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Just to remind you. On Sunday 14th September you have a choice:

You can pay £13.90 to slowly circumnavigate Stonehenge at a respectful distance with thousands of others in a scene reminiscent of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow but less cheerful…

napoleon

Or you can pay just a pound to walk right inside the much more complete, much more atmospheric Rollright stones and then sit down next to them for a picnic of quails eggs and truffles (maybe) and a chinwag and book-swap with a bunch of fellow megalith enthusiasts.

Tough choice. Up to you. And whilst Stonehenge is the focal point of a World Heritage Site, don’t forget that the Rollrights also has a wealth of prehistoric sites within easy reach.

Please be at Stonehenge or our Rollrights picnic about midday.

By Alan S

[As you'll see, this is written as a result of our recent decision to sometimes extend the remit of the Journal into the early historic era. If that's what floats your boat please consider sending us a contribution - news, views, images, anything you like].

Another Bank Holiday already? Wow, they come thick and fast this time of year! Ok, so some very late planning for this one led to picking a general area, easily reachable from London but one that I’m not overly familiar with. Suffolk was the winner, and looking at the map on the Megalithic Portal web site showed a cluster of possible sites for investigation between Bury St Edmunds and Thetford, either side of the A134.

Portalburymap

A plan was therefore formulated, to take a trip back in time, including the following ‘attractions':

  1. Norman Abbey and later cathedral in Bury St Edmunds
  2. Anglo Saxon village at West Stow
  3. Bronze Age barrows at Rymer and Honington
  4. Neolithic Cursus monuments at Fornham All Saints

So, an early start from London, heading up the M11, and joining the A14 at Newmarket, to head into Bury St Edmunds. I’ve known of the city since my early adult years, when a pint of ‘Abbot and Eddy’, made by local brewers Greene King was a staple part of my diet.

St Edmund was King of England until his death in 869 at the hands of the Danes. Legend states that he was shot with arrows and beheaded because he refused to renounce his faith. A fine artwork of Edmund is placed on a roundabout on one of the approach roads to the city, depicting his body tied to a post and filled with arrows.

Bury0004

Edmund’s body was brought to Bedericesworth (Bury St Edmunds) and subsequently housed in a shrine in what developed into a great Benedictine Abbey, the ruins of which can still be seen today, and which include two fine gatehouses. Edmund was martyred, and made England’s original patron saint. The church of St James which held his shrine was part of the original abbey complex. The church has been extensively modified over the years, and this work has continued right up to the present day. The church was consecrated as a cathedral in 1914, and in 2009 changed its dedication to become the Cathedral Church of St James and St Edmund. The central tower was completed in 2005, and it’s vaulting was only completed in 2010.

The Abbey Gatehouse

The Abbey Gatehouse

Due to our early start, the Moyse’s Hall Museum in the nearby market square was not yet open, so leaving the city we headed up the A1101, following the course of the River Lark, through Fornham All Saints, the site of at least three Neolithic cursus monuments. Identified by cropmarks in aerial photographs, sadly there is nothing to see here on the ground although a recent news article suggests the area “may have been as important as Stonehenge in it’s time“.

In no time at all, we arrived at West Stow, which describes itself as ‘The First English Village’. West Stow was excavated between 1965 and 1972 by Dr Stanley West. These excavations showed evidence of occupation by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age farmers, a Romano-British pottery industry and an early Anglo-Saxon village, all in the same area. An impressive line-up!

The site itself is now set in a country park, popular with walkers. There is a small museum, shop and cafe all fully accessible, though the reconstructed village itself, a short distance away, has some soft ground so may not be fully accessible to wheelchair users. We didn’t test this. The village consists of seven reproduction buildings, based upon the excavation findings. These have been built at various times, the earliest having been erected in 1974, shortly after the excavations. The buildings are all different in construction and design, based upon structural evidence and imagined purpose. In order of reconstruction, these are:

1974: ‘The Oldest House’ Using simple technology to test an idea that a wood floor was built over a pit and that the roof could be supported by poles rather than by the walls.

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1976: ‘The Sunken House’ Built to demonstrate the old idea of Anglo-Saxons living in a pit. The only house on site not to match the evidence, and thus not thought to be correct.

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1984: ‘The Weaving House’ A two-post house, containing looms. Used by a group of ‘costumed villagers’ who are often on hand to provide a ‘living experience’, though none were present during my visit.

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1987: ‘The Living House’ A six-post house constructed as a living space, with a central hearth, and bedding area. One end includes a raised platform.

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1991 ‘The Workshop’ Built to meet the present-day needs of the experimental archaeologists, this is the only wattle and daub building on site, based on later Anglo-Saxon designs and not thought to have been used at West Stow.

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2005: ‘The Hall’ A post built structure with the walls supporting the roof, no internal posts and with no underfloor pit. Representing the communal focal point for the village, it presents a larger usable space than the six-post buildings.

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2007: ‘The Farmer’s House’ Another six-post building, with a deep wood-lined pit, a central hearth, bedding and storage areas.

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After looking at, and in, each house in turn, I returned to look around the museum in the main visitor centre. There are actually three display areas on site:

  • a small area by the entrance, playing an introductory video  on loop and with some fine displays of Neolithic, Bronze Age and later finds from the area.
A selection of Neolithic finds from West Stow

A selection of Neolithic finds from West Stow

  • a larger museum (below the cafe) displaying various aspects of Anglo-Saxon and Viking life, including a replica of the famous Sutton Hoo helment

WestStowSuttonHooReplica

  • a Finds Store with a larger collection of material which could not be accomodated in the other displays. I didn’t visit this building as it is in a fenced off area which looked off-limits, but is apparently open for visitors.

Although the plan called for travelling back across to the A134 for the other sites, as I wasn’t too sure about public access for some of the barrows (some of which lie on private land), and following an issue with our wheelchair which restricted our mobility more than usual, we cut short the drive after leaving West Stow and headed for home.

All in all, a slightly different heritage drive to our normal Bank Holiday excursions, but an enjoyable one. I can imagine that West Stow gets incredibly busy when events are held there, it’s a large site, with plenty to see and do. But we purposely timed our visit (early on a Sunday morning) when it was very quiet. Entry is £5 for adults, £3 for concessions, which I considered money well spent as there really is a lot there.

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All pictures copyright © Alan S.

Another Bank Holiday Weekend, another Heritage Drive. I don’t know if it’s the increase in traffic levels with the roads getting more and more crowded, or my energy levels dropping as I approach my 60’s, but the thoughts of a day’s drive to say, Somerset or Gloucestershire are no longer the attractions they once were. And so, for this Bank Holiday we stayed relatively close to home, but still had a full day of heritage to enjoy!

On the M1, turning off for Hemel Hempstead at Junction 8 we passed the Buncefield Oil Depot (home of a horrendous fire some years ago) and made our way toward Redbourn, and the first stop of the day at The Aubreys (OS Grid Rref TL949112).

Stitched panorama of the Aubreys interior

Panorama of the Aubreys interior

Nestled between a low hotel (site of an old Manor) and the noise of the M1, this ‘plateau fort’ is unusually situated with high ground all around. The well defined double ramparts are intact for a large proportion of the circumference, if a little ‘fortified’ by more recent scrap in places.

Is this a Heritage Crime? The ramparts 'fortified' by industrial tyres.

Is this a Heritage Crime? The ramparts ‘fortified’ by industrial tyres.

To be perfectly honest, there’s not a great deal to see here, though scrabbling amongst the hotel detritus it’s just possible to make out a causeway entrance to the NW. There is much evidence here of animal settlement, badger setts and foxholes abound – as well as material remains of the aluminium-based ‘Fosterian’ culture for future archaeologists to mull over, the Aubreys has not yet been subject to any excavation as far as I can determine. But nearer the hotel there is plenty of colour at the moment from the bluebells growing among the trees.

And so we left the hotel behind and skirting round the village of Redbourn, headed toward Harpenden, passing the spookily-named Rothamsted Experimental Station, which has the remains of a Roman Temple in the grounds. This, I suspect, is off limits to the public and I didn’t try to gain entry. Instead, we continued across to Wheathampstead, the Iron Age capital of the area, nestled pleasantly on the River Lea. There are several good heritage themed walks around the village (heritage walks are the theme of an upcoming Journal Post), covering many different time periods. Some of the local characters from history are celebrated on a temporary building site hoarding.

Wheathampstead hoarding

Cassivellaunus can just be seen at far left, brandishing his sword.

The oldest aspect of the town is to the east of the current settlement, marked on OS maps as ‘Belgic Oppidum‘ (OS Grid Ref TL185133), the site of two defensive earthworks known as the Devils Dyke and the Slad. This is supposedly where Cassivellaunus led a defense of the Britons against Julius Caesar. Whether this is true is open to debate, but there is no doubt that this was an area of some importance in the early Iron Age.

Dyke Plaque

The ditch and ramparts of the Devil’s Dyke are still quite formidable, and even assuming some ‘infill’ over the years, the scale of the original, when topped off with a wall of timbers can only be imagined.

Devil's Dyke

Following the lane down past the Dyke, and joining the main road south and west into St Albans past Nomansland Common (site of the exploits of a lady highwayman!), we continued into the cathedral city.

At St Albans, a possible continuation of the Devil’s Dyke is another long earthwork, known as Beech Bottom Dyke. But we didn’t stop there this time, as Verulamium awaited us.

Now a large municipal park, the town of Verulamium, forerunner of the modern town of St Albans can still be made out via the low bumps and humps remaining from excavations by the Wheelers in the 1930’s and again by Frere some 25 years later. Many of the finds from those excavations, including some spectaular large mosaics are on show in the Verulamium Museum (£5 adult entrance for non-locals) at the north end of the park, whilst a large mosaic hypocaust is preserved in situ in it’s own (free entry) building in the park.

Verulamium Hypocaust

Elsewhere, some fragments of the Fosse – a later defensive earthwork – and the original walls remain. Watling Street ran through the centre of the town, which is famous of course as being one of the targets of Boudicca’s campaign against the Romans. Across the main road to the north is another site, the Roman Theatre (separate entrance fee required), which we didn’t visit this time round.

A section of Roman Wall, alongside the River Ver.

A section of Roman Wall, alongside the River Ver.

Of course, Verulamium didn’t just pop into being when the Romans arrived in Britain, as a high status Iron Age burial discovered in 1992 just NE of the Roman town in Folly Lane attests. This has been an important and strategic area for a very long time.

Our final stop was at St Stephen’s church just south of the town, on Watling Street, to take a quick look at the marker stone in the churchyard. This could be a prehistoric standing stone, but it is much more likely to have been a way-marker, or boundary stone set much later. It’s origins, as they say, are lost in the mists of time.

Watling Street Stone

And so, with four major sites visited, our journey was complete and we set off back for home.

So, where did you go this Bank Holiday weekend? Why not write a short article for the Journal and tell us about your own travels?

All photos copyright Alan S. All rights reserved.

So, you’ve done the planning, taken your Go-Bag and had a wonderful time out and about exploring some ancient sites. If you’re anything like me, you take plenty of digital photos when visiting our ancient heritage sites. But what do you do with those images once you get home?

After a trip, a large majority of people will just hand around their camera, tablet or phone and let people view the pictures that way. Some selected pictures may get uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Most people will download the photos to their PC (often into the ‘My Pictures’ folder on Windows) and look through them that way. Many will take the camera card into a shop and print off selected pictures – the larger supermarkets offer this service these days.

But what if you want to review the pictures a month, six months or a year or more down the line? Could you easily find the relevant batch of photos? Could you identify a shot of e.g. a particular cairn, barrow, megalith or dolmen from all the others? With a little post-trip preparation you can organise the images from your visits, making them simple to identify and review.

Where was that? When did I go there?

Where was that? When did I go there?

First of all, a warning for the unwary: There are a plethora of applications available to organise a digital image library, for Windows, Mac and Linux systems at various pricing levels, which provide facilities for import, renaming, tagging, geotagging and other facilities, including full EXIF data editing. Some of these systems are aimed at the professional end of the market, with pricing and complexity to match. Others are free, but with a hidden ‘price’. I personally like Picasa from Google, but be aware that the licensing means that any images uploaded to their online web libraries will become available for Google’s use as they see fit. See section 11 of the Picasa EULA as an example. Other services such as Flickr have similar terms, so if control of your image content is commercially important to you, be aware of what you’re signing up for!

But assuming you have no immediate need of an online image library or cloud backup services, let’s go through what you can do to get minimally organised.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it's place.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it’s place.

Location – First of all, decide where to keep the photos on your system. If your default ‘My Pictures’ folder is not too untidy already, this is as good a place as any to get started, but be aware that an image library can grow large, particularly if you take lots of pictures over a long period (I personally have digital images going back to 1995, nearly 20 years worth!)

Folders – there are lots of ways to organise the folders for your photos. I tend to a ‘tree’ approach. A folder for each year, then sub folders for each trip I take. The sub folders are named by yymm and dd if necessary, followed by an indicator for the trip – in my case the main county. Multi-day trips may be split by further sub folders for each day, or each site if it’s an image-heavy trip!

Downloading – transfer the photos from your camera/tablet/phone to the PC as soon as you can. There are various ways of achieving this depending upon your device, but one rule of thumb: Once the photos have been transferred, clear them off the device! There’s nothing worse than after the next trip having to sort out which photos belong to which trip, or downloading duplicates. So drop them from the camera once you’re sure they’ve been copied safely.

Image Re-Naming – Most photos are downloaded from the camera with meaningless numeric names – DSCNnnnn, or IMGnnnn or similar nonsense. A handy trick is to multi-select the files you wish to rename (Tile view is useful for identifying simlar photos) and rename them en-masse. Doing this, the files will all have the same name, but with a sequential number appended. A word on naming conventions – I like at all times to have the date that the image was taken in the file name. So for instance, three pictures of Stonehenge taken at midsummer may be named ‘130621 Stonehenge (1)’, ‘130621 Stonehenge (2)’ and ‘130621 Stonehenge (3)’. If you’re working on older images, and aren’t sure where/when they were taken, the EXIF data held within each image will hold clues, and may even have the geotagging information to give you a precise location.

Tidying up – Finally, remove (read DELETE!) any photos that aren’t up to snuff. Out of focus, poor composition, or even just ‘uninteresting’ photos should be removed from your library unless there are *very* good reasons for retaining them. When showing your photos, or organising them into a photo-book as a permanent record to show people, you want them to think kindly of your photographic skills, so dump the rubbish shots!

Backup! – Now you’re organised, the final step is to make sure you have backups of your photos. Whilst cloud-based storage is currently flavour of the month, don’t forget to check the terms and conditions and make sure you’re not giving away any rights to your images that you’re not happy about. Also, be aware that online companies may withdraw services at any time, or change their conditions with very little warning, so make sure you have an offline back too if you go the online route. I like the Western Digital Passport USB drives. They’re small, draw power from the USB lead (so no mains lead needed), come in various capacities and are relatively inexpensive.

I hope this brief guide has been useful. If you have a different strategy for organising your own digital images, let us know in the comments.

So the clocks have changed, Spring/Summer is here, and thoughts inevitably turn to trips out to savour and enjoy our ancient heritage. Nearly two years ago now, we featured an article, ‘6 ways to enhance your visit to a prehistoric monument‘ which listed essential equipment to assist and enhance understanding of any monument visited.

As an avid reader of technical computing blogs, a common theme I’ve noticed on such blogs is the concept of a ‘Go-Bag’ – an easily packed pre-prepared bag containing all the goodies which may be required at very short notice for whatever reason. There are several variants on this theme, the EDC or Every Day Carry bag, the Go-Bag and at the top-end, the Survival Kit. Many proponents of these bags are looking at them from the ‘survivalist’ viewpoint, see the 10 C’s of Survival, but the concept can easily be adapted for day trips spent visiting our heritage sites.

Just a few of the items from my bag. Compass, Wipes, Charger and Tripod missing, Phone used to take the picture!

Just a few of the items from my bag. Compass, Wipes, Charger and Tripod missing, Phone used to take the picture!

The contents of my own Go-Bag change from time to time, as better/different options become available or kit becomes outdated. Indeed, I have a great deal of redundancy built into my bag, with both technical and ‘old-school’ versions of several of the essentials. So what exactly is in my bag a) as standard, and b) included dependent upon context? Let’s get the all-in-one technology out of the way first.

  • Mobile Phone – my current weapon of choice is the Samsung Galaxy S3, an Android-based phone.
  • Tablet Computer – I double up here. I have the Asus Nexus running Android, and an iPad Mini Retina for iOS. Why both? Quite simply, there are apps I use which are available only on Android, and others which are only available on iOS. I may go through the apps I use in a future post.
  • Camera – a now aging Nikon Coolpix s3000, but I also have the phone and iPad for photography, so I’m well covered there. The S3000 is particularly useful for ‘timer’ shots. (I also have a Nikon DS3200 DSLR and an old Canon eOS DSLR, but you can have too much of a good thing!)
  • Device Charger and cables – I got mine from Proporta a couple of years ago. It can recharge any one of my devices almost fully – or give a boost to a couple at a pinch. I should probably consider an upgrade.

All the above are usually packed as ‘last minute’ items, due to pre-charging needs. Items which always sit in the bag ready to go are as follows:

  • A5 Sketchbook – I’m no great artist, but it can be useful to make a quick sketch of a site or feature sometimes.
  • Pencils and Pen – a box of sketching pencils of various weights, 4H to 4B is usually sufficient.
  • Binoculars – a small set of Nikon Sport Lite 10×25 bins, which is sufficient for most general uses.
  • Gorillapod mini tripod – used when taking those ‘timer’ shots mentioned above.
  • Compass – a basic compass from Millets or similar should suffice, just check its accuracy from time to time!
  • Babywipes – useful for getting grass/mud stains off equipment, clothing and body parts.
  • Torch and spare batteries – I quite like the Rolson 9 LED torches – small and very bright.

And finally, obviously dependent upon the location of the planned trip:

  • Maps – OS Pathfinder 1:25000 are the bees knees. There are mobile apps which can replace these to an extent, but don’t be reliant on batteries – carry a paper copy, particularly if travelling any distance ‘off-road’.
  • Guidebook/Gazetteer – or your reference material of choice for the intended location/site – I have a variety of e-books on my tablets which helps keep the weight down.

Remarkably, this all currently fits in a small shoulder bag, but I’m considering swapping to a rucksack, if only to make room for a bottle of water and some snacky bites. I’m also considering getting a collapsible ranging pole, to provide some scale in my pictures, but that would take even more room, so I may need to review the contents again in future.

But after charging batteries the night before a trip, I can currently be ready to go in minutes with all of the above. So what have I forgotten? What’s unneccessary? And better still, what’s in your bag? Why not share your preparations for at trip with us?

A guest article by member Sue Brooke, previously published on her own blog

So far, so good then. Two beautifully preserved and protected monuments.  So let’s move on to Yr Hen Eglwys. I’m guessing here that non-Welsh speaking readers may already be struggling with Welsh names. I appreciate how difficult this is and can also say that I too have found some difficulty in tracing these sites due to the many and various ways in which the Welsh Is written. Also it has been difficult due to the changing nature of areas locally.

However, I located the records for Cae’r Eglwys Long Cairn (The Old Church) and although Evans refers to its situation as Marcross it is now listed under the community of St. Donats.  The summary available describes this site as a Neolithic long barrow on the headland of Nash Point. It was described in 1811 as an ‘ancient cromlech’ called the Old Church which was traditionally known locally as an ancient place of worship but with no documentary evidence to support this. This site has not fared so well. The reports describe a revetment which has been completely robbed but states that it now comprises of an oval mound covered by long grass and brambles with no stone detectable beneath.  It is very sad that this site is known in tradition but was not protected by it. There is currently no legal protection. PRN 00408s. By using the facility available with Archwilio it is possible to see that this site is quite close to the sea. It is nice to see that the images available show that the recent ploughing respected the position of the monument and went around it, not through it.

The Laleston cromlech is now known as the Long Cairn NW of Laleston and is currently recorded as a Neolithic Chambered Tomb. This is not a straightforward site. There seems to have been some difficulties in its interpretation, partly due to the fact that the area has been regularly ploughed and there is some ongoing discussion as to whether any possible stones that were there in its original state are actually now forming part of adjacent field walls. The aerial view shows mostly a field with nothing visible of note. Evans described this is a ‘doubtful’ cromlech so perhaps the condition it is currently to be found in is similar to that at the time of writing in 1908. Due to the nature of this site it has not been possible to visit as landowners are not often happy to have crops trampled for the sake of a blog.  This is something any visitor to any site should always consider. However, this site is now part of the Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust Prehistoric Funerary and Ritual Sites Project 2003 so more could still be discovered.  This is the case with most of the monuments on our list. This site has no legal protection but the PRN is 04574m.

Creigiau is next on my list. The records I located refer to Cae’r Arfau, a Neolithic Chambered Tomb now listed within the community of Pentyrch.  Because Evans describes it as being in Creigiau it wasn’t easy to locate the correct records at first. The summary available tells us that it is the remains of a stone burial chamber, situated on a low spur overlooking the Ely Valley.  Prior to 1875 several large stones were believed to have been removed and, sadly, a visible mound had also been levelled. Its more recent past has been quite different in that it appears that for some years this chamber had been regularly lime-washed during its time being used as a coal store. However strange this may seem to us now it appears to have been quite common to use monuments such as this one as shelters for animals, but I have to admit this is the first one I’ve heard of that had effectively become a coal-house.  It is not a site that could realistically be visited as the tomb itself is incorporated into a wall which is part of the drive to a private house. Effectively this is in their garden. Considering its current use, as part of a wall, I was a little surprised to see it has legal protection as a SAM, although of course, the changes to the site were made many years ago. The PRN is 00620m

Cae’r Arfau © Mike Murray. used with permission.

Cae’r Arfau © Mike Murray. Used with permission.

Tythegeston Long Barrow or Cae Tor is to be found in the corner of an arable field within the Parish of Tythegeston. It is described as a Neolithic Chambered Tomb, being a well-marked mound around 1.2m high ‘represented by the E-W aligned capstone propped up on the S side by a single orthostat towards the E end’. The records for this monument show that it has been regularly surveyed. Today it would seem that it is much the same as that described previously. It remains very over-grown but it remains more or less untouched, not only by time but by human intervention. The barrow is legally protected as a SAM, the PRN is 00287m. It is nice that this site has been respected and allowed to remain as an important part of our historic landscape.

Tythegston © Mike Murray

Tythegston © Mike Murray. Used with permission.

The last on Evans’ list is the Coity burial chamber. It is also known as Coedparcgarw. Evans described this as Cae Letwych so I’m guessing that it is this chamber he referred to.  It seems that this Neolithic Chambered Tomb was surveyed by RCAHMW in 1968 when it was described as two stones partly supporting a capstone. There was, at that time, a third stone that had fallen and a fourth still partly supporting what was believed to be a detached part of the capstone. It is stated that there were the possible remains of a mound. This monument stands in an enclosed field with a wall and a lane encroaching on its north side. It is sadly described now as much ruined and overgrown, so much so that is it difficult at this point in time to interpret its original character, although it seems there remain suggestions of a mound where it would be expected to be located if indeed it is a long cairn. Again, although seemingly not much loved, this is a SAM, PRN 00374m

Coity © Mike Murray

Coity © Mike Murray. Used with permission.

All of these sites can be looked at in more detail by accessing the Archwilio website. The biggest difficulty for people wishing to find records is the many and varied ways in which sites are named. Each of these discussed here are given their names as they are listed in the records. To access these you simply need to use the link for Glamorgan and Gwent. Use the search facility by entering the names listed, remembering to click that you agree to the terms and conditions. When records appear in the list click on the one you wish to view, this will then highlight the position of the site on the map. It is possible to zoom in to the aerial view of these sites and to find their position in relation to other similar sites locally.

It’s always good to be able to get out and about to visit monuments such as these. Particularly around the Tinkinswood area where you can get a real sense of the importance of such chambers. Permission may be needed at some sites if you are actually on private land.  It is very important to remember that trampling around or worse, over, such chambers can add to their demise. Please, if you visit any of these sites then remember to treat them with the respect they deserve, particularly as some could be the final resting place of what were once, real people. I cannot emphasise this enough.

 C. J. Evans, The Story of Glamorgan was published by The Educational Publishing Company Limited, Trade Street, Cardiff in 1908.

Arthur’s Stone (or Maen Ceti) PRN 00068w – a Scheduled Ancient Monument. I believe it is this site that Evans referred to.

Ward, J, 1915, ‘Archaeologica Cambrensis’ 253-320

Thanks once again to Sue for permission to publish her thoughts on some of her local sites. 

A guest article by member Sue Brooke, previously published on her own blog.

The nice thing about a collection of old books is that they can give you a starting point. If you are lucky your collection may contain books on the same subject but written at different points in time. This not only allows you to understand how the various schools of thought on any subject may have developed and changed but also allows you yourself to think about whether things have changed for the better or for the worst. When reading a little book called The Story of Glamorgan this was highlighted for me. Towards the end of this book by C. J. Evans, published in 1908, there was a chapter written about ‘Antiquities of the County’.  There is a brief introduction where Evans talks of ‘cromlechau’ – giving the translation; Cromen as roof, Llech as a stone. When discussing these monuments Evans mentions the ‘largest in the kingdom’ which he stated would be found at Dyffryn Golwg.  He translates this thus; Dyffryn Goluch, the Vale of Worship.

This Vale of Worship is roughly between Wenvoe and St. Nicholas near Cardiff, within walking distance of where I live. It obviously caught my attention as I had not heard it being referred to as such. So, I did a kind of ‘let’s find out’ to see what now remains of these monuments. It’s always nice when you learn something new so it was lovely that Evans gave a little list of eight names of these different sites in Glamorgan. I obviously knew of the most well-known, such as those at St. Lythans and at Tinkinswood, but there were some on this list I did not know a lot about. I had certainly never linked or grouped them together in this way.

Glamorganshire covers quite a large area so there was one site in this list that was not local to me called Arthur’s Stone in Gower.  I always like to link my work back to my own local area as it helps me understand a little bit more about it.  It could be possible for people living in my locality to walk to most of these sites but as I simply thought a walk to the Gower was a little too far I excluded this site. So, for my purposes the list of seven was:

  • Castell Corrig
  • Cromlech at St. Nicholas
  • Yr Hen Eglwys (The Old Church) at Marcross
  • ‘Doubtful’ Laleston Cromlech
  • Creigiau
  • Tythegeston
  • Cae Letwych, near Coity

So, to take a look at these sites I’ve used information available from some of my own book collection. I’ve used the Archwilio website extensively. I’ve also put my boots on and gone out to look for myself, where it has been possible, locally. Not all of these sites are easily accessed and one, in particular, is in someone’s garden. Overall I’ve done my best and this is what I think. Of course, you may not agree with me, and that’s fine. I’m just an enthusiastic amateur, but I have to learn somewhere – so this is where I’ve started.

© Sue Brooke

Tinkinswood © Sue Brooke

Let’s look first at Castell Corrig. It’s also known as Castell Correg. It is better known now as Tinkinswood Chambered Tomb.  This is described as a Neolithic Long Barrow, which is approximately 40m long. This monument was excavated by Ward in 1915 when human remains were discovered along with evidence of Neolithic life, for example pottery and stone implements.  Having visited this site I can confirm that it remains much as it was re-constructed following the end of the investigations. It is interesting that this site remains as a site of significance. This is evidenced by the leaving of offerings as well as the tying of ribbons to nearby trees.  It is reassuring that this clearly important site has legal protection as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM). PRN 00374s

The second site on Evans’ list is that nearby described as the cromlech at St. Nicholas, known also as St. Lythans burial chamber. It is better known now as Maesyfelin (or Gwal y Filiast) a Neolithic Chambered Tomb, possibly of the Cotswold-Severn class.  It is quite a surprise to come across it for the first time as this is quite a spectacular monument and is preserved well. It is not really what you expect as you walk through the field.  It is very well-known as it is regularly photographed and featured.  Evans described this as a ‘splendid example’ and it is fair to say that it still is. This site has not been excavated but some evidence of human remains was reportedly found in debris nearby. Some coarse pottery was also discovered.  Again, this site is protected as a SAM.  PRN 00003s. It is also much respected by those in the local area and by those who visit.

St Lythans © Sue Brooke

St Lythans © Sue Brooke

To be continued…

Even more events, compiled by Sue Brooke

CORNWALL:

Cornwall Archaeological Society

Regular walks and talks of interest:

The Society was formed in 1961 – it grew out of the West Cornwall Field Club, itself founded in 1935 by a group of enthusiasts who were studying the archaeology of West Cornwall.

WALKS – Every month there is an archaeological walk somewhere in Cornwall led by members or an invited expert.

ACTIVITIES – The Society gives opportunities for those interested in practical archaeology to participate in fieldwork and learn archaeological techniques. Members often take part in excavations run by the Cornwall County Council’s Historic Environment Service (HES).

JULY WALK – Sunday 14th July 2013. 11.00 to 16.00 Cliff castles and ancient sites on the North Coast with Steve Hebdige.

Meeting in Porthcothan Car Park (SW8580 7291). Please note there is a car parking charge. The advice is that you should bring a packed lunch and, due to the weather, suitable outdoor clothing. The plan is to leave Porthcothan heading towards Park Head, back to Porthcothan for lunch and then onto Wine Cove, Treyarnon before heading back to the car park. There is a short steep descent and climb out of Porth Meor in the first part of the walk as well as a climb out of Porthcothan after lunch. This coastal walk will take in barrows, cliff castles at Park Head and Wine Cove and stunning views set in a landscape used since prehistory as illustrated by crop marks from aerial photographs.

http://www.cornisharchaeology.org.uk/

Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network

‘A charitable partnership formed to look after the ancient sites and monuments of Cornwall. Currently working closely with local communities and official organisations to protect and promote our ancient heritage landscape through research, education and outreach activities’

Volunteers are always very welcome at the monthly clear-ups. These events are a really good opportunity to get a bit more hands-on whilst helping to clear an ancient site in the landscape. This not only allows for physical preservation of the site itself but helps it to be kept safe for others to enjoy in the future. Please note that suitable footwear and clothing is needed although tools or any necessary equipment will be provided.

JULY CLEAN-UP – Tuesday July 16th 2013 – 12.00 (midday).

The next clean-up will be held at St. Rumon’s Church (SW7039 1643). Please meet at the lane to the farm, off the A3083. See website for more details. http://www.cornishancientsites.com/lan.htm

Cowbridge

LONDON:

Museum of London:

Saturday and Sunday 20th & 21st July – Festival of Archaeology – The Secret Museum.

Exclusive behind the scenes tours of stores and archives at the Museum of London and the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre.

Sat 20 Jul, 11am – 4pm – Bishops Square, London E1 6EG

Skeletons in the closet – find out in Spitalfields, where you can have the chance to see inside the remains of a medieval charnel house, hidden underneath the pavement near the market. Experts from English Heritage will reveal the history of this fascinating site.

Please note families are welcome to this event!

Sat 20 & Sun 21 Jul, 10.15-11.45am, 12.15-1.45pm, 2.15-3.45pm & 4.15-5.45pm – Museum of London

Secret stores tour: metal store & conservation labs

Get into heavy metal as our curators throw open the doors to the metal store to reveal 4000 years of history captured in tin, bronze and iron. Then come up to the lab to learn about how these and other historic London objects are cared for by our conservators. Age 16+

Book in advance £10 (£70 for a group booking of 8 people). To book tickets call the Museum of London Box Office on 020 7001 9844.

Sat 20 & Sun 21 Jul, 10.30am – 12pm, 12.30-2pm, 2.30-4pm, 4.30-5pm – Secret stores tour: human remains – Museum of London

We know where the bodies are – and so will you as our Osteology curators take you on a tour of our human remains store before revealing what we can learn from ancient bodies in the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology. Age 16+

Book in advance £10 (£70 for a group booking of 8 people). To book tickets call the Museum of London Box Office on 020 7001 9844.

Please note there are also a range of activities on offer specifically for children. For more information please follow: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/london-wall/Whats-on/Family-events/FOA.htm

KENT:

13 & 14 July: Festival of Archaeology 10.30 am. Maidstone Museum

More detailed information coming soon – please check out

http://www.museum.maidstone.gov.uk/events/20137/437/

Saturday 13th to Sunday 14th July 2013- Maidstone Museum. All Day Events

Maidstone Museum, in collaboration with the Kent Archaeological Society and Regia-Anglorum (the country’s leading group of early medieval living history enthusiasts) will host an exciting two day outdoor event designed to illustrate the richness of the county’s Saxon history.

From Saturday 13th to Sunday 14th July 2013, they will re-create a Saxon village in the Museum’s beautiful public gardens. The displays of Saxon art, craft, cooking, music and weapons will be complemented in the Museum by displays, lectures, object handling sessions, demonstrations of conservation techniques and a host of activities for families and children. All will draw upon the Museum’s fantastic Anglo-Saxon collections, recognised as being amongst the country’s fines

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE/DERBYSHIRE:

MBArchaeology specialises in Community Archaeology, Education & Research. Based in Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire and offering educational talks, walks, workshops and courses on a whole variety of archaeological topics.

Derbyshire – full-day field visits that run throughout the summer to sites of historical and archaeological interest.

July 13-28 – Festival of British Archaeology – more info coming soon

http://www.mbarchaeology.co.uk/upcoming-events/

stonehenge Heel Stone

WILTSHIRE HERITAGE MUSEUM:

Wiltshire Heritage Museum runs a large number of events, exhibitions and activities both for the general public and members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.

10:00 am Saturday, 6th July 2013 running until 1st September 2013

EXHIBITION: Inspirations from the Bronze Age: an exhibition by six outstanding contemporary designers and makers

http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/events/

PETERBOROUGH:

Flag Fen Archaeology Park. The Droveway, Northey Road, Peterborough, PE6 7QJ

Flag Fen is open daily from 10am-5pm (last entry at 4pm) from April to October and is a marvellous opportunity to see the work undertaken.

http://www.vivacity-peterborough.com/museums-and-heritage/flag-fen/discovery/

caerwent

 WALES:

National Museum of Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NP – FREE ENTRY

Origins: In Search of Early Wales. A static exhibition in The Archaeology Gallery – This traces life in Wales from the earliest humans 230,000 years ago. Who were our ancestors, and how different were they from us? What has changed and what has caused these changes? A stunning and thought provoking exhibition where you get the chance to see things close up.

Visit the Origins – In Search of Early Wales webpages http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/whatson/?event_id=2854

Until 7th. July 2013 – Julian Stair: Quietus – The Vessel, Death and the Human Body.

An exhibition of beautiful funerary vessels – from cinerary jars to sarcophagi exploring the containment of the human body after death.

2nd July to 4th. August 2013 – The Mold Cape Spotlight Tour (In partnership with the British Museum)

Find out about this stunning ceremonial cape of gold and the Bronze Age people who made it.

 NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF WALES – ST. FAGAN’S, CARDIFF:

11th July 2013 – 14.00 – 15.00 (English) 15.00 – 16.00 (Welsh)

Behind the Scenes: What lies beneath?

Join Elen Phillips, Curator of Textiles, to uncover the hidden secrets of the textile collection. Find out what our ancestors wore beneath their clothing and how they kept evil spirits at bay!

Spaces are limited for this tour so please book early to avoid disappointment

FREE ENTRY – BUT PLEASE NOTE THERE IS A CAR PARKING FEE.

Compiled by Sue Brooke

 Finds

FESTIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 2013 EVENTS:

Dig into the past at the 23rd Festival of Archaeology! Co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology, the Festival offers over 1,000 events nationwide, organised by museums, heritage organisations, national and country parks, universities, local societies, and community archaeologists. A small selection of these events is listed below. To find out more (more events are listing daily) please check: http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/

**********************************************************

Church Meadow excavation open day Sat 13th Jul 2013   South East | Surrey

An open day, in conjunction with Ewell Village Fair, giving you the chance to see the current season’s excavation in Ewell’s Roman settlement http://www.epsomewellhistory.org.uk

Archaeology week at Tintagel Castle Sat 27th Jul 2013 – Sat 3rd Aug 2013   South West | Cornwall

It’s the Festival of Archaeology so join us for fun activities for the whole family. Get hands-on and discover more about the history of Tintagel through our experts and the fascinating artefacts uncovered here over the years. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/archaeology-week-tc-27-jul/

Dig with us! Mon 15th Jul 2013 – Fri 19th Jul 2013 North East | Tyne and Wear

Newcastle University archaeologists and English Heritage will be excavating the 19th century forge workers cottages at Derwentcote Steelworks near Ebchester. Local volunteers (including accompanied children) are welcome to come along and dig with us: just turn up on whichever day(s) you choose. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/derwentcote-steel-furnace/

Newbarns project archaeological excavation Sat 13th Jul 2013 – Sat 27th Jul 2013  Scotland | Dumfries and Galloway

Ancient burial site consisting of 3 Neolithic kerb cairns, adapted for later Bronze Age/Iron Age burials with settlement evidence from the Anglian and Medieval eras in the form of stonework. Contributions greatly received but no charge for entry or having a go. http://www.sat.org.uk

Dorchester on Thames archaeological excavation open day Sat 20th Jul 2013  West Midlands | Oxfordshire

Learn more about the site of the Roman small town at Dorchester on Thames. Bring artefacts you may have found in your own garden to be identified and see the objects we have excavated. Take a site tour with the Director and see what we have been digging.http://www.arch.ox.ac.uk/DOT1.html

The Anglo-Saxons in the North Sat 2nd Mar 2013 – Tue 31st Dec 2013   North East | County Durham

The Anglo-Saxons in the North A small display in the Streatlam Galleries from March to December 2013, will highlight the Anglo-Saxon collections at The Bowes Museum, in celebration of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East. http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/

Archaeology discovery day   Sun 28th Jul 2013  South West | Gloucestershire

Archaeological skills/hands-on activity. Join us for a day of discovery! Visitors will get the chance to learn more about the excavations in Dr Jenner’s Garden. There will be talks about the finds excavated from the garden and there will be some finds on display. Plus sandpit digs, finds cleaning and even finds identification. There will be tours of the site through the day and all visitors get to see the museum exhibits about Edward Jenner – passionate not only about medicine but also geology and fossils! http://www.jennermuseum.com

Medieval mysteries Thu 25th Jul 2013 Wales | Caerphilly

A day of hands-on art, craft and traditional skills, activities, tours, and talks

http://www.celticlearnersnetwork.org.uk/index.htm

WASHINGTON DC

Archaeology in the Community (AITC) will be running events with young people to coincide with Festival of Archaeology. Please check them out at    http://archaeologyincommunity.com/

More to come, later this week!

Continuing our Bank Holiday Heritage Drive from Andover to Salisbury (ignoring the 200 mile round trip from London!) Yesterday we covered our visits to the Museum of the Iron Age and Bury Hill Camp. We now leave Bury Hill Camp behind, heading southwest toward Danebury…

Danebury

I’d heard quite a bit about the entrance to Danebury. How ‘labyrinthine’ it is, how imposing, about how so many bodies had been found in the ditches there. But no-one told me about the uphill climb to get there! Ok, it’s probably not that bad for 99% of people, but when you’ve got dodgy knees, it seems a bit of a hike…

The entrance certainly is imposing. ‘Labyrinthine’ may be over-egging it a little these days, seeing how the pathway is neatly gravelled, allowing no opportunity to get lost as it leads you to the interior. But the banks certainly hide what’s inside. Imagining these with wooden palisades, as seen on the museum mock-up earlier, any visitor would be impressed at the implied power and wealth on display.

Danebury Entranceway

I elected to climb the provided staircase to the top of the bank for my permabulations, unlike others who had clearly decided to forge their own path, causing erosion in the process. It seems that even at a ‘type’ site such as Danebury, all the information boards, outreach and education just cannot get through to some people. As well as the erosion, I saw a fairly large fire pit within the hill fort, by the outer bank.

Danebury Erosion
Danebury Firepit

Once on top of the bank, the scale of the fortifications became readily apparent. Walking around the inner bank, it felt at times as though I had a drop of 100 feet or more into the middle ditch below, a real test of my vertigo, as the bank is also some 20-30 feet above the inside of the fort in places, with quite steep sides.

Danebury Banks

An information board at the entrance to the site suggests that there are at least 7 other hillforts intervisible with Danebury, but as the majority of the site is surrounded by trees, it’s difficult to discern which ones they could be. I also found, on preparing this text, that 500m to the northwest are remains of at least three much older (Neolithic) Longbarrows, mostly ploughed out, none now surviving to a height of more than 1 metre. There are other barrows of various dates to the east and south too. I should have researched more before leaving home as I saw nothing of these…

Traversing across the internal space of the fort, there is a definite ‘high spot’ in the ground, now largely covered by trees. The information board on-site tells us that square structures were found during excavation at this high point – “These buildings were presumably the shrines or temples of the community, and as such would be home to a group of druids” !

On this far side away from the enclosure entrance, I noticed a lot of small squarish holes were the ground had been turned over. Although I saw no evidence of droppings (other than from the sheep which were set to graze in the fort), these could have been done by rabbits, foxes or badgers, or may have a more sinister purpose…

But Tempus was Fugit’ing and I still had a lot to do, so made my way back through the neatly clipped exit and set off back down the hill to the car park for the next stage of our journey.

Danebury exit

In fact, time was against us from now on. Our next scheduled stop was to have been at Figsbury Ring, but as I’ve been here before,  I made an executive decision to skip it and move on.

Old Sarum

I had come to Old Sarum, not to see the hill fort and all it contains (there is an admission charge payable, I did not have sufficient time left in the day to make this worthwhile), but to see something both newer and very much older than the hill fort at the same time. For here, in the car park some experimental archaeology is currently taking place which will have a profound effect on millions of people every year. It is here that the designs, materials and techniques for the Neolithic houses which will be erected at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre are being worked upon.

Amazingly, as I entered the car park I spotted two old friends of mine that I’d not seen for some years. They were here with their children for an event within the fort later in the day, which was re-enacting a battle between Britons and Saxons, in which the children could take part (and which they thoroughly enjoyed!)

But the houses were what I’d come to see, and I must apologise here to the English Heritage volunteer, whose explanatory talk I interrupted when I arrived to my friends’ surprise.

Neolithic Houses

There are three houses in total, two are essentially complete, one is still being worked upon. The two shown above are based upon post holes discovered in excavations at Durrington Walls, and the third is conjectured, being of a design that leaves little archaeological trace.

Of the two houses built on the post hole traces, different materials are being used on different parts of the houses to see how easy they are to work, how well they last, how efficent at heat retention etc they are. As you can see on the right above, different grasses and types of straw are being tried, in different laying patterns for the roofs. The house on the left has two different wall structures, one made of water, chalk and straw, the other a more traditional daub mix. Surprisingly, the daub wall has needed more ongoing maintenance and patching as it has dried out. Similar comparisons are undergoing trials on the house on the right.

One interesting point with these houses is that although the post arrangements are essentially rectanglar, the houses appear very rounded. This is due to the stresses placed by the weight of the roof causing the walls to ‘bow’ out, something which had not really been considered, or seen in this way before.

Neolithic Grass Houses

The third house is considered to be a possible earlier design, without substansive walls, but a roof that continues to floor level. As with the other house, despite windows the house is remarkable light inside, once your eyes adjust to the lower levels. Again different structuring techniques have been used on this house, as evidenced by the ridges and flat sections of the roof above, and the internal battening seen below.

Neolithic Grass House roof

Although the post hole houses have a series of smaller, internal post holes which have been interpreted as supports for a shelving arrangement, there are no such findings for the simpler buildings. I guess people in grass houses couldn’t stow tomes? (I’ll get me coat…)

But it will be very interesting to see which design elements from these experiments will be used in the final houses to be built at Stonehenge later this year.

Having seen as much as we could, it was time to grab a bite to eat, in the centre of Salisbury (which has extensive Heritage sites of its’ own, enough to fill several days’ visits but outside the remit of the Heritage Journal time period of interest) before heading back to the smoke of London. Whilst we could have driven via Amesbury and Stonehenge, this would have made our return home unfeasibly late, so we took the more direct route, retracing our steps up to Andover and home.

But there’s always next time!

All pictures © Alan S.

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