the path to the stones.
There is an information board set up by the Tarves Heritage Project 1995.

The six stones are erected on an obvious raised platform. The circle was surrounded by fields of wheat although the stones themselves were surrounded by long scraggy grass. The circle is only small but occupies a peaceful spot. It is certainly worth the minimum effort it takes to visit the stone circle.

It was a lovely hot sunny Sunday afternoon with blue sky and white fluffy clouds.
On the way back to the car we picked raspberries.

There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Cononbridge (Henge) — Fieldnotes

Visited 22.7.14

In the centre of Conon Bridge on the A862 – opposite the bus stop.

I was looking forward to visiting this site and I wasn’t disappointed.
It is a little cracker!

The site is well maintained, litter free and the grass cut short.
Although small you would be hard pushed to find a better preserved henge.
The surrounding ditch and entrance is very easy to see.

How on earth has it survived so well in the middle of a village surrounded by houses?
I was also surprised by the lack of information board.
The village/town should be proud to have this site in their care.

Make sure you allow time to visit this henge when in the area.

Tain Museum (Cup Marked Stone) — Fieldnotes

Failed visit 24.7.14

Outside the museum in the pretty town of Tain is a cup marked stone. Unfortunately the museum is in the church yard which is locked at night. We arrived at about 7.00pm but by then the gates were already padlocked. I was very disappointed.

Apparently it is also known as the Ardjachie Stone and is a boulder of red sandstone. It is 1.7m x 0.65m x 0.35m and has about 30 irregular cup marks dating from the Bronze Age.

It also has Pictish symbols on it.

One to visit when next in the area.

Bruan (Broch) — Miscellaneous

'Drive by’ 24.7.14

Easily seen from the main road when on the way to the nearby Hill O’Many Stanes.

It is visible as a large, two-tiered, grass covered mound, surrounded by a stone wall.

Hill O'Many Stanes (Multiple Stone Rows / Avenue) — Fieldnotes

Visited 24.7.14

We followed the signs from the A9 and soon arrived at the small car park where there were already several cars parked up. In fact we had to park on the verge as there were no parking spaces left.

I have to say I found the site to be a little disappointing. I was surprised by how small both the stones and the area they covered were.
I don’t think the fact the grass around the stones was long helped matters.

It was hard to make sense of the stones and I suspect an aerial view would be most beneficial. Everyone who was visiting could be heard expressing their opinions on what it could all mean. Dafydd asked me what they were for?
I simply replied I don’t know!

There are good views to be had and when I visited sea mist was rolling in from the coast. It was like being in an aeroplane above the clouds – fab!

Although, as I said, I found the site a little disappointing it is certainly still worth visiting when in the north of Scotland.

Another Historic Scotland site off the list!

East Blairbowie (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

Although sited right next to the road the stone was well hidden by long grass.

It is approximately 1m high and the top is covered in green lichen

Portfield Hillfort — Fieldnotes

Failed visit 20.7.14

After visiting the nearby Whalley Abbey Gatehouse (E.H. site) I attempted to visit this hillfort. I tried to access via the minor road to the north and the east, which is off the very busy A671.

There is no public access to the hillfort and the northern approach is blocked by someone’s house/garden. The eastern approach is blocked by a 10ft high hedge – with no gaps or gates!

If you are planning a visit I suspect the best option would be to ask permission from the people living in the house.

Dyke (Stone Row / Alignment) — Fieldnotes

Visited 20.7.14

As stated by new abbey the best place to park is at the side road a little south of the stone row. (Dyke Farm Nature Reserve)
There is nowhere safer, nearer, to park on the very busy A701.

It had been a long, hot, sunny day and this was my last site of the day.
Although the grass verge had been cut short the grass immediately around the stones had been left to nature. This meant the stones were largely hidden by long grass and nettles. Easy to miss if you didn’t know they were there.

The tallest stone (most southern) is about 1m high x 0.5m wide. Four paces away is the middle stone 0.5m high x 0.5m wide. A further 2 paces away is the northern stone which is the smallest, about 0.4m high x 0.5m wide.

Worth keeping an eye out for although I suspect 99.9% of the people passing have no idea they are here – or what they are for that matter!

Poldean (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 20.7.14

A smallish stone, a bit gnarled and about 1m high.
It stands in a field the other side of a barbed wire fence although it is easily seen from the side of the road.

Worth a quick look when passing.

Skip Knowe, Gateside (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 20.7.14

The standing stone is right next to a minor road which runs parallel to the A74.

It occupies a nice spot, under the bows of a tree, opposite a house.
The stone is the other side of a barbed wire fence. It is approximately 1.5m high x 1m wide.
It is smooth and the top of the stone is covered in moss.

Well worth a look if you are in the area.

The Clootie Well (Sacred Well) — Fieldnotes

Sign posted off the A832, west of Munlochy.

I had forgotten about this site but seeing the sign meant a stop-off just had to be made. There is a small free car park and the well is only a short walk away – just follow the bits of clothing hanging from the trees!

I have been to many places where clooties have been left and I usually find them quite respectful. However, to me, this was just a mess. There were masses of items bedecking what seemed like the entire wood. Old socks, jumpers, t-shirts, football shirts, trousers, sweat shirts – even a high visibility jacket! It looked like the aftermath of a hurricane hitting a laundry!
There were a few ‘tasteful offerings’ but in the main it looked like a load of old tat.

The well itself was quite nice but overall the site left a lot to be desired. I think someone needs to go through the site and clear out the tat and restore some of its dignity.
If anything I suspect it is even worse now than when Martin visited 10 years ago.

All in all it was a very disappointing visit.

Tealing (Souterrain) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

Sign posted off the A90 at the village of Tealing.

Ha! – two Historic Scotland sites for the price of one (not that you have to pay to visit).
The sign states that visiting is allowed until 6.00pm. As it was only 6.15pm I wasn’t going to let that put me off.

My first port of call was the Dovecot which is said to have Bronze Age carvings on some of its stones. (No doubt nicked from the souterrain/earth house?)

The door to the dovecot was locked so I had a look at the stones from the outside. Unfortunately I couldn’t spot any of the carvings.
Perhaps they are on the inside?

From here I took the short walk to the earth house. There is an information board.
The site is in good condition and the cup and ring carving at the entrance is a fine example. Once down inside the earth house it feels a lot bigger that when looking down on it from the outside.

I liked it here and it is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.

Templewood (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

After navigating the hedge and barbed wire fence I’m afraid I couldn’t see anything. The cairn was totally overgrown.

No point in visiting in the summer months unless this site has a good hair cut first.

Finavon Hillfort — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

A short distance north-west of the Aberlemno stones along a narrow and steep minor road. The site is signposted off the main road but not along the minor road .

We parked at a field gate and myself and Dafydd set out for the hillfort whilst Karen stayed in the car with the sleeping (thankfully!) Sophie. We crossed the road and climbed through the ‘trap door’ of the deer fence – a first for me.

It was a tricky climb up the very steep and slippery side of the hill but we eventually made it. The weather was beautiful and I was thankful for the cooling breeze. From the top we could see for miles.

The hillfort was quite overgrown with long grass, bushes and several trees. Despite being close to a road (albeit a very minor one) this site has a feel of ‘remoteness’ about it. We walked around the perimeter of the hillfort before making our way back to the car and our waiting companions. It was even more slippery on the way down!

It does require a degree of effort to visit Finavon Hillfort but it is well worth it.

Aberlemno 2 (Cup Marked Stone) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

I loved it here.
The Aberlemno standing stones are fantastic. I have done a bit of reading recently about the Picts and the carved stones they have left us. I was therefore looking forward to seeing these stones – I wasn’t disappointed.
You can park outside the village hall?
Luckily the light was just right to see the stones and the carvings at their best.

In addition to the three stones alongside the B9134 (take care) make sure you don’t miss the one at the nearby church yard. It is simply magnificent.

This group of stones is worth travelling a very long way to see.

One of the highlights of my holiday.

Cullerie (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

Sign posted off the B9119 / B9125.

Another Historic Scotland site knocked off the list!

From the parking area a path via an avenue of trees leads you to the stone circle. It was nice to see that a ramp is in place to allow disabled visitors access.

The great weather continued with blue sky and white fluffy clouds.

Eight stones (boulder type) and eight cairns, all within a previously burnt area of land - so reports the information board. All very interesting……….

Yes the site has been ‘tidied up’ a lot, but I liked it here and consider it well worth a visit.
For those with any mobility issues this is an ideal site to visit.

Nine Stanes (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

The last time I visited this fine site it was pouring with rain. I liked it so much I was determined to re-visit when next in the area - hopefully on a nice day. Well, today was the today and luckily, the weather was great – hot with a clear blue sky.

We parked at the gate and were confronted by a sign stating that due to forestry work being carried out access to the circle was temporarily prohibited. Sod that! Myself, Dafydd and Sophie walked along the track towards the circle whilst Karen stayed in the car in case anyone turned up.

It was good to see the sign requesting visitors to respect the stone circle and not to damage them by lighting fires.

This is a lovely stone circle in a very pretty woodland setting. I always find wooded settings most pleasing. There is something about the trees, birdsong etc.

Clearly we weren’t the only recent visitors judging by the ‘offerings’ left on the recumbent stone – peaches, flowers and even a home made ‘prehistoric’ arrow, complete with knapped stone arrow head. Someone put a lot of effort into that.

This really is a great stone circle to visit.
If you get the chance make sure you don’t miss out.

Cairn O' Mount (Round Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Visited 28.7.14

Alongside the B974.
Although feels like the middle of nowhere.

I didn’t know about this cairn and you can imagine my surprise as we drove past this huge pile of stones. There is a large parking area near the cairn which is used as a ‘view point’. There were lots of people enjoying the view but no one seemingly taking any notice of the cairn – their loss.

The cairn is easily as large as the Memsie Cairn (H.S. site) and someone has built a modern mini-cairn on top of it. It wouldn’t take much to get rid of this unwelcome parasite.

Needless to say there are fantastic views in all directions.

This was a great surprise and well worth stopping off for if you are driving along this fairly remote road.

Castlerigg (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 3.8.14

It was the last day of our holidays and it was time to head home. But not before enjoying the day in the beautiful Lake District. We had been very lucky with the weather but today it was persistent rain. On the plus side, the rain did keep visitors to Castlerigg to a minimum.

Karen stayed in the car while myself, Dafydd and Sophie donned our boots and coats and headed for the stones. A couple of gallant individuals were braving the elements and trying their best to take photos. It didn’t take long for both Sophie and Dafydd to complain about the cold wind and rain. In the end I gave up and took them back to the car.

Karen suggested I go back to the circle without the children and have a little ‘me time’ – which of course I did without hesitation! By the time I walked back up to the stones I was pleasantly surprised that everyone else had left. Not only that but the rained had eased off as well. Castlerigg - all to myself!

Whatever the weather, Castlerigg has a majesty all of its own. There is nothing I can add that hasn’t already been said about the setting. The swirling hill mists only added to the atmosphere.

All too soon another group of walkers were making their way up through the gate to have their photo’s taken. It was time to go.

To watch the sun rise at Castlerigg is on my ‘bucket list’. Due to the weather there was no chance of that happening this time but I am sure I will be back one day.

Brinkburn (Promontory Fort) — Fieldnotes

Visited 2.8.14

Follow the signs for Brinkburn Priory (E.H. site) off the B6344.

The O/S map shows the fort to be on the promontory above the priory.
The road leading from the car park to the Priory cuts across the northern steep sided slope. This would have indeed been a very steep incline before the road was built.

As for spotting any evidence of remaining defences I couldn’t see any.

Where the O/S map shows earthworks is an undulating field.
Difficult to tell (for me anyway) what was natural and what was man made.

The Priory is worth visiting but don’t go out of your way to look for anything older.

Greycroft Stone Circle — Fieldnotes

Visited 3.8.14

From the A595 take the B5343 towards Seascale. Before reaching the village take the turning on the right signposted Calder. About 1km along this road you will cross over a stream (there is a metal barrier either side of the road at this point). The tops of the stones can be seen away in the distance to your left (west).

On the approach road to Calder (and its entrance into the nuclear power station) there is a warning sign stating that you are not allowed to stop or park. I of course chose to ignore this and after instructing Karen where to pull over onto the verge, left the car with a cheery ‘if the police come and ask you what you are doing just tell them I have nipped over to see the stone circle!’ You can imagine the look of disproval on Karen’s face!

Not only has the public footpath sign been removed but someone (the farmer?) has put barbed wire across what was the access point. They clearly don’t want visitors here.

Undeterred I climbed over and headed across the field towards the derelict building. The field next to this was full of bullocks so I stayed well clear! The next field was full of wheat so I skirted around the edge until I came out on the far side. This is where you will find the stone circle. A 10 minute walk from the road.

Although the grass around the circle was short, the grass between the stones and inside the circle itself was long and rough. In the distance the white breakers in the choppy sea could be seen. However, dominating everything is the large power station and its unfriendly (but necessary) rows of fencing and barbed wire.

The stone nearest the sea looked to me to have been struck by lightening? The top and side was blackened and a chunk had broken off. A crack runs through part of the stone. I can’t think of anything else which would have caused this?

Unfortunately due to the access difficulties I had a feeling that this is an unloved, unwelcoming and rarely visited site. No doubt unlike the nearby golf course.

Try to visit if you can as these stones if you can as they need all the TLC they can get.

Blakeley Raise (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 3.8.14

Next to a minor road south of Ennerdale Bridge – off the A5086. O/S map required.

It is a pretty bleak place up here. Open moorland and a strong wind.
On the plus side the stone circle is right next to the road and has decent views to the north. Also, being a Sunday we avoided any ‘Sellafield traffic’ and had the place to ourselves.

I don’t know when the stones were re-erected but they don’t seem to have withstood the test of time very well. One stone has fallen, one half-fallen and one stone has been badly worn away around its base by sheep. I don’t think it will be standing for too much longer.

The circle was a lot smaller than I was expecting but pleasant all the same. The site has a ‘remote feel’ about it despite the closeness of the road. I quite liked it here.

Well worth a visit but make sure you bring a good map in order to find it.

Battlestone (Humbleton) (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Miscellaneous

‘Drive By’ 2.8.14

Easily seen from the A697.
Approximately 2m high with the top covered in green lichen.

The field was in crop so I didn’t bother to stop to get a closer look.

Re-used prehistoric standing stone?

Powburn (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes

‘Failed to find’ 2.8.14

Now, Powburn may only be a small place on the A697 but where is the centre and the cup marked stone?

We drove up and down but couldn’t find it.
Is it still there?

If so, can anyone provide details of how to find it?

Roughting Linn Camp (Promontory Fort) — Fieldnotes

The O/S map shows this promontory fort to be adjacent to the cup and ring marked rock. Apparently it has at least five ramparts to protect the side without steep natural slopes. However, I can neither confirm nor deny this as I couldn’t see anything due to the head high rhododendrons and chest high ferns.

No doubt a winter visit would be more productive.

Roughting Linn (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes

Visited 2.8.14

O/S map required.

There is no information board and nothing to indicate this fine cup and ring marked rock is here except what is shown on the O/S map. Look out for a wooden gate with a sign on it proclaiming ‘Lambton Estates Private’- the stone can be located in the tress opposite.

The ‘path’ leading from the road to the stone is becoming overgrown with rhododendrons. It won’t be too long before the ‘path’ is gone completely. However, I pushed on through and soon came face to face with the large rock outcrop. The grey overhead sky was far from ideal in seeing the lower cup and ring marks and it was the one neared the top which revealed itself the best. A shallow puddle had formed within the rings which highlighted them well. There are many cup marks to see – some better than others.

This is a very peaceful setting and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

I stayed as long as I could but the Vikings were due to attack Lindisfarne Priory at 3.45pm and a certain 6 year old was keen not to miss it!

The Witches' Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 31.7.14

From Dunbar, take the minor road south towards the hamlet of Spott. The stone is on the roadside when you come out of the other side (south) of Spott.

On the way to visit the Witches’ Stone keep an eye out for the Easter Broomhouse standing stone which you will pass.

The Witches’ Stone is quite small – about 1m high. There were several coins which had been left on top of the stone.

There is a worn information board next to the stone which states that the stone marks the spot where Marion Lillie (AKA the Ringwood Witch) was burnt at the stake in 1698. She was the last witch to be burnt in Southern Scotland.

This is an awkward place to get to but worth the effort if in the area.

Easter Broomhouse Standing Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

A view from the road 31.7.14

From Dunbar, take the minor road south towards the hamlet of Spott. The stone is in a field on your left (east) as you head towards Spott.

As with the Pencriag Hill stone I also visited today, Easter Broomhouse was surrounded by a crop of wheat. Again easily seen from the road but a post-harvest visit required for a close up look.

Pencraig Hill Standing Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

A view from the road 31.7.14

The stone is easily seen from the A1 but I was unable to get a close-up look as the stone was surrounded by a field of wheat. Once the crop has been harvested it would only be a short walk from the road. A nice, tall, pointy stone. Well worth a look.

Doonhill (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes

Visited 31.7.14

Sign posted off the A1 – south of Dunbar

As part of my on-going mission to visit all the Historic Scotland sites I find myself at the Doonhill Homestead. I would strongly suggest you park at the start of the track leading to the homestead rather than be tempted to drive up it. The track is not in good condition but the biggest problem is that at the top of the track (where there is a small car park) several bars are missing from the cattle grid. This means that anyone driving over the grid will feel their tyres disappear into a big hole! (Unless you happen to be driving a tractor of course). Luckily I had decided not to drive up the track before knowing this.
It takes about 10 minutes to each the site from the road.

There is a large information board explaining the site and both the Anglian chief’s hall and (more importantly perhaps) the 6,000 year old Neolithic hall are marked out on the grass. The Neolithic hall is surprisingly large. The information board states that the hall was deliberately set on fire and destroyed. There is also a small rectangular cemetery marked out in the grass but the information board doesn’t specify from which period it dates.

There are all round good views, spoiled only by the large (cement?) works.

I really liked it here and thoroughly enjoyed my visit – no doubt helped by the fine weather. It you happen to be in the area I would certainly recommend a visit.

Very surprised no one has posted about this site before?

Carn-y-Pigwn (Round Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Visited 11.7.14

This is a real ‘pig of a place’ to visit – an O/S map is definitely required.

Upon reaching the former mining village of Ferndale (on the A4233), I eventually found the correct minor road heading north, then east out across Cefn Gwyngul. I shortly arrived at a small parking place which is (optimistically) marked as a ‘viewing point’ on the O/S map. I decided to leave the car here and continue on foot along the road until I reached the track on the left which leads to the aerial transmitter. It is in fact possible to park at the gated entrance to this track.

Although the sign on the gate states vehicular traffic is prohibited, there was no mention of walkers/public, so in I went. My O/S map shows this as a track running through forestry so I was looking forward to a pleasant walk through the trees. Unfortunately, since the map was printed the trees have been ‘harvested’ and the area is now one of destruction. Although to be fair the whole area has been re-planted with conifer saplings, so in time it will recover.

The track is well made and fairly flat, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the end of the track where a second gate blocks the way. This information sign on this gate is a little more interesting. It warns that when the red flag is flying clay shooting is in progress and you must keep to the path. I of course wanted to go off-path and there were not one but two red flags flying! However, judging by the state of the flags it looked to me that they were left flying at all times. Also, there was no one about so I decided to take a chance and go through the gate and head off-path and up hill.

At this point I had the choice of heading up hill either to the left or right of the barbed wire fence. I chose the left side (mistake) and it was a long, difficult walk through the spiky grass. Luckily the weather had been fine recently and although the ground was spongy it was pretty dry. In wet weather it would have been a complete bog. As I rose higher it became increasingly difficult to make my way through the grass / gorse. Towards the summit I came to another barbed wire fence which I had to carefully climb over. At this point I could see the trig and I headed directly for it as the O/S map shows it has been built directly on top of the cairn.

The weather was hot and the sky blue. I was hot/bothered/sweaty by the time I arrived at my destination and was grateful to sit down with my back resting against the trig. I must have smelt a bit at this stage judging by the number of flies taking an interest in me!

As for the cairn itself, there is very little to say. A very low stony mound mostly covered in spiky grass. It is one of those places that you would walk right past if you didn’t know it was here. COFLEIN state: ‘A plough damaged cairn, 11.3m in diameter and 0.6m high, structural features have been suggested’. This short description pretty much sums the site up. The only other thing to add is the view.
To the south, the valley scarred by both old industry (mining) and new industry (wind turbines) The view to the north however is far more pleasant. There are good views out across the valleys and the distant Brecon Beacons beyond.

After eating my well earned banana it was time to head back to the car. As it was such a difficult walk up the hill I decided to walk down the hill on the other side of the fence. This proved much easier as there was a ‘path’ most of the way and I didn’t have to climb back over the barbed wire fence. Again, in wet weather, this would have been a complete nightmare as it would have been no more than a bog.

I quickly reached the proper track and headed back to the car. I then made my biggest mistake. Instead of continuing the way I came I decided to come off track and head directly through the newly planted trees to the car, which I could see far below me. At first all was fine but as I approached the car the dreaded gorse was much more in evidence and I then walked into a bog. Knee height in black, stinking water! It was too late now so I squelched my way through and, after climbing over another barbed wire fence, reached the safety of the road. It was a nightmare. I had to drive home in completely soaked, stinking boots. Just as well this was the ‘last hurrah’ for the boots as I was planning on buying a new pair before my Scottish adventures next week anyway. When I arrived home I stopped the car, took them off, and chucked them in the bin!

Why do we do what we do? Was it worth it? 50 mile round trip, 2 barbed wire fences, up to my knees in bog water and all to see – well, very little at all as it turned out. Still, I am sure I will feel a lot more upbeat when I am heading to Scotland on Saturday!

Carn-Y-Pigwn is not one to recommend, unless you are an obsessive and/or a masochist or TSC!.

Garth Hill (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

Dafydd had been asking me for some time if I could one day take him to watch the sun go down. Well, the summer solstice was as good a day as any! Although feeling tired (we had been at the beach all day – Dafydd was delighted to have found a fossil amongst the rocks and a sherd of pottery during an ‘archaeological dig’ he undertook in a sand dune) we headed for Garth Hill.

Upon arriving at the small parking area we had to squeeze in as four cars were already parked up. We headed up the hill, taking the path through the high ferns, and soon arrived at the largest barrow with the trig on top. There were two groups of people sat upon the barrow and we quickly joined them. Everyone seemed happy and made up feel welcome.

There was a large cloud bank high in the sky but luckily the horizon itself was cloudless. The sun shone bright and clear. The sky starting to turn to orange as the sun sank deeper over the skyline. Dafydd was captivated as I explained how the sun rose from the east at different points throughout the year before setting again in the west. From this wonderful vantage point I also pointed out places of interest that could be seen. Cardiff, Flat Holm, Steep Holm, the English coastline – you can see for miles from up here.

It was almost like a party atmosphere as we watched the sun slowly disappear. Everyone had a smile on their face and there was lots of happy chatter. It is quite amazing how such a simple thing as watching the sun rise/set can bring so much happiness to people.
I guess it has always been this way?

The sun now gone, the sky darkening, it was time to head home.
‘Can you take me to watch the sunrise one day?’ asked Dafydd.
‘Of course’ I replied ‘It would be a pleasure’.
I can think of a lot of worse places to do this than sat atop the Garth barrows.

St. Lythans (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

A rare event – the solstice falling on the weekend and no cloudless sky forecast!

I got up out of bed at 3.45am and (fallowing a quick cuppa) was out of the house by 4.00am. Driving past Tinkinswood I noticed two cars parked so knew there were people there. Was there anyone at St Lythan’s? In a word – no.

I parked up and took the short walk from the gate towards the dolmen. The grass was heavy with dew and my boots were soon sodden. The weather was beautiful. Not a hint of a breeze, clear blue skies and no sign of the ‘wild dog’ warned about by Evergreen Dazed!

I looked all around the chamber before standing inside to watch the sun come up. The strange thing is how much warmer it felt inside the chamber compared with outside. As the weather has been so hot over the last few days it must have heated the stones up which then radiated the warmth back out when the air cooled. It really was quite noticeable the difference in temperature.

At this point I realised that the sun would be coming up from behind trees, something I hadn’t expected. I was hoping for a clear horizon. Perhaps the people at Tinkinswood knew something I didn’t? I decided to head to there instead.

I squeezed in next to the other cars and quickly made my way across the field. Two people were stood at the entrance of the chamber and a third chap was stood on top of the capstone. It looked like he had been there all night as a tent had been set up. We acknowledged each other and I stood and watched and waited. The sky was starting to brighten and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the sun came up. However, much to my dismay, the sun was going to come up right behind an electricity pylon – nightmare! This certainly wasn’t how I wanted to watch the solstice. I decided the only thing for it was to go back to ‘Plan A’ and rush back to St Lythan’s – I still had time to make it. Also, (no offence chaps) but it felt better watching on my own.

I arrived in time to watch the sun slowly rise behind the trees. The good thing is the trees filtered the brightness of the sun so I could comfortably watch it without hurting my eyes. After about 5 minutes the sun rose above the trees and it became too bright to look at. A short while later, two of the people I had seen at Tinkinswood arrived and we had a quick chat. One of them commented on how he was feeling cold. I suggested he warm up by standing inside the chamber!

Not unexpectedly, the sun did not line up with the entrance of the chamber but I wondered if it lined up with the winter solstice? If it did, there would be an unobstructed view of the sun coming up. Weather permitting, I will return to this lovely little dolmen at the winter solstice to see if it really does line up?

All in all, a good (if early) way to start the day. Now, where to watch the sunset from?

Gray Hill (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 17.6.14

This was the primary site I wanted to visit today and the main reason for having an early finish from work. After my earlier, somewhat disappointing visit to Lanmelin Woods, it was with great anticipation that I parked the car in the large car park overlooking the shimmering waters of the reservoir. The first thing I noticed was that the information board had been vandalised, one bin destroyed and the other overflowing with rubbish.
This is South Wales after all.
There was only one chap in the car park (bird watcher) and I said ‘hello’ (as you do in the countryside) as I headed up towards the bridleway opposite.
He ignored me – miserable bugger!
Unperturbed I carried on my merry way.

The track starts off being well made and not too steep but once you reach the last house, and go through the gate marked Grey Hill Common, the track becomes a path. From here the path becomes progressively narrower and steeper – although the views get better, out over the reservoir and beyond.

It is a 15 minutes walk from the car park to the top of the hill. Until reading TSCs notes I hadn't realised that the stony soil at the top was the remains of a cairn. Great location for a cairn.

I had brought my previous direction notes with me but to be honest, at this time of year with everything in full growth, I didn’t find them much use.
Perhaps these are better directions for finding the standing stone and circle?
(Note – they cannot be seen from the path along the ridge of the hill)
Once you reach the top of the path and come out onto the top of the hill, take the path to your left. Follow this path for a couple of hundred metres until you pass (what appears to be) two small quarry pits – one each side of the path. A little further along the ‘main’ path you will see a ‘minor’ path heading off to your right – down the hillside and through the ferns/bushes/trees. Take this path and it will lead you straight to the standing stone and the circle just beyond.

10 minute walk from the top of the hill / 25 minutes from the car park way down below.

Despite the new growth the stones were easy enough to see. The inside of the circle was free of ferns etc. I had forgotten that the southern edge of the ring was made up of a continuous row of stones. The rest of the circle was more fragmented.

The tall outliner is a fairly impressive stone in its own right. Between the outliner and the circle I spotted several 'suspicious' looking recumbant stones. One in particular looked very much like a fallen standing stone. The small oak tree next to the circle had a couple of clooties tied to its lower branches.

What is most impressive about this site of course is the view.
Sweeping views over the River Severn, along the coast and out over to England. Flat Holm and Steep Holm just about visible in the summer haze.

The centre of the circle was free of ferns etc and, using my t-shirt and the leaning/fallen stone as a pillow, I lay down on the cool grass and watched the clouds drift by high above me. The sun was beating down and the surrounding ferns acted as a wind break. It was very warm and I nearly fell asleep. All was well in the world. A sense of contentment came over me. All my cares (for a while at least) ebbed away.

Before long however I had to rouse myself as it was time to pick the children up from school and return to the ‘real’ world. It is important that every now and again you get the chance to visit such a site and de-stress.
It is certainly cheaper than a psychiatrist!

Llanmelin Wood Lesser Enclosure — Fieldnotes

Failed visit 17.6.14

The enclosure is in the trees next to the minor road, a short distance east of Llanmelin Hillfort.

Unfortunately there was no way into the trees to have a look as the way was blocked by a sea of head height nettles (I am not joking) and bushes.

Definitely one for a winter visit!

COFLEIN state:
‘A roughly oval enclosure, about 52m by 32m, banked, ditched and counterscarped, the circuit is not preserved on the south-east. The site lies 235m north-east of Llanmelin Wood hillfort, trenched across the defences, in 1930-32, produced Iron Age pottery from the banks, overlain by deposits containing 12th C AD material.

Llanmelin Wood (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

Visited 17.6.14

A lovely sunny day and the chance of a half-day finish from work – result!

It has been a few years since I visited this CADW site and I was eager to return.
I parked, as before, on the verge near the entrance to Coombe Farm and made my way through the trees opposite. There is a large area to park in the trees but there are CADW warning signs that state you are not allowed to park here as it is private and in use by the farm.

Out the other side of the trees and over the wooden field gate. This is where things started to get tricky. The field was full of head high crop (rape I think?) so I skirted around the edge. Unfortunately the edge of the field was choked with chest high nettles – clearly no one had been this way for quite some time. It was difficult to hack my way through the nettles - particularly when wearing shorts – and they got the better of me a couple of times. Luckily there were plenty of dock leaves about!

I eventually reached the other side of the field and crossed through the woods. This was not only a lot easier but also a very pretty walk. The sun was shinning through the tree tops and the birds were singing. Once out of the trees I arrived at the field where the hillfort resides.

This time of year is not best suited to visiting this site. The hillfort is completely covered in wild grasses which are between waist and chest height. Despite this the banks and ditches are easy to make out; the outer bank is about 3m high (from the bottom of the ditch) whilst the inner bank is about 5m high (from the bottom of the ditch). From the top of the inner ditch you can see across most of the site.

Due to the long grass I didn’t bother exploring any further as I doubt I would have been able to see much. You would think that a CADW site (the public are encouraged to visit) would be better maintained than this. Better access is certainly required and a flock of sheep would do wonders to keep the grass down. A few sign posts would help too. Without an O/S map and a knowledge that it was here you would not find this place. I have previously raised these issues with CADW – why advertise / encourage people to visit a CADW site when the average person would never be able to find / access it? Predictably, the reply I had was less than satisfactory.

Still, I would recommend a visit by TMAers but best done in the winter months when the grass / nettles / crop wouldn’t be so much of an issue. For most people I would say you would be better off visiting the hillfort at Lodge Wood.
Easier to access and a lot more to see.

Falkner's Circle (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

Park in the lay-by at the end of the remaining stones of the Avenue.
There is a wooden sign directing you across the road and along the edge of a cultivated field. This takes you straight to the remains of the circle – 5 minute walk.

This is another one of those sites that I have wanted to visit for some time. When visiting Avebury I usually get sucked in by the lure of the stone circle / Silbury Hill / WKLB etc but this time I was determined to visit Falkner’s Circle – or more to the point, what remains of it.

I headed down the side of the field with Sophie and Dafydd in tow. The edge of the field was a sea of nettles and as all 3 of us were in shorts we had to tread carefully. On the way both myself and Sophie got our legs stung. Dafydd was far too sensible for this to happen to him as he beat the nettles back with a stick!

We soon reached the remaining stone from the circle which is next to a hedge and an old wooden gate post. Such were the mass and height of the nettles around the stone that we could see, but not touch the stone. A winter’s visit would be easier on the legs.

It may not be much to look at but it felt good to have finally visited this site.

Whitefield Farm (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

From Ogbourne St George take the minor road north which runs parallel to the A345. Shortly after passing Herdswick Farm you will come to a bridleway which runs both east and west across the road. The barrow is next to the road/bridle path on the eastern side of the road.

There is plenty of room to park at the bridle path. The hedgerow is thick but access to the field can be sought via the muddy bridle path.

Unfortunately I could see nothing of a barrow – just an overgrown corner of an otherwise ploughed field. The site is marked as ‘tumulus’ on the O/S map but E.H. have nothing to report. Neither do I. Not one to bother visiting I’m afraid.

Alton Priors (Christianised Site) — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

In the village of Alton Priors. Due south of Avebury.

Ever since my previous visit, when I didn’t get to lift the trap doors to see the sarsens, I had been itching to come back At last, today was the day.

Karen stayed in the car while myself, Sophie and Dafydd walked through the wooden turnstile (yes, it’s still there!) and across the field to the church. At first I feared we had had a wasted journey as the church doors were closed but it was relief to find they were closed but not locked. Earlier in the day I had visited the church in Tockenham (to see the Roman sculpture embedded in the wall) but that church was locked – not a problem as the sculpture is on the outside. A sign on the door said that the church is open during daylight hours from May to September and access can be had via a local key holder between October and April.

Unlike my last visit, this time the church was empty. I looked to my right and saw the first of the two trap doors – it is approximately 1m x 0.5m. The organ which stood on top of the trap door last time I visited had been moved over to a small recess. The handle to lift the door was broken but I was able to put a finger in a ventilation hole and prise the door open. There below me was a stone about the same size as the trap door, broken in two, with a hole drilled into one end.

The second trap door is near the step leading to the altar. This one is the larger of the two. Approximately 1m x 1m. The little brass handle made this a lot easier to open. Upon lifting the door the whole of the space is filled by the sarsen stone. Dafydd quickly jumped down onto the stone but Sophie wasn’t keen and wanted the trap door closed. I assume she was afraid of what may come up out of it!

I picked up a leaflet issued by the Church Conservation Trust which gave a detailed history and contents of the church but strangely makes no mention of the trap doors and sarsen stones. Perhaps the church is embarrassed of its origins?

As far as I know this is the only church that has trap doors in order to be able to see the stones. Top marks to the person who was thoughtful enough to put them in when laying the floor. This is an excellent place to visit and well worth the detour when visit Avebury. From the church you get a good view of the white horse and Adam’s Grave.

I am surprised more people don’t visit intriguing place.

Falkners Circle Mounds — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

Whilst walking along the field edge to the see the remains of the stone circle I looked to my right and could (just about) make out two very low ‘bumps’ in the recently sowed field. The crop was only just sticking its head above the ground. If the crop had been any higher I would not have been able to make them out. Had I not been on so many ‘barrow hunts’ in the past (and become fairly good at spotting these minor ‘bumps’) I wouldn’t have spotted them in the first place.

I had no idea beforehand that they were there and so was feeling quite pleased that I had spotted them. Upon checking TMA I assume they are these barrows?

E.H. have this entry which could also explain what I saw:

Name: Bowl barrow 900m SSE of Green Bank
National Grid Reference: SU 10992 69202
The monument includes a bowl barrow situated 900m SSE of Green Bank at the south east end of a slight ridge, located on the north east facing slope of West Overton Down. The barrow has been reduced in height by cultivation and is only visible at ground level as a slight spread of chalk c.35m in diameter and 0.3m high. From previous records it is known that the barrow mound originally stood at least 1.2m high. Surrounding the mound is a quarry ditch from which material was obtained during its construction. This has been infilled over the years by the spreading of the mound, but will survive as a buried feature c.2m wide.

Manton Round Barrow (Round Barrow(s)) — Miscellaneous

Just to say that you cannot see the barrow from the ever busy A4 to the south.

I doubt if it can be seen from the minor road to the east.

There is no public access to the barrow
There is nowhere to park on the A4 for a ‘sneak’ visit. Perhaps there is from the minor road?

Lockeridge Dene (Natural Rock Feature) — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

In the village of Lockeridge – just south of the A4 – halfway between Avebury and Marlborough. Drive through the village and you will come to it.

It’s strange how your memory can play tricks on you. I remembered the erratic stones of Lockeridge Dene as being much larger and more plentiful. On this re-visit, after a number of years, I was slightly disappointed to find that my memory was indeed playing tricks. (No doubt that is why you should always have a second viewing when buying a house)

There are a couple of large stone here but most are much smaller than I remembered – and not as plentiful. At this time of year the thistles were much more prominent.

What was definitely different was that this time there was a herd of cows in the field which meant you had to be more careful where you stepped!

The cottage facing the fenced off ‘field of stones’ was as idyllic as I remembered.

Despite not quite living up to my memories, Lockeridge Dene is still a fine place to visit and you certainly won’t find the masses of visitors here that you do at Avebury.

You can park on the roadside and entrance to the field is via a wooden gate.
There is a small National Trust information sign.

Avenue stone with axe grinding marks (Carving) — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

I followed Chance's directions and before too long was at the stone in question. The strange thing is it ‘felt’ like you were walking in the ‘wrong’ direction walking away from Avebury. The Avenue ‘feels’ right when walking towards the circle/henge – make of that what you will?

As stated, the marks are on the fence-side of the stone, about 1 foot above the ground.

I spotted 3 fairly deep groove lines and possibly another 3 slight grooves.

The grooves are not that obvious unless you are looking specifically for them.

Worth looking out for if walking along the Avenue.

Avebury (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited 14.6.14

As we were booked in on baby-sitting duties on Father’s Day itself, Karen suggested we go out for the day on Saturday instead. Sounded good to me.
‘What about a trip to Avebury for Father’s Day?’ suggested Karen
My reply was somewhat predictable!

I was amazed/horrified to discover that the National Trust now wanted £7.00 to park – yikes! Fortunately, as CADW members, it was free for us. The strange thing is it was free for coaches to park. How does that work?

After not paying this extortionate fee we walked along the path and headed straight for the National Trust café next to the museum. The weather was warm and fine and myself and Karen sat on the grass while the children played with the outside toys provided. Dafydd got into a debate with a woman over the rules of Connect 4 whilst Sophie ignored them both and put the discs in any order!

After finishing our drinks and ice creams we went into both museums to have a look around. There is a lot of interesting things to see and, again thanks to our CADW membership, saved even more money on entrance fees.

After this we decided to walk the full circuit of Avebury.

We soon came across a group (should that be a coven?) of ‘White Witches’. Two of the witches were hugging a stone whilst the others looked on. The head witch had a wooden pole with bells and ribbons on it. A bit further on we came across a family who were looking intently at a stone. Mum had her hands stretched out in front of the stone and was explaining to the others how she could ‘feel’ its power. Her teenage daughter looked on less than impressed!

We then came to the clootie tree; its lower branches festooned with ribbons and cloth and messages and trinkets. You certainly see some sights at Avebury! I guess that is one of the reasons it is such a special place?

After completing our circuit we went to the Red Lion for a meal. As the weather was so nice we sat outside. It was nice to be able to sit and drink and chat whilst looking over at some of the mighty standing stones.

A quick visit to the Henge Shop and it was then time to walk the Avenue.

Yes, Avebury is indeed a special place.

Pentre Ifan (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

Visited 8.6.14

Although I know some people have had trouble finding the mighty Pentre Ifan I found it easy enough. I did have my O/S map with me but it wasn’t needed as the site is signposted all the way from the A487.

Dafydd had recently made a model of Pentre Ifan for school and I was keen for him to visit the site in person. This was something that he was also eager to do. Karen stayed in the car with Sophie who was sound asleep after playing on the beach.

Even though I had been here before it was with a sense of excitement that I walked from the parking area, along the path, towards the dolmen.

It was whilst walking along the path that I noticed how many large stones there are scattered about. This was something I hadn’t paid much attention to on my previous visit although I am a bit more experienced in these things now so I guess I am more likely to take notice of such things.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this site? It is quite exceptional.
It was just as I remembered it. In saying that this is one of those places that you are never likely to forget visiting!

Dafydd was also impressed. I took photos of him stood in front of the stones. Something he can take to school to show his teacher and later keep next to his model which takes pride of place in his bedroom!

Pentre Ifan is one of the outstanding prehistoric site in Wales and should be on everyone’s ‘must do’ list. If you are planning a trip ‘way out west’ make sure to also visit nearby Castell Henllys – it makes for a good day out.

St Nons (Standing Stones) — Fieldnotes

Visited 8.4.16

Dafydd has been doing a bit about St David in school so I thought (while in the area) it would be a good idea to show him where (allegedly) St David was born.

If you have never been to St Non’s it is a pretty place with dramatic coastal views.

I don’t think the people staying in the religious retreat were getting much peace with Sophie bellowing away with her usual gusto!

Whilst visiting the well and chapel remains it gave me the chance to have a look at the four standing stones in the field. The one nearest the bank I missed last time I visited as I wasn’t aware it was there. They are not very big but are there nonetheless.

I didn’t get chance to have a look at the stones in the higher field this time.

If you are in St David’s this is well worth the extra short drive to visit.

Bickney Beacon (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

A short distance east of the Llanrhian standing stone, along a minor road

Not much to see here, just an overgrown mound right next to the hedge/road.

The road is very narrow although you can stop at the open field entrance.

The field was in crop but in the middle of the field I could see a large stone/boulder.
Don’t know if this is relevant to anything?

COFLEIN state:
A ploughed down mound crossed by a hedge bank, 24m in diameter and 0.5m high. When opened by Fenton (19th C) revealed a large cist sealed by a capstone 2.6m long, containing a holed ‘axe-hammer’ and traces of a possible inhumation.

Llanrhian (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

Visited 8.6.14

From St David’s take the A487 north-east. When you reach Croes-goch take the turning north for Llanrhian. Park at the church. To the left of the church is a farm and minor road.
The standing stone is easily seen at the back of the farm, next to the road.

As I approached the stone two farmers were busy ‘encouraging’ a herd of cows across the road and into the farm for milking. They both looked over but ignored me.
I assume the patch of open ground the stone stands on is theirs but it is not being used for anything as far as I could tell.

This is a fine stone, over head height with a pointy top.
One side of the stone was covered in moss.
In the distance coastal views could be seen.

This is a really easy stone to access (just drive up the road if you don’t even want to get out of your car!) and is well worth seeking out if you happen to be in the St David’s area.

Castles (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

Visited 8.6.14

Had a quick look on the way to Pentre Ifan.

You can see what is left of the barrow from over the hedge; at the top of the bank next to the road. It has now been reduced to a very minor ‘bump’ in the field.

Don’t bother going out of your way to see this.

COFLEIN state:
A ploughed-down but otherwise undisturbed barrow, 26m in diameter and 1.2m high (not now it isn’t!). Said to have been strewn with quartz in 1964.
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I have visited both historic and prehistoric sites for a number of years but since 'discovering' this website my visits have spiralled out of control!
I am now out 'exploring' as often as possible and have been to many wonderful places I didn't even know existed before using this website.
Having visited all the CADW sites I am now trying to visit all the E.H. sites and as many H.S. sites as possible.
In trying to achieve these goals I get to travel all around the country and with it the chance to visit as many sites as possible mentioned on this fine website. I hope some of you find my contributions a little helpful?
I have certainly found the contributions made by others to be both very informative and often quite amusing!
I must also mention the lovely Karen whom without her help, encouragement and understanding I would not be able to visit half of the places I do.
I am forever grateful.

My TMA Content: