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by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action
The Irish Times of 23rd February reports what could be the beginnings of a move away from the development of a port at Bremore;
“A proposed deepwater container port at Bremore in north Co Dublin may be moved farther north to Gormanston, Co Meath, to avoid encroaching on a neolithic complex of passage tombs.
A spokesman for Treasury Holdings, which is planning to develop the new facility in partnership with Drogheda Port, confirmed yesterday that one of the options now being considered was to “shift it off Bremore headland” for archaeological reasons.”
Although “no final decision has been taken”, as of yet and “it is likely to be autumn before a firmer proposal will be put out for consultation.”
How did Drogheda Port and Treasury Holdings, miss the tomb complex, a national monument, in the first place? Pages 28 and 29 of their own “The Strategic Need for a New Port Development” report, prepared for them by John Mangan and Associates, carry a photographic ‘artists impression’ of the proposal, in which the position of the tombs is to be found buried (excuse the pun) underneath a large expanse of busy concrete. This photograph has usefully been added to by An Taisce, to demonstrate the exact impacts, here;
When tackled last year on this topic, the Treasury Ireland managing director, John Bruder, said that the archaeology could be “worked around” and perhaps I wasn’t alone in being unable to imagine an awkward traffic island with a few litter strewn lumps, stuck right in the middle of what was expected to be the biggest port in the country. In fact, a cynic might even suggest that they never intended to put anything at Bremore at all and that it was merely an example of the old government “Ok, so, we won’t hit you with the leaked 10% rise, we’ll make do with the 5% ‘Gormanston’ option instead and you’ll be happy with that, in contrast. Wink.” trick. We’ll never know.
According to the An Taisce submission, linked to above, and only concentrating on the Neolithic complex – the one that is speedily and usefully referred to as “not thought to be as significant as the one located at Bremore” – the Gormanston relocation prospect contains two definite tombs, one, excavated in the 1840’s and now “practically destroyed by sea erosion” and the other, 150m to the west and about 25m in diameter. In addition there are two nearby features which have been suggested to be the remains of passage tombs by Professor Michael Herity. The Irish Times article refers to the fact that the site is “partly covered by an EU-designated special protection area (SPA) for wild birds.”
I might also, and finally, draw attention to the quoted contention, from the Treasury spokesman, that “Ireland needs a deepwater port; the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) is conscious that we are losing projects because we don’t have one.” This does seem an odd statement to make – even though I am in no real position to judge exactly what the IDA might be conscious of – as the Department of Transport’s ‘Indecon’ report concludes that the need for additional port capacity will not be present until 2020-2025 and if the depth of ports was a decisive issue, should surely have noted it.
In the linked article Dr. Mark Clinton, of An Taisce; “queried the need for a new port, noting that throughput at Drogheda Port had fallen by 50 per cent in 2008, according to its most recent set of accounts, while business at Dublin Port was down by 10 per cent.”
“There is no need for a new deepwater port,” he said.
Som. Arch. Soc. Proc. Bath Branch) – Thomas Bush apparently excavated them in 1909 and found ‘many flints’ (chips, scrapers, etc). Curiously he found 177 in the easterly one, but only 20 in the other. He also found some bits of burnt pottery.”The tenant told us he understood that many years ago the barrow was dug into for the purpose of getting stones, but on coming across some bones the quarrying was stopped.” *
I had forgotten these ‘twin barrows’ though to be truthful it may be a long barrow, but quarrying has obscured the nature of this barrow, as no excavation has ever taken place apart from the above. What has always struck me about this stretch of land called Langridge (long ridge) is the fact that a very long trackway joins prehistoric sites, with the barrow situated near the track. Forgotten barrows are lucky they survive in fields not deemed easy to plough, the farmer leaves them for posterity, but others of course are not so lucky.
These barrows on the Lansdown are witness to the farmer’s annoyance of scheduled monuments on his land, their ‘weeds’ are burnt so that the crop is clean, there is a slow attrition of the earth of the old mound by large farm machinery that cuts into the lower surface of the barrow.
The Langridge barrows though are somewhat isolated overlooking Catherine Valley. The barrow sits just below the crest of the ridge that separates two valleys and is termed ‘false-crested’. They are also a parish boundary mark, and are situated close to an old trackway that runs from Brockham Wood (site of a Roman villa) and the Lansdown Bronze Age cemetery. Not of course forgetting another Romano-British settlement that sits on a ridge overlooking the barrow.
The old track goes from a Romano-British settlement just by the Civil War battlefields fought four hundred years ago. If you continue down the track it winds to the valley below, across the busy A46 and up to Charmy Down, once this down also had a line of barrows, all now gone, flattened to make a temporary airfield in WW2, and just across from Charmy Down you can see Solsbury Hill, a hill fort that sits guarding the river Avon below, whilst across on the other side of the river Beckhampton Down with traces of ‘celtic’ field systems and a presumed stone circle.
A walk down the old trackway in this parish of Langridge, will reveal a treasure of wild flowers on the verges, vetches tangle with yellow archangel, bluebells will replace primroses, the white gleam of stitchwort; the stoney path slopes gently down curving on its way, later on the white of elderflower will catch the eye, the sweet scent on a warm day reminding you of elderflower champagne.
A nature walk in summer down to the Langridge will reveal amongst the different grasses, pale ladies-smock flowers, wander on down the path, the remains of Langridge barrows up on the ridge greets you, and as we come to a steep slope, wild purple orchids in the long grass, time forgotten for a moment, or perhaps an understanding by the farmer that such places hold an intricate web of history and nature.
* Taken from Rhiannon’s notes on The Modern Antiquarian.
Article by Moss
“A lecture at the University of Bath will explore the theories and myths surrounding Avebury stone circle.
“In the lecture on Wednesday 24 February, Roger Vlitos will give an illustrated lecture that compares and contrasts the beliefs of those who manage the site, with others who claim it as their traditional shrine.”