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Guest article by Juamei

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow holds a very dear place in my heart. For those who don’t know, it is a Neolithic Severn-Cotswolds chambered long barrow containing 6 side chambers and an end chamber off a central gallery. The whole thing is in a good enough condition that you can go right inside so make sure you bring a torch! It sits on a small spur below the crest of a ridge overlooking Wellow Brook about 1 mile from Wellow, a few miles to the south of Bath.

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow

In the 6 years or so I have been living within 30 minutes of Stoney Littleton, I have visited this place countless times. It has been an escape from city life, a shoulder to cry on, a meeting place for like minded souls and an end point for walks of the heart. I’ve approached it from the South, the East and the West, in fog, mist, bright daylight, dusk and darkness.

I’ve been there in all four seasons; In the spring passing scampering lambs and protective ewes, in the height of summer seeking the cool of the chambers to escape the glare of the sun, in the mud and cold winds of autumn enjoying the colours of the trees around and in the frosts and mists of winter. This place even holds a special secret, for at the end of the longest night, if you are lucky, the sun creeps over the horizon and turns the inside a glorious honey colour lighting the normally black chambers with an amazing glow.

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow

But I’m not going to talk about any of that, instead I’d like to bemoan the rubbish I have found inside this beautiful tomb over the years. As it is left open 24-7 Stoney Littleton attracts a lot of visitors, nowadays on a sunny summer afternoon at the weekend you’d be lucky to spend 10 minutes here alone. Obviously with this traffic comes rubbish. There is no bin on site so all visitors must take their litter away with them, however some unfortunately do not. It is a rare visit where I do not find tissues, sweet wrappers, crisp packets or other human detritus scattered liberally across the top of the mound, inside the mound or in the grass surrounding it. On bad days the empty carrier bag I always take with me is overflowing with rubbish when I leave. I have even found a soggy porn mag in a side chamber, from someone presumably making a special type of offering.

Aside from the everyday tourist rubbish, the people you’d expect to care the most, the ones who come prepared to spend time inside this ancient structure also leave their own dirty marks. First and foremost being the scourge of the barrow tea light. I have probably removed in excess of 150 tea lights from here over the years, up to five each time not being uncommon. People stuff them in crevices and light them, scorching the 5000 year old walls and dripping large amounts of wax that is very hard to pick off. They leave them on the floor to be trampled into the dirt by future visitors. I understand the need for light but I beg understanding of this barrow’s right to not be damaged through carelessness and neglect.

Inside the barrow

Also inside the chamber I’ve commonly found a large amount of offerings. I understand and respect the right of people to come here to worship but rotting vegetation from left over offerings is not a nice find at the back of the end chamber. I’ve also found corn dollies, clay figurines, crystals, jewellery and prayers stuffed in crevices. Leaving aside the affinity between Neolithic burial mounds and modern day pagan religion, I personally see deposits of this kind as litter and tend to remove them. So if you think they have been accepted and subsumed, chances are I’ve been along with a carrier bag!

Sadly Stoney Littleton is not alone in receiving this kind of treatment, I could have filled many bin bags over the years with the rubbish I’ve found at prehistoric sites all over the country. Fortunately there are many like me who always take along an extra carrier bag to keep the sites clean.

Why don’t you make sure you are one of us and not one of the vandals slowly but surely trashing our heritage?

Wellow Brook


March 2010

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