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Awesome walk in the Cotswolds 1: Belas Knap (neolithic burial mound)

Updated on August 21, 2013
here begins the journey to Belas Knap
here begins the journey to Belas Knap | Source

There are days when the weather does not comply with the wishes of those out in it, and the day we went to check out the hidden wonder of Belas Knapp happened to be one of these. To our gratification – the rubbish weather only made the experience more poignant and mysterious.

Belas Knapp is a Neolithic burial mound placed on top of a hill overlooking the valley containing the famous Cotswold town of Winchcombe and its main attraction, Sudeley Castle (last home of the only un-divorced/beheaded or ostracised wife of Henry VIII to survive him). This hidden gem can only be got to by driving to a particular point on a country road encircling the hill, and following a footpath up through some thick woodland and further up a steeply inclining field and onwards. Like many of the more interesting archeological/historical sites, there is no road, no carpark, and (thank the gods) no gift shop.

The walk itself is not long, taking us about forty five minutes to reach the target destination. It was more than pleasant though. The mist and rain created a rich atmosphere that spoke of ancient times and the footsteps of generations gone before. I can’t say why this particular set of meteorological circumstances put me in this frame of mind… but it did.

The cotswold way near Belas Knap
The cotswold way near Belas Knap | Source
front of the barrow mound
front of the barrow mound | Source
One of the side entrances to the mound
One of the side entrances to the mound | Source

When we had cleared the first tree covered part of the well-walked path and had shaken the autumn-reddened leaves from our walking boots, we ascended a steep incline of deep lush grass. It was of just the right length to soak my trousers to the knee in a dark line that crept ever upwards. I didn’t care though, because as Ash and I paused half way up the steep field and looked back, we could see clear over the tree tops and the whole of the valley was spread out beyond us, all suffused with an unearthly silver glow brought on by the fine rain and low clouds. Stunning.

Holding our brolly high, we continued on our way cresting the hill and following the path with more woodland to the left of us, and sheep in their hilltop fields to the right of us. When we finally arrived at the site itself we were quite breath-taken by the size of it. I hope the photographs convey the scale well, because I had been expecting something much less impressive. To think that this place had been here since the time the pyramids were being built in Egypt. What must the people who had constructed this been like?

We left Belas Knapp buzzing with the pleasure of our discovery, and humbled too with a sudden sense of historical perspective. It is one of the most beautifully preserved examples of its kind and unspoilt to boot. If you are in the area either visiting or even if you’ve lived here your whole life but have not taken the time to see this place, you have to check it out!

This is a stunning piece of history in the landscape built by neolithic man thousands of years ago. Talk about impact! Anyhoo - in the next instalment of this new series of Cotswold walks we'll be traipsing from Hailes Abbey to Winchcomb for scones and afternoon tea. How civilised.

Images and video of Belas Knapp with info

Location of Belas Knap

Belas knap is on Cleeve hill near Winchcombe. Unfortunately googlemaps doesn't find the actual location of Belas Knap, but you can find it on an Ordinance Survey Map using the grid reference:SP 021 254

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    • Dan Barfield profile image

      Dan Barfield 5 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for your kind comment SubRon7. I have to agree - all the subjects you mention are an object of extreme fascination for me... as is the universe and the things which inhabit it in general! :)

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Really enjoyed this hub, Dan. I could read forever on history, archaeology, anthropology, forever and ever. Maybe if I someday retire. Thanks, man!