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Our next willing subject is someone who’s been in the news quite a bit just recently, talking about plans and progress for the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre – it’s Sue Greaney, Senior Properties Historian with English Heritage. 

Brief Bio:

Sue studied archaeology and prehistory at Sheffield University, worked very briefly for ARCUS and then took an MSc in Professional Archaeology at Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. Placements with Oxford Archaeology, the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford and the archaeological survey team at English Heritage led to her securing a temporary job with English Heritage’s Properties Research team in 2005. This work was focused on researching and writing interpretation for the free and unstaffed sites, ranging from industrial buildings to Neolithic long barrows, and including sites from the Isles of Scilly to Hadrian’s Wall. Since 2009, Sue has been working on the exhibition and interpretation planned for the forthcoming new Stonehenge visitor centre.


The Ten Questions:

What sparked your interest in Archaeology?

It must have been studying ‘the Vikings’ and ‘the Romans’ at primary school, because I remember announcing aged 7 that I wanted to be an archaeologist. And I never changed my mind. Pretty soon I was a member of the local of the Young Archaeologist’s Club and a few years later Time Team started – after that at least friends at school stopped thinking I wanted to be an architect!

How did you get started?

My first excavation was two weeks work experience aged 14 with Northamptonshire Archaeology, on a DMV site near Rugby. I enjoyed it so much I asked to come back and volunteer in my summer holidays. After that I excavated at community projects including Piddington Roman Villa and Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project in Norfolk, spending a summer supervising there in 2001. By then I was in my first year at Sheffield University, studying archaeology and prehistory.

Who has most inspired your career?

Credit has to go to my university tutors, particularly Mike Parker Pearson and Mark Edmonds, who told me to question everything and how to interpret landscapes – they both made prehistory so exciting and accessible. Mark Bowden at English Heritage, who led one of my masters placements, taught me a lot about landscape survey and archaeology, and my first manager at English Heritage, John Goodall managed to instill in me a love of medieval abbeys and castles too. And all my archaeological friends from many conversations in the pub!

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

It has to be the one that I work on now, the new Stonehenge visitor centre. I’m the archaeologist/historian working on the new exhibition galleries, all the new interpretation from the website to the audio tour, the temporary gallery, the permanent gallery, the films and interactives. Now is an incredibly busy time as we open later in 2013. Within the larger project there are lots of exciting pure research things – getting new radiocarbon dates on a burial from Winterbourne Stoke long barrow, interpreting the new laser scan of Stonehenge, building our replica experimental Neolithic houses… I have to pinch myself sometimes!

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. It’s a spectacular site, in a beautiful location. And it’s one of those crucial sites for understanding the late Neolithic. It’s also where I got engaged in 2008! The whole of Orkney is just packed with such great archaeology.

What is your biggest archaeological regret?

Personally, I’d have liked to have spent more time digging! Although I worked in commercial archaeology for a while, and did lots research and community excavations, sometimes I don’t quite feel that I’ve earned my digging ‘stripes’ as it were. For the sector as a whole, I regret that there remains so much unpublished archaeology out there. There’s a huge backlog of important research excavations which have never seen the light of day – Lydford, Devon; Wolvesey Castle in Winchester; barrow excavations in the Stonehenge landscape…

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

Funding for post-excavation and publication (ideally open-access) should be made integral to current systems. I’d also want to see all the scheduling descriptions, but particularly those sites still with old county numbers, to be updated and revised based on current knowledge.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

I’d like to stress how vitally important archaeology, history and heritage is for the well-being of our communities and for our understanding of where we are today. It’s not just heritage tourism that is important, but the way that archaeology contributes to a sense of place for everyone. Please, please don’t make further cuts to funding for English Heritage – the damage done by the last spending round cuts may not be particularly visible to people outside, but we have lost so much expertise – our budgets are tiny compared to other spending, and yet the work we do is so important.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I’m not sure – possibly graphic design or maybe running a book shop!

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

Swimming, going for country walks, real ale in the pub with friends, reading, visiting museums… Once the Stonehenge project is over I’ll hopefully have time to take up kayaking again.

We’d like to express our thanks to Sue for her responses, particularly at what is a very busy time for her.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

I was reminded recently of a moment, as a child, returning from a week away with my school, when the coach I was on drove past Stonehenge.

The only time I’d previously seen Stonehenge was in a book or on the television. Of course I was impressed! Surprised – strangely – at how small it seemed in relation to how my rather overactive imagination had protrayed it, but impressed nevertheless.

At the exact moment that we drove past, Concorde flew over a short distance away, posing above the stones in a photogenic way. If this were today, everybody would have had a camera with them, most likely on their phones, but this was the 70s, so nobody was prepared for this unique photo opportunity.

At the time, and at the age I was, it almost felt like Concorde was from the future. Like a rocket. Or a spaceship.

Roll on 30 years, and fantasy has been replaced by reality. A spaceship has been photographed flying over Stonehenge!

The International Space Station (ISS) flying over Stonehenge

Photo credit: Tim Burgess (

And here’s a photo from space taken by Commander Hadfield (Commander of the International Space Station) himself!



This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.


Dear Colleagues,

Were you shocked by Somerset Metal Detecting Club’s rule that everything they find that isn’t Treasure is entirely THEIRS? History lovers, eh? History locusts more like. Of course, hours after it was highlighted on the Journal they acknowledged they’d been banged to rights by deleting the “all ours” rule and substituting words saying the finds belonged half to them and half to the farmer, which is half true. But you just wonder, now they’ve admitted the previous rule was an outrage, how many tens of thousands of pounds that should have gone to farmers have gone into their Members’ pockets over the years. And crucially: what they’re going to do about it. A lot of farmers in Somerset are now owed a lot of money, surely?

I rather doubt those farmers will ever see their money though judging by the very next rule: Please show your finds to other club members at the end of each dig. The club may wish to photo record some items and feature them on the clubs website and the Farmer/land owner may wish to see items found on their land”. So, Friends, even though they now openly admit that you own 50% of what is found they tell their Members you only may wish to see it (and then maybe only a photo!!!) How utterly dodgy is that? Is it likely that you or anyone, anywhere has ever NOT wanted to be shown exactly what complete strangers from Liverpool or Latvia in cammo gear were busy taking out of their field, house or pocket? Unless of course they were told nothing but junk was normally found in a gathering of scores of detectorists and no-one from the Government bothered to make public the fact that that is almost never the case ….

It’s a crying shame, isn’t it, that the Government and the Portable Antiquities Scheme don’t issue us landowners with warnings against all the dubious and self-interested  and deliberately imprecise wording contained in detecting club rules and finds agreements.***  People are endlessly warned about unfair marketing ploys coming though the post but not about this – some of which is said to be “clarified verbally”, a sure sign of someone wanting to disadvantage someone without the world knowing. Multiply Somerset by hundreds of detecting clubs and you end up with vast amounts of stuff in the wrong hands. Yet aren’t landowners taxpayers too (and on a vastly greater scale than artefact hunters)? Don’t we have a right to be expensively outreached to and to be adequately informed and to have our interests protected by the government?

Silas Brown

*** Here’s PAS’s advice to Landowners.
Not a word of warning about the danger of being ripped off. Plus, a recommendation to get a finds agreement  (why, when it all belongs to him anyway ???!) which is a wide open door to being conned and deprived. NEVER sign a finds agreement friends. You decide if you give anyone anything ONCE you have it in your hand. See my letter on why finds agreements should never be signed.



For more from Farmer Brown put Silas in the search box.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


I make no secret of my love of Cornwall, and on every trip there are certain sites that I return to again and again. The Merry Maidens is one of those sites, located on the B3315 between Lamorna and Treen at OS Grid Ref SW432245.

Although now largely a 19th Century reconstruction, the Merry Maidens is often described as a ‘perfect circle’. This geometric shape is very unusual in ‘stone circles’, which are very rarely truly ’round’, most being elongated or ovoid in shape.

The circle is surrounded by other monuments with the Pipers, two large standing stones to the northeast being the most often mentioned. These are the stones attached to the legend, supposedly being the musicians playing for the girls dancing on the Sabbath who were turned to stone. The Pipers are not inter-visible with the circle, the story being that they ran away when they heard the St Buryan church bells ring. The alignment of the two stones with the circle, SW-NE suggests an astronomical significance.

Gun Rith, on the other hand is very visible from the circle, standing in a field just across the B3315 road to the west. Indeed, the footpath through the circle has been cut in recent times to point directly at Gun Rith, which fell a few years ago and was re-erected in place against the hedge where it had previously stood.

Merry Maidens and Gun Rith

Gun Rith can be seen against the hedge in the distance, in direct line of the mown path through the circle.

To the southwest are the Boscawen-Ros stones, one in a field, the other now part of a field boundary hedge, and both much smaller than their counterparts, the Pipers, to the northeast. A second circle of similar size was recorded by Borlase, somewhere nearby to the east/southeast, but no trace of this now remains. A large Bronze Age barrow cemetery lies to the south-west of the circle, and beside the B3315 road a short distance to the west of the circle are the disturbed remains of Tregiffian barrow – a possible Neolithic entrance grave. The cup-marked stone at the entrance to the barrow is now a replica, the original can be seen in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

Like many areas of West Penwith, there’s a lot to see in a comparatively small area!

On my recent visit to Cornwall, I managed to squeeze in a visit to a site I’ve only been to once before, but have never really seen. Caer Bran hillfort rests on a hill to the south of Sancreed Beacon, and when I last climbed up to the hillfort the area was shrouded in thick mist, which afforded me no overall view of the monument.

Luckily this time the weather was much clearer, though still very ‘damp’, and I was able to get a much better impression of the scale of the fort, which is around 120 or so metres in diameter.

Lake’s Parochial History of 1868 describes the hillfort thus:

“Caer Bran Castle, i.e. Brennus’s Castle, or the Crow castle, stands on the summit of a hill six furlongs and a half to the west of the church; it consists, or rather consisted, of three concentric circles, the greatest being about 240 feet in diameter, and still in some places 15 feet in height; it is composed of earth, and, as is usual in such cases, has a ditch on each side. The middle circle was built of stone, and was at least 12 feet in thickness; a large portion of the stone has been removed for building purposes. The innermost circle is about 30 feet in diameter, and was evidently a sort of citadel.”

The PastScape entry (see link below) mentions only two sets of ramparts, the inner one ‘now very mutilated’.

Caer Bran: The outer ditch today is still quite imposing in places.

Caer Bran: The outer ditch today is still quite imposing in places.

The hill fort, which dates to the Iron Age but has much later mining remains within it, is easily accessed via a concreted track south from the Sancreed-Grumbla road at OS Grid Ref SW409295. The hillfort also contains three Bronze Age ring cairns, which pre-date the fort. Though the hill is a bit steep in places, it’s a steady climb to the summit, and I reached the pathway leading off to the left to the fort in less than 15 minutes from the road.

Approaching from the northwest, the ramparts are open for the old mining track that leads through the monument, and I was saddened to see that much of the westerly ditch was quite flooded. On the northern side the ramparts are very well defined, though there is some evidence of animal burrowing activity, possibly rabbits. This activity was mirrored on the southeastern side, but the damage was much more in evidence – although I’m a city boy, I’d guess at badgers from the size of the burrows. From the southwest, the old mining track loops away to the south and west across toward the village of Brane.

The name ‘Bran’ means Raven or Crow, and it would be easy to speculate that the hillfort is named after the same Rialobran (Royal Raven) commemorated on the Men Scryfa, some 4 miles to the north.

Other nearby monuments:

Some 75 yards or so to the east of the hillfort is a small enclosure, noted on PastScape as a pound, with a small mound at its centre.  There was some thought at one time that this may be a henge, but this idea is now dismissed. There is no public access to the enclosure that I could see. The area is rich in prehistoric monuments, with the Carn Euny settlement and holy wells to the southwest, Sancreed Beacon to the northeast and Sancreed holy well to the east. Further afield is the Goldherring settlement to the south, Bartine Castle to the west and Brane chambered cairn further to the southwest. On a clear day, the hillfort provides a good all-round view to most parts of the West Penwith peninsula.

More Information:

One of the sites I had on the target list for my recent trip to Cornwall was the Goldherring Settlement near Sancreed in West Penwith. Dating from approximately the 1st Century BC, the site consists of a walled settlement, set within a wider field system, with dwellings, including a Courtyard House,  and a nearby well.

Close by is the settlement at Carn Euny, the Iron Age Hill Fort of Caer Bran and Chapel Carn Brea as well as the much earlier stone circle at Boscawen-Un. The Goldherring settlement had three main periods of occupation, starting in the late 1st Century BC or the early 1st Century AD. The field system dates from the 3rd Century AD and in early Medieval times (as well as possibly earlier) the site was used for the smelting of tin.

Located on CRoW access land, on the eastern slope of a small hill some 500 feet above sea level, thanks to clearance work the settlement is surprisingly easy to access.

I parked at the Boscawen-Un layby on the A30 at OS Grid Ref SW409277 and walked back  towards Penzance for a couple of hundred yards. The field on the left came to end, and there was a gated track on the left. I walked up the track, following it to the right, then round to the left until the track ended at a gate to a ploughed, cultivated field. Off to the right was an information board, and rough path leading along the field boundary to the settlement, which is located at OS Grid Ref SW411282.

GoldHerring Infoboard

As mentioned, a lot of clearance work has been done, and it’s possible to just make out the form of the elements of a courtyard house within the main enclosure, although a weathered tree is now growing in the middle of the complex. Not a textbook layout, but the basic form is there if you look hard enough.

Goldherring Courtyard House

There is a well nearby to the east, but the clearance work hasn’t yet got that far and I was unable to make my way through the brambles. The site was also used for processing tin in the medieval period, so there’s a lot here to try to identify. Fancy led me to believe that maybe one area may have once been an underground fogou that had subsequently lost its roof but it could equally have been a later storage building. The site is on a slope and the current ground level is very undulating. Would it have been like this in the past when in use I wondered?

The settlement was excavated in the late 1950’s by A Guthrie. A full excavation report was published in the Cornwall Archaeological Society journal ‘Cornish Archaeology’ issue 8 (1969), sadly no longer available from the society as far as I know, though secondhand copies may be obtained at a price. There is some discussion of the age of Courtyard Houses, including that at Goldherring, in an article by Henrietta Quinnell in ‘Cornish Archaeology’ #25, available for download in PDF form.

I would urge anyone in the area to visit this overlooked site for themselves, before the bracken, brambles and gorse reclaim it and it becomes hidden from view once more.

Further information:

Another installment in Sue Brooke’s story of her experiences at Caerau Hillfort in Wales.  New readers should start at Part 1 or see here for all previous installments and get right up to date.

It was a while before anything more was heard. Meetings were being held quietly at the school and things were being kept beautifully secret. I worried that these kids who had worked so hard up at the church site would just be pushed to one side when the ‘big-guns’ arrived. This was not the case as the programme incident room was to be based at the school, the helicopter would be taking off from there for the famous aerial views and the strategic meetings would be based there at lunch times.

Then the text came through to tell me the date and time that the whole thing would start. OK, here we go. It was April, it was cold and, guess what, it was wet! I arrived at the school the day before the filming was due to start for the briefing and to be issued with my access-all-areas blue TT wristband. Goodo – that’s me most definitely in. OK, yes, I admit I took some covert photos of the Time Team vehicles. Well, you do, don’t you? These are as much stars of the show as the famous names.


I know, but I couldn’t resist. And yes, I leant on the bonnet.

Now, remember that this is a hillfort. There is now a lane there that helps access when the gate is unlocked. However, in the rain it gets full of mud and becomes dangerous. It was the intention of those who built this to keep uninvited visitors out. Perhaps I had a lot more in common with my Caerau ancestors than anyone had previously considered!   But here I am – waterproofs, boots and blue wristband. There is a security guard on the gate. I kind of saunter up, acting all cool with my arm extended to show my wristband when the security guard asks me to move to one side to allow a vehicle to pass. It was Tony Robinson.

I walked up the hill. It takes a good few minutes, depending on how fit you are. It’s steep and it bends. As I walked around the final corner towards the church there it was. A mess. A huge mess. The rain had continued overnight. The vehicles had accessed the field through the gate where the security men now stood. The access to this rarely opened gate was now one large churned up, heavy, thick, muddy puddle. I really could have wept.

There was a white marquee over near the old church. There were people all over the place. Geophysics people were wandering around, people with cameras were walking about and a small crowd had gathered. Then more vehicles started to arrive regularly, depositing even more people on to the site. It was hard to understand what on earth was going on. My first words were along the lines of – ‘oh, what have you done to my field’. Perhaps they were a little more colourful than that. No, let’s be honest, a LOT more colourful, so probably best not repeated here.


There are TT rules that participants in the programme must agree to. You may only enter the site if you have the appropriate wristband. You must not wander around the field.  You must not get in the way of filming. You must always keep an eye out for cameras, just in case you inadvertently get in the way.  You must be prepared to wait. And wait. And then probably wait some more.

The really nice thing, for me, is that CADW have rules too. One of them is seemingly ‘though shalt not churn up Sue’s field.’  Two lady CADW Inspectors appeared – in hi-vis jackets and welly’s, wearing beautifully official ID badges. They made them sort it all out. They kept the closest eye on what was going on. They had to be consulted at all stages. I loved these two – they were absolutely bloody marvellous!

The whole thing was the oddest thing to be a part of. Being a long term fan of the programmes meant I had invited these people into my living room and listened to what they had to say on most Sundays. I’d watched them and re-watched them. I’d met one of them and I’d read most of the books they had written. Yes, yes, I even have the Mick Aston look-alike scarf. It was therefore quite a shock to see Paul Blinkhorn drive his BMW bike up the hill (very carefully and only once, I have to say). He wandered over to the gate and was immediately stopped by security officers who had no idea who he was. What? It was actually far more entertaining to stay near the gate than it was to be ducking out of camera line on the field itself. And, I have to say these security guys were very kind to the two ladies (I was one) who they nicknamed the Ninja Nanna’s. It’s a long story so don’t ask.

Now, if you were on the field you may have a microphone thrust in front of your face. On this was attached a small screen. If you were really alert you realised that this was actually filming you. Oh, oh!  Come on now, you probably all have HD large screen tellies. Can you actually say, hand on heart that you would want your image appearing in this way, particularly us ladies – without the benefit of hair, make-up and costume stylists? Of course not – well not unless you are a glamorous BGT finalist.  I’m not. I kept my hood up and my head down.

Matt Williams, hard at it!

Matt Williams, hard at it!

As the days went on it kind of became excitable celebrity spotting. Well, for me anyway. The young people from the local schools were brought up to the hill. Activities were being run via the CAER Heritage Project and, I have to say, these kids behaved impeccably. They were patient, they were polite and they were very well behaved, as were, Francis Pryor, John Gater, Paul Blinkhorn and the lovely Matt Williams.  I investigated a shovel throwing earth out of a ditch to find Matt on the end of it. That lovely bloke talked to me for an hour about the area and listened to my ramblings.

Me and Matt

Me and Matt

But of course, I knew that Phil Harding was in my field somewhere. My Time Team  hero.

Phil Harding reminds me of someone who I would describe as a man of the soil. He knows how to dig, he does the digging himself and he generally knows what he’s on about. He has learnt this by getting his boots dirty – no short cuts – just gets in the dirt and works away. A bit like I myself had to learn in understanding how to interpret the site really. Then word was coming through that Phil had found evidence of houses. Well, of course he has! Oddly enough this was just over my garden fence. I got very excited at this but didn’t want to pop up on camera or worse, get in his way.

The security guy on the gate said I was to go with him. So I did. As I approached I could see the hat, the jacket, the hair and, of course, the legendary tool box. There was Phil, in a trench with what looked to me like post holes. I stood there nodding and mute. I had so many questions to ask, so much input to give on MY field and MY thoughts on how life developed here. I could not think of one single intelligent comment to make. Not a single word. Oh dear.

But he had found evidence of roundhouses. I was right. People had lived up on that hill behind my garden fence, at least during the Iron Age, probably before.

Thank you Phil, you just confirmed what I knew already.

Thank you Phil, you just confirmed what I knew already.

Of course, even TT heroes have to eat. So off we went to the school for lunch. Teresa Condick had arranged for food for our group to be brought in each day. We sat there eating whilst all around us, in my old school gym, were all the people I recognised from TT. It was completely bizarre. They talked about grown up things such as geophysics, glaciers, finds, post holes and round houses. I could not believe it. I went to make some tea and was stood alongside telly people, such as Tim Taylor, in his soaking wet, muddy socks. The school had insisted that these muddy boots had been left outside. Good for the school – rules is rules!

Of course, I have a life. I have to work. So off the hill I came and, after a quick change into my uniform off to work I went. During the course of my work I met Katharine.  I told her about the hill and the TT filming such was my excitement.  I issued her with a very stern ‘I shall HAVE to kill you if you tell’ threat. Then she said ’oh, I’ll just have a look at my maps’. Katharine Harry loves cartography. She understands topography. I told her about the area and she went away and she came back with historic maps I had not previously seen. She sat with me and she explained. She gave me copies. She changed the focus of my work. Katharine – you are a real star, thank you.

They came for three days. They dug holes, they made a real mess and then they went away. Oh, did I mention the helicopter?

To be concluded…


Situated a couple of miles or so ESE of St Columb Major in Cornwall, Castle an Dinas is an Iron Age hillfort, considered by many to be one of the most important hillforts in the southwest of Britain. It dates from around the 3rd to 2nd century BCE and consists of three ditch and rampart concentric rings, 850 feet above sea level. Within the central enclosed area are the remains of two Bronze Age round barrows. During the early 1960s it was excavated by a team led by Dr. Bernard Wailes of the University of Pennsylvania during two seasons of excavation.

Satellite image from Google Maps

Satellite image from Google Maps


Traditionally, Castle an Dinas was the hunting lodge (hunting seat) of King Arthur, from which he rode in the Tregoss Moor hunt. The earliest written record was made by William of Worcester during his visit to Cornwall in 1478 when he noted that legend says that the fort was the place where Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall and husband of King Arthur’s mother, died.

In March 1646, during the English Civil War, Royalist troops camped for two nights within the rings of the fort and held a Council of War where it was decided that they would surrender to the Parliamentarians.

From 1916 to 1957 it was the site of Cornwall’s largest wolfram mine. Many of the old buildings and workings have now been removed, following work by the current owners, Cornwall Heritage Trust, in 2008-2010, details of which can be found in a report lodged with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS)


The History of Cornwall: From the Earliest Records and Traditions, to the Present Time, Volume 1”  by Fortescue Hitchins and Samuel Drew (1824), gives the following description of the hillfort, ascribed to a ‘Mr Hals’:

In this parish stands Castell-an-Danis, alias Castell-an-Dynes, Castell-an-Denis, synonymous words; i. e. is the Men’s Castle, or is the Castle of Men; otherwise Castell-an-Dunes, Castell-an-Dunis; that is to say, is the castle, fenced fort, or fortress, or is the fort or fortress castle. It consists of about six acres of ground, within three circles or intrenchments, upon the top of a pyramidical hill, built of turf and unwrought rough stones, after the British manner, without lime, comparatively a hedge ; each of these circles or ramparts rising about eight feet above each other towards the centre of the castle, which consists of about an acre and half of land, in the midst whereof appear the ruins of some old dilapidated houses. Near which is a flat vallum, pit, or tank, wherein rain or cloud water that falls, abides, more or less in quantity as it falls, one half of the year. Which I suppose supplied the soldiers’ occasions, as no fountain, spring, or river water, is within a thousand paces thereof. There are two gates or portals leading to this fort, the one on the east, the other on the west side thereof, which on a stony causey, now covered with grass, conduct you up and down the hill towards Trekyning; that is to say, the king, prince, or ruler’s town.

Current State:

On a recent visit, sheep and their lambs were grazing on the site, this is apparently quite usual – on a previous visit goats were also present. A couple of ponies were also present near the carpark.

On approaching the hill fort from the car park, the inclination (excuse the pun) is to head straight up the rampart – it appears as if a footpath has been cut for this purpose, but this is actually erosion of the rampart. An apparently ‘invisible’ sign directs visitors to the left, toward the original entrance at the southwest and away from the erosion, but as can be seen, it appears few people notice the sign!

Can you see which way to go?

Can you see which way to go?

...many obviously can't.

…many obviously can’t.

There's no excuse for this!

But there’s no excuse for this!

Entering the central area from the SW, the remains of the barrows are to the right, and ahead to the left. On the far side is a boggy area, the pond or vallum described by Hals in the quote above. Also ahead to the left is an observation plaque set on stone. This points out various landmarks in all directions, very useful and interesting on a clear day, less so on a misty/foggy one! The plaque is placed upon an ancient stone with an interesting story:

“Anne, the daughter John Pollard, of this parish [St. Columb], and Loveday, the daughter of Thomas Rosebere, of the parish of Enoder, were buried on the 23rd day of June, 1671, who were both barbarously murdered the day before in the house of Capt’n Peter Pollard on the bridge, by one John the son of Humphrey and Cicely Trehembern, of this parish, about 11 of the clock in the forenoon upon a market day.”

The following tradition is given in connection with the above: “A bloodhound was obtained and set upon the trail, which it followed up a narrow lane, to the east of the union-house, named Tremen’s-lane; at the head, the hound made in an oblique direction towards the town, and in a narrow alley, known as Wreford’s-row, it came upon the murderer in his father’s house, and licked his boots, which were covered in blood.”

The sentence on Tremen was “that he be confined in an iron cage on the Castle Downs, 2 miles from St. Columb, and starved to death.” While in confinement he was visited by a country woman on her way home from market. The prisoner begged earnestly for something to eat; the woman informed him that she had nothing in the shape of food but a pound of candles; this being given him, he ate them in a ravenous manner. It’s a saying here, in reference to a scapegrace, that he is a regular Tremen.

Richard Cornish. St. Columb.

The stone is supposedly the one upon which the cage was set, and where John Tremen met his death.


OS Grid Ref SW945623.

From the A30 Westbound, take the B3274 through Victoria – this is the old A30 road. Continue along, under the old iron railway bridge until the road bends right and drops under the new A30. Just under a mile past the A30 bridge is a signposted track to the right. this leads direct to a small carpark behind a farm house. The fort is a 5 minute walk from the carpark.

From the East, take the A39 to the St Columb junction. Take the exit from the Roundabout signposted Castle an Dinas. The farm trackway is about 2 miles from the roundabout.

A signpost points the way to the Carpark and hill fort from both directions. There is an interpetation sign and map of the site in the carpark.


More information:

The stewardship of archaeological knowledge by the Crown Estate is a sort of metaphor for British portable antiquities policy – fine talk but no effective action. You can get a license to metal detect on the foreshore in 5 seconds. It’s purely automatic. Here’s one we got earlier (it’s completely genuine) ….

crown estate

So applicants aren’t vetted at all, they are just asked to “undertake” to keep to best practice rules. And recently they’ve started allowing metal detecting on their inland holdings too, which prompts some ticklish questions:

1. Gentlemen, how come you allow metal detecting on your inland holdings when organisations with similar curatorial roles such as the NT and many landholding public bodies don’t?

2.) How did allowing a Polish detecting club to hold a rally on you land recently serve the public interest?

3.) Did you know PAS say large rallies are “a challenge” with “considerable cost implications” (which is their code for they hate them?)

4.) For the past year there have been a series of “charity” detecting events on land “opened by The Crown Estate for buried treasurebut did you know that official Advice for such things makes clear that “charitable purposes” don’t justify avoidable damage?

5.) Don’t non-Treasure items from Crown land all belong to the Crown? If so, do you have the right to share them or sell lucky-dip tickets for people to find and keep them?


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


I have recently returned from another of my regular trips to Cornwall, which as usual, involved several visits to heritage sites. What follows is a short description of one such visit, which coincided with an Open Day (actually an Open Weekend, but I only attended for part of the second day) at Frying Pan Field, the site of Carwynnen Quoit

The weekend of 6-7th April 2013 saw ‘Quest for the Quoit’ a neolithic exhibition of crafts and an archaeological test pit dig at the Frying Pan field near Troon. Also included in the weekend were geocaching, poetry, and various walks and talks.

I arrived at the site in good time on a bitterly cold Sunday morning, and was greeted by Pip Richards, Project Director, who I’d met when visiting the site last year. I had specifically come on this occasion to hear Jacky Nowakowski, Senior Archaeologist at Cornwall Heritage Environmemnt Service, talk about the quoit, its history and last year’s dig findings, but as her talk wasn’t scheduled to start for a while, I took a look at the four test pits that had been started the previous day, and some of the finds that had come from them.

One pit was much more interesting than the others as some stones had been uncovered. Possibly nothing, but also possibly part of a wall or other structure. More investigation will be required here in future. Many of the finds from the four pits were of pottery, from C18th dinner plate fragments and a rather nice medieval piece of pot edge, back through to Iron Age. Several flints were also found.

Test Pit, showing the stone structure uncovered.

Test Pit, showing the stone structure uncovered.

At this point I noticed a crowd gathering uphill at the gazebo tent constructed to provide some shelter, and joined the 30 or so other hardy souls for the start of the talks. Pip introduced Jacky, and the talk was under way. Jacky gave us some highlights of the history of the quoit. Those I noted included:

  • First recorded by Edward Lhuyd Welsh antiquarian, who visited Cornwall in 1700.
  • First illustrated in 1750 by William Borlase.
  • Collapsed in 1830s and reconstructed.
  • Collapsed again in 1967, possibly due to a minor earth tremor.
  • The Sustainable Trust purchased the field in 2009 with the aim of restoring it to its former glory and for use as a community resource.
  • Test pits in July 2012 gave a picture around the collapsed stones, allowing planning for a larger excavation in September. Stones were recorded and moved to one side ready for the excavation.
  • Three uprights of 2 tons each and the capstone at just under 10 tons make up the main components of the monument.
  • Excavation in September 2012 uncovered the footprint of the tomb and socket holes, and an unexpected stone pavement.

Jacky made the point that the ground under the monument was much better preserved than expected, given the 1830s restoration. Many artefacts were found during the excavation, dating to the early Neolithic period – pottery, burnt flint, greenstone pestle etc. Radiocarbon dates are eagerly awaited for some organic material retrieved from one of the post holes. It was felt that the way the monument collapsed actually aided the preservation, as the ground was covered by the large stones, thus blocking access to treasure hunters etc.

The group then moved down to the test pits, where some of the more recent finds were handed around the audience and the preliminary results of the weekend’s dig were discussed. The well received lecture ended at the stones themselves, with Jacky battling a strong wind to display various plans and photographs from the top of the capstone, which made a handy platform for the latter part of her talk.

Jacky addressing the remains of the crowd from the capstone, at the end of her talk.

Jacky addressing the remains of the crowd from the capstone, at the end of her talk.

With Jacky running slightly over time, those of us still around were advised of the next talk about to commence up at the gazebo, which involved discussion of the use of fungi to transport fire in the Neolithic. I didn’t attend this, which I assumed would cover similar ground to a recent Ray Mears TV program, but Sally Herriet had a small area outside the gazebo and was telling people about her attempts at preparing hides, using prehistoric techniques and materials for different uses, and I was drawn in to listen to her.

I found Sally’s experiments very interesting, including the use of various parts of the carcass, including brains, to prepare and soften the hide. She also had some samples of hides prepared in different ways – some were soft as a car chamois leather, others were stiff as a board, and possible uses for this could have included defense in battle, as shield, though some of the samples felt as if they may shatter if hit too hard!

The commencement of a botanical talk and fieldwalk to find various wild flowers drew away much of Sally’s audience, and the rest of the day was scheduled to include a storytelling session, and a ramble around the neighbouring woods, at which point I took my leave.

In summary, a very entertaining and educational day, which could have been better attended – the wind was bitingly cold – but those 40-50 people I saw while I was there all obviously enjoyed the event. The Sustainable Trust are working very hard to make the project as inclusive as possible, and there is a lot of local interest, as well as a growing interest from further afield, for which the Trust are to be applauded. I look forward to returning once again in the near future to see what progress has been made toward a full restoration. Check out the latest news on their dedicated web site at


April 2013

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