Our 400th Post: No Stonehenge, No Replica. It’s the Modern Long Barrow at All Cannings!

Tim and Rufus.jpeg

Above: Tim Daw and Rufus at the Long Barrow at All Cannings in May of 2015, when we were privileged to visit

[note: this post was written in 2014, before the completion of the long barrow.]

Despite the fact that we have in effect left this blog on its own like a kitten at a rubbish tip (or dump, if you prefer), it has somehow matured to the ripe age of four hundred posts. To celebrate all of those magnificent and ridiculous Stonehenge replicas, what have we chosen to feature? A new Sconehenge? The long-awaited Space Station replica? (we wish!), a Stonehenge replica owned by some fabulous celebrity? Absolutely not. Instead we are featuring something that not only is not at all a Stonehenge, but is only sort of a replica. BECAUSE IT’S OUR BLOG AND WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT!!!

And what is this delicious non-henge confection we are serving up to you today? It is the remarkable and brand new Long Barrow at All Cannings. Its website says:

Inside the longbarrow at All Cannings

Inside the Long Barrow at All Cannings, photo by Joby R. J. Wheatley

The Long Barrow at All Cannings is a columbarium or place for cremated remains in urns to be kept. It is being built in 2014 in the style of a traditional long barrow in natural materials, but made relevant for today in its internal layout. It is aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice when the sun will illuminate the internal stone passageway.

Yep, you still gotta have that sunrise alignment! To help us tell you about the long barrow, we have pretended to be responsible bloggers and interviewed the man behind the barrow, Tim Daw, writer of the Stonehenge-related blog Sarsen.org. If you’re a Stonehenge fan, that should already be on your blogroll. Mr. Tim Daw, once a staff member at Stonehenge for English Heritage, owns Cannings Cross farms in Wiltshire.

Clonehenge: What made you decide to build the long barrow? Was there a moment of inspiration, or was this in the back of your mind for a long time?

Tim DawIt was a moment of inspiration that brought together various long cogitated thoughts; it would be nice to build a barrow for myself, lots of people need a place for cremated urns that is a bit special and has a spiritual quality which is hard to find elsewhere, somewhere to revisit and remember;  WOW! this is a great spot.

Clonehenge: How would you say your long term knowledge of Stonehenge and the nearby landscape of Wiltshire’s distant past informed your inspiration and decisions about the long barrow, its purpose and construction?

Tim Daw: I think it made me want to make it authentic and real but not a copy or pastiche. Using ancient techniques but not bound by play acting reconstruction. And making it worthy to be alongside the other monuments in the area.

The barrow during construction, photo by Paul Robinson

The barrow during construction, photo by Paul Robinson

And therein, we think, lies the secret of the fine quality of this barrow. If you have been reading the Clonehenge blog from the beginning (And surely you have, Gentle Reader), you have heard us talk about the sacred landscapes in Wiltshire, not only Stonehenge, Avebury, and Silbury hill, but the cursus, long barrows, round barrows, avenues, and more.

Mr. Daw has been steeping in this environment, learning about it and dwelling in the midst of it his whole life, developing a deep respect for the history and the land itself. That relationship reveals itself in the understated excellence of the design and his willingness to pay for the finest quality stone work. The barrow is not just a fanciful construction, nor just a place to deposit a loved one’s ashes with reverence and permanence. It is, in the best sense, also his gesture to that sacred and legended land that surrounds it and to those who once did and those who still do revere it.

But what kind of talk is that? We’re a humourous blog, much more suited to embarrassingly-shaped vegetables than to that sort of thing! We’re running out of room in this post, so to make a long story short, we say: this is your chance: £1000 pounds to be your own barrow wight seems like a bargain to us! And what if that ancient theory about the solstice sun when it enters the barrow bringing the dead to life turns out to be true? That would certainly be more than your money’s worth, right there! [Note: there is no longer any room in Tim’s long barrow, but other people are building them now, so a little research may help you find a similar resting place.]

Okay, this isn’t a Stonehenge replica, but to us it points up the things that make most Stonehenge replicas ridiculous. Stonehenge is an ancient monument that is a unique part of humanity’s deep history, placed exactly where it is for a reason, in a landscape that still resonates with the reverence of many thousands of years of inhabitants, some of  whose descendants still live there today. No Stonehenge replica, from two upright carrot sticks with a cross carrot on top, to the most carefully accurate full-sized replica, can approach that essence of what Stonehenge is.

But in All Cannings there will now be a long barrow of modern construction that, while it is not a Stonehenge replica in any other sense, may have captured a whiff of the ineffable weight and meaning of Stonehenge both on the land of which it is a part and in the psyches of those for whom Stonehenge and its ancient companions have become an obsession.

Whoever THEY are.

And until next time, friends, happy henging!

P. S: We did ask Mr. Daw if he was planning to add some Easter Island heads to the property later. He said no, but he might add some gibbets in preparation for The Glorious Day….

Columcille–Megaliths and Dreams

our own photos

Okay, so we’re low on Stonehenge replicas right now, except those we’ve been tweeting about (we may just do a post on that remarkable cheesehenge from last week, whether or not we hear back from the one who posted it.), so here’s a place we’ve kept back for just such an occasion: Columcille Megalith Park on the side of the mountain outside Bangor, Pennsylvania.

There is no Stonehenge replica there, but there is at least one trilithon, stone circles and an imitation long barrow. You could describe it as a replica of a sacred landscape (a funny term–as if all landscape isn’t sacred!) There’s also a dolmen, many standing stones (note the young red tail hawk on the stone in the picture on the left), some of them quite large, and a chapel.

We have studiedly avoided posting the many modern megaliths in Great Britain,  across the States, and around the world because our focus is Stonehenge replicas only, but there is something special about this one: it is near enough to us for us to visit.

It’s a funny thing, this modern megalith phenomenon. It seems to be all tied up with something in the common psyche, and it has to do with spiritual things, nature, poetry, dreams and, of course, druids and Celtic peoples. You can tell people that the Celts were over a millennium too late to have erected any of the standing stones in Great Britain and they don’t want to hear it, even though all it means is that someone else , probably equally connected to the earth, the landscape and the magic and mystery of it all. put up the stones they admire so much.

It’s true, visiting a modern megalithic site like this is a little like going to a Renaissance Fair, but it also reminds us of something modern people tend to forget. There is magic in the earth, in the stones, in the landscape. We arose from it, we still depend on it and one day we’ll be part of it again.

So we recommend finding your local modern megalithic site and visiting it this spring if there’s one near you. Walk around, allow yourself some reverie and dreaming. Maybe the heart of the place will touch your heart somehow. It doesn’t have to be in England, you know. Every inch of the earth is as old as Stonehenge–in fact much, much older!

Let yourself be awed by that once in a while.

Wayland’s Smithy, Forged of Wood

from a photo by Les Williams, used with permission

There are times here at Clonehenge when the cupboard is bare of Stonehenge replicas. At these times, readers who send in odd things that normally might not be posted here can find they’re in luck. Such is the fate of one Les Williams, possibly of Wales*. He sent us photos of a wooden replica of the long barrow at Wayland Smithy, hand-carved by himself, and here it is although it is not a Stonehenge replica at all!

Wayland, often called Wayland’s Smithy is a megalithic site–a long barrow much like the West Kennet Long Barrow near Avebury stone circle and Silbury Hill, which has, in fact all of which have been mentioned in Clonehenge posts before. But while we have until now limited ourselves to posting replicas of sites in Wiltshire, Wayland Smithy is over the boundary in neighboring Oxfordshire, near the Uffington White Horse and a full 64 kilometers from Stonehenge.

The smithy bit has to do with a Germanic smith god, and the name was applied several millennia after the building of the barrow, although it’s possible it was connected somehow with the idea of smithing before the name came along. At any rate, the legend was that you could leave your horse there and have him magically reshod. As far as we know it did not translate into having flat tires magically replaced.

From Mr. Williams we have this account in answer to our questions: “The wood is Linden and I found it as a leftover from tree clearance on a riverbank in the Rhondda Valley’s. I thought I would have a go at a henge, over the last few years my wife and I have visited many of the Henges and Barrows in Southern Britain and Wales. The most atmospheric, imho, is not Stonehenge but West Kennet Long Barrow and that was my main inspiration.

However, I thought it was more than I could handle so I chose Wayland’s Smithy in Oxfordshire (never been there!) as my subject. The result that you see took about 50 or 60 hours to carve, all done from photographs found on the net.

Oh, yes, the net. We’ve heard of it, and if it affords this kind of result perhaps we should look into it. We find this replica to be quite impressive in several ways. One is the fact that it was hand-carved from wood. Another that it was done completely from photographs yet was beautifully done. And one is the aspect we always love, i.e., WHAT MAKES full grown, seemingly sane people DO THESE THINGS?

Whatever motivates them, we like it. When people do odd and quirky things, they’re expressing that unique bit of them inside that makes life interesting. We thank Les Williams for sending us his remarkable creation, and hope he will send us photos of his carved West Kennet Long Barrow when he has finished it.

No score, of course, since it is not a Stonehenge replica. Just a bravo and a virtual druid to keep on his desk!

And to all of you, happy henging!

*Here is how you can tell a good blogger from a poor one. The good blogger would not write this post without first ascertaining Mr. Williams’ home village, or in a pinch would have avoided the topic of where he lives, while we, the poor bloggers, just go dithering on and even draw attention to their laziness in an unnecessary footnote in hopes that you will mistake it to be entertaining rather than pathetic.

Sad, really! We wouldn’t blame you if you resort to that other blog on Stonehenge replicas. What’s that? There IS no other blog on Stonehenge replicas? Well, then you’ll just have to live with our faults, won’t you? Tsk!

Later note: Les Williams’ West Kennet Long Barrow model can be seen in a later post, here.