Tag Archives: barrow

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 2

17 Apr

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

So, today we continue our theme of Dorset’s ruined churches, or at least, a selection of them. These are places that have impacted peoples’ lives for centuries but now for one reason or another are not able to extend that legacy. And today we are considering a strange, mysterious, and somewhat melancholy church, a church that some say is just the last of many that were built on the same site but disappeared overnight! Today we are looking at Knowlton Church.

Knowlton Church

Knowlton

Knowlton Church

The reason for my description above is not so much down to the church itself but rather its position, for this church was built in the centre of a Neolithic ritual henge earthwork. This has become known as Church Henge, a one time pagan worship centre complete with its circle of standing stones.

The church is of unknown dedication and so is a ‘church with no name’. It was built in the 12th century and is of flint and stone construction, with some of the stone said to come from the broken up standing stones. These days, it is very isolated but in its earlier days, it was the centre of a thriving community known as Knowlton Village. The village itself was decimated by the Black Death in the 15th century when all the villagers either died or left for pastures new. Even so, the church continued to be used for several hundred years until the roof collapsed in the 18th century.

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Knowlton Church and the Earthworks

 The area surrounding Knowlton Church is part of Cranborne Chase and is rife with ancient remains. Church Henge itself is just one of four earthworks in this immediate vicinity and surrounding these is one of the greatest clusters of round barrows in Dorset. This includes Great Barrow, which is the single largest round barrow in the county. In addition, the mysterious and largely unexplained Dorset Cursus, a 6 mile long ceremonial ‘road’, runs nearby. Plus of course there is the old village itself. Sadly, much of this history has been destroyed over the centuries to all but the expert eye by people looking for grave artefacts and by farming. However, if you take to the skies during a dry spell in summer when some of the grass is yellowing, many of these features reveal themselves again.

Of course, as with most places like this, it is said to be haunted! In fact, it is said to be the most haunted place in Dorset with people describing a horse and rider galloping right through the church, a nun kneeling and weeping, and faces appearing in the windows of the tower.

Knowlton Church

The Church Tower

However you look at Knowlton Church, it has an air of mystery and intrigue as well as a presence about it that nudges your curiosity to know more. It served the local community for centuries and certainly witnesses to the transition in this country from Paganism to Christianity. And it continues to do that. For me, this is a beautiful place, being isolated and surrounded by open countryside with birds and wild flowers in season.

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Wild Flowers at Knowlton

One small part of the church continues to serve in any event as the font stands inside a nearby Victorian chapel. In addition, a ‘Wishing Tree’ has somehow been created on the edge of the earthwork simply by word of mouth. This has all manner of objects such as ribbons, notes, scarves, prayers and so on hanging on it. This site still proves to be a draw to local people as well as those farther afield!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Theme for the Week – Dorset Hills with a View Part 5

8 Apr

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

For the fifth ‘Hill with a View’ this week, we are coming back to the Purbecks, in fact to the highest point in the Purbecks, and some fabulous views to go with it. Today, we feature Swyre Head……but have a care, there are two!

Swyre Head

Across the Encombe Valley

Swyre Head Viewed from Houns Tout

Swyre Head stands at 208 meters (682 feet) above sea level at its highest point, and its highest point is on the top of the Bronze Age bowl barrow that sits atop it. This barrow is some 25 meters in diameter and has been modified to flatten the top. A large square stone slab surmounts this suggesting that it was once used as a windmill mound. It is thought that these modifications might have been made by Lord Eldon who owned Encombe House in the valley below back in the 19th century.

Swyre Head stands some half a mile inland of the coast path, not far from the village of Kingston. There is a second headland bearing the same name 11 miles to the west. In the picture above, our Swyre Head is the headland to the right which slopes steeply down to the cliff top.

Swyre Head View

The View Towards Kimmeridge and Mupe

The views from this hill are just fantastic, stretching to Kimmeridge Bay and beyond that to Mupe Bay in the west. To the east, there are equally spectacular views across the Encombe valley to St Aldhelm’s Head. This beautiful bowl shaped valley with its old manor house sitting at the bottom was once owned by Lord Eldon and changed hands just a few years ago for a sum nearing £25M.

The Encombe Valley,

The Encombe Valley

One of the strange things about Swyre Head is that it was once a Marilyn (a hill with a prominence of at least 150 meters), having been promoted in 1999, but it was demoted again from that list in June 2015. Clearly the hill hasn’t changed so I can only assume that more modern measuring techniques have changed its perceived prominence, which is now quoted as 148.3 meters.  The headland is therefore now a Sub-Marilyn, a category of hills aimed at those falling just below Marilyn status. It is of course also a HuMP and a TuMP!

Heaven's Gate

Heaven’s Gate

Whilst we are on the subject of hill classifications incidentally, we have this week only covered a fraction of the categories that exist. In the UK there are Munros, Murdos, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds, Furths, Hewitts, Nuttalls, Wainwrights, Birketts, Marilyns, Simms, Deweys, Hardys, HuMPs, TuMPs, Sub-Marilyns, Sub-HuMPs, etc etc….. The list goes on! I said at the beginning of the week that it was complicated 🙂 !

Walking west from Swyre Head brings you to a gate bearing the name ‘Heaven’s Gate’. As you stand on this headland on a beautiful day such as this, with those views, and with the sound of skylarks singing and sheep bleating, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were indeed in heaven. It seems appropriate to end this week’s theme on this point.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.