Although the weather on the Sunday for this excursion began fine with sunny intervals, in the afternoon showers of rain and hail of increasing duration and intensity set in. Undaunted, the megalith enthusiasts succeeded in visiting most of the sites planned for the day.All the sites except for the Devil's Churchyard are adjacent to or close to roads and fairly close together, so little walking was needed.

One of the excursionists was archaeologist Nick Trustram-Eve. Nick, I have lost your e-mail address if you would care to send it to me again, thanks. My address is below, at page bottom.

Reunion time had been agreed as 10.30 for 11, at a lay-by on the B 4066 just south of Hetty Pegler's Tump between Stroud and Uley. On the way there, Alistair McIvor (of Megalith Map fame) had gone to the Stanton Drew Stone Circles in North Somerset and Terence Meaden had stopped at and photographed Cotswold-Severn long barrows at Starveall (ST 879 794) and Leighterton (ST 819 913) and the round barrow called Nan Tow's Tump (ST 803 893). These barrows are tree-covered and best seen in the winter when the undergrowth is not so overwhelming. Leighterton Barrow or 'West Barrow' lies east-west and is about 80 metres long and 6 metres high; it is one of the longest of Cotswold-Severn barrows. John Aubrey reported a standing stone 'at the great end' of the barrow [i.e. the east end] but it has since been stolen. In 1703 three chambered cells were excavated there. Nan Tow's Tump is Bronze Age, and about 30 metres in diameter and 3 metres high.

Present on the excursion this time were Andy Burnham and Ruth (+ 2 children), Alistair McIvor, Pete Glastonbury and son Kieran, Terence Meaden, Steve Williams (Cordelia and 2 children), Simon Close, Sarah Seymour, Dave and Bryce, Celia Haddon and friend, and Nick Trustram-Eve.

(1). Hetty Pegler's Tump in on the edge of the west-facing Cotswold scarp (SO 7895 0004). Note that English Heritage are trying to change its name and it is called Uley Long Barrow on the road signs. Hetty Pegler was a 17th century owner or his wife. The original mound was completely covered over with earth and turf, and the first 'treasure-seekers' gouged a great hollow in the western half of the monument before discovering that there is an entrance at the east.

This is a fairly well-restored turf-covered chambered long barrow aligned on the early-May sunrise. Unfortunately, a nineteenth-century excavator set the last capstone in a vertical position instead of laying it flat. Also the approach to it through the mound that protected it for thousands of years has been given an unnatural winding entrance. The barrow consists of a straight gallery (7 metres long) with end-cell aligned on an early-May sunrise at 64 degrees east of north. The two cells on the northern side remain blocked off. The two cells on the southern side are open. The south-western cell has a triangular-topped stone at the rear. The stone forming the wall to its west has a curious natural perforation. Visitors are well-advised to take a battery-operated torch with them. Excavations in 1821 produced 9 skeletons from the interior and 2 others from outside the entrance. 8 or 9 others were found in 1854 (where are they now? 3 skulls are in the museum of Guy's Hospital, London). The barrow has the air of a typical womb-tomb, the end-cell equivalent to a womb-cell or rebirth-cell (see pp 35, 131 in Stonehenge: The Secrets of the Solstice 1997). Inside the barrow we found the remains of burnt-out candles whose smoke and heat had caused some surface damage to the limestone slabs. People who love these sites and wish to 'use' them must learn not to cause damage like this. Pete Glastonbury took a splendid series of panoramic digital photographs from the interior of the monument.

Reference: Clifford, E. M. (1966). Hetty Pegler's Tump. Antiquity, 40, 129-132. Also O'Neil and Grinsell p 93.

(2) Next we travelled two kilometres north to the next Cotswold-Severn Barrow which is Nympsfield Long Barrow at Coaley Peak where it adjoins a public picnic area (SO 7939 0132). This 3-celled barrow has a gallery orientated to about 75 degrees east of north. Long ago excavated (1862 and 1937) it has been left open to the sky following a third excavation in 1974. Leaving it open is a serious mistake. Although it means that we may profit from visiting it, it is nonetheless suffering from weather damage as it has been robbed of its capstones. Having lasted over 5000 years it will be a shame if frost and rain destroy it during the next millennium. The barrow needs full restoration; failing that it should be filled in or covered over if its future is to be safeguarded. Excavation finds in the past included the parts of at least 17 skeletons, many flint artefacts, Neolithic pottery vessels and a spiral/ whorled seashell. The finds of the 1937 excavation are in the Stroud museum.

References: Clifford, E. M. (1938). The excavation of Nympsfield long barrow. Proceedings Prehistoric Society, 4, 188-213.

Saville, A. (1979). Further excavations at Nympsfield Chambered Tomb, 1974. ibid. vol. 45, 53-91.

(3) Soldier's Grave Round Barrow. SO 7937 0152. From the northern end of the picnic site this round barrow can be seen in the woodland. It is seriously overgrown and damaged. . In the centre excavation revealed a rock-cut womb-shaped pit lined with dry-stone walling. Inside were the remains of between 28 and 44 people and several animals. The barrow appears to be Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

Reference. Clifford, E. M. (1938). The Soldier's Grave, Frocester. PPS, vol.4, 214-217. Also TBGAS vol.64, 95.

(4) Further along, and still above the west-facing scarp of the Cotswolds is Toots Long Barrow (very long east-west monument on open ground called Selsley Common, no 20th-century excavations). SO 8270 0310. A great scar has divided the 70-metre long monument in two. In 1880 "two hollowed stones, from a burying-place on Selsley Hill" were taken to Stroud. These could have been porthole-entrance or womb-entrance slabs from the barrow". Reference: O'Neil, H. E. and Grinsell, L. V. (1960) Gloucestershire Barrows. TBGAS, vol. 79, 83.
Toots Long Barrow and views


At this point ( 1 p.m.) we broke for lunch, and headed for the Weighbridge Inn, Nailsworth, on the road to Avening [http://www/ ]. Eating outside was quite pleasant, even with a couple of short light showers of rain and with small pieces of ice from the sky (hail) falling in the beer. During a discussion about future trips both Dartmoor and the Peak District (Derbyshire) were mentioned. Because of the distance involved getting there it is thought that excursions should best be made during the long days of summer.

(5) After lunch we drove up the hill towards Minchinhampton and stopped on the way at a house called The Lammas which has some big stones recumbent at its entrance (ca ST 865 995). In the Proceedings of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for July 1880 it is recorded that they had been removed, many years earlier, from the Devil's Garden [now called the Devil's Churchyard]. Danny Sullivan notes that in the garden of The Lammas are two more "immense limestone blocks . . . which form a footbridge over a hollow way" (Old Stones of Gloucestershire, 1991).

(6) Minchinhampton Standing Stone (ST 8836 9992) was inspected next. This stands another 2 to 3 km to the south in Hampton Fields on the other side of a gate east of the road to Avening. It is a fine piece of limestone 2.5 metres high ( 7 ft 9 in) having two big, natural perforations and a number of small ones. A second megalith lies in situ at right angles to but within a dry-stone wall 10 metres distant. Ancient sources claim that the passage of a baby or merely the arm, hand or foot through a hole in the stone would serve as a cure for rickets or smallpox or other ailment. Similar ideas about the healing properties of perforated stones abound elsewhere throughout the world. In India and North America the link has proved to arise from a perception that the hole can be equated with the Earth Mother and her powers of regeneration and health-giving.

(7). Gatcombe Lodge Long Barrow. ST 8839 9972. Alignment ca NE/SW. This stands close to the drive that enters Gatcombe Park from the north-east. It is only a hundred metres down the road from the Minchinhampton Long Stone. The barrow is in poor shape and damaged stones from some of its several side chambers are exposed. A likely false entrance at the north-east. Excavated by S. Lysons in 1870. Our party, having reached the barrow, the rain (and hail) came on heavily and we were obliged to wait under the shelter of great trees for some time before returning to the cars which we had left close to the standing stone. Reference: PPS , vol. 4, 124.

(8). Bulwarks on Minchinhampton Common: These puzzling and very long earthworks are on the common which is now largely a golf course. Also present is a sealed Neolithic long barrow known as Whitefield's Tump which gets largely obscured by summer vegetation (length 25 metres; ESE/WNW alignment). Test excavations in the Bulwarks earthworks have revealed iron-age pottery.

(9). Next we were led by Simon Close to a spot that is about 1.5 km north of the Devil's Churchyard (SO 898 003). To judge by the booklets of James Dyer and Danny Sullivan this had been certainly a megalithic site of some sort, although now probably completely destroyed. O' Neil and Grinsell suggest that it was "possibly a source of supply of megalithic slabs for the neighbouring long barrows", in other words an open quarry. Simon and Terence walked the entire distance of maybe 3 km there and back, but with thick summer vegetation in woodland there is nothing to see of any remaining stones. Such a visit needs repeating in wintertime. On this occasion we did most of the journey in dry conditions until heavy rain began towards the end of the return walk. Reference: O' Neil and Grinsell p 84.

(10). The Tingle Stone in Gatcombe Park (called Avening II) at ST 8891 9839 was passed at a distance on the way south to Avening. This big stone, 2 metres high, stands at the northern end at the top of a N-S long mound (covered by beeches) which is a barrow by name but not likely to be a chambered barrow of typical kind. It is on Princess Anne's patrolled land and is most easily visited at the time of the annual horse show. Local tradition has it that the stone runs around the field at midnight when the clock strikes twelve.

(11). Lastly an attempt was made to visit the megalithic chambers at Avening (which were removed from a long barrow (Cherington I) at its destruction according to a deduction made by Leslie Grinsell: see O' Neil and Grinsell p 75). They are built into the steep hillside of the garden of a house in Lower Avening (at ST 879 983), but visits are best left for the winter. Permission to inspect is readily obtained. The most interesting of the chambers is number 2, with its porthole or womb-entrance opening formed by the C-shapes made by two opposing megaliths.

(12). Not far off and not visited, but worth inspection on another occasion, are Newington Bagpath Artificial Mound (ST 816 947) alongside an early church and yews, and Newington Long Barrow (ST 812 944).

Books: Handbook of Gloucestershire Archaeology. 1985 (A. Allden, Tim Darvill, and Alan Saville).

Gloucestershire barrows. I. Helen O'Neil and Leslie Grinsell. Trans. Bristol and Glos Arch Soc 1960.

Old Stones of Gloucestershire. 1991. Danny Sullivan.

A guide to the archaeological sites of Berks, Glos and Oxfordshire. 1970. James Dyer.