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

Fieldnotes by Jane

Latest Posts
Showing 1-20 of 520 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

Barnenez (Chambered Cairn)

I wanted to return to the great cairn of Barnenez because when we visited 4 years ago it was pouring with rain. Last week when we went it was sunny and dry – perfect!

Because it's a big important monument with a visitor centre and a perimeter fence you have to pay a fee to get in. But it was Monday. And it was closed. Drat and double drat! It was 50miles from where we were staying and I didn't want to drive all that way again. There was nothing for it but to try to find a way through the fence. (Don't try this at home, kids!)

So we walked up the lane a bit and made our way through the fields inspecting the high barbed wire perimeter fence. It looked impenetrable. Another field. Another length of fence. Right around the back of the monument, three fields away from the visitor centre we found a place under some trees where the fence had already been breached, presumably by other Monday visitors. So we scrambled through the dense low trees and got in! It felt a bit naughty and I'd much rather have paid my 5euros to be honest.

We walked around the vast monument admiring its wonderful layers, chambers and superb stonework, revelling in the luxury of seeing in sunlight, the shadows revealing it bulk even more. To me, of all Brittany's megalithic treasures, Barnenez is the greatest jewel of all.

Champ Grosset (Allee-Couverte)

Just to the east of Quessoy, this unspectacular and a bit trashed monument is in a very rural setting on the edge of woodland. It's got five capstones still up, so worth a look-see.

Allee couverte de la Couete (Allee-Couverte)

Only 500ms north of its twin Grand Argentel.

Grand Argentel (Allee-Couverte)

This fine monument is only about 500ms south down the lane from Allée couverte de la Couëte. It's a reall beauty and not that easy find among the tangle of semi-rural lanes of the towns and suburbs south of St Brieuc.

Ploufragan (Allee-Couverte)

We found the allee couverte 'de la Vallee' in the small open park area of a business park near the centre of Ploufragan town, on 'Place Nelson Mandela'.

It's 14ms long and has quite a complete passageway but only has 2 caps up and the third nearly up. It's got an accompanying menhir which gives it a certain 'je ne sais pas'.

Men Marz (Standing Stone / Menhir)

This mighty menhir, known locally as the 'miracle stone', near Brignonan Plage is a whopping 8.5ms tall and had a silly little cross plonked on the top, probably in the Middle Ages. It's also got a cross carved into it near the bottom.

There's a naturally occuring shelf or notch about 5ms up the menhir which people try to throw pebbles onto. The story goes that if a young woman managed to get a pebble up there, she would be married within a year. I had a go at it and failed dismally. Moth was more determined and finally got one to stay up.

It's well worth seeing because it's such a monster.

Quillimadec (Allee-Couverte)

On the northern side of the estuary of Quillimadec, near a hamlet called Larret, we found another, very denuded allee couverte on the beach.

There's no doubt that this one is completely covered by the sea at high tide for seaweed clings of every part of every remaining stone as if it is wearing some kind of seaside camouflage.

It's not nearly so impressive as Kernic to the east, but it does have two parallel rows of stones, a distinctive fallen capstone and a unique ambience.

Kernic (Allee-Couverte)

We'd seen the skeletal remains of Kernic in books and always been impressed with it, not least because it's right on the beach, and at high tide gets (mostly) covered by the sea.

As sea levels have risen since ancient times, it's left Kernic stranded (in the literal sense of that word, at the strand line), so you can only see all that is left of the monument at low tide.

Climb down from the dunes and among the tethered boats on the beach, below some rocky tors overlooking the estuary, the 'bones' of the monument are easy to spot; the passage and some kerbstones.

The mound and capstones have long ago been washed away and seaweed covers the lower portions of the stones. It's very cool. A must-see.

Coat Luzuen (Allee-Couverte)

We were actually looking for Coat Menez Guen (which we never found although we must have been within inches) but found this, Coat Luzuen instead.

Having found this one, still thinking it was Coat Menez Guen, we struggled to make sense of Aubrey Burl's notes about it in 'Megalithic Brittany' before realising he was describing a completely different monument.

Coat Luzuen is a grand, if neglected monument standing near the edge of field. There's a little break in the hedge for you to get through to reach it. From what we could see through the tangle of vegetation surrounding it, it had two large flat capstones, one I guessed was 4 or 5 ms long.

You could get it to its quite big chamber easily and I sat in there for a while, out of the drizzle, looking at the tendrils of ivy curling their way around the stones.

Kerantiec (Arc-boutée)

This allee couverte is another of the rare arc-boutee type. We liked it very much, standing at the lane side, it even had a picnic table. It's in very good condition and very well kept.

In Aubrey Burl's 'Megalithic Brittany' he calls it Goulet-Riec. And Pierre-Roland Giot calls it Kernediec. I've called it Kerantiec because that's what it said on the sign. I'm sure it answers to all three.

Kercodonner

Here's a nice neat one, just south of Moelan sur Mer, standing in a little field which is slightly higher than lane level so it makes it look bigger. It's got it's own accompanying menhir which is 2.5ms high, just a couple of metres away from one end. Easy to find, too!

Kergoustance (Allee-Couverte)

This 17m long allee couverte is on a field edge very close to Moelan sur Mer in a semi-rural position.

It's got a tree growing out of one end which isn't doing the monument much good; many of the stones have moved about and it's a bit trashed, but overall it's not bad. Nice big capstones, too.

Castel Rufel (Arc-boutée)

This is another of those rare allee couvertes built in the arc-boutée style, that is, with slabs leaning inwards like a house of cards or tent.

It's nowhere near as good or spectacular as Ty ar Chorriket, another arc-boutée allee couverte we saw the week before. Each individual slab is really big but the whole monument has fewer stones and lacks the complexity or completeness.

Its situated on the highest hill in the area and views from up there are marvellous. There's a grassy farm track that leads up to it and enough room to turn your car around at the top to avoid the tedious 1200m walk.

Melus (Allee-Couverte)

This little gem is right up on the north coast and worth seeking out for its compact neatness. It's well-kept and well-tended in its own parcel of land on the edge of the village of Loguivy de la Mer.

It has lost its kerbstones and anytrace of mound, but 9 capstones are still up, an it appear to have all its uprights. It's even got its original lateral entrance. The stones are not large, but the overall building is lovely.

Crec'h Quillé (Chambered Tomb)

This is an exceptional monument, utterly spectacular actually! It's essentially a long barrow, 28 ms long, with a magnificent central passageway 15.8ms long. You enter from one side. It still has lovely kerbstones and plenty of high mound, up to a metre high in places.

It's got lovely drystone walling between the kerbstones, a side entrance with original portal stones, outliers, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Who could ask for anything more?!

Burl's instructions on how to reach it, in our copy of 'Megalithic Brittany' were 24 years out of date. It's now in a hamlet largely gobbled up by the northern 'town-creep' of St Quay and at the back of an ugly out-of-town strip of garages, car lots, plumbing centres and gardening emporiums.

La Chapelle Sept Saints (Allee-Couverte)

This is profoundly weird. If anyone is in any doubt that Christianity is any more than just an iron age idol-worshipping death cult, then they should come here.

This allee couverte has been completely integrated into the chapel and now forms its crypt. You can get into it through a little iron gate, but obviously you can't see it's original exterior shape anymore because it's been swallowed up by the church.

The stones are massive and would have to be to (partially) take the weight of the chapel built over it.

Now it's been reduced to a cave-like hidey-hole for seven crudely carved dollies, paint peeling and faded. Seven tacky wooden figures of third century Turkish saints who were drowned each stand about a foot high behind a wooden fence so you can't reach them. Or were they the seven dwarfs? There's even a little toy boat, presumably to remind people of the way the saints died. I actually counted eight dollies - perhaps one of them was Snow White, I wondered? No, no, it must have been the virgin Mary.

The resemblance of the figures to the kind of idols you find in animist religions in West Africa and Papua New Guinea was striking and made all the more powerful by their position in this ancient monument. Definitely worth seeing for the weird-factor alone.

Pergat (Standing Stone / Menhir)

This one's not that easy to find, but if there's only one menhir you see in Cotes d'Armor, make it this one. Look out for a small woodland track off the lane - it is signposted though not conspicuously.

It's 8.5ms tall and has a circumference of 12.5ms. That's one helluva big chunk of stone! It dwarfs the piffling little menhir of only 2ms standing a few metres away from it. Curiously uneven, it morphs into different shapes as you move around it.

Stand close to it and you'll be amazed at how tiny and insignificant you feel. Apparently its the third largest menhir in Brittany, and is 7,000 years old (so my guidebook says).

It dominates its little woodland glade and it absolutely loved it!

Although they are a long way apart it seems to form an alignment with Kerguezennec and Pedernec menhirs.

Kerguezennec (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Well, it's a big one, make no mistake, standing 6.25ms tall. From the front and back it seems enormously chunky, but from the side it's much thinner and tapers off dramatically towards the top.

Toul an Urz (Allee-Couverte)

Toul an Urz means the 'bear hole', surely a reference to when our ursine friends still roamed the nearby forest.

One of the three remain capstones, the thinnest and largest, slopes right down to the ground. Whether it originally did so is hard to say – unlikely I'd have thought.

Traditionally, girls wanting a husband would slide down the stone. Surely they'd have been better off speed-dating?!

Roch Toul (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Hidden in among a field of tall maize, we almost missed this one entirely.
Showing 1-20 of 520 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
Habitat: Commonly sighted in fields round Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.
Distribution: Widespread; occasional migrations to overwinter in Africa or other hot climes.
Characteristics: A tall, blonde, opinionated bird with feisty temper when provoked. Prone to spells of gloom during winter months. Usually sporting dark plumage, except for golden head, can often spotted with sketchbook and brushes near megalithic sites.
Feeding habits: Easily tempted with cheese (any variety) or a nice cup of tea. Unfeasibly fond of curry.
Behaviour: Unpredictable, approach cautiously. Responds very favourably to flattery.
Abhors: slugs, invisible sky gods, Tories, the Daily Mail, bigots, eggs, the cold, walking and timewasting.
Adores: a man called Moth, painting, live music, furry creatures, tea administered frequently, hot places, cheese, writing crap poetry, David Attenborough, Ernest Shackleton, Vincent van Gogh and the English language.
Want more?: see her website.
Big old rocks I find appealling
Their secrets they are not revealing
Some are chambers, some are tombs
Hidden in valleys and in combes
Some are said to act like clocks
With shadows cast out from their rocks
I like the way they just survive
When I visit, I feel alive
So I chase my rocks around the maps
Round England, Ireland and France, perhaps
But there ain't nothin' that I liked so much
As to see the Hunebedden, dem is Dutch.

My TMA Content: