In my third research post, here are some photos I took; exploring West Kennet longbarrow and Sidbury hill in Wiltshire and Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire.
The deep blue of the sky on a clear day in Wales, is wonderful. The black mountain can be seen framed by the Pentre Ifan burial chamber. Buttercups and gorse are in deep golden bloom when I walk around it. The occasional baa of grazing sheep nearby is the only thing to puncture the wind as it buffers the hillside. Exposed as its position is, the chamber when stepping close, seems held within an unseen border. I avoid walking through it as that seems disrespectful, though stand just outside and turn towards the landscape; the views incomparable.
Pentre Ifan remains hidden until you crest the hill, as does West Kennet. Inside the longbarrow, touching the smooth stone, there is no sense of intrusion as I sometimes feel in other resting places. The chamber within the part still accessible (much of the longbarrow has collapsed), is full of small enclaves. Though the route to the chamber is narrow, with larger rocks at eye level jutting out, it has a hushed inviting peace that a temple or church can have. If there were candles here, I would light one.
These places were part of my research when writing. In Sky Drum, I created a hill in memory for those whose lives were lost in a global event. Stones of feldspar smother a hillside, that faces the ocean. When the sun rises, it highlights words carved on the largest stone, “Let our kin become as clouds in the sky, their names marked in stone, always with us. Let us never forget, as we stand together, all one, united forever.”
The purpose of Sidbury Hill is unknown. Standing or walking to its top are no longer permitted, due to scientific research being done on the soil. I can imagine it would have felt like it was possible to touch the sky. I wonder if people stood, shouting or singing to the elements and their deities. This giant mound of earth, handmade and solid, feels immense – even intimidating – up close. Did people gather around it, trace its winding path to dance, or bid farewell to others? Was it a landmark for something, a challenge between tribes or an example of might, to warn off intruders? Maybe none of those…
I love that people walk these places now, still fascinated. I imagine these stones hold memories. These sanctuaries in the landscape are reminders of our impermanence.
The land speaks through these places… if we’re willing to listen.