Wessex Attractions: Notgrove Long Barrow

Four-and-a-half miles west of Bourton-on-the-Water, accessible from a signposted lay-by on the A436, lies one of Gloucestershire’s most ancient and neglected monuments. Notgrove Long Barrow is a burial site believed to date back to the early Neolithic period. The barrow is of the Cotswold-Severn type, one of 19 such barrows in Wessex and South Wales, which are characterised by a rotunda at one end, surrounded by a dry wall made of the local stone. It measures approximately 46 metres by 30 metres, and is oriented east-west.

Excavations in 1881 and 1934-5 unearthed human and animal remains, including skeletons of a crouching man and a young woman, and an almost complete skeleton of a calf. Also found were beads made of shale and bone, half a bone ring, and neolithic pottery shards in the Peterborough style. These finds are now held in the Cheltenham Museum. Local legend told of a golden coffin buried there, but this is a fairly common folklore motif, and needless to say, no trace of such a coffin was found.

Unfortunately, these excavations completely destroyed the shape of the barrow, so that it is barely recognisable today. It was eventually filled in some time in the late 1970s, but by then, the damage had already been done. Visitors often report that the site appears overgrown, but this is on the advice of English Heritage’s ecologist, to provide a haven for butterflies and wild flowers that had become endangered locally by modern agricultural practices. If a part of Wessex’s human history has been lost, then at least other species, such as harebells and cowslips. can be left to flourish.

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