The Land

Getting the Bump

Bowl barrow  Church Hill  Whaddon

The Monday Photo

What is this mound on the top of Church Hill, at Whaddon?

It may be a mill mound; the Ordnance Survey think so and it’s marked as such on at least some of their recent maps. Historic England agrees. OS maps from around 1900 show the mound, but say nothing about a windmill.

It’s a good place for a windmill, high up on a hill and facing into the prevailing winds. But it is also a good spot for a bowl barrow, and that is how it’s listed, in the records of scheduled monuments.

A bowl barrow is a burial mound. Most of them were constructed between 2400 and 1500 BC; so that’s from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age.

This barrow, like many, had a surrounding ditch. In a bowl barrow there may be just one burial or there may be several.

Unusually, the top of the barrow was much later flattened and levelled, with a shallow central depression. There’s also a causeway to the top on the South West side. These two features suggest this bowl barrow was modified later to become the mound for a Medieval post mill. It might have been 3,000 years old by then.

The mound is just along the footpath from the churchyard, and easily in sight of the remains of the important World War II wireless station the operators called Windy Ridge.

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Aylesbury Vale in the Mist

Tree in hedge and mistSome of the new estates at Aylesbury can be seen on the other side of the valley. The Chilterns are just visible in the background.

 

The wet weather last week foiled my plans to take photos for another Secrets Of… post, so I just accepted my fate and took photos of the wet weather instead.

I knew exactly where to go to get the sort of views I wanted; the back road from Whitchurch that runs West along the top of the ridge.

Junction at Oving  BucksEven the trees on the other side of the field beyond the road sign are starting to disappear into the mist.

 

This hill is a watershed; streams on the North side feed into the Great Ouse and the water ends up in The Wash. To the South the streams feed the Thames; water from here will go through London.

I enjoyed taking these photos, but I’m looking forward to sunnier weather now it’s Summer.

Aylesbury across the valeAylesbury town centre is still visible through the mist, even though it’s five miles away. The solid block of the council offices is easy to recognise.

 

Side road  Oving  BucksThis narrow, twisty road lead to Pitchcott and Quainton. Part of this road (beyond the bend) runs along a Roman road.

 

11kv lines  Aylesbury ValeThese 11,000 volt cables on wooden poles are common in Aylesbury Vale, taking power to farms and other rural locations.

 

Aylesbury Vale in the mistYou might be able to make out a farm near the top of the picture in the hill top gap between the woods. That farm is near Waddesdon.

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All the way to London

Welsh Lane  Bucks  a drover's road

The Monday Photo

If this cyclist turning right near Stowe School could follow the route he’s just turned on to all the way to the end, he would be at Bangor in Wales.

As the sign says, this is Welsh Lane and it’s a drove road, once used to take livestock from the far North West of Wales all the way to London.

This drove road comes into Bucks just to the West of Biddlesden. From this crossroads it heads onto the A422 and into Buckingham, heading for the capital.

If you look down Welsh Lane you can see that the hedges are far apart, this was ideal for drovers as it provided plenty of grass for their animals as they travelled. So important were the drove roads that enclosure acts stipulated a minimum distance between hedges on these routes.

The last known long distance drove was in 1900, taking Welsh sheep over 200 miles from Tregaron in central Wales to Harrow in London. It probably didn’t come this way, being more likely to go through Oxford and the South of Bucks.

The Other Way

The other road at this crossroads is Stowe House’s Oxford Avenue, and its trees were originally planted in the 1790s. This avenue is well over a mile and a half long. It leads from a stone gatehouse with entrance pillars on the Buckingham to Brackley road right up to the North side of Stowe School.

At the gatehouse end there’s a turn opposite to Water Stratford, where I found the tiny Norman church of St Giles for last week’s Monday photo.

I didn’t know at the time but the Boycott Farm Shop (see the sign in the photo) does very good sausage rolls, and it seems from their website that they sell pork pies too. I do like a nice pork pie, so I’ll be going back that way soon.

If you want to know more about the drove roads in mainland Britain, the Local Drove Roads website is the place to visit. I’ve spent already some time on it and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

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Where Did the River Go?

Ducks feeding at Willen lake Feeding the water birds at South Willen lake is very popular, and the birds know this. They are always on the lookout for likely bird feeders and will come quite close. If you want come to the lake to feed them, access is off the V10 Brickhill Street.

 

Willen lake in Milton Keynes is a popular spot to visit, but  before they built it, Milton Keynes Development Corporation had to move a river.

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High Voltage Rain

Pylon and cows in rain

The Monday Photo

It was a grey wet day, and as I took this picture, I could hear the high voltage power lines crackling above me. It’s an electrical effect known as a Corona Discharge.

What I could hear was the sound of the air breaking down electrically, and moisture in the air helps to speed the effect. Sometimes you can hear this crackling it’s snowing, or when there’s a heavy fog.

If you are very lucky when you hear it, you can see the blue luminous “crown” of tiny sparks that gives this breakdown its name; “corona” is Latin for crown.

But when I took this photo, the heavy rain stopped me from seeing anything very clearly; it could have been happening right above me and I’d never have known.

The higher the voltage in the wire the more likely is the discharge to occur, and this pylon near Winslow carries 400,000 volts, nearly 1,700 times the mains voltage in your home.

This huge voltage doesn’t seem to bother the cows, grazing under the lines at the far side of the field. They are just getting on with it.

There’s been research on whether cattle, and also some deer, behave differently under these lines. There’s supposed to be a magnetic effect. But the four articles I read, all about the same piece of research, contradicted each other.

I couldn’t make any sense out of it, but what do you think?

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Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Road closed due to floodingEasy to change-over warning signs on the road to Oxlane bridge.

You might have noticed that it’s been raining a bit. While we don’t seem to have it as bad as some areas, the ground has been saturated and Padbury Brook has burst its banks.

At the Medieval bridge at Thornborough, the water on Monday had risen four feet above the level I’d seen in December.

Flooding at Thornborough bridgeThornborough bridge on Monday.

Six arches of Thornborough BridgeThornborough bridge at the beginning of December last year.

Continue reading "Rain, Rain, Go Away…" »

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