Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Ridgeway and Waylands Smithy

Waylands Smithy
A short walk along the Ridgeway towards Uffington lies the burial chamber, Waylands Smithy, hidden by a screen of tall beeches, it was used for burials over 5,500 years ago in the Neolithic period.
Taken from the small information board erected by English Heritage:
Excavations have shown that the monument you see today covers and earlier barrow. Both tombs served as a focus for ceremonies linking the living and the dead, and may also have marked the community's ownership of the surrounding land.

The first structure was built here, between 3,590 and 3,555BC - it was a stone and timber box with two split tree-trunks positioned at each end. Over the period of less than 15 years the remains of 14 people, eleven males, two females and a child were placed in the box.
By the time the chambers were examined in 1920 they had been ransacked but they still contained the remains of several people.

The Ridgeway - towards Uffington
Swindon is overlooked by the wonderful prehistoric landscape of the chalkland 'barrow' Marlborough Downs. The Ridgeway transverses the downs just south-east of Swindon near Barbury Castle and Chiseldon. Today I was fortunate enough to meet up with a friend for the short drive up via Bishopstone, Idstone and Ashbury - all beautiful little villages on Swindon's doorstep.
It was a sunny, windblown October afternoon; the Ridgeway, along this stretch was lined with berry bearing hawthorn, buckthorn, elder and the unusual spindle tree, all interlaced with bright-red woody nightshade. Today, I saw more red admiral butterflies than I have seen all summer - these vivid butterflies did a upward curious spinning thing which I hadn't noticed before.
This section has been extensively repaired and the deep ruts left by 4x4 vehicles that used to frequent the track have been filled in. I am happy to report that 4x4s are banned from this particular stretch of the Ridgeway.