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A guest feature by Roy Goutté.
King Arthur’s Hall viewed from the southern end of the western bank. Roughtor can be seen rising majestically in the background
On the 16th April I joined a working party from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) of Cornwall to clear some of the gorse off the banked enclosure known as King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down, a part of Bodmin Moor. Always a fascinating place to visit, the day turned out to be far more exciting than I ever imagined! For a more descriptive article on King Athur’s Hall go here.
The TCV crew plan their strategy for the day with Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service archaeologist James Gossip to the extreme right explaining their brief
The volunteers remit was to remove the largest and most evasive gorse that was beginning to encroach onto the standing stones that line the interior of the enclosure from the banked area but not the plant life and James was there to advise and oversee the work. Visually it was the easterly bank that was suffering the most so that’s where work began. King Arthur’s Hall is a fascinating place and the only monument like it in the UK but it has never been dated and only lightly researched officially, but a site I would dearly love to know more about. Spending time working on its banks gave me this opportunity in a most unexpected way.
The guys I was working with were a great bunch and very friendly and worked really hard. It actually surprised me how quickly the very tightly packed gorse that inhabits Bodmin Moor was dealt with and how dry the ground surface on the bank was underneath it all considering all the rain we have been getting in this area. Knowing that adders frequent the moor it was something I was well aware of whilst working my way underneath the gorse because it acted as perfect cover for them, but luckily we never encountered any.
The area we dealt with first was so dense that it was covering the top of many of the remaining upright stones as well as many fallen and angulated ones and hiding the bank behind them like a blanket. Seeing the stones becoming slowly unveiled was like a magic moment to me as this eastern bank has in the main remained hidden from sight during the many visits I have made whilst researching. The gorse roots themselves are quite long so we were told to cut them at surface level and not to pull them out of the ground because you could damage the archaeology which lay beneath. Occasionally however, the long-armed cutters we were using didn’t do their job properly and jammed as we were pulling them away and did pull on the roots. This happened on one particular occasion as the lower level of the inner bank was reached at one point and due to the extra dryness of the soil here, a small ‘landslide’ took place. It was then that the unexpected appeared, because, as the earth fell away, it exposed something I’d never seen behind the uprights before… an apparent ‘walled’ area immediately behind the standing stones looking very much like a possible revetment to the bank.
Inner-face of the eastern bank at King Arthur’s Hall at a midway point along its length. Stones 1 & 2 are two of the main façade or upright standing stones associated with this enclosure
Stones 3, 4, 5 & 6 are what appear to be a series of horizontal ‘walling’ stones exposed when the loose bank fell away. These stones lie behind the façade stones and may be a form of original revetment to prevent the bank from encroaching against the main uprights. No further investigation or probing took place as this will be left until another day. To the best of my knowledge this stonework structure has never been noted before and it would be lovely to think that I may have been there on the day that it was first discovered. Whether or not it continues around the whole site is something we will just have to wait to find out as we were not allowed to investigate further, but it is a mouth-watering prospect. Having James on site to witness it was a real bonus as well particularly as it was his first visit. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more investigative work will now be carried out leading to a greater understanding of exactly what we have on our hands here and a possible date to go with it. Discussion on-site was that it may have well have been used as a pound in more recent times, but why go to all the trouble of hauling stones around from wherever they came to keep animals in when it would have been far easier to just erect a timber stockade to the top of the banking. There is far more to this site than what has been generally accepted I personally believe and it ‘feels’ much older.
More open view of Stones 1 & 2 showing the stonework behind
An aerial view of Stone 2 showing the horizontal low-level ‘walling’ running behind it. The dark area on Stone 2 shows exactly how far the gorse and bank had extended to, thus blotting everything beneath it out
The eastern bank and façade stones prior to gorse removal. Once a continuous row of upright stones, many of them now lie buried or angulated. This photo was taken in May 2012
The eastern bank after clearance. A very rewarding days work carried out by TCV
The difference a day makes. A small bank collapse and the inner stonework reveals itself
Ham Hill Archaeology 2012 reports that –
Ham Hill is the largest prehistoric hillfort in [Britain]. Owing to the generally vast size of hillforts, excavation is often small in scale, leaving us with comparatively little understanding of their use and construction, and the reasons for their appearance in the Iron Age (from around 800 BC). The chance to excavate this nationally significant site has arisen because the Ham Hill Stone Quarry wishes to expand.
Meanwhile, This is Somerset reports that a Facebook group –
…has been set up to protest against the “devastating” effect of quarrying on Ham Hill. Two companies quarry the distinctive Ham stone from the hill with permission from Somerset County Council, which controls quarrying in the county. But a concerned Yeovil resident has accused the council of “turning a blind eye” to damage to the areas caused by digging.
Silbury Hill by Jake Turner
Jake Turner, all rights reserved
Jake Turner was born and bred in Swindon, Wiltshire, England and has been a keen photographer for around 2 years, more seriously in the past 12 months. He loves the countryside of Wiltshire where he grew up and tries to feature it as often as possible in his photos. More examples of his work can be found on his flickr and facebook pages.
A monkey geoglyph in the Lines of Nazca complex
Writing in Mining.com yesterday, Michael Allan McCrae reports that –
A portion of the Nazca Lines, massive ancient geoglyphs in southern Peru, were torn up by heavy machinery, reports El Comercio (Spanish).
The Nazca Lines, which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, are large figures etched into the desert between 400 and 650 AD. The company that is accused of the damage, which operates a limestone quarry and upgraded their operation a few months ago to produce construction material, says their land is privately owned and they are free to operate on it as they wish. A researcher is pushing back…
Mark Savage writing for BBC News Entertainment & Arts reports that –
When Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands officially reopens the Rijksmuseum [this] week, it will mark the end of a painful restoration project. The work ran five years over schedule and millions of euros over budget. The Dutch state museum has been closed since 2003. Renovation was delayed by flooding, asbestos and a dispute over access for cyclists. “It was kind of Murphy’s Law,” says museum director Wim Pijbes. “What could go wrong did go wrong.”
On Wednesday, Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid was rehung, making it the last major work to return to the museum in the heart of Amsterdam. The old masters draw the eye, but so do the intricately decorated ceilings and pillars that frame them – all painstakingly recreated after being painted over in the post-war years. In the halls flanking the grand gallery, the decoration is more modern. British artist Richard Wright, a former Turner Prize winner, has dusted the ceilings with almost 50,000 stars, hand-painted in a swirling, shifting constellation. It all serves to set up the Rijksmuseum’s biggest star – Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
The museum is newly illuminated by 3,800 individual LED lights, which lack the paint-destroying heat and UV rays of incandescent bulbs. They were installed by Dutch lighting specialists Philips, who also claim the LEDs enhance the viewing experience. “Incandescent lights focus on ambers and reds,” says the company’s chief design officer, Rogier van der Heide. “The LED adds a beautiful return of the blues and greens. The cooler colours are clearer… So we get to see the full beauty of the colour spectrum.”