Stoney Littleton Earthcache
Article by Emma Evans, Senior Geophysicist, ION
Stoney Littleton is approximately 6 miles south of Bath and is the site of a Neolithic long barrow. The barrow is situated on top of a hill commanding fabulous views of the nearby village of Wellow and the surrounding Somerset countryside. The barrow is also the subject of an Earthcache – GC6A6XK – Stoney Littleton.
I visited with my sons, aged 6 and 9 after a recommendation from a fellow geocacher and it was a fascinating experience. The barrow was probably constructed in about 3500BC and appears to have remained largely intact until it was broken into and plundered for building stone by a local farmer in the 18th century. Human remains were found but have now been lost. The barrow was restored by Thomas Jolliffe in 1858 and after further restoration work is now in the care of English Heritage. Access is by footpath across the fields and it sits on its hillside as it has done for thousands of years as part of the landscape. There are no information boards or visitor centres here.
Access to the barrow is by way of a square entrance flanked by stone slabs. Inside there is a central passageway approximately 30m long with 3 burial chambers either side. The 6 year old could walk down the middle without ducking, everyone else needed to watch their head. Luckily we had brought torches as the only source of light was the main entrance and the light dwindled as we explored further into the passageway.
The wall and roof construction seemed remarkably solid given the lack of mortar. There are metal supports visible in a couple of places but it’s impossible to tell if this is down to inadequacies in building or the later scavenging for stone. The local rock here is limestone and the children were delighted to spot a number of fossils in several of the larger blocks.
This is a great location for an Earthcache. In my experience it’s very unusual to be able to just wander into an ancient monument like this and even though the main scientific interest here is archaeology the rich fossil content of the rock is a good geological talking point. All in all a fascinating place to visit.