Belas Knap & Stoney Littleton Long Barrows
About a half a mile walk up a tall hill in the beautiful Cotswolds of England will find you here in this secluded site, bordered by a forest and on the other side, a field. This is the short side of the long barrow, but it's truly gigantic and quite taller than a person standing up. My wide-angle lens flattens it even more still. It's really quite impressive.
There is a false entrance on this side, archaeologists of course have tried to guess what it's for and they just kind of make stuff up. You can tell better from this angle that you are on top of the hill, the highest point in the general area. Nearly every time you walk to a barrow, you're treated to a wonderful view of the surrounds. This isn't always the case as there are exceptions.
It was a spectacular place. My husband and I roamed around and wondered at the people who lived here so long ago, wondering how much bigger the nearby forest was, if it covered the top of the hill, when it was cleared for farming. We loved the little stone wall surrounding the site, showing the care of the people that live here for their ancient monuments from their own ancestors long past.
There is no distinctive folklore associated with this site, but it is regularly called a faery mound - a portal to the otherworld. I think this is why there is a pervasive belief that faery is the realm of the dead. Not a lot of imagination there, when you think about it. "Barrows had dead people in them. People think they are faery mounds. Faerie must be the land of the dead." It's just kind of amusing. Thankfully recent scholars are quick to say that's just a theory and not at all a proven one. The dots they aren't connecting is that faery lore came about thousands of years after the barrows. Still hidden in the ancient past, certainly, but not directly from the neolithic. Some people have theorized that the deeply ingrained respect we have for the dead and the places we keep them translated into this belief that the faeries lived there and were to be avoided. Because real faeries were dangerous and not altogether good. They were neutral, had their own motives and were altogether not of humans. Makes sense.
The neolithic monuments that are scattered about Britain like so much parade confetti are my favorite places to visit and to photograph.
Stoney Littleton Long Barrow
This was on a different, earlier day, and I did not bring my camera with me. So these are just shot with a iPhone - sometimes I don't always want to lug a 20lb bag around! :)
The drive just to get to here was absolutely fantastic! In the sense that it was just a byway. I don't know if you're familiar with British byways, but a car can fit on them - only just! But they are little more than trackways between farmlands. When we veered onto the byway it almost felt a bit like going back a hundred years (nevermind that we were in a Land Rover, haha!) There were two spaces for cars to park to see the Long Barrow and even a little sign. More than you usually get when accessing these ancient sites! I chalk it up to the fact that we were in the Cotswolds, and that is a big tourist destination!
It wasn't a very long walk up the hill to get to the barrow, less than a mile all told. It felt like one of the most remote ones we visited, even though we were smack dab in the middle of farmland, simply because there was no sound of traffic at all. It was perfect. I love that feeling of stepping out of your vehicle to just birdsong and the wind through the grass and trees. It is entirely different than the rough feeling of climbing up a mountain, the gruff wind blasting your ears at all times. It is tranquil and bucolic. I absolutely love it.
The barrow was reconstructed (they often were) in the early 20th century, from an earlier dilapidated state. We were starting to get quite familiar with them! Can you see the fossilized ammonite? :)
Here is the real reason I didn't bring my camera that day:
Mostly cloudy skies, and a bit of rain. I cannot complain though, over the years and my dozen trips to the UK, I've had the best weather imaginable.
This barrow was considerably smaller than most of the others we've seen. From this spot, over to the right is a view of the nearby village - you can see the homes and church spire, with the farmland and copses of trees between. This is such a beautiful part of rural Somerset and it was a perfect stopover, even if the weather wasn't entirely with us.