Thursday, 5 April 2018

Holly Hill and Coldrum Long Barrow Kent Walk 5th April 2018

On Thursday the 5th of April 2018 I left home early to walk a 5 mile walk before a late shift at work. So after a 50 minute drive I arrive at the free car park at Holly Hill at DA13 0UB.

I park up and start up my GPS to follow my route I had arranged.

GPX file here

Viewranger file Here

Holly Hill is a beautiful area of peaceful, unspoilt beech and yew woodland (the name is thought to come from a corruption of ‘Holy Hill’) that commands views over the Medway to the east.
On a sunny day, from the concrete ‘trig point’ that still remains at the top of the hill, you can sometimes also see as far as Canary Wharf in London. At 196 metres above sea level, this is one of the highest points in Kent.
At 17.7 acres Holly Hill isn’t large, but the sense of isolation and tranquillity engendered by its hilltop location more than make up for its small size.
Holly Hill is now part of the ‘Valley of Visions’, a Heritage Lottery funded Landscape Partnership Scheme launched recently by the Kent Downs Area of Natural Beauty.
This scheme aims to conserve and protect the valley’s habitats and heritage features, and to reconnect people to this impressive landscape.
Holly Hill is situated on the North Downs just off the road between Birling and Vigo. For visitors arriving by car the site is well sign posted and there is a small on-site car park. Car parking is free, but the car park is locked at night.

Ordnance Survey triangulation station (secondary block number TQ87, station number 059).

The wood sorrell was out in force, shame its too early for the bluebells and wild garlic.
I walk through the woods across a stile then into a field before turning right onto White Horse Road.

After a short walk along the road I turn left onto a footpath through White Horse Wood.

White Horse Wood is set within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers beautiful countryside, local history and panoramic views.

A Site of Nature Conservation Interest, over 20,000 trees have recently been planted here including oak, ash, silver birch, wild cherry and crab apple. 5 hectares of land has also been seeded to create an area of open grassland. The improvements will in time create an important habitat for a variety of unusual flora and fauna, further boosting Kent's natural heritage.

A old millstone

Now the path starts to head downhill and to my left through the trees I can see across to some amazing views.

Another guess the car?

I pass a building, I'm not sure of its use, any ideas?

Here I turn right and now follow the Pilgrims way track with beautiful views.

Now at the house above I turn left onto The Wealdway path that is signposted down to Coldrum Longbarrow.

I'm heading steeply downhill now, and it crosses my mind I'll have a steep climb back to the car.

I arrive at Coldrum Long Barrow.

The Coldrum Long Barrow, also known as the Coldrum Stones and the Adscombe Stones, is a chambered long barrow located near the village of Trottiscliffe in Kent. Probably constructed in the fourth millennium BCE, during Britain's Early Neolithic period, today it survives only in a state of ruin.

Built out of earth and around fifty local sarsen megaliths, the long barrow consisted of a sub-rectangular earthen tumulus enclosed by kerb-stones. Within the eastern end of the tumulus was a stone chamber, into which human remains were deposited on at least two separate occasions during the Early Neolithic. Osteoarchaeological analysis of these remains has shown them to be those of at least seventeen individuals, a mixture of men, women, children and adults. At least one of the bodies had been dismembered before burial, potentially reflecting a funerary tradition of excarnation and secondary burial. As with other barrows, Coldrum has been interpreted as a tomb to house the remains of the dead, perhaps as part of a belief system involving ancestor veneration, although archaeologists have suggested that it may also have had further religious, ritual, and cultural connotations and uses.

After the Early Neolithic, the long barrow fell into a state of ruined dilapidation, perhaps experiencing deliberate destruction in the Late Medieval period, either by Christian iconoclasts or treasure hunters. In local folklore, the site became associated with the burial of a prince and the countless stones motif. The ruin attracted the interest of antiquarians in the 19th century, while archaeological excavation took place in the early 20th. In 1926, ownership was transferred to heritage charity The National Trust. Open without charge to visitors all year around, the stones are the site of a rag tree, a May Day morris dance, and various modern Pagan rituals.

The Coldrum Stones are named after a nearby farm, Coldrum Lodge, which has since been demolished. The monument lies in a "rather isolated site" north-east of the nearby village of Trottiscliffe. The site is also positioned about 500 metres (547 yards) from a prehistoric track known as the Pilgrim's Way. The tomb can be reached along a pathway known as Coldrum Lane, which is only accessible on foot. 
In a 1946 paper, the folklorist John H. Evans recorded the existence of a local folk belief that a battle was fought at the site of the Coldrum Stones, and that a "Black Prince" was buried within its chamber. He suggested that the tales of battles taking place at this site and at other Medway Megaliths had not developed independently among the local population but had "percolated down from the theories of antiquaries" who believed that the Early Medieval Battle of Aylesford, which was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, took place in the area.

The Rag Tree
Evans also recorded a local folk belief applied to all of the Medway Megaliths and which had been widespread "up to the last generation"; this was that it was impossible for anyone to successfully count the number of stones in the monuments.This "countless stones" motif is not unique to the Medway region, and can be found at various other megalithic monuments in Britain. The earliest textual evidence for it is found in an early 16th-century document, where it applies to the stone circle of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, although in an early 17th-century document it was applied to The Hurlers, a set of three stone circles in Cornwall. Later records reveal that it had gained widespread distribution in England, as well as a single occurrence each in Wales and Ireland. The folklorist S. P. Menefee suggested that it could be attributed to an animistic understanding that these megaliths had lives of their own.

Several modern Pagan religions are practiced at the Medway Megaliths, with Pagan activity having taken place at the Coldrum Stones from at least the late 1980s. These Pagans commonly associated the sites both with a concept of ancestry and of them being a source of "earth energy". The scholar of religion Ethan Doyle White argued that these sites in particular were interpreted as having connections to the ancestors both because they were created by Neolithic peoples whom modern Pagans view as their "own spiritual ancestors" and because the sites were once chambered tombs, and thus held the remains of the dead, who themselves may have been perceived as ancestors. On this latter point, Pagan perspectives on these sites are shaped by older archaeological interpretations.The Pagans also cited the Megaliths as spots marking sources of "earth energy", often aligned on ley lines, an idea probably derived ultimately from the publications of Earth Mysteries proponents like John Michell.

A group of twelve individuals wearing all-white costumes, including hats, are dancing in the centre of a green, grassy space. The low position of the sun indicates that it is early in the morning
Morris Men dance at the Stones, May Day 2009

Pagans sometimes visit the site alone or in pairs, there to meditate, pray, or perform rituals, and some have reported experiencing visions there. A modern Druidic group known as Roharn's Grove hold regular rites at the site, particularly during the eight festivals that make up the Pagan Wheel of the Year. The Coldrums have also witnessed Pagan rites of passage; circa 2000, a handfasting—or Wiccan marriage ceremony—was held there. One member of the Odinic Rite, a Heathen organisation, gave their "oath of profession" to the group at the Coldrum Stones because they felt a particularly positive energy exists there.  Politically motivated rituals have also been held at the site. In the late 1990s, the South London branch of the Paganlink organisation held a ritual at the Coldrum Stones in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link through the Medway Valley landscape. Another politically motivated Pagan rite was carried out there in the early 2010s by The Warrior's Call, a group seeking to prevent fracking in the United Kingdom by invoking "the traditional spirits of Albion" against it.
In the early 21st century, a tradition developed in which the Hartley Morris Men, a morris dancing side, meet at the site at dawn every May Day in order to "sing up the sun". This consists of dances performed within the stones on top of the barrow, followed by a song performed at the base of the monument. The trees overhanging the Coldrum Stones on its northern side have become rag trees, with hundreds of ribbons in various colours having been tied to their branches. This is a folk custom that some Pagans engage in, although it is also carried out by many other individuals; one Pagan has been recorded as saying that she tied a ribbon to the tree with her young son, both to make a wish for an improved future and as an offering to the "spirit of place". As of early 2014, runic carvings written in the Elder Futhark alphabet were also evident on the trunks of these trees, spelling the names of the Norse gods Thor and Odin; these had probably been carved by Heathens.

Now I leave the Long Barrow and head along a track and down a waterlogged and muddy track with horses on either side.

I pass through Hyarsh Wood and more mud and waterlogged paths.

Now I turn left up a road leading to Park Farm.

Park Farm
A Male Pheasant
Just after Park Farm I take a path opposite that starts climbing upwards. 

I turn right at the top and follow the North Downs Way. 

After following the path for a while, I turn left and up steeply now.

Just when I thought it wouldn't get any steeper, it did! I had to stop a couple of times for a breather!

At the top I cross over White Horse Road and into Holly Hill to follow the road back to the car park.

I arrive back at my car at just under 5 miles and after a brisk 2 hour walk, down to drive home and get to work!