Monday, 10 August 2009

Ancient monuments, now you see them, now you don't.

These fields are near a favourite Pig walk and Elby was looking for alternative routes. He got excited when he noticed what appeared to be an iron age hill fort (it overlooks a valley) and tried in vain to find it.

link to map here.

Then he found this map. Poooof! All gone.

update: Excitement over but mystery not solved. Clearly the ancient monument is not what it seems.

This is the the 2005 picture:

This is the 2001 picture:

Which still begs the question WTF is it? Why was Elizabeth writing about it? I am relieved nothing precious has been destroyed and I am sorry to get everyone excited and outraged needlessly. Elby thinks it is a UFO landing site. It has been an interesting quest.


idle said...

This is vandalism of the worst kind. Do you know who owns the field? Is there an explanation? Something must be done.

Blue Eyes said...

Bloody farmers!

woman on a raft said...

Initial searches indicate that is an ancient monument known as Vallis ring (Vallis vale and Vallis exposure, because of the way the land has slipped) HOWEVER:

Most of the geology & study goes on at Tedbury camp and quarry. The schools and the university use it.

Here are a set of resources where the maps locate Vallis ring. Sorry, but you'll have to sort through the files a little. Vallis is in the maps.

The site - at least, the exposure - seems to be a SSSI since 1986

However, I'm not sure if that extends to the ring on top of the exposure. The map provided by Natural England suggests not. You'd have to use the wiki

to check with Natural England. They list the whole valley as Vallis,sssi,HYPERLINK,LABEL

If that link doesn't work, search the SSSIs for Somerset - it comes up and gives a schematic map.

Natural England have a pile of links about the place, but I haven't gone through them. There are a great many legal aspects, such as the fact that the public don't automatically have access by virtue of it being an SSSI. As the ring isn't within the highlighted area, I'm making the assumption it isn't within the SSSI protection. That could be wrong. Let's hope so.

woman on a raft said...

There is a Georgian poem about the place, called "Vallis Vale" (which is why the searches showed it up). Google have digitized it. Elizabeth Tuck, 1823.

The poem is a sweet even for my tastes, but you can see she has a feel for the place and some of her footnotes are a peach, such as the "lower orders" going there on Monday afternoons.

"And still the wondrous ring is seen,
Where oft the elfin troops have been,
Nor will a blade of grass appear,
In that same spot throughout the year, -
So it is said, - if false or true,
Reader, we leave the tale to you"

If they have dug it up, a horrible fate may over take them.

The local council also do listings of the area - it may have required planning permission to remove it I can't immediately see any application to dig up what looks more like a neolithic/bronze age.
Not that I'd know one from the other, but it looks more in conformance ceremonial and observatory sites, which are smaller and more geometrically perfect than defensive sites. Also, it's not showing up as a listed fort sight, which makes sense if it isn't a fort.

What have they done with the stones, and has it been photographed well enough by the local authority or in the library to oblige them to rebuild it? The County historical sites service might know.

Tell Elby to get down to the library and the county archaeological service and see if they know one of their rings is missing.

I can't see it listed as a scheduled ancient monument in Somerset, but the list might not be up to date.

Here is a postcard showing the vale in 1909.

Megalithic portal are amateur cataloguers of all things prehistoric, and go up to about the Vikings. I can't see any immediate mention of this site, but that might mean I'm just not searching on the right terms.

The Somerset county council historic record maps just classify it vaguely as 'military' without saying which period.

Elizabeth Tuck thought it was already ancient, but she was a romantic and wouldn't know Stork from butter. The field adjoins Hapsford House, of which there is a detailed description - but it doesn't mention this as within the grounds, but maybe I've misread it.

The thing is, there was a mania for follies and fakes, so I wouldn't put it past them to have built a fake fort/stone ring.

The OS map online isn't detailed enough at that level, but if you buy a real one it might identify what the ring was.

Scrobs... said...

After reading Woman on a raft's erudite comments Lils, (she's an expert no doubt), I'm both amazed and extremely annoyed at the same time.

Nothing more to say...

...except 'bastards'

lilith said...

It is shocking isn't it? Woman on a Raft, thank you so much for all your research. We are onto it.

Elby The Beserk said...

Ms. Raft - thank you so much, I shall chase it up. Tedbury Camp we know well, as we also walk Pig up there. It is lovely old wood, and Pig often gets to hunt deer there as well. The quarry there is - as you note - of huge interest to geologists. The mound that surrounded Tedbury is still there, and you would have had a good view of the surrounding countryside from there before it became wooded.

All in all it is a spectacular piece of countryside. Missing one ancient monument, it would seem. :-(

woman on a raft said...

Lilith - I do assure you it's down to google and an a previous brush with persons who have a go at getting rid of stuff before it can be listed. I'm not an expert.

The trick is to prove it was there, and google does. It looks like it was no more than 2 years ago that they nicked the stone(s) and ploughed it up. You'd have to check the dates on the photos, which seem to be copyright dates. Google Earth lists 2006, so the time of taking may be a little earlier.

Idiots. I'd have written a short story of rubbish about it, called it Viagra Ring or somesuch - fertility stories always work well - and have put up a stall selling tea, buns, ice cream, crystals etc. Easy money, cash in yer 'and, and worth far more far more than a miserable few square meters of EU subsidy ever will be.

The trouble is, Elizabeth Tuck is your best source - and she's a romantic poet. However, go through the poem. She collects local stories about the ring. (I say 'collects' but you know what poets are like.) There must be other local writers who have documented the ring. She's just the one who happened to have her old book digitized. It only showed up because the title happens to be the search term. Maybe it has other whimsical names, like The Maid of Vallis. The county museum may have paintings/drawings of it as those themes were very popular with Victorian Gothic Revivalists

To increase the value of the site, a little extra cloak of fiction might help. That ring was old when Arthur was trying to hold his kingdom together. Perhaps he visited it. It's a marker and earth-power focus for the witch living in the grotto in the rocks. Sky-clad dancing went on up there. Perhaps it's the site the young Will Shakespeare visited which inspired him to write the three witches in the Scottish play, although it's thought that he took a young lady up there to visit a monolith.

The site could be licenced for weddings, it's that monolithic.

The point is: it's an earth ring and it can be re-instated. Monoliths and circles can be put back. They are only stones - but with the mystical power to attract money.

Can't believe anyone would be such a fool as to remove one.

woman on a raft said...

One more reference:

A website I like wandering around is the OS project

It divides the country in to tiny squares and relies on people to go out and fill in the photographs, chosing the views they think most helpful to walkers and lazy buggers (like me) who then feel excused from actually going there. If Elby or yourself were feeling public spirited, you could do worse than help fill up this grid.

The field you are looking for is bounded by Bedlam on the east and Hapsford on the right. The grid reference is ST7549

If you look at that map under the centisquare filter (scroll up and down as there are several sets of information on the page)

you will see that there are 7 photos in the grid. Unfortunately, most of them descend in to the vale and nobody was able to sneak across the top to take the photo of the stones.

The nearest is the photo of the De La Beche Unconformity, the stones being at the top of the cliff and at the other end of the field.

However - bear with me, this does get more interesting - if you go back to the map back and look at the squares around ST7549 you can see that the stones formed a triangle with Barrow Hill to the north west and Orchardleigh Stones to the north east.

Plenty of lurid stories about Orchardleigh stones. At least one theory is that they were the central pillar of a burial mound, which is a credible explanation.

The Vallis site would also be a good place to bury someone, raise mound over the grave, which presumably isn't going to be all that deep as the ploughing suggests the earth is barely a skin over rock at that point.

My own theory is simpler (everybody has a theory) and that is that neolithic traders had an ambitious form of 'mapping' going on. If you are trying to cross wooded, hilly country, you need to know where to point towards. Nothing so helpful as a nice big stone on top of a mound, poking above the trees. Your only question then, being "Which mound am I standing on and where do I want to go to?" Not so very different from now, really.

A couple of snippets:

The river might have been called Yallis at some time, going by old geological surveys. Even Elizabeth Tuck says that by 1832 it was a site for fossil hunters - so the name "Yallis" might throw up some records (as might Bedlam and Hapsford).

Also, Siegfried Sassoon is burried at Mells and so he might have mentioned the stones somewhere in his poetry, but I don't know it well enough recognize the references.

woman on a raft said...


Don't forget to make memory stick and hard copies of the google satellite pictures. That's your main evidence, apart from the country records which aren't as detailed. If google update their satellite image library you could lose it.

Good luck.

idle said...

As WS Churchill would have said in admiration:

Some Woman. Some Raft.

Elby the Beserk said...

Ms. Raft (no relative of George, I assume? :->), again, thanks. Am awaiting a response from Somerset CC as to whom to address this matter to.

I did once in fact try to find the ring, having seen it first on Google Earth. The path we walk Pig along has a side path that leads to Bedlam (one assumes the local asylum was there), and I scrambled through thickets to get into the field; walked the edge of it as far as I could, and could see no evidence whatsoever of any monument there. The fields in fact belong to the local stables, I think.

More as it happens. Watch this space.

woman on a raft said...

You are on a Ring Quest, Mr Elby.

Philipa said...

Fantastic work by 'Woman on a raft'. I suppose lots of these things get lost when no-one knows what to do about it but with Google map at least it can be proven it was there, as long as that edition stays up.

Philipa said...

On the subject of dogs:

I have to admit that I am not a dog lover. I had horses and peoples dogs were always off the lead up the fields and would come snapping and yapping around the horses, jazzing them up. That wasn't fun when children were on them at the time, in their own field for goodness sakes. One pony kicked and killed a dog. One kick. The owner went nuts (and remember, children owned the horses). Well the stupid dog should have been better trained and better handled. I blame the owner. I love hunting dogs, real dogs that are trained to do a job and love the work. But they are trained. I absolutely hate to see a dog jump up with scratchy dirty paws all over you or your child only to be told 'he won't hurt you' when he's already ripped something or shoved his nose up your crotch or stained something (or bitten my leg). I couldn't give a shit if he wants to make love (and many do, especially to children who are foolish enough to fuss them) A dog shouldn't jump up peoples clothes or peoples children. Dogs should be trained. They are not children. My cat is better trained than most dogs I've seen. (I've not seen Pig and I'm sure he's beautifully trained) But I especially dislike those awful women who kiss their dogs and have it's tongue in their mouth. Makes me want to throw up.

And dogs are allowed on campsites and not cats! WHY?? They say pets but when I phone they say no cats. Well that really annoys me. My cat has NEVER shoved it's nose up someones crotch or pushed over a child, NEVER. And my pet buries her poos and can have a cat box in the awning. Do any dog owners have a litter tray in the awning? No. Do all dog owners clear up their dogs poos? No. And my cat doesn't bark. This prejudice is so unfair. I should launch a protest defending cats who camp. We could camp in the 70's with our cat.


idle said...

Perhaps I will add to my list of books over at Tuscan Tony's:

Great Camping Expeditions for Cats
Feline Like a Holiday? - Camping in the Carmargue With One's Cat

Philipa said...

Feline like a holiday? Hee hee hee, excellent.

I am slightly miffed about not being able to take my pussy camping. It's a dogs life.

lilith said...

You'd hate Pig, Pip. His nose would be straight up your crotch before you could say "Get that filthy beast away from me!"

Elby the Beserk said...

Philipa - Ms. Lilith said to me around the time we got Pig - In canem veritas. I have to concur:-)

Ms. Raft. Again, my thanks. I had stumbled across the link previously as a result of previous searches for information on this; an excellent project and I should see if there is anything I can contribute locally.

Your promptings led me earlier today to some postcard images of where we walk, from the beginning of the last century, features distinct but like enough to identify; much less overgrown. If you have a spare moment, google Fussells Ironworks Wadbury - that is at the Mells end of the walk, and is a glimpse of the Industrial Revolution as it happened in North Somerset. I have to confess, whilst I have been to the pub in Mells, I haven't yet been to pay my regards to Siegfried.

I also found out - whilst trying to work out how to get to this walk without a car and without endangering life and limb doing so - that there was a canal partially built (very much so) between the Bristol and English Channel. The Somerset and Dorset Canal. Money raised to start the venture, and Royal Assent given. Bridgewater to Weymouth was the plan, and target sections were built in different parts along the way. There are some close by to the walk, and they were to be used by Fussells, in the grand scheme of things.

I will post what an archaeologist friend of mine mailed me regarding the ring, but first - the splendidly named De Labeche Unconformity, we walk through when walking up from the path by the river there to Tedbury Camp. Even to a non-geologist it is impressive in the way two formations come together; and the woods are wonderful, small, but lightly managed, and deer stray into them from the fields beyond to provide Pig with a chase. We rarely meet anyone there apart from other dog walkers.

So, I quote from my friend Robin -

First, the government does not list this thing as part of the SSSI; it is next to it.
There is no marker for it being a Scheduled Monument or having any other statutory listing.
Nonetheless, if it was of any antiquity, it would be protected; but i looked as far back as Ordnance Survey 1st edition - 1888 - and it is not mapped on those. A bit suspicious.

Google do show 'something' there, it is very round and perfect.

Where is the other map from, the one which shows nothing?

Are we even sure it is a hillfort??
i mean, i see no record anywhere of this being a fort - though that is not to say it isn't one, but some ground re-con would do the trick. Just try to avoid being arrested, as it may be private land...!!!
And the Google Earth tool that lets you see the sun's path over the site doesn't show any shadow change, so nothing of extraordinary height (like ditches and banks) can be there.
Where did the idea that there were stones here come from?

High grass can easily mask features...if they are features - terrain can also give the impression of something when there is nothing.
But a hill, well, that is pretty impossible to plough away! it's not marked topographically, which to me says this is not a very noticeable slope. i will check my contour data next, see if there is even a 10m contour line for the area.

On the matter of veracity, Google Earth is neat. They have a "Timeline" option on the "View" menu option. This allows you to look at previous versions. Now - this gets weird. They have three shots of the site. 2009 back to 2006 back to 2001. All three differ significantly. Uh?

More tomorrow. I'll shut up now!

Thud said...

I love a good mystery...keep us all informed.

Philipa said...

Elby - in canem excrementum.

And lots of it, all over the pavement, the park where children play, any pretty walk where dog walkers go, even the beach.


Elby the Beserk said...

Pip - our neighbours cats where I lived in Bristol shat all over our garden. Sorry. By the way I have had loads of cats over the years, eleven at one time in a house in Oxford (5 adults and 6 kittens!).

You must live in a bad area ;->> - lots of dogs this way, but you really don't see much dog shit in public places at all.

Meanwhile, I shall send L the timeline pix from Google Earth, which now indicate that the site is in fact a landing pad for UFOs. Hopefully she can post them later.

Philipa said...

Elby - correct; the path along the beach where my folks live is filthy with the stuff. Despite signs in our park people don't clean up after their dogs and every campsite I've been on this summer i've seen only one owner clean up. Dogs are off leads peeing up awnings despite rules that say they shouldn't be, they come in your awning and your van and are a pain. Yet I'm not allowed to bring my neutered queen which is no trouble to anyone. Why only dogs? When they say 'pets' they should mean it, including ferrets.

A landing pad for UFO's huh? Hmmm. Some say God is a spaceman. Best luck with your quest and hope you didn't mind the camping rant, Lils - I'm gagging to get away again and the cost of the cattery is more than the camping :-/ Needless to say we are still at home.

lilith said...

Pip, Pig is always on the lead or his tether in the campsite. Unless some teenager offers to throw a ball for him. Can't let him off or he would nick all the neighbours sausages and pee up awnings.

Metody Jankowiak said...

My wery oldest friend Lilith!

How is you lady?

Yes I see that this old heap has been dug up and is now gone. This is progress no?
Same happen to Lublin by Nazi, this caused lots of fuss also.

What is this anger with dog? Cat is suckled by witch, everyone knows this. This one will give you the złe oko (evil eyes). Spit.

I see you.

The Beast of Clerkenwell said...

As Mr Elby regularly goes "Dogging"
Its hardly surprising that he came across a weird Hump in the woods.
Shit joke but never mind

lilith said...

Metody, I am pleased to hear you had to serve your full sentence.

lilith said...

Beast, I won't dignify your comment with a response.

Metody Jankowiak said...

Not so Lilith. Metody only served but one quarter of his sentence, as plaintive is not so alright in head, and word could not be so trusted, and Metody was wery good boy in prison.
You see I am reformed character now. Metody's social worker say to him that he is to show respect to woman, even though quite ugly. Woman is person in own right with opinions even to subjects such as mechanics and the like
So Metody say this to parole board, and if they don't believe, and say your is obviously a rehabilitated type.
Anyway Lilith I can not be sitting here all day with speaking with you, (even though you is hot). No Metody has to drive van to girl school for day trip to svimmin bath, and so he must to buy speedo short pants.

I see you.

electro-kevin said...

What people harv bin doin' 'round 'ere is baggin' deir dog's shoyt ...and den tossin' the bagged shoyt on to dar payv-mant.

There are plenty of farmers 'round 'ere - any charnce of dem makin' dat dissappear ? Nots loikly ...

... barrrstards !

Elby the Beserk said...

Comments back from most helpful bod at Somerset CC.

We've had this strange site reported before - but are not sure what it is. It is clearly modern, however, as you have seen when looking at the 2001 images. I think the main Google earth ones are 2006. You may well be right about the horse connection but it does seem a bit excessive with the chalk paths and then what appears to be a bank with central white spots.

I'd think that the best thing would be to ask locally to see if anyone remembers anything happening there. I'll add the site to our records to prevent confusion in the future and would welcome anything else you discover.

lilith said...

We have a lot of signs and no poo bins Kev. I put it in my pocket :-@ if there is no handy bin.

call me ishmael said...

To look into dog's eyes is to know the immutable sorrow of existence and the need for love and affection, behind which we shelter from grim inevitability; if you don't understand dog. Mrs Philipa, prissy and anal, you don't understand anything.

Elby The Beserk said...

Put it this way. Humans hunt with dogs, not with cats. Humans and dogs go way back. We need them to tell us when danger is at hand. They need us to feed them.

Crap weather today, eh? However, I got to plant a lovely cherry pink Potentilla where the Spirea was (that to go into the front "garden" in where a shrub is more appropriate, and a whacky daisy beside the Scabious.

All good.

lilith said...

JUST how did a post about hill forts get and UFO landing sites get to be about dogs and cats. Dogs may win you over yet Pip. It is the ultimate symbiotic inter species relationship. Elby has lived with 20 cats plus and I have been close to half a dozen. A dog is a whole different thing. It is owners that are responsible for not clearing up after their dogs or not taking them out of the camping field for a damn good walk so they need to piss on your awning.

Dogs are the reason humans have got this far without being eaten by bears or killed by other humanoids. They are the early warning system, the electric blanket on a chilly night, the daily comedy show and a LOT of love. It is exquisite to be trusted by a dog, and to deserve that trust. Dogs are fun to tease and kick and tickle.

Calfy's new stepmother ran over the family poodle last week.

Metody Jankowiak said...

Kobieta który woli kotki Jest brudne zło kobieta który będzie eksKreta waszym łóżku.

As is said in Poland.

lilith said...


Żadne kotki w łóżku , który jest moja reguła.

Metody Jankowiak said...


Wy macie Polska krew?

lilith said...

Żaden, Metody.

Calfy said...

czy lubicie muzyka dusza?

lilith said...

Metody jest punk-rocker, Calfy.

Metody Jankowiak said...

Oh! Miss Calfy kiedy wy mówicie język polskito daje mnie wyprostowanie!

You could hang coat off it!

lilith said...

szukam odwetu

Mrs Rigby said...

I think it's shown on an OS map.

Although it isn't very clear because the online scale is so small .. if you go to
and search for Great Elm you'll see what looks like a tumulus marked in the field.

It might still be marked on the latest maps for the area - it'll depend when the area was last surveyed. As far as I know it's done every ten years and, as far as I know the landowner has to give access.

You can check older maps in the library or local record office. They will probably date back to early/mid 1800s.

Good luck.

Nectaridus said...

I know this is a bit after the event and nobody will read it anyway but I too love a possible archaeological enigma and have only just come across this.

The first, smaller, circular white/chalk/?concrete "structure" obviously predates the google 2006 pic of the apparently ditched "hillfort". A careful look at the angle of the eastern path into the area in the 2006 pic reveals the original smaller chalk circley thing still there, though, after 5 years or so, either overgrown or possibly wet with ? weed/grass (and I mean the real flora, not dope) growing in the ?damp central bit. But its traces are still there, clearly so.

The 2001 pic appears to show something newly and perhaps only partially constructed whilst the 2006 shot presumably shows the completed installation, whatever it is, as it is going or already gone out of regular use and developing some scrubby bushes and the signs of disuse. The small ditch thing surrounding it (if ditch is what it is) could simply be the edge where the earth has been shoved up to contain and restrain .. what? Water? Seems feasible.

The 2006 circle isn't really big enough for a hillfort anyway: it's far too regular and has no commanding position, far from it (I think). Twiddling around with google earth view angles (I know they distort though) suggests it's a flat structure with slightly raised edges. Can it have some sort of water function, like a lagoon of some sort for filtering farm waste water? It's close enough to the farm to the north and to the valley stream southwards to have a decent slope down to the stream for its final, filtered and cleaned up liquid run off.

The newer map pic (a Multimap one) is dated 2008 and shows the disused structure having been done away with and the field ploughed over and some crop, or maybe just new grass, put in. There still seems to be a bit of a crop mark showing where the circular structure had been.

Oh, and Vallis. Vallis in Latin simply means valley or vale. In a place name it's unlikely to have retained an intact Latin name from the Roman period, though there's always the possibility that it was called that in medieval times by monks or clergy, or even some romantic squire in the 18th century.

My bet though is on it being a corruption of Walisch (other spellings are available), what we'd now call Welsh or Wales. When attached to place names, especially in the West Country, it usually means a place where, after final Saxon control and takeover, considerable numbers of British/Welsh still lived (the word meant "foreigner" to the Saxons). There's a place not far away from Vallis called Eyewell Wales, which I think means "the well on the island where the Welsh live".

Thank you and goodnight. That little puzzle has helped while away the dragging hours ...

Nectaridus said...

Oh, and of course, Vallis Vale then becomes the "Valley where the Welsh live".

call me ishmael said...

I read it.

lilith said...

I read it too Nectaridus. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone try using the putting the GoogleEarth co-ordinates into their Sat-Nav and see what it comes up with ?
Hikers, cyclists etc frequently use hand-held Sat-Nav/GPS units to guide them when off-road.
Might be worth a shot for those that have/are trying to visit the site.