On the Friday we decided to visit Belas Knap Long barrow. When I was a youngster we used to visit an Aunt and Uncle (and cousins) who lived in the Cotswolds and I remember being taken to see this. What stuck in my memory was having a picnic on top of the burial mound, which at the time I felt was rather disrespectful and slightly spooky. Nowadays I feel that a shared picnic is probably just what the Ancestors would like!
We took the route up from the lay by on the Charlton Abbotts road. It was a good twenty minute climb up to the barrow which is situated – like most barrows – just below the crest of the hill. It was another hot day and we dawdled up admiring the views. During our trip I’d been struck by all the fields of ripe crops ready for harvesting, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire and the Cotswolds had fields of wheat, oats and rape, painting the landscape in various hues of gold and yellow. It gave us a real physical connection to the spirit of Lughnasagh.
Belas Knap is a very impressive barrow. It was restored following excavations in the 1930s, engravings made before this, possibly during the excavations in the 1860s, show it to have been in really badly eroded state. It’s trapezoid like Wayland’s but has a beautiful curved ‘false’ entrance at the broadest end, and this area is believed to have been used for ritual. I noticed that someone had spread modern cremated remains along one of the dry stone walls. Nice to think it is still in use after 5000 years!
The capstone isn’t original, but the other stones, and some of the walling is. Intriguingly when they excavated, they did find human remains behind this entrance, but there’s no actual chamber. The main burial chambers were built into the side of the barrow, with a cist at the southern end. Remains of about forty bodies were recovered from the monument.
This is one of the eastern chambers – there are two on this side. Below is the view into the other one. Unfortunately there was more graffiti, this lot seemed to have been made with black wax crayon *sigh*
This is the western chamber.
The barrow is on the Cotswold Way, so there was a steady stream of visitors. While Mr Stoatie took pictures, the dogs and I camped out in the shade provided by the adjacent wood (more whining!) When it was built the barrow must have had panoramic, 360 degree views, but the trees block this side now. You can see the ditch by the side of the barrow in this picture.
Part of my memories of my previous visit was the fact that we had a photo taken on the top of the mound. Unfortunately my parents were pretty bad at taking photos, in that they hardly took any at all, their cameras were always pretty cheap and their technique was lousy. Added to this was the fact that they all were made into slides not prints. This meant that they were hardly ever seen more than once or twice.
Mr Stoatie’s father transferred all their family photos onto his computer last year, for a few months we have had the doodad he used sitting on top of our bookcase. I’d asked my Mum for our family archive so that we could do the same for her. I don’t think any one has seen these photos for about thirty years! Of course we’d not got round to it yet, but yesterday I decided to see if I could find that snap. I’m glad to say I was successful, it was in the very last tray I picked up and bizarrely was one of the very few my Mum had actually labelled. It’s dated August 1973 and says ‘Long Barrow, Cheers!’ Exactly forty years ago! Like all our family photos it’s slightly out of focus, and the quality is terrible as it has gathered all sorts of dusty crap on the slide, but it’s a bit of family history. Mum is in the brown shirt, and there’s myself next to her on the right!
That’s about it for this trip, there a couple of other small things to share as and when. This was our longest trip in the van so far and the only cock up was forgetting to replace the little sharp knife and the bread knife, back in the van after we’d washed everything out last time. That was easily solved by a trip to a supermarket! The curtains I’d rigged up for the cab worked OK but the stick on velcro needs to be replaced by sewn on velcro (it came off!)
I’ll leave you with the earworm for this trip … I don’t know, something about the ripe fields and the dreamy atmospheres had me humming this quite often.