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Bronze Age barrows

(Bronze Age barrows are passed during a number of New Forest walks, including the walk around the site of Beaulieu Airfield and the extended walk that starts at nearby Hatchet Pond).

A Bronze Age barrow on Yew Tree Heath
A Bronze Age barrow on Yew Tree Heath

Small groups of low, rounded hillocks, shown on the Ordnance Survey map as 'Tumuli', are Bronze Age Barrows, or burial mounds. (Single barrows are shown on the map as 'Tumulus').

They typically date back to the early-middle Bronze Age around 3,500 years ago. Many, perhaps the majority, are thought to be the last resting places of tribal leaders or other dignitaries.

Known locally as butts, Bronze Age Barrows in the New Forest are often positioned at the heads of river systems, or on ridges or rises in the ground where they could be seen and revered by other members of the tribe.

Around 200 remain. Virtually all are of a type known as bowl barrows, shaped like an upturned, circular pudding basin, often with shallow surrounding ditch. There are, though, three disc barrows on Setley Plain that have typical relatively small mounds, a quite wide expanse of level ground between mound and surrounding ditch, and an impressively proportioned earthen bank outside the ditch.

Surviving Bronze Age Barrows now occur mainly on New Forest heathland, but woodland inclosure planting in relatively recent times no doubt destroyed or obscures others.

Most now are badly eroded by the weather and trampling by commoners’ stock, so-much-so that not too long ago the Forestry Commission announced that protection would be provided for some. Many, too, have been crudely excavated, often in the 19th century, but few have been properly, expertly excavated. Finds have been few, and dating has primarily been via cinerary urns – urns that contained the ashes of those departed.

A number were, however, excavated, albeit hurriedly, in relatively recent times ahead of the construction of Beaulieu Airfield and Stoney Cross Airfield, both during the Second World War.

Bronze Age Barrows are recalled in Butt place names such as Butts Lawn, on the edge of Black Knowl, Brockenhurst; another Butts Lawn near Brick Kiln Inclosure, Lyndhurst; and The Butts, near Ashley Walk.

Bronze Age men, though, also left another, perhaps more impressive, legacy, for they were responsible for the creation of the heathland we see today. Woodland clearance by these early agriculturalists, on what were already poor soils, then cultivation without return of nutrients, created ground that became increasingly impoverished. A limited range of acid-tolerant plants and shrubs took hold, and heathland developed.

Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, Volume 14 – Hampshire Barrows: L.V. Grinsell
Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, Volume 54 – The Earthwork Remains of Enclosure in the New Forest: Nicola Smith
The New Forest: Its History and Scenery: John R. Wise

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).

Here's just one horrific example - Three donkeys killed in collision with van at notorious New Forest blackspot (Advertiser and Times)
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley