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

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Rushy Platt Bowl Barrow (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Links

English Heritage list entry and description

Rushy Platt Bowl Barrow (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Fieldnotes

Site is on the edge of what is now a housing development on the southern side of Swindon, also close to the river Ray. Although not a lot to see, a green circular area enclosed by wooden posts, and a scheduled ancient monument plaque with the description "Rushy Platt Bowl barrow is sealed under a layer of modern landfill. Archaeological investigations reveal it consists of a mound 11m in diameter and about .75m high. There is a large flat slab sealing a deep pit containing worked flint".

It is unusual in as much it is not on Wiltshire down land but on a low lying ancient fen area, now a designated nature reserve 'Rushy Platt Nature Reserve'. Anyone wishing to visit can access the site via a pleasant walk along the Berks and Wilts Canal known locally as Kingshill Canal. The barrow is on the right across a small river and bridge. Walk into the housing development and it is just in front of you. (See English Heritage link for map).

Rushy Platt Bowl Barrow (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Rushy Platt Bowl Barrow</b>Posted by tjj<b>Rushy Platt Bowl Barrow</b>Posted by tjj

Figsbury Ring (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes

Visited today courtesy of a good friend who now lives in Devizes - part of a long awaited trip to Old Sarum. The sun was shining and at Old Sarum we really did feel like tourists, walking around the old castle ruins and ramparts a few paces in front of a French family.

Figsbury Ring, off the A30, was a very different experience. By now the morning mist had cleared and the afternoon was Warm and Sunny .. how wonderful in itself that was in the middle of March. The first thing I noticed, although owned by the National Trust and designated a SSSI, Figsbury Ring is adjacent to some heavy duty MOD land and there are 'Keep Out - Danger' notices all along the right hand side of the hill fort as you walk towards it.

An unusual hill fort, univallate with an inner circular ditch. I did a bit of reading after my visit and there is a view that this is the site of a late Neolithic henge which was later utilized as a hill fort. On a grassland chalk ridge it provides great views towards Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral - though both were shrouded in mist today.

In the course of my reading I also came across this item in the Heritage Journal. It doesn't appear to be posted on TMA so here it is -
Perhaps it is worth mentioning there were lots of rabbits around - we spoke to a dog walker as we were leaving who had just disposed of a rabbit picked up by her dog which appeared to have myxomatosis.

Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — News

A303 upgrade to be fast tracked because of flooding crisis

The prospect of fast-tracking an upgrade of the second artery into the region comes as travel in the West country has been thrown into turmoil as the only mainline into Devon and Cornwall collapsed into the sea at Dawlish.
When questioned in the Commons as the region was effectively cut off by rail, transport minister Robert Goodwill said widening the A303 was a project on which the Government “needs to concentrate”.

Read more:

Cadbury Castle (South Cadbury) (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

" ... But I should at once declare my position on all matters Arthurian. I would be bitterly disappointed if it was proved - which looks unlikely - that there was a historical Arthur. One of the great triumphs of the English literary imagination is that the cathedral of prose which is the Arthurian cycle was built up over centuries on empty ground.
Even so, on arriving at Cadbury Castle I could see why such sober heads as Leslie Alcock, who had excavated here in the 1960s, should have succumbed to its charm: the ring of trees around the banked hill; the approach up through them along a hollow way; the emergence onto a plateau commanding views across to the Somerset Levels and Glastonbury. Moreover it was close to the River Cam, and had the villages of West Camel and Queen Camel just to the west, so encouraging the identification with 'Camelot'.
When Alcock excavated here, he established that the hill-fort was built in the Bronze Age, with later Iron Age usage, and that it was substantially enlarged and occupied just after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the fifth century - much more so than other comparable hill-forts. The fifth century was precisely when Arthur was supposed to have emerged to lead the British against the Anglo-Saxons.
With great good luck, Alcock discovered a 'Great Hall' from this period, measuring some sixty-five feet long; good luck, in that his team of archaeologists allowed themselves only a relatively small part of the plateau to excavate, so to find anything was providential. Perhaps it was this that tipped Alcock over the edge into making the identification with King Arthur, which brought Cadbury Castle to world wide attention at a time, the late 1960s, when a generation were searching for a lost and future king. It cost him a great deal of respect from his peers, who questioned the historicity of Arthur. There are no contemporary accounts of his reign and the first chronicle describing his deeds dates from 600 years later - but then argued Alcock, there are hardly any fifth-century contemporary accounts in the first place..."

Taken from: The Green Road Into The Trees - A Walk Through England by Hugh Thomson

Kingston Russell (Stone Circle) — Miscellaneous

"Set back inland from Abbotsbury, and a brisk walk up the coast path, was the Kingston Russell stone circle, a place so off the map that even Aubrey Burl didn't list it in his authoritative gazetteer, Rings of Stone.
In a corner of a farmer's field, the stones lay a little forlorn. There were seventeen of them, arranged in a careful, elliptical shape mirrored by other stone circles along the Atlantic coast. They had been there some 5,000 years.
The stones had all fallen over. English Heritage, who nominally administered the site, hadn't put up so much as a board to inform visitors what they were looking at. While I was there, three couples passed at intervals, heading for the coast path. They would not have noticed the circle if I hadn't pointed it out.
Yet the stones had a majesty, and much that came from their position. The slight rise in the land meant that there was a clear sight line to the round hills of Beacon Knap and other similar knolls heading west along the coast. I was accustomed to the prehistoric love of mimicry, the circle reflecting the shape of the hills beyond.
Making the landscape yours, stamping ownership on the land by showing that you too can shape it, is a primal human instinct. The power of the sacred landscape, and in this case of the sea as well, can be refracted by a sense of placement, of concentration. There was a feeling at the stone circle of great deliberation - that this was precisely the right place for these stones"

Extract from "The Green Road into the Trees - a walk through England" by Hugh Thomson.

Tinhead Hill (Long Barrow) — Fieldnotes

Visited this hitherto unknown long barrow today. Walked up a firm, steep, footpath from Salisbury Hollow in the village of Edington, turning right at the top onto another field edge footpath. The barrow is in the middle of a crop field almost on the crest of Tinshead Hill. Protected by a strong fence topped with barbed wire and planted with beech trees, it is not possible to investigate too closely. However, couldn't resist walking up to it across the field - it felt very good to have mud on my boots again. Wonderful views towards Salisbury Plain (in fact on the edge of the Plain) and the town of Westbury. Walking back down to Edington there is a beautiful valley reminiscent of the area around Bishopstone in north Wiltshire - also on a spring line I understand, though it too wet underfoot to clamber down to them today.
Many thanks to my good friend M for spotting this long barrow on the OS map and for leading me up there.

Tinhead Hill (Long Barrow) — Images

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Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Visited Stonehenge today via the new Visitors Centre at Airman's Corner. The Exhibition Room was excellent, the gift shop was what it was, and the cafe was probably the best it could be catering for hundreds of visitors a day (don't expect anything more than the most basic of light-lunch-type-food). I was looking forward to the land-train but instead travelled on a small bus which used the remains of the A344 as access to Stonehenge. It's still a bit of a mess up by the site of the old carpark and I was disappointed to find the wire fence still in place around the ancient monument. To view the Stones from the Avenue you have to go around into the adjacent field. However, Stonehenge was wonderful today with a far wider circumference to walk around than previously. The English Heritage staff were friendly and helpful but I was still left with the feeling of being 'delivered', 'processed' and 'dispatched' with exit through the gift shop. Next time I'm going to try and walk up the by-way from Larkhill to fully take in the barrows and magnificent sweep of the landscape.

Grim's Ditch (Dyke) — Miscellaneous

The Dyke to me back to an older heritage than the Saxon world; it was built by the Celts of the Iron Age in about 300BC, for reasons that, if archaeologists are honest, remain mysterious - to the point that there has been some argument as to whether it was for southerners to keep northerners out, or vice versa. To my lay eyes it seemed probable that it was designed to keep the north out, with the ditch on that side of the embankment; but more crucial for me was the acceptance of a mystery. I was used in Latin America to ancient earthworks whose purpose or meaning remained resolutely obscure, and I liked that. Keats's idea of 'negative capability', that we should be humble in the face of what we do not understand, does not always sit well in the world of archaeology, where forcibly expressed hypotheses and the denigration of rival theories are the norm.

Perhaps because we understand so little about it, you never hear Grim's Dyke mentioned in the same breath as Offa's Dyke on the Welsh border. Yet it was also a substantial achievement and wherever traces of it remain, as they do on the high horse country below Wantage and even around Watford and suburban London, it is a reminder of how insistently north and south were divided in this country, a fatal fault line that ultimately allowed the Normans to conquer the Anglo-Saxon world.

Taken from "The Green Road Into The Trees" by Hugh Thomson

Northumberland (County) — News

Northumberland stone circle - 'DIY Stonehenge'

This may be old news by now. I've not come across it before though.

Hill of Tara — Links

YouTube - Traces of the Past

Tara Lidar HD.

Wayland's Smithy (Long Barrow) — News

Bus service to be withdrawn

A friend in the Ramblers sent me this earlier today - am a bit gutted as have been known to use this service to walk up to Wayland's Smithy.

"Thamesdown Transport's route 47 between Swindon and Lambourn, via Bishopstone and Ashbury, is to be withdrawn. This will leave several villages without a bus service and make it more difficult to do linear walks along that part of the Ridgeway. At the time of writing it is unclear whether the Ridgeway Explorer bus X47, which runs only on Saturdays, will continue."

I despair!

Ogbourne St Andrew Barrow (Round Barrow(s)) — News

Bronze age mound at Ogbourne St Andrew being investigated

Small fry compared to the West Kennet Avenue dig but I found this quite at exciting.

Started a walk today from the church at Ogbourne St Andrew - a couple of archaeologists from Cranfield University were in the church-yard undertaking a geo-phys and mapping exercise of the Bronze Age mound which is in the churchyard. Apparently a small history group in the village had invited them in. I do hope the results will be published.

Wiltshire — News

"Evidence" of a giant hill figure near Swindon

".... it can be revealed that for the best part of 3,000 years a hillside near Swindon was the site of an epic chalk carving of a giant spearman.

The 130ft high hill figure at Foxhill near Wanborough is believed to have been maintained for generations, almost certainly in honour of pagan gods worshipped throughout the centuries."

The Western Isles — Folklore

In his book ‘Behold the Hebrides’, Alastair Alpin MacGregor (1925) explains how the people of the Hebrides are surrounded by the sea and it though the sea is part of them and they are part of the sea. He says it was known as well as though it were a member of their own family and that to them the sea spoke in Gaelic. He says they listened to what it said and from this they prophesied good and bad fortune, at home and abroad, and how by its sounds and moods they could tell what weather was coming. There was the ‘laughing of the waves’ – ‘gair nann tonn / gair na mara’ and sometimes this laughter would be mocking and derisive when a storm had risked life and feeble humans had struggled to survive it. He also describes the laughing of waves across a great stretch of sand on Lewis in calm and frosty weather as being “weird and eerie”.
In the Hebrides there are many descriptions of the sounds and moods of the sea. Here are a few of them.
Nualan na mara – sounds like the lowing of cattle
Buaireas na mara – restless sea
Gearan na mara – complaining or fretting sea
Mire na mara – joy and cheerfulness of sea
Osnadh – sighing of sea, like the breeze through pine and larch at nightfall
Caoidh na mara – lament of the sea.

He says that sometimes the sea is totally still and silent as though it sleeps, and the people nearby are lulled into sleep also; and he says that people who live by the sea derive their vision from it.

Martin Martin, writing of the Western Isles in 1695 says of the inhabitants of one of the small, then inhabited, islands round Lewis, that they took their surname from the colour of the sky, the rainbow and the clouds.

Source: ‘Mother of the Isles’ by Jill Smith

Tarren Maerdy (Cairn(s)) — News

Stone Age carved wooden post found

Stone Age carved wooden post found at Rhondda Wind Farm ..

Hetty Pegler's Tump (Long Barrow) — Fieldnotes

I've visited this long barrow before but on each previous occasion the chambers have been closed to visitors. Today was my first opportunity to go inside.
A hot summer's day, as we approached along the edge of a field of unripe wheat a raven rose up from the barrow - a good sign. Externally the barrow was covered in high grass and wild flowers - internally it was dark and cool with a low lintel stone to scramble under to gain access. The ground is covered with loose Cotswold stone chippings so hard on the knees, especially in light summer clothes. However, once inside it becomes almost possible to stand - I could see the chamber at the back of the barrow but did not venture that far in.

This is one of my favourite long barrows to visit - it always feels 'away from it all' in spite of the road only being a field distance away. Today there was a raven and later a buzzard.

Sad to report, the exterior of the lintel stone had been vandalised by some idiot scratching the word 'Beware' and someone's name on it. My companion also reported similar damage inside.

Hetty Pegler's Tump (Long Barrow) — Images

<b>Hetty Pegler's Tump</b>Posted by tjj<b>Hetty Pegler's Tump</b>Posted by tjj<b>Hetty Pegler's Tump</b>Posted by tjj

Clearwell Caves (Ancient Mine / Quarry) — Images

<b>Clearwell Caves</b>Posted by tjj

Clearwell Caves (Ancient Mine / Quarry) — Fieldnotes

Have wanted to visit this place for some time and today was the day.
“Clearwell Caves are part of an extensive natural cave system that became partially filled with iron ore 180,000,000 years ago. No one knows when mining for iron ore first began in the Forest of Dean, but the Caves are one of the earliest mines in the British Isles, begun well over 4,000 years ago, when they were first worked for coloured iron oxide or ochres to use as pigment.” (information taken from Visitor’s Guide)
The temperature inside the caves is 10 degrees (which is also the temperature at which spring water emerges from the ground) so take an extra layer if you go on a warm day. We only went to the upper level which goes down 100 feet – it is possible to descend to a much deeper level but this requires hard hats, protective clothing and a caving guide. The caves are a series of caverns known as churns, linked together by tunnels, the largest of which is Pillar Churn named after a large column of stone in the centre. The reservoir in this cavern controls the water that seeps through a disused shaft in the roof. The large flat roof is composed of a very solid rock known as Whitehead Limestone, referred to as ‘lidstone’ because it forms the roof of most of the caverns. There is a fine example of 20th century cave art on the wall in this cavern – a skeleton painted by students in the 1960s.
Clearwell Caves are home to a variety of bats including the greater horseshoe, natterers, and long-eared but the most numerous is the lesser horseshoe (ref: Visitor’s Guide). None made an appearance today. Also found here is the ‘Meta menardi’ or European Cave Spider (an orb-weaving spider) – didn’t see one of those either.

Just as fascinating is the nearby ‘Secret Forest’ which is full of ‘scowles’ ie ravines and rock formations overhung with the tree roots of ancient yews. Thought to be where iron mining began, just outside the wood there are some replica Iron Age round houses which are definitely worth a visit.
A short distance up the road is Puzzle Wood, similar to the Secret Forest but far more disorientating, like caves above rather than below ground, very twisty and dark (believed to have inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth) again the temperature dropped considerably - almost like being in caves.
Unfortunately, today I left my camera at home so no photos except the ones on my friend’s camera which I don’t have access to as yet.

Callanish (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>Callanish</b>Posted by tjj

Uffington White Horse (Hill Figure) — Links

"The Flight of the White Horse"

Poems and illustrations by Giles Watson

Bernera Bridge Circle (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Bernera Bridge Circle</b>Posted by tjj

Ceann Hulavig (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Ceann Hulavig</b>Posted by tjj

Callanish (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>Callanish</b>Posted by tjj<b>Callanish</b>Posted by tjj<b>Callanish</b>Posted by tjj

Sgarasta (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Sgarasta</b>Posted by tjj

Sgarasta (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

This was a 'wonderful surprise'. Again, I have Margaret Curtis to thank for pointing it out. It was a very windy, chilly, bright day and I took a few minutes for myself to run and look at this stone. Some ancient sites induce a sensation of euphoria, this was definitely one of them - the wind, the rolling clouds and the blue sea in front of me gave me a momentary feeling of flying. What more can I say.

Photographed the information board and have reproduced the text below:

"In this field today stands a solitary standing stone almost 2 metres high, overlooking the Sound of Taransay. It has remained in this position for up to 5,000 years since the Neolithic period or Early Bronze Age. Across the Sound, another standing stone is set above the shore on the island of Taransay, and a third, Clach MhicLeoid, is on Aird Nisabost to the north-east. Over the years local legends have gathered around the stone. In one, a giantess was gathering limpets on the shore and, striking a stone with her hammer, it flew off in three pieces, which landed at each of the three sites.
The Scarista bardess Seonag NicSuain wrote a ‘Song of Steineagaidh Stone’
‘Some say in the village
(though unproven so far)
‘Tis a headstone of a chieftain
From Fingalian’s war.

Should arms and battle
Stir up, as of yore,
Won’t he have to struggle
From ‘neath Steineagaidh Stone

Each man will retire
In peace to sleep in pastures
But over Finlay’s land
The big stone will be watching’

When the stone was first raised, however, it was part of a complex prehistoric ritual site. In front of the stone stood a large circle of 12 or 13 atones more than 40 metres in diameter, indicated now by several fallen stones or the stony sockets in which they had stood. Behind the stone is also a large circular mound which, if contemporary with the circle, may be the remains of a burial cairn. Geophysical survey has shown that around all of this was a ditch, either man-made or natural, that defined the edges of the monument.

The scale and complexity of the original site, and its proximity to other standing stones, suggest that this was the this was the focus for prehistoric religious activity in Harris, as Calanais was for Lewis.

The field wall is said to have been built from the demolished houses of the Scarista tenants who were cleared from the area in the 19th century."

Coire na Feinne (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

I have Margaret Curtis to thank for pointing this one out. She joined me and Friend for our trip down to west Harris one windy but bright day a couple of days after we spent an afternoon with her at Callanish.

A burial chamber in someone's garden near to Horgabost beach on Harris. Thrilling to see as no way would we have spotted it without Margaret's knowledge and generosity in sharing it.

Coire na Feinne (Chambered Cairn) — Images

<b>Coire na Feinne</b>Posted by tjj

Traigh Bostadh (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes

Our first full day on Lewis, we walked from where we were staying on Great Bernera to the Bostadh Iron Age House. The sun decided to shine and walking down into the white sandy cove was a joy. The Iron Age House was closed as it was Sunday but normally open between noon and 4.00pm.
On the walk back saw a golden eagle, it sat and watched our progress from a high ridge ... my first, one and only, sighting of an eagle in the wild.

Traigh Bostadh (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Traigh Bostadh</b>Posted by tjj

Clava Cairns — Images

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Clava Cairns — Fieldnotes

Visited 17/5/13
I can't add very much more to the excellent fieldnotes written by tsc. So this is really just to say I completely agree this is a wonderful site, unlike anywhere I've visited before. Had just arrived in Inverness. Friend collected hire car and we headed out in the direction of the historic site of the Battle of Culloden to make our only visit to a prehistoric site on mainland Scotland before starting the journey to Ullapool and Lewis. I was conscious that Callanish/Lewis might diminish my impressions of this visit - no chance.

There are at least four detailed information boards at the site which tell you all you need know plus identify the positions of the various cup marks which appear on some of the stones. The information boards suggest that some are linked to solar alignments.

The site mainly consists of two passage tombs (cairns) with one circular, flatter construction with no entrance which is central to both of the passage tombs - possibly used for cremation. Each of the cairns stand inside quite splendid stone circles. There are other notable features to the site - a solitary outlier in a field as you approach the site (private property) and a collection of large boulder stones just by the entrance.

I did take photographs but had to purchase a new laptop just before I went away and am still trying to fathom out the photo editing function on Windows 8 - so photos may not appear for a while.

Vespasian's Camp (Hillfort) — Links

Live Science

Wild Auroch hunting near the site of Stonehenge.

Beacon Hill (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

Walked up Beacon Hill to the hillfort today. Was in Hampshire with a friend to visit the Sandham Memorial Chapel (which for me was a deeply affecting experience) and the walk up Beacon Hill afterwards somehow seemed totally fitting.
The car park is just off the A34, my first thought was that the noise from the traffic would detract from the enjoyment of the place. Its a long way up though and the noise soon receded - by the time we reached the hillfort at the top the A34 had diminished and could no longer be heard. As we walked round the ramparts a red kite glided by below us. There is a very big sky up there - wonderful cloud formations today and, needless to say, amazing views. Highclere Castle can be clearly seen and the grave of the Fifth Earl of Carnavon aka George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert (Adventurer, Explorer, Archaeologist) who with Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun - is on the edge of the hillfort surrounded by railings.
An amazing place!
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Passionate about:
Nature; stone circles and all ancient sites that involve walking through unspoilt countryside/being near the sea; islands around the the British Isles, especially those with ancient monuments.

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