Sunday, 31 March 2013

Uley Again

Today was a return to an area we'd been to before but last time it was barrows, barrows and more barrows. This time we thought we try and find the hillfort at Uley

 It proved very easy to find - well it isn't exactly small, being over a mile if you walk around it!

Uley Bury hill fort is a very large Iron Age fort and very well preserved. It covers approximately 32 acres and dominates the landscape.

There is evidence of occupation from 300BCE to 100CE

The Bury is surrounded by step steep natural slopes made steeper by some judicious use or earth workings. It was created by terracing two lines of ramparts into the hillside. 

The entrance. There have been a number of interesting finds here including a crouched burial, coins including  one of   gold  from the Dobunni and a silver Roman coin

 The centre of the fort is private property but luckily a public footpath skirts the ramparts so you can peek in. Not much to see other than a flat meadow but aerial photography has revealed lots of crop marks so it looks like it was once heavily inhabited.

Time for lunch at the Old Crown Inn at Uley. Very pretty and great food. The fire was much appreciated as it wasn't that warm outside and although it looks empty here we were early. 30 minutes later it was packed!

Back now to the car but as Hetty Peglar's Hump ( Uley Long barrow) was so close we thought we'd just drop by to see if English Heritage had finished their restoration work. Last time we visited it was closed ans swathed in plastic.

 They had
It's a painful low crawl in but fortunately not far. I could have done without the sharp stones English Heritage have laid on the path. Very hard on the knees.
Still well worth it though. Absoluetely pitch dark inside as expected,

Inside there are numerous small chambers. Technically I'm told its a Gallery Grave. It is obviously heavily restored but nonetheless atmospheric.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Somerset in the Snow

I have a bit of a dilemma today - no trip out. Well not exactly true but the outlet centre in Swindon isn't really that photogenic even if the shopping trip was long overdue.

So today's pictures are in honour of the current bitingly cold weather - I don't think it has risen above freezing today and I really felt sorry for the stallholders at the farmers' market. It was far too cold to linger around their wares and they didn't seem to be selling much sadly.

These were taken earlier this year around my home village.

The view from the sitting room window and the sad remains of the apple tree. No apples at all last year. I wonder if we will be luckier this year? No sign of blossom on it yet.

The view across the valley  - still plenty of snow waiting to fall.

A teasel head from last year's growth

Getting arty now! Later in the year this pond will be alive with croaking frogs. Here it is still and quiet.

Some very overexcited geese!

The farmer had just appeared with a bucket of something interesting and they couldn't get there fast enough despite slipping all over the place in their haste.

The sheep though seemed much less keen to move from their bed of hay!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Attending church in Alton Priors

No I haven't had a sudden conversion ( although today is St Patrick's Day) but a visit to some very unusual stones in a very unusual location....

It's not unusual to find old ritual stones reused as a part of a church but they have done it a little differently at All Saints in Alton Priors.

This is a pretty decommissioned church with some interesting extras. They helpfully provide some nice laminated boards with the church history but strangely no mention at all is made of what you will find if you lift up a couple of trap doors in the floor.

Here's the first - easily done but heavy!

and here's the second.

All the stones are Sarsen ( same as the  nearby Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles) and this one has a clear hole through it.

Outside the church, the most striking feature is the huge Yew tree which has been independently assessed as being 1700 years old.

Now since the church is 12CE and seems to be built on top of some very interesting stones it does point to this being a very old sacred site indeed.

Getting hungry now so off to nearby Honey Street and the famous Barge Inn .

This is Crop Centre Central! Fabulous ceiling in the crop circle room and the food's not bad either. I had the Area 51 cider to wash it down. Strong stuff  ( but not quite as strong as the scrumpy here in Somerset!) Oh and a nice stone in the garden too..

Now feeling the effects of the Area 51 a walk was definitely in order.

Leaving the car at the Barge with the landlords permission we went a little way along the canal intending to climb up Milk Hill and look at the White Horse. However a casual glance over the wall revealed two more stones.

 Private land unfortunately so I couldn't get a better picture.

Here is the Alton Barnes horse. Cut in 1812 it isn't terribly old but it does dominate the landscape from its position on Milk Hill.

Also on top of Milk Hill are a number of barrows and earthworkings. This is a view along the top of the long barrow known as "Adam's Grave" which occupies a summit point.

Yes that is snow. And yes it was snowing on us...  

Can you see the white horse? This is a picture I took on first arrival at Alton Priors.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Pottering around Pewsey

Well this jaunt got me called sneaky and devious? Me? Never!

 Well I had sort of hoped we might make this detour on the way home, and I just might have printed out a few directions beforehand but sneaky and devious?

OK guilty as charged I  guess!

For once a site that was quick and easy to find - find the co op in Pewsey, walk around the right hand side of the supermarket and follow the path by the stream just over the bridge and you find this....

A row of Sarsen stones which are rather out of place.

 Plenty more dotted around in a nearby park.

One with a hole through it ( shame someone though the black paint was necessary though)

and yet more built into the foundations of the local church.

So where did they come from? One internet site says they are the remains of a stone circle. Other commentators say there was never a stone circle here and they are the remains of an old Saxon church on top of which was built the current one.

Well more research needed I guess and even if they were never part of a circle they certainly look as if they might have been. I guess the truth will never be known unless  some lucky find turns up the right old records should there be any.

And finally  - a snatched photograph of another ancient or not landmark...

The Westbury White Horse. An 18CE addition to the Wiltshire landscape or early. Again no documentary evidence to support an earlier date.

The recent cleaning though has left it a bright sharp white against the background of the Bratton Hill fort - almost a cartoon cut out. It looked a lot softer beforehand.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Hobnobbing with the Goblins

Having visited the Waterstone a few weeks ago we resolved to go back and wander down the evocatively named Goblin Combe valley. This is a popular nature reserve but it was bitterly cold and not many had ventured out.

Despite the name I have been unable to find much about it other than the following folk tale...

“There was a parcel of children and they was a-picking primroses, see, and one poor little dear her wandered away on her lone self right down into Goblin Combe. She were only a little trot, see, and didn't know no better. Well, when she do find she's a lost she cries, and the tears do run down her dear little face, and dap on her pinafore like summer rain, and she do throw her self against a rock. Then the rock opens and there's the fairies all come to comfort her tears. They do give her a gold ball and they lead the dear little soul safe home – on account she was carrying primroses, see. Well, twas the wonder of the village and the conjuror he gets the notion he'd aget his fists on more than one gold ball when next the fairies opened the hill. So he do pick a bunch of primroses and he go on up Goblin Combe, and he was glad enough to get in to the rock after all he see and hear on the way up. Well, twasn't the right day, nor the right number of primroses, and he wasn't no dear little soul – so they took him!“

Goblin Valley  is the home of Cleve Toot, and Iron Age hill fort

It's overgrown and hard to make out but the information board says this is it so who am I to argue?

The hill fort is overshadowed by a rocky out crop - there must be a way up?

Ah this looks promising!

Yes indeed. This was a mighty scramble up. There may have been some nice steps at the bottom but the path quickly became steep and slippery and a bit of rock climbing was called for.
Still the view was spectacular and well worth the effort. Great spot for plane spotters as well with Bristol Airport very close by.

Coming down was far worse than climbing up.

As this is a "family friendly" walk there are plenty of information boards. This one was beautifully carved with some of the local inhabitants.

As for goblins - did we see any? Sadly not . Well apart from this one that is.

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