burial mounds, or are they? and their beauty

September 24, 2010

Decades ago before the birth of blogs, I used to go past these landforms in the meadows around Oving almost daily. I was always taken with them then – their beauty, evocative quality, sense of history – and felt the same in anticipation as I turned the corner to climb the road up to Pitchcott quite recently. They’re quite humble and easily missable especially as the view to the south, in the other direction, across the vale of Aylesbury is remarkable and surely hasn’t changed that much over hundreds of years. There is no geological reason for the forms as far as I can fathom and, to me, they look like the tumuli near Buckingham. 

Jack Hunter farmed this land when I lived there (one of the Oxford colleges had owned it since the desolution of the monasteries) and being a Scot his favourite herd on this land was Aberdeen Angus. The church, nestling in the trees, is now a private house.

Another mound just behind the graveyard in Oving and just behind the family house. Although the ground is rising this formed dome is extensive and has a defined profile. It has a very strong presence. Pre-Roman Celtic Britons had settlements here and the Romans, Saxons and Normans followed. Remnants of a Roman camp were found on Oving Hill at the top of the village. The church dates from 13C but an earlier timber building stood on the site.

I had some house keeping to do here which is always a mix of nostalgia and ‘cup half full or half empty’.

The young village children messed around in this half secret arbour  and but it wasn’t so secret from our house – they didn’t know that of course!

This view reminds me of Gray’s Elegy . . .  a few verses are below . . .

. . . and 2 little lads got very excited when they first saw this headstone . . .

 . . . a lovely group . . .

.  . . . finger pointing the way to heaven or as admonition?

The view past the mound to North Marston where traces of medieval ploughing and ridge and furrow patterns are still evident in the landscape

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

‘The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.’

6 Responses to “burial mounds, or are they? and their beauty”

  1. Cloudier Says:

    Cup half full and beautiful photos that capture the peace of that place.

  2. julia fogg Says:

    Yes, but quite a bit of ‘gentrification’ as some might call it. Others might say ‘tidying up’ but new faces and Tuesday night is Jazz Nite at the Black Boy!Discovered there 2 murders in the village in 19C.

  3. Cloudier Says:

    Googled murders but no joy.


  4. Bucolic images of what’s clearly a lovely landscape, and a beautiful sense of order and care in the graveyard. Old stone and well-maintained grass always hits the spot for me.

  5. julia fogg Says:

    Yes, Clive. the inherent feel of the landscape must be little changed. The churchyard is upsy downsy and just gets a brief mow on the odd occasion. Over the last 30 years it’s hardly changed – more crematorium activity I guess.

  6. Matt Says:

    Morning by morning
    My son and I pass
    The rolling mounds
    The gentle grass

    And Daddy is asked
    And Daddy knows not
    The meaningful mounds
    Importance of this spot

    “I’ll look it up,
    I’ll find out soon”
    Days become week’s
    Morn becomes noon

    And none the wiser
    The mounds still there
    My ignorance clear
    His question fair!

    What ARE these lumps
    These barrow mound?
    These earth piled hills
    That so confound

    I need to tell
    To explain in depth
    To keep his trust
    To keep his faith

    Please tell us…..are they burial mounds from long long ago?

    Or did a digger dump them there?


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