Whitmoor Barrow

 

Plan of Whitmoor Barrow

Site Plan Whitmoor Barrow

Although this barrow is the hub of several alignments, it is only the CROOKSBURY LINE that, until recently, afforded visibility to any distant view.  The MOUNT PLEASANT LINE may have done, but visibility is now obscured by woodland, and the north-west extension of the NEWLANDS LINE almost certainly had an uninterrupted sightline to the possible standing stone on High Curley Hill.

Otherwise, visibility from the barrow is generally poor, it stands on fairly open ground, but woodland obscures the views to the west, north and east.  To the south, the field edge is only some 50m away.  Over the rough fence the pasture rises to the visible horizon about 220 metres away and about eight metres higher.  Sparse birch trees grow to the edge of mixed woodland and obscure the view to the north and east.  To the north-west, the main road between Guildford and Woking passes the edge of the common land.  The distant view on the CROOKSBURY LINE is a glimpse of the chalk ridge of the Hog’s Back, although this has recently become difficult with the rapid growth of scrub birch trees.  Whitmoor Barrow stands towards the south-east corner of a desolate triangle of neglected common land. The mound itself is perpetually covered by rough grass, bracken and birch saplings.  In the winter, bare patches of the surface are visible, revealing the large pockmarks of old rabbit burrows.  The central mound has been spread unevenly onto the berm by Victorian excavation and the ravages of time.  Only the ditch remains in reasonable condition, although it is not possible to see where the possible causeway began and ended and now looks as though the ditch is just weathered over.

In ‘The Ancient Burial Mounds of England’ by L V Grinsell.  Page 19. ‘Ditches around barrows are sometimes interrupted at one or two places, one being commoner’.  Page 79. ‘Sometimes the ditch is interrupted by one or more points by a kind of causeway. This interruption may date from when the Barrow was made, but it is frequently due to subsequent tampering with the mound, and particularly to digging into the mound and throwing the earth into a ditch, an early but clumsy method of excavating’.

Barrows were often constructed so that from the valley below they stood out on the skyline, but when one approaches, it may become apparent that the mound is not on the highest point. It is fairly unusual to find a barrow on the actual summit of a hill.  It may be that a study of sightlines can deduce the original occupation site of barrow builders.  The Newlands Corner Barrow was probably visible from the Weston Wood settlement, but there are very few other viewpoints where the mounds would have stood out on the skyline.  Other barrows such as Whitmoor cannot be ‘skylined’ from any position due to their low-lying location.  It would have made far more sense for the builders to have positioned the barrow some two hundred metres further south with views down over the Wey valley to Farley Hill and vistas to the east and west.  Why then was this seen as a favourable spot?

Southern horizon viewed from just south of Whitmoor Barrow

The barrow is ten and a half kilometres north of the latitude of Stonehenge (51º10’44”).  The latitude at the barrow is 51º16’26”, leading to the idea that the solstice sightings would be similar.  The Stonehenge average moonrise and moonset on the 18.61-year cycle is about 133 degrees and 231 degrees – almost the same as the CROOKSBURY and NEWLANDS LINES.  This is an area where more research is required.

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Barrow is in the middle distance viewed from the West and covered in scrub.

Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS) volume 42: ‘The two barrows on Whitmoor (the other presumed to be Mount Pleasant) yielded urns of the Late Bronze Age, but these were probably secondary burials’.

I have been lucky enough to hitch a ride in a neighbour’s De Havilland Chipmunk.  After a tour around the North Downs, he asked if there was anywhere special that I would like to see. Hence, I took the opportunity to request a few circuits around Whitmoor Barrow as I was intrigued by the possibility of detecting crop marks.  The monotone photo below shows the barrow as a red circle above and to the right of the centre.  The large lone oak in the centre of the picture is south of the barrow (as seen in the top photograph).  The large field is scrubby grass grazed by ponies and shows nothing of any interest that I could make out, although there are plenty of variations in tone.

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In the picture below, the barrow can be seen about halfway between the base of the photo and the lone oak (seen in the top picture).  The view is looking south over the northern suburbs of Guildford.  The only marks visible are old hedge routes and paths.

DSCF0570 from north

Whilst carrying out a rudimentary survey of the barrow I made a strange find.  Standing upright on the rim of a newly dug rabbit burrow was a small yellow (tallow?) candle in the shape of an inverted mushroom.  Measuring two and a half inches across the base and burnt down to a height of about one and a half inches, it had evidently been thrown up by the creature making the burrow.  How the candle got there one can only guess, but pictures of black magic ceremonies spring to mind.

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