Yesterday afternoon, after a morning trying to catch up with overdue tasks in the vegetable patch (at long last the Purple Podded Peas have been planted out) I joined Cliff and the local walking group for the second half of their Sunday walk. Along the way we stopped to admire probably the most overlooked Roman landmark in England.
Bartlow Hills. Heard of them? Anyone?
These are Roman burial mounds. Not just any old piles of dirt, they were originally the largest group of Roman barrows in northern Europe – I wrote 'were' because 150 years ago, when the railway was built from Cambridge to London, some of the 1,750 year old mounds were flattened. There had been excavations of the main burial chambers in the early 1800s and beautiful treasures were found – jars of perfume, lamps which had been left burning after the tombs were closed and even a swanky folding chair. All of these antiquities were in a private collection and were destroyed in a house fire in 1847.
The remaining hills became hidden in the dense undergrowth but now in the care of Cambridgeshire Archaeology* the scrub has been cleared and an information board installed. Bartlow Hills are tucked away in woodland behind the 11th century round towered village church, it is still a secretive place, you're unlikely to find crowds of tourists and you can climb to the top of the largest mound.
Our walk also went past the lovingly restored windmill high on the ridge above Ashdon. This post mill dates from 1756 and over the past few years we've seen it transformed from a sad derelict pile to an (almost) working mill once again. Although it isn't yet in full working order, the whole mill can now be turned by one (or two) people with strong legs and backs. If some of the Friends of Ashdon Mill are around, you can have a guided tour right up inside the mill mechanism.
And over the wide rolling landscape of fields and woods along the Essex-Cambridgeshire border – click on the picture to enlarge and look at the narrow yellow strip of rape flowers . . . there are four hares in a high-speed, hormone-fueled chase over the furrows.
* If you live in the area and want to know more about Bartlow Hills there will be a free guided walk led by Cambridge Archaeology of the Roman barrows, and surrounding area, on Wednesday 19th May, meet outside the church at 7pm.