Thursday, 18 November 2010

Hills and Barrows

Wednesday 29 May 1998. After calling at Bibury, Fran and I headed up through Northleach, calling in at Keith Harding's excellent mechanical music museum, and then Bourton-on-the-Water which we shall see in the next entry.

We booked in for two nights in Bourton and then drove out to look at a couple of long barrows, along the lines of West Kennet Long Barrow seen a few days ago.

Our first stop according to the map was Notgrove Long Barrow. Here's the car in the massive lay-by they have provided at Notgrove to take the hordes of visitors who flock in their.... er... we're on our own...

There are several piles of gravel stored in the lay-by. A number of traffic cones help by showing a British car in its natural environment... Ok... so why am I prevaricating and delaying our look at Notgrove? Moi? Here it is!

Notgrove Long Barrow (according to the signboard nearby) was vandalised and to avoid further damage was backfilled by the local council. In other words, they brought a load of earth and filled it in. So it now looks like a hill. It no longer has hollow bits.

However, archeologists at some point in the future, say in a few hundred years, if they are confident that the vandals aren't lying in wait, can dig it out again as to their trained eyes it will be obvious which dirt is the added dirt. Ye-e-e-e-es...

Ok, let's go somewhere else!

Well this is looking promising! The signpost, despite being perfectly horizontal, points towards a path that really is quite a way from the horizontal and in no time at all we are puffing and panting our way up a steep hill and hoping that we shall find something that doesn't totally resemble a natural hill.

Happily we arrive at a tumulus that does not in any way disappoint the curious traveller.

This is not the entrance to the tomb. This is an elaborate false entrance to slow down the would be treasure seeker of millenia ago. The main entrance is round the back and we'll see that in a bit.

Before we get round that far though there are several small chambers entered through small outlets in the side of the mound. Standing against this, the lintel of the entrance is at groin height...

So to take this photograph I've crawled inside on my stomach. The chamber takes a quarter turn to the right and is incredibly professional looking. If they built one of these today it would not look too different from this - neat rows of brick and look at the ceiling!!! What is holding it up?!? So they were no slouches two or three thousand years ago...

And here I am, crouching in the rear entrance - which again has been backfilled. Looking at the height of the mound here, the main chamber was excavated underground rather than built on the level and then covered as at West Kennet.

So we may have started with a disappointment with Notgrove Hill (ex long barrow) but Belas Knap, besides having a wonderful name, offers a wonderfully atmospheric and mysterious glimpse of a past so far back that the name England was still thousands of years in the future.

Large versions of the photos: all the photographs from this holiday can be viewed as a set at Flickr.

1 comment:

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