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Destination; West Kennet Long Barrow

Destination; West Kennet Long Barrow

This was our destination that day.  *West Kennet Long Barrow*  built in 3600 b.c.e

I've been here a few times now and nothing will compare with the first time - I was completely alone and didn't know what to expect.  I was blown away in ways I cannot even describe.  When I mean alone, I don't just mean traveling here - I mean, the site itself was all empty except for me.  The walk here was empty and solitary.  I felt like I was adventuring (even if England and it's countryside is tame and tended, it still felt wild to me at the time (this was a few years ago now).  It was the first place I ever decided to trek out to alone whilst my husband worked in London.  It was a very special day for me).

You can go inside - which is quite awesome.  You can see the chambers where they did find ancient remains.   Standing there, you begin to notice that you're at the highest part of the general area.  All around you in every direction is a perfect line to the horizon.  It was obvious why the neolithic people chose this location.  I stood there, kind of just looking around and realized that Tolkien was inspired by places like this.  One of my favorite parts of Lord of the Rings was the chapter On the Barrow Downs. (They didn't film some of the best bits of the story from the book unfortunately so if you have only ever seen the films, you're not getting the whole picture at all.)

Suffice it to say that the first time I went there, I had a kind of manic zen moment (best way to describe the feeling) that I'll likely never forget for the rest of my life.

We have gone subsequent times - I brought my husband here and then this time (when this picture was taken) I brought my kids.   Both times the place hasn't been empty - and in fact the experience is a bit ruined by the Woo people who have been there, glaring at anyone and everyone else who wants to come see this place.  

When I brought my kids there this time, there was a circle of people, hands joined, humming some non-song, flowers in their hair.  I gotta say those people really ruined the experience.  At least for me.  

It didn't stop me from talking, though.  They could glare at me all they wanted.  It's a public place and they didn't own it.  :D  I barked at my kids for photo-bombing my shot (which they totally did), we chatted about Tolkien, my daughter having never read those chapters (to which I remedied soon from my Kindle) and talked about how ancient it was, how it was the biggest Barrow, etc.   I'm not intimidated by a group of hand-holders :p

Here is some information from the English Heritage Site:

It may have been constructed in at least two phases, as there is a noticeable bulge halfway along the longitudinal axis accompanied by a subtle change in direction. Some cremations and the partial remains of at least forty-six individuals – both male and female and of all ages – have been found inside, together with grave goods including pottery, beads and stone implements such as a dagger, dated to between 3000 and 2600 BC. The tomb was closed sometime around 2000 BC and the main passage filled with earth, stones, rubble and debris. The forecourt was then blocked with sarsen boulders and a false entrance of twin sarsen uprights constructed. Finally, three massive sarsen blocking-stones were erected across the front (eastern end) of the tomb. The barrow was first excavated in 1859 and then again, scientifically, in 1955–6, after which the site was restored and the façade and chambers at the eastern end reconstructed.

The huge earth barrow survives to a maximum height of 10.5 feet (3.2 metres) and tapers out from the narrower western end to a maximum width of 82 feet (25 metres) towards the eastern entrance. At just over 328 feet (100 metres), the barrow is second only to the nearby East Kennet Barrow in length. Although it is now covered with turf it would originally have had bare chalk sides and would have stood out against the landscape. It consists of a core of sarsen stones capped with chalk rubble from the surrounding quarry ditches. At the eastern end of the mound is an impressive structure consisting of five chambers opening off a central passage. This is fronted by a semi-circular forecourt with a façade of huge sarsen stones aligned in a north–south direction. The main passage penetrates about 42 feet (13 metres) into the barrow, with two of the burial chambers on each side of the passageway and one chamber at the end. The side ditches to the north and south of the mound have now been almost buried by ploughing. It is possible to enter the chamber of the barrow, and from the top of the mound there are good views of Silbury Hill, the East Kennet Barrow, the Sanctuary and Windmill Hill.

©Jennifer Bailey 2013 West Kennet Long Barrow, England

©Jennifer Bailey 2013 West Kennet Long Barrow, England


Tongwynlais is a lovely village :)

Tongwynlais is a lovely village :)

Further down the path...

Further down the path...