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For the last few years, Heritage Action have been pleased to host a ‘Megameet’ of like minded people on an annual basis at Avebury in Wiltshire. This year’s main event will occur on Sunday 17th July 2011.

However, in addition to this annual event, we are pleased to announce that a series of smaller meets are planned throughout the year – for instance a mini-megameet was held in Essex over Easter weekend where some potential Heritage Action projects were discussed.

The Hurlers © Alan S

Next up is a mini-megameet in Cornwall, on Sunday 8th May 2011. The meet will be held from midday at the pub in Minions, near the famous Hurlers stone circle complex. All are welcome to come along and discuss various ‘stoney’ subjects. A short walk is also planned for those of a mind to join in. Contrary to rumour, free pasties will sadly not be available on this occasion unless some kind soul wishes to donate funds for refreshments, but interesting conversation will be available throughout the day with like-minded people. Bring along a relevant book or two for the book-swap too!

So if you’re in the area, feel free to come along and join in! If you have any ideas for a suitable venue for further mini-megameets in other areas of the country, please let us know.

Heritage Action members recently had a meeting in Stony Stratford with Dr Mike Heyworth, Director of  The Council for British Archaeology.  Various areas of common interest were discussed at length including heritage protection, the Treasure Act, metal detecting/artefact hunting and the over-arching current concern for everyone – the funding crisis and the government’s wish to fill the gap by encouraging the development of The Big Society.

All in all it was a fruitful meeting with much common ground being evident and a considerable degree of agreement on the way forward.

The Lizard is a Cornish peninsular, ending in the southernmost part of mainland Britain – Lizard Point. The peninsular proper stretches south from the A394 between Helston and Falmouth, but for the purposes of this brief tour, we’ll concentrate on the area south of a rough E-W line along the Helford River to Helston. We’ll visit several prehistoric sites, and mention some other sites that may be of interest. Our journey however starts just north of this line, a short distance from Gweek, a small village that lies on the river. Gweek is famous for its Seal Sanctuary, signposted from the major junction by the river. To begin our journey, take the minor road heading directly north from the village, from opposite the local pub the Gweek Arms, to Tolvan Cross.

The Tolvan Stone (SW706277)

Tolvan Stone, Gweek. © Alan S.

This unique granite menhir stands in the back garden of a cottage at Tolvan Cross, and is over 7 foot tall. The stone is spectacularly close to the wall of the cottage (mere inches!), and permission must be sought to view the stone from the cottage owners. I’m told they’re friendly toward visitors, but on the few occasions I’ve personally been there no-one has been home. Towards the base of the stone, a large round hole measures 17 inches in diameter. This was used in fertility rites – the couple wanting a baby had to pass through the hole, or it could have been used for healing purposes.

In 1862, JT Blight in a journal for the Royal Institute of Cornwall described it thus:  “formerly a conspicuous object by the way-side. In the past 12 or 14 years a house has been built betwixt it and the road. It now forms part of a garden hedge“. Blight also wrote of a low barrow about 20 yards in diameter in a field adjoining the stone. Beside this was a cist which he referred to as a cradle used to place children in after they had been passed through the Tolvan. The site of the barrow is also Scheduled, and can just be made out as a slight rise in ground level in the field to the NE of the crossroads.

Slightly further north, and to the west is the Merther Euny Holy Well (a Cornish Cross marks the footpath to the well), but on this occasion we’ll return south to Gweek, and continue on to Mawgan-in-Meneage.

Mawgan Cross (SW707248)

Mawgan Stone © Alan S.

An inscribed stone on the village green at Mawgan in Meneage on the Lizard, standing at just under 7 feet high, this granite stone is placed on an ancient boundary line. The inscription is in Latin, and reads `CNEGUMI FILI GENAIUS’ which translates as `(the stone) of Cnegumus, son of Genaius’. The style of the lettering and the phrasing of the inscription have been considered to indicate a seventh-tenth century date.  Above the inscription is a row of three incised stylised letters, written across the face and arranged one above the other.  The upper and lower letters are versions of the religiously symbolic Greek letters ‘Alpha’ and ‘Omega’ respectively.  The central letter is the letter ‘M’, which has been considered to represent ‘Maria’. The upper end-face of the memorial stone bears a square-section mortice to receive a missing cross head.  Early Christian memorial stones were free-standing slabs lacking a distinct or separate carved head.  The insertion of the mortice for the head on this slab reflects a later adaptation of the stone for a wayside cross. (Extracted from English Heritage’s Record of Scheduled Monuments)

Just east of Mawgan is an area investigated by Channel 4’s Time Team, the twin settlements of Gear and Caervallack. But we’ll head SW toward Garras then SE on the B3293.

Halligye Fogou (SW714239)

Halligye Fogou Entrance. © Alan S.

This fogou sits within a ‘Round’ in the Trelowarren Estate, and is home to hibernating bats. As such, access is restricted between October and May, and the site may now only be visisted between June and September. There is a good description of the Round and Fogou in English Heritage’s Record of Scheduled Monuments.

Driving past the Trelowarren Estate signs, after a mile or so we come to the Goonhilly Earth Station/BT Goonhilly, recognised by the enormous satellite dishes on the site. Just past this is a sign ‘National Nature Reserve’. Turn right and park in the small car park here. Walk from the car park via the pathway, turning right at the junction. Follow the path across to the fence of the compound. Turn left, and keep the fence on your right. The path swings round to the right, then round to the left again. After a short distance, the Dry Tree menhir can be seen on the right. Watch out for adders in season, apparently!

Dry Tree Menhir (SW725211)

Dry Tree Menhir. © Alan S.

This stone was re-erected in the 20th century, having been removed during the war when this area was part of RAF Dry Tree Station, one of a chain of secret radar stations built along Britain’s coast to provide early warning of an aerial attack. There is a barrow here too, just further on from the menhir, topped by an OS triangulation pillar! The menhir itself gives ample opportunities for comparative photographs – a standing stone with a massive satellite dish in the background!

Back onto the B3293 and continuing SE, those with a fondness for minor lumps and bumps can take the first turn on the left at Traboe Cross to see the Traboe Barrows. These have recently been the subject of a site cleanup by LAN (Lizard Ancient Sites Network). I may have been looking in the wrong place, but there wasn’t much to see on my recent visit.

Continuing down the B3293, after passing a couple of farm houses a garage appears on the right. Turn right after this garage (Zoar Garage) and park immediately. Walk along the lane until you reach the open ground on the right. Tucked away behind the garage is the first of three sites that may be related to the legend of St Keverne and St Just.

The gist of the legend is that St Just was visiting St Keverne, and enjoying the hospitality, having been given a fine chalice to drink from. When he left to make his way back to Penwith, St Keverne noticed the chalice was missing. This angered him, so he gave chase, picking up some boulders on his way. Seeing St Just, he called, and threw a stone, which landed close. St Just dropped the chalice and ran, whilst St Keverne threw two more stones after him before discarding the rest. We’ll visit the sites in reverse order:

The Three Brothers of Grugwith (SW761198)

Three Brothers of Grugwith. © Alan S.

This site is somewhat enigmatic – even the name is uncertain: Gugrith, Grugoth, Grugith, Crugith are all alternative names for this cist site that may be a collapsed dolmen, or may even be natural. It can be difficult to reach when the gorse and heather is in growth, and this is another site where adders may be found, so watch your footing! Telephone wires run overhead near the stones.

As far as the legend is concerned, are these the stones that St Keverne threw, or are they the ones he discarded after retrieving his chalice?

Continuing toward St Keverne, a cross roads has a pull in on the left. Park here and walk up the lane to the left.

Crousa Common Stones (SW776200)

Crousa Common Stones. © Alan S.

These stones are in the field on the left. The entrance to the field is in the NE corner of the field. There are usually four horses in the field. They can be very friendly/curious – I had two nuzzling my shoulders all the way to the stones on my last visit. Two stones, one standing, one fallen, about 15 feet apart, close to telephone wires again. What is it with telephone/electricity companies running wires close to prehistoric sites?

And the legend connection – were these the stones thrown after the departing St Just?

Leaving the field the way you came, and returning to the car, you pass a lane on the left. This lane is the next destination. Follow the lane for about 3/4 of a mile, to a sharp righthand bend. There is just room to briefly pull off the road here to follow a footpath to the left.

Tremenhere Menhir (SW778210)

Tremenheere Menhir. © Alan S.

This 10 feet high stone stood surrounded by thick deep mud on my recent visit, but provides totally different profiles dependent upon the angle it’s viewed from. Again, three or four horses often occupy the field, but these ones seemed content to leave me alone when last visited.

Was this the stone that convinced St Just to drop the chalice?

Our brief tour ends here, but Roskilly’s Farm is not too far away to indulge in an ice cream or other refreshments.

In addition to the above sites, the coastline of the Lizard area is blessed with a multitude of cliff castles and forts, and the major area of downs around Goonhilly is scattered with tumuli, barrows and settlement remains. But beware, as several of the ‘barrows’ are disguised buildings left over from WWII.

A Google map of the sites listed above is available.

Following our recent story about the damage being caused to Tregeseal Circle by the cattle being allowed to roam on the heathland, video evidence of the instability of the stones has been posted on YouTube. We think the video speaks for itself:

It’s obvious from this footage that allowing cattle (large, longhorns at that!) anywhere near the stones is just plain wrong.

Megalithomania is the story of one man’s journey across 10 years (and counting) around the stones of Ireland. Tom Fourwinds’ site is a catalogue of over 2200 sites, containing more than 10,000 photographs of Irish sites, and is a testament to his stamina and zeal.

There are various ways to navigate around this clean looking site. You may choose to read the chronological blogs of the individual journeys, each entry of which includes a linked list of sites visited. Some of these are fascinating, and show just how much can be done in a single day if you’re single-minded enough! Or you may choose to browse through the sites by monument type, or by county. Of course, a ‘quick search’ for a site name is always available.

Each site page contains the usual site location metadata – Tom appears to know his stuff when it comes to geolocation and includes information about the site coordinates and the different coordinate systems listed – and links to varous online maps. Visitors can also add a selection of sites to a list, and download GPS POI files for personal use.

As well as the usual Visit Reports and photographs, where available there are also 3D anaglyph images, 3D animations and videos for selected sites. Each page also contains links to a selection of other sites of the same monument type, and local sites (within 50km). Visitors can give their own ratings (1-5 stars) for each site, and these are displayed on the page.

Registered members can also make use of, and contribute to the Forums which cover a range of topics for Ireland in different time periods, the UK, Europe and worldwide.

As expected, the site is part funded by a shop, selling Tom’s own books, ‘Monu-Mental About…’ – there are three books in the series so far. He even sells 3D glasses so the anaglyph images can be enjoyed in all their glory.

One interesting aspect of the site is that it also contains a wiki – Megawikimania. As Tom himself declares: “The purpose of this Wiki is to gather as much information about Irish Prehistoric and Historic monuments and sites in one place. This information can fall into several categories: excavation, directions, current condition, folklore, access, significant alignments (stellar & landscape) and general“. The wiki is maintained by trusted registered members of the forum and will extend the content of the site far beyond what Tom himself has covered via personal visits, though the wiki appears to be in its early days at the time of writing, with just over 250 sites included.

In summary, this web site can only get better, and is a must-have link for anyone interested in the site of Ireland.

Although the Megalithic Portal has been running since 2001, the database it was originally based on goes back to about 1997. The site is run by Andy Burnham and funded via book sales, advertising and donations.

The ‘Portal’ is a huge resource covering worldwide sites of antiquity. The mission of the site is described thus: “…many of these ancient sites are not protected in any way, and many have disappeared over the last 50 years or so under development and intensive agriculture. Even sites that are scheduled have limited real protection, so our mission is to document, publicise and protect these remaining sites.

The first thing you notice when browsing to the site is the sheer ‘busyness’ of it all. There are adverts, polls, menus galore on the front page, along with links to various maps and recent updates. But don’t be overwhelmed. Once you’ve overcome the navigation quirks (the site is a heavily modified version of the PHP-Nuke CMS) there’s a wealth of information here.


Using the Search facility for a site name produces a map with further search criteria for narrowing down. The map shows the site and nearby sites. This is followed by a list of the sites matching the search criteria. Each site can have different types of entries: Photo Pages and Text Pages. Any entry can have comments attached to it, enabling discussions about a particular site to be built up.

Once a site has been selected, all the entries (pages) for that site are listed. A detail map is shown, along with a list of nearby sites. By this method the site can be navigated, though other options are available. The ‘Find a Site’ menu option opens up a list of 14 different ways to search – I said it was busy!

Registered users can create their own pages, and a nice feature is a ‘Visit Log’ whereby a list of sites is created from the user’s own contributions to the site. Items can also be added to the log with comments where no contribution has been made, allowing a comprehensive travel log to be built up. There are extensive photo galleries with regular photo competitions, and a wide range of forums on topics as varied as Earth Mysteries, Roman and Dark Ages, Medieval Crosses, Second hand books and more.

There is also a Downloads section which includes videos, audio files and waypoint files for GPS systems, and an extensive shop which helps fund the development of the site.

The sheer scale and scope of the site means it has to be admired, but the design is starting to look very dated, and newcomers may be put off by the sheer information overload it presents. A useful site, nevertheless.

The Modern Antiquarian (TMA) web site was originally set up in March 2000 after the publication of the book of the same name by Julian Cope, and has grown significantly over the years. The book is imminently to be reissued, but sadly will not be updated from the original text.

The site has several components which come together to form a cohesive whole, presenting a comprehensive gazetteer of prehistoric sites across the UK, and most recently further afield into Europe.


Contributors can create their own blog entries on the site. These are mainly used for trip outlines and journals as well as for more far-reaching and thought-provoking ‘essay’ entries.

The main part of the site is the Gazetteer, which can be browsed by area, searched by various criteria, or located on a map. The original map became very slow and unresponsive as more and more sites were added, and while it’s still available for use, it’s much easier to use the supplied Google Earth KML file to search for site locations.

Each gazetteer entry consists of one or more components, each of which can have multiple entries: News, Images (photographs, maps/plans and artistic/interpretive), Fieldnotes, Folklore, Miscellaneous, Links and Discussions (which links in to the Forums). Separate links on the page header provide instant access to the latest News items, and to the latest Posts (everything else). Each entry also has basic information such as nearest town, map/grid references and lat/long references, and links to external sites such as a selection of mapping and imaging web sites. There are drop-down controls providing lists of nearby sites and facilities which link to the appropriate page, and an option to add an entry (if logged in) under any of the categories.

The problem with user-contributed web sites of this nature is that over time, entries can become very repetitive, particularly with regard to images. The site editors therefore occasionally ‘cull’ what they deem to be inappropriate or duplicate postings, in an attempt to keep the site fresh and informative.

The Forums, like any internet site, can be particularly lively and cover a range of topics. Contributors range from first-time visitors (who often become long-term users of the site), through seasoned amateur explorers (Modern Antiquarians, or ‘ModAnts’) with a wealth of local knowledge of many of the out of the way places that monuments are found, to professional archaeologists, documentary makers and other journalists. If you have a question about a particular site or area, the Forum will usually provide a wealth of useful responses.

It was on the TMA forum  in 2003 that several contributors first came together to put forward the idea of a ‘megameet’ that was eventually held at Uffington White Horse, and which resulted in the formation of Heritage Action in 2004. Here at Heritage Action, we still use TMA extensively in our site research, and take an active participation in the forums.

All in all, if you have an interest in prehistory, a link to this site is a must for your Bookmarks folder.

Here at Heritage Action, we’re always trying to think of more ideas for spreading the word about our heritage in the UK, and trying to get recognition for the value in that heritage.

We are currently compiling a small library of books (physical and e-books) on the subject of the ancient monuments of the UK, from the Stone Age through to the Romano-British period. The library is of necessity small at this stage, and available only to our widespread membership on a postal basis. But we’re looking to grow both the library and our membership.

By Ramchand Bruce Phagoo (own work). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are an author or publisher of books or magazines on our preferred subject matter and would be prepared to donate one or more review copies to our library, then we would be more than happy to write a short review and publicise it on the web site in return.

Please contact us in the first instance at the usual address info@heritageaction.org.uk if you can help in this endeavour.

We hear more and more about the ‘Big Society’, and how the ‘common man’ can help the big government organisations and charities by volunteering. We’ve covered such items before; here, here and here.

To many people, the call to arms brings to mind physical labour or presence, in the form of ground clearance work such as that successfully carried out by CASPN and LAN in Cornwall. Or maybe, regular health checkup visits to a local site. But what can you do if physically impaired, unable to travel or lacking local sites to adopt?

Signage is a thorny problem at many sites – They can be physically intrusive, expensive to install and maintain, limited in the information they can convey, and can be become outdated as new research comes to light. One aspect of improving sites that could be done quite comfortably from home thanks to technology is that of information.

There is a wealth of information about many sites already available on the internet; from the Scheduled Monuments Register descriptions held on the MAGIC web site by English Heritage and others, through enthusiast websites like the Modern Antiquarian and the Megalithic Portal, to websites dedicated to specific areas or single sites (eg the many sites dedicated to the Avebury WHS).

Technology is making this information ever easier to reach and to convey to site visitors, via the medium of QR Codes which can be scanned and interpreted by most of the new generation smart phones, using a freely available app(lication). Thus these codes can provide a gateway to a wealth of information.

So. A challenge for English Heritage, National Trust and other guardians of our ancient sites. Devise a scheme whereby volunteers can register to pull together and be responsible for site information, held on a central website (a wiki?). A very simplistic example of such a hub page can be seen hereCreate QR Codes for individual sites, pointing to an information hub page for the site. Redesign existing signage to reduce the visual impact and provide a scannable QR code on the sign, near to the entrance to the site.

 

Example signage showing QR Code

One small point: This isn’t a bureaucratic exercise. No-one will die if the information given is not 100% correct and tripled checked by highly paid experts and lawyers. The only cost should be for smaller replacement or additional signs (or even stickers on existing signs), improving the visitor experience without the need for trained on-site guides. It could be done incrementally, a site at a time, no need to wait for everything to be in place.

Previously in Part 1, we toured the eastern group of the Medway Megaliths. We now turn our attentions to those sites grouped to the west of the river, in Addington and Trottiscliffe (pronounced ‘Trosley’). Note: Two of the sites in this group are on private land. Tours of the Chestnuts and Addington Long Barrow can be arranged for a nominal fee with the landowner, who provides an entertaining talk and lots of information about the sites. Appointments should be made in advance via Joan Bygrave, Rose Alba, Park Road, Addington, West Malling, Kent, ME19 5BQ

Addington is a small village, just to the west of Junction 4 on the M20. From the motorway junction, take the A228 south to the A20, then turn west (right) onto the A20 itself. About 1.5 miles west of the A228 is a side road on the right, ‘Trottiscliffe Road’ signposted for West Malling Golf Club. Turn right here. After half a mile, the road forks. Take the left hand fork, Park Road. Pass some new-ish build houses on the right, The Chestnuts, then look for somewhere to park before you cross the Addington Long Barrow

Addington Long Barrow (TQ653591)

Addington Long Barrow
Addington Long Barrow © Alan S

This barrow can be easily viewed from the road, mainly because in an act of historic vandalism, the road passes straight through it! Without the road, the mound would measure some 200 feet by 35 feet, and rises to a height of some 3 feet in places. There are several megaliths at the northeast end which originally made up either a chamber or a false portal. A survey in 1981 identified that some 25 stones could still be located on all four sides of the structure, thus forming a peristalith. The mound forms a truncated wedge shape, narrowing toward the southwestern end.

Just past the barrow on the right is the entrance to ‘Rose Alba’, where the Chestnuts are located.

The Chestnuts (TQ653592)

 

The Chestnuts
The Chestnuts © Creative Commons via Wikipedia

This Neolithic chambered tomb, excavated and part reconstructed, is not visible from the road and permission to view must be obtained from the landowner (see address above). A nominal fee is charged, and a tour can last up to an hour, which includes a hands-on dowsing session around the stones. A lot of mesolithic scatters have previously been found here, indicating an earlier settlement and the owner has a small collection which can be handled on request.

The site consists in the main of 12 large sarsen fragments forming an oblong E-W chamber with a facade at the east end. Cremated fragments of up to a dozen bodies were excavated within the chamber. There is significant evidence that the site was disturbed in medieval times, making accurate interpretation of the site difficult.

Leaving Rose Alba, turn left to return to the earlier fork, turning left on the main Trottiscliffe Road again. Follow this road, which crosses over the M20 motorway until you come to the village. After the George pub, take the first right (School Lane) and continue on into Church Lane. This leads to a T junction where the village church can be seen to the left and a signpost for Coldrum points to the right. Follow the road to the right, and after a sharp left turn, take the second right hand lane (signposted for Coldrum Long Barrow). There is a small car park here, from where you can proceed on foot. Follow the pathway directly east across a couple of fields and down a slope which can be boggy at times, until you come to a tree lined trackway. Turn right onto the trackway and in a few yards you’ll see Coldrum towering over the hedge above you to your right.

Coldrum (TQ654607)

Coldrum
Coldrum © Chris Brooks

Coldrum is another Neolithic chambered tomb, but in a precarious position, sitting on top of a sharp incline. In fact, the facade and capstones have tumbled and lie scattered at the foot of the slope. Despite this, Coldrum is the best preserved of the Megway Megaliths.

The rectangular mound, approx 90 x 60 feet is oriented E/W, and is bordered by sarsens evoking visual comparisons with some of the smaller stone circles in these isles. So much so that the centre of the mound, despite being fenced off, has become a favourite picnic/camp fire spot. Indeed, evidence suggests the fencing is often vandalised and used as kindling for such fires. A nearby tree is often festooned with ‘clouties’, a practice often associated with wells and springs. The bogginess of the ground suggests springs are not too far away.

 

Coldrum
Coldrum, looking East © Alan S

Being situated on a rise, the view to the east is extensive and for those interested in alignments, the entrance chamber would have pointed almost directly to Kit’s Coty five miles away, and visited in Part 1. Excavations at Coldrum in the late 19th and early 20th Century uncovered extensive bones of up to two dozen individuals, possibly all related.

Legend suggests that a tunnel containing treasure existed between Coldrum and Trottiscliffe Church. It’s thought that attempts to find this treasure may have led to the erosion of the escarpment and the collapse of the facade stones. There is also a story of an avenue of stones connecting Coldrum and Kit’s Coty. Agriculture has doubtless destroyed any evidence of such, though it could be an interesting area to research.

And thus ends our brief tour of the Medway Megaliths. A Google Map is available, showing the sites visited in both parts of this article. If you’ve enjoyed this tour please let us know in the comments, and if you’ve any ideas for future tours, please let us know those too.

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