Friday, May 6, 2016

Stone Age Cotswolds

I should not complain at all.  Our week of walking in the Cotswolds has had glorious weather and friendly people.  And I am on holiday.  But a couple of things were bothering me at the end of our fourth day of walking.  We were really not walking very far.  And I had missed, by a few hundred yards, seeing the in situ Roman mosaic in the hills above Winchcombe.

The first nagging sense of disquiet was intensified by having at our B and B's a veritable parade of elderly folks who industriously went out and walked twice as far as we did.  The subject of where you had been and where you were going of course comes up over breakfast.  I know they were not intentionally trying to "route shame" us but we did feel like idle vagabonds in comparison.

So with our last day being another light walk we decided, heck with it, lets change the plan.

And so it came to pass that we returned to Winchcombe and undertook a circuit route that was supposed to bring us to Belas Knap, and then on to the mosaic site.

Belas Knap is a 5500 year old barrow in which dozens of neolithic burials occurred.  It is a striking site high atop Beacon Hill.  It was old when the Romans arrived, in fact the name Belas is felt to be related to Bella or beautiful, likely referring to the view.  It is impressive.

There are various burial chambers and up front a symbolic but false entry in front of which ceremonies were carried out.

We were there on a bright sunny morning.  I personally would stay away from such places after dark.  I know my Tolkien, on a dark night with swirling mists you would probably see, or at least imagine, barrow wights.  Certainly a few humans who still adhere to "The Old Ways" visit the site.  You keep finding these odd little votive items.

We were feeling rather confident after our trek up to see the barrow.  The local walking society had a detailed map that spelled out exactly how we could get from there to the villa site in Spoonley Woods. It appeared to only be a mile and a half away, abeit on the other side of a valley.  So off we went, following our instructions....

Which went bad at the very end.  The final clue involved using a stone wall corner as a land mark.  Sorry, there are stone walls everywhere up in those hills.  We nosed about here and there discovering muntjak deer, empty beer bottles, camp sites.  But never found the villa.

It was a hot, brutal day and there is a finite number of times you will want to climb a steep hill for one more look see.  Reluctantly we admitted defeat and trudged homeward.

Karma has a sense of humor.  Far down on the valley floor near a modern day farm we found this in the path.

Yes, a mosaic, but not 3rd Century, more like 20th.  Some farmer was redoing his shower and when hauling the debris off to the dump this must have fallen out of the skip.

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