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

Fieldnotes by texlahoma

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King Down (Round Barrow(s))

The walk to King Down barrows from the Blandford Road, the B3082, makes the arrival here all the more special. Badbury Rings can be a very busy site to visit, it's well used in all senses from dog walking to ritual activity and (it would seem) everything in between.
If you take the bridle way past the rings you will find yourself walking on an old Roman road as well as an ancient green road as you walk around this beautiful and comparatively remote countryside. Along the way you will be offered different perspectives of Badbury Rings, pass 700 year old Oak trees and leave all sounds of traffic far behind you.

The Barrows themselves are just of the bridleway on the crest of a hill within a freshly planted field. They are well visible at different points in the landscape. When up close with them they are found to be in good condition considering there is no trace at all of the other barrows that once shared this space.

I would recommend putting a day aside to walk these green lanes and to follow the Roman road, get lost in it all, eventually you'll find your way back to Badbury rings as we did but feeling much more connected to the place and with a greater understanding of the positioning of it in the landscape away from the national Trust car park and country roads.

Buzbury Rings (Hillfort)

A very misty morning certainly helps to add atmosphere to any site. Having said that I found Buzbury Rings to contain an incredible amount of atmosphere even after the mist had lifted, revealing views for miles in most directions, apart from looking North West where the line of trees obscure any view towards where Blandford Forum sits today.

The banks here are very shallow to be defensive, especially when compared to the nearby Badbury Rings, although if you imagine away the road, the golf club across the road and the fences surrounding the site, this is a high point in the landscape. If you travel from Blandford this in the highest point so far after leaving the town, climbing all the way. Heading in the same direction toward Wimborne Minster you will dip right down immediately after Buzbury Rings before ascending again towards the grander spectacle of Badbury Rings. The road being modern itself of course, so maybe this is still based on a modern viewpoint. Interesting though.

Another interesting feature here is the combination of a large outer bank followed by a second smaller bank, a ditch and then the inner bank to the central enclosure. Useful for keeping animals within perhaps but it does feel create a unique sense of space in this landscape.
These days it is left to the Birds, Badgers, Rabbits, Hares and judging from the litter in the lay by other human visitors, exploring this site.

Although Buzbury Rings is definitely less immediately spectacular than Badbury Rings, what Badbury Rings has in grandeur and scale, Buzbury rings has in it's lack of sign posts, car parks, and a true sense of mystery alive and well.

Branksome Library Stone (Standing Stones)

I re-visited the stone today, almost eight years since the last time I saw it in this location. The surroundings are now much more overgrown. It's in a fairly sad state really, lost at the bottom of a garden. There is now a bench in front of it, so maybe some people do get to enjoy sitting in front of it a letting their minds go!
From the one resident I spoke to today though, I don't think people are that aware of it's history. It's a rock feature in an overgrown border with some old crisp packets and cat shit for company.

The Bridestones (Burial Chamber)

Almost seven years on from my last field notes here I visited again, this time with my Daughter for company.

The benefit of visiting on 26th December is that there is no one about at the quarry next door, so this time there was better for exploring the geographical context of the Bridestones and to further explore the connection to the landscape. Just of from the site standing at the quarry building there is the most spectacular view over Staffordshire and Cheshire, truly awe-inspiring in the distance the naked eye can see. I am convinced that this spot would have been of prime importance in relation to the Bridestones, and there reason for being here, I suspect they weren't placed here in isolation but would have been a small part in a wider use of this area, leading up higher and higher to the peak of the cloud.

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle)

I visited this site for the first time last weekend, driving back from Cheshire I decided to make a detour as I've wanted to visit the Rollrights for years and this time the time was right.

I found this to be a truly amazing place, walking around the circle, spending time looking out across the landscape. I love the perspective over to The Whispering Knights and while at their looking back to The Rollright Stones, if it wasn't for the hedges the view across to The King Stone would have made the sites seem completely connected, which of course they are.

For me the proximity of the road didn't matter, maybe it's down to so many visits to The nine stones of Winterborne Abbas with the heavy passing traffic, but the traffic here at the Rollright Stones wasn't so distracting. The lay by does make it very early for folk to stop off for a visit though, including napping truck drivers, perhaps re-charging their weary batteries in more ways than they are aware. I usually enjoy a bit of a track to a site, a welcome opportunity to detach from the trappings of the everyday modern life into an ancient landscape, however on this occasion my excitement at being there took over and I took a good long walk around and about the whole area making up for the pilgrimage of finding the place by foot that I would have enjoyed..

I recommend making some time to visit this pace, spend a while there, allow yourself to slow down and let the place unfold.

Duloe Stone Circle

It was good to visit Duloe again this July, 2011.
Last time we found Duloe by accident, just driving along and then saw a sign for the circle. That hardly ever happens so it was a very nice surprise.

This time we were staying in Lanreath, just a short drive away.

Duloe, although small is a very special place. it almost feels like it is in someones back garden, as the track to it is in between domestic properties, but with farmland all around as well. On this occasion there were a lot of sheep present which came bleating and running towards us, they were clearly the current guardians of the circle. My two year old daughter ran towards them with great excitement, "funny sheep" apparently.

It's interesting to see the level of excitement that stone circles, and other ancient sites bring out in children. I often feel very different within circles, and especially in Fogous but with children I think there is a very natural and immediate response. I sense that they intrinsically know what we may have forgotten about these places.

Halliggye Fogou

Visited on 21st July 2011.
We parked at the English Heritage car park just off the road. It's more of a lay by really but has two EH info boards with photos, information and artists impressions of how the Fogou may have fitted into a larger settlement.

My first visit inside was with my two year old Daughter, she loved the walk up across the field and on approaching the Fogou started shouting Macca Paccas house, Macca Paccas house! On entering she just wanted to run off into the creep passage and was really excited by the place. My nerve wasn't quite as strong as hers though so that was the end of her adventure for this time, and so back to the car and to Mum and little brother for her!

On my second visit I stayed much longer and really got to take in the vibe of the place. As written here earlier the dark is all consuming, my torch almost extinguished by pure and total darkness.

I explored all the passage ways alone and in almost complete silence, my breathing at first fast and loud as I climbed in through the small creep passages. Once I'd settled down a little though I could really start to take in the place. So torch off, sitting on the stumbling stone, time for a meditation on the place. On opening my eyes there was no difference than having them closed. Pitch black. Then I started to make sense of the layout and curve to the passages, not exactly but if I followed the lines of the curve I could see it worked. It was more like curved straight lines in the center that I could see that led me back to the main passage way. A strange phenomenon. A powerful place this Fogou.

Spetisbury Rings (Hillfort)

I visited Spetisbury Rings for the first time today, after driving past it hundreds of times.
Well set back from the main Road in Spetisbury, this site is something of a hidden treasure. The site is well known to locals in the village and further afield, there is even a music festival held there in the summer.
However unlike some site so close to housing, this place feels more remote. The walk to it in itself is interesting taking in an old closed down railway line. Modern and ancient ghosts here without even having to use the imagination.
Apparently Spetisbury Rings was a stronghold of the Ionia before the Romans came along, and on excavation it was found that Roman and Britons lay side by side in graves. I had the pace to myself and found the place to contain a real spirit of it's own far removed from the busy Road below, and the modern and old cottages lining the road. An interesting place to visit and sit and spend some time.

D21 Bronneger (Hunebed)

At D21 the Oak tree is also right next to this very well preserved monument. While sitting there meditating on the place I found myself drifting and thinking about the trees. Of course they wouldn't have been their at the time the monuments were in use but there still seemed to be a great relevance to my modern perspective of the monument. I was thinking about a recent permaculture course I took, and about pioneer species, natural succession and Climax community, when the stable community that is reached and no further succession occurs. This seemed very relevant to me when considering these old stones and the people that put them there, coincidental? Maybe but still a beautiful vision of life beyond words and history.

Hambledon (Hillfort)

Charlie and I visited Hambledon & Hod Hill for the first time on saturday. We climbed Hod Hill first, trying our best to avoid the cows coming straight for us. It was a beautiful sunny day and on top of the hill the views were amazing as we walked around the top of the hill with nothing but the birdsong and butterflies to distract us.

Afterwards we made the steep climb up to Hambledon. The hill looks so impressive on the climb up to the top and once there the views are even more incredible than from Hod Hill. We saw a deer on the way up and horses running through fields. There is actually a small lay by by two houses at the bottom of the hill if you want to park as close as possible. If not the car park at Hod Hill is only a short walk away.

The Harpstone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited the Harpstone again this afternoon and found that the approach to the field containing the Harpstone has been cleared and is no longer overgrown. The once slippy steep climb down to the stone is no more. The land has been cleared of all the overgrown trees and plants and a railing has been put in place with a "footpath" sign attached. It is so much easier to get to the stone now.

The Plague Market At Merrivale (Multiple Stone Rows / Avenue)

The relief to be out of the way of all that traffic and up on the moors was enough to compensate for the downpour of rain that greeted us as we were looking for the The Plague Market At Merrivale. At first this proved a little difficult as the mist swept in so suddenly and we could only see a few feet ahead of us and could see no evidence of stone rows or circles as we wandered around, although there were stones everywhere. All of a sudden the mist lifted out as quickly as it had appeared and the sun broke through shining down upon one of the stone rows now stood right in front of me. i waved across to charlie and we made our way in awe walking down these amazing stone rows. the stream running between the rows was really high and made an amazing sound that i wish i'd recorded. we spent the next hour or so looking at Merrivale Stone Circle, the menhir and investigating all the hut circles, what a place! it was very peaceful, maybe it the changeable weather but there seemed to be little in the way of traffic or other people about.

The Spinsters' Rock (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

we headed off to The Spinsters' Rock. We found it easily, driving up the tiny lane to the farm at the top and parking in the lay by next to the gate. the site was well signposted both from the road and at the lay by. The field was full of sheep and a beautiful horse that didn't move the whole time we were there. the sun still graced us with it's presence only occasionally dipping behind the clouds. The spinsters' Rock looked perfect, we spent our time just chilling out and pondering on the legends of the spinsters or witches or Mysterious Old Man and his three sons putting up these stones.

Old Man O'Mow (Cairn(s))

We drove to mow cop and the castle built in 1754. there is a suggestion that mow cop was used as a watchtower by the romans although no evidence has been found of their occupation. i could imagine this though standing their looking out as it would make the perfect location for a watchtower. even more than this the place does feel like it could have been an important ancient site, especially because of the hills prominence on the landscape for miles around and the natural outcrop of rock that looks so dramatic breaking the view on the horizon between the earth and the sky. there are also some upright standing stones here within the rocks but i don't know from when they originate. as well as all this though there is the old man o' mow, which is situated on an ancient cairn, before the castle was built the cairn would have been the highpoint of the land and it is though that it was a burial mound linked to the bridestones, although it could simply be a boundry between two counties.

The Bridestones (Burial Chamber)

As we approached the Bridestones the sky was dark towards Jodrell Bank Observatory and the Welsh hills in the far off distance. we did encounter the barking of dogs on approach to the stones although they quickly stopped again leaving us in peace. As we entered the enclosure the sun broke through the sky and created amazing views past the stones and across the landscape. This is an amazing place to visit and in very good condition. By the gate there is what looks like a capstone to the tomb or maybe it is another standing stone which has fallen over at some point, either way it is huge.

The Harpstone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

i visited this site for the first time with charlie and juamei on dec 27th 2004. juamei is spot on about it being very muddy getting to the stone in the winter time, so do wear good walking boots. the stone once you get there is magnificent, a really interesting shape with lots of detail. we found that we could get to the other side of the stone by going to the end of the field and walking back up on the other side of the hedge, this is a really nice approach to the stone as well but if you can't be bothered to walk round you could always slip under the barbed wire.

The Cloud (Sacred Hill)

We visited the cloud on sunday the 14th 2004. This used to be a local walk for me for years, as I grew up in this area. The views from up top are incredible, whatever the time of year. This is one place where you can't help but feel alive after the walk to the top. From a distance the cloud is always there on the horizon, huge and magnificent!

Dragon Hill (Artificial Mound)

Dragon Hill is an amazing place. As we walked down from the White Horse the sun shone through the cloudy sky illuminating it as we made our way down. There are great views from here of Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle and of the surrounding Oxordshire countryside. It's a great place to sit and gather your thoughts too, whether contomplating the slaying of dragons or anything else for that matter.

Knowlton Henges

Charlie and I visited this site again today. This time it was late afternoon and the sun was setting fast as we got out of the car and took some photos of the henge on this Halloween night. Last time we we here in the middle of the day and the ground was covered in snow. Today the place took on a completely different feel as night set in, and we saw the place for the first time in relation to the night sky. There is some work going on inside the church at the moment, and the scaffolding inside from some angles somewhat spoils the overall vibe of the place, as does the portaloo right at the entrance to the henge. However this didn't detract from our time, walking around the henge in the dark, lit only by the moon and stars with the sounds of owls hooting and far away farm dogs barking into the night.

Wayland's Smithy (Long Barrow)

A beautiful Autumn day was spent yesterday at Waylands Smithy. The orange leaves falling all around on a gentle breeze, in this most tranquil spot. People came and went as we sat there and moved around taking our photographs, a popular place for those on foot or bikes and passed every now and then by huge off road vehicals powering down the ridgeway. Sstill this didn't bother me as I sat inside each of the chambers totally switching myself off from the world outside. This place is an absolute treasure.
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