This week I thought we would look at some really mysterious objects that have intrigued and fascinated historians and archaeologists for centuries.

The good news is that they are within easy reach of Exmouth, and are thousands of years old. They are of course, tumuli, and I have always had a fascination with antiquities and tumuli, or bowl barrows as they are sometimes referred to, all of which play a part in our history. A tumulus is actually defined as a non-Roman antiquity and whereas we do not have the sheer number or size of the ones in Wiltshire, around the Salisbury Plain area and Stonehenge, we are fortunate to have several examples of our own on the commons near Exmouth of these Bronze Age burial chambers which existed between 3300BC and 1200BC.

There are two north of Woodbury Castle, although I do have to say that they are not that easy to find – accept this as your first challenge! Others on Bicton Common and other areas of the commons that surround Exmouth are more easily identified. Arm yourself with the Ordnance Survey Landranger Map No 192, or the larger scale Explorer Map No 115, a compass, comfortable clothing and boots and go exploring! There is so much to discover in our landscape and with the sun shining there is no better place to be than rambling on the common. Dogs even enjoy it too! Please respect these sites to our ancestors and always clean up after your dog.

There are two round barrows in particular that exist in Big Wood. They are 400 metres apart, just off the road across the common to Budleigh Salterton, both of which were granted Scheduled Monuments status on 9 October 1981 and further amended on 23 April 1998. They are at grid reference SY02520 84251 and SY02908 84220. If you go in search of these with your O/S map please take great care as they are both close to the road, near bend,s and although there are pull-in spaces for a car, other cars come speeding along this road.

These are Bowl Barrows, the most common form of ancient round barrow dating from the late Neolithic to the late Bronze Age. They are earthworks constructed of earth and rubble and were used as funerary places for burying the dead, which could have been a single one or multiple burials. When one considers the very primitive tools these ancient peoples had, to construct these barrows was quite some achievement. The most westerly one is 6 metres high and 16 metres in diameter, conical in shape and with a flat top and is shown in the photograph. The other one is right opposite Wrights Lane and 8 metres high and 20 metres in diameter. They both have very steep sides and there is no trace of either having had ditches around them. There is no actual record of either having been excavated but a few years ago there was seen on the sides of them various markers as if some sort of research was being carried out. Between 1998 and 2012 Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) was carried out and the barrows are on historical mapping and are visible on digital images obtained from these. It was noted however that neither of these barrows are visible from the air due to the dense forestry surrounding them – very much a case even today. They are both in a fir plantation behind fences to protect them and have trees and shrubs growing around and on them.

Both these ancient barrows provide a fascinating insight into out historical past and one cannot but help marvel at them and the sheer ingenuity of the ancient Bronze Age folk who built them – happy exploring!

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