In another research post, I share my photos of 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 is framed by the Pentre Ifan burial chamber. Buttercups and gorse in golden bloom quiver in the wind, as it buffers the hillside. Walking through it seems disrespectful, so I stand nearby, admiring the landscape. Exposed as it is, the chamber seems held within an unseen border.
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. Access is no longer permitted, due to scientific research being done on the soil. I can imagine it would have felt like you could reach the sky. This man-made mound is immense – even intimidating – up close. Did people gather around it, dance its winding path and sing to their deities or bid farewell to others, at its peak? Was it a landmark, a challenge between tribes or an example of might, to warn intruders? Maybe none of these.
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.