Monday, February 18, 2008

East Kennet Longbarrow



Wiltshire Downland

Visited in the autumn of 2005, still quite sharp in my memory. Wandering past Silbury, over the road, and then turning left over the bridge that spans the Kennet, through the fields, in a roundabout sort of way, then up a small steep path thickly covered with briars. At the top you came up on a trackway, to the right was an old large corrugated barn, derelict it creaked in the wind, conjuring up thoughts of hidden dead bodies strangely.
East Kennet longbarrow comes in sight, the track is a crossroad, down to the farm and village of East Kennet to the left, ahead is the farmed downs with dotted tumuli stretching into the distance. The chalk landscape, and regular lines of the field remind me of Clifford Harper drawings, simplistic strong lines etched deeply into the land.



Tired at this point, I sat down and shared my sandwiches with Moss, before we headed up to the long barrow. A barrow still untouched, similar in all probability to West Kennet, but its megaliths lie hidden beneath a layer of soil and turf.
Also trees, for this barrow sits in a ploughed field, spikily outlined by the trees that grow on it, submerged by this verdant growth, it is hidden to the unobservant eye. Trees cause a lot of dissent amongst people, their roots disturb and push the stones out of line, my only defence to this is that the barrows have been there for 4500 years, many trees and bushes would have grown and died over that period, and yet the long barrow still survives intact.










The first thing to notice about the barrow is that it is like Stoney Littleton, lying down the slope rather than parallel to the slope. It outfaces the church in the valley below by the Kennet. The field in which it sits is ploughed almost to the last wild flower by the bank, no hedgerow here, the wind is strong and the world feels bleak as I follow the line of the bank. Photographs remind me of the marvellous view back to Silbury, still as yet uncrowned by Skanska's silver fencing, she looks at peace in the landscape, the strong sloping lines accentuating her presence.






Clifford Harper Illustration

East Kennet has not been excavated though there were some 19th century explorations. It is larger than West kennet, 106 metres x 50 metres, and there seems to be megaliths in the SE under the mound. It has no story to tell, yet stands in the same landscape as West kennet, perhaps denoting some land division between the pair, there are bronze age barrows near this monument, some ploughed out, acknowledging its importance.
Two clans or tribes within sight of each other, the land around farmed or hunted by their people. For many years I had difficulty visualising such people, until one serendipitious moment when a North American Indian emerged from Stoney Littleton, suddenly my neolithic people and their landscape fitted into my mind. Free and easy they wandered the land, colour was part of their world, their beautifully worked arrows told of hunting, the marks of old timber buildings that are occasionally found in the longbarrows told of long ancestral history, the great stones they used tells us of gods and a vision of another world. Dryasdust books tells us of warfare, for some bodies in the barrows had arrowheads in them, but reading Massingham on the Downs, and he says of the later period of Stonehenge and Avebury, that they must have a very peacable people to undertake such a construction. That is probably true, Silbury itself is also part of a vision, a human vision that looked forward into the future and constructed monuments to last throughout time.


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