The Barrow People

There is a long barrow on one of the hills near my home. It is not signposted or protected in any way so it gets a lot of foot traffic. Children run over it and it is popular with mountain bike riders. I assume most of them have no idea that they’re on an ancient monument, and that it could do with kinder treatment from them.

It is a place I like to go, although I really struggle with how other people treat the site. I’ve spent a lot of time there, getting things in perspective – there is a lot of open sky on the hilltop and it tends to help. I go there to listen to the barrow, and to be with it. I’ve had a few interesting experiences there, but nothing it is easy to put into words. The barrow people do not talk much.

I realised at my most recent visit, that they only ever come up behind me and that not looking is clearly part of the deal. Pretty much all that ever happens is that sometimes I will have a feeling that someone is stood behind me. If there’s anything else going on, it isn’t getting through to me. But, my feeling is that nothing else is going on, that they want nothing from me and are not offering anything other than their presence. I find that presence very powerful, and comforting. I always feel better for spending time with them.

There was a beautiful moment yesterday when the temperature dropped. I was lying down on the flank of the barrow, with my eyes shut. It felt like a rush of energy, and people left. There was too much wind noise for me to hear them going, but I felt the land clearing, felt the descending peace of absence, and it was lovely. I’m not terribly good at being around people, and I find people who are out and about consuming the landscape as a product for their enjoyment to be especially difficult. They took their noise, their dogs, their destructive children, and they went away.

I stayed longer, and put up with the cold, and relished the quiet.

It isn’t a park, it’s a should-be-wild landscape full of small flowers in the grasses, larks, and ancient history. But most people who go there treat it like a park, and I hate that.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “The Barrow People

  • plateresca

    I hate it when people are disrespectful of nature, too.
    Where we live, there’s the part where the houses end and the mountains begin, and people go there with their dogs, and I love dogs, but I really hate to see dog shit everywhere (and there’s a huge garbage container right close to this place). So when my husband and I go for a run, I take our dogs’ poop bags and we gather as much shit as we can %) The place gets cleaner by and by. I wonder if they’ll stop doing this once it’s totally clear.

  • juliebond

    I hate the way people treat parks and nature reserves too. Challenge them and all that one gets back is ‘it’s a public park’ (even if it isn’t; it’s a nature reserve) as if that means they can do whatever they want to. I’m rapidly going off the ‘ I’ve got a right to …..’ type of people more and more. What they don’t seem to remember is that the other side of the coin of ‘rights’ is ‘responsibilities’ and we don’t hear much about those from such people.

  • Máirtín Ó Dubhghaill

    Your latest posts have really resonated with me. I like my own company (and the company of other similar people!) and to ‘sit’ with a place. I find some places are welcoming and others not, but I’ve not had a feeling like you had, which sounds lovely. I dislike the noise of humanity in the sacred places. Thanks for your writing and sharing your thoughts.

  • lornasmithers

    That must be a tough relationship. It would make me angry too. I’ve visited mounds that have been robbed, destroyed, one that had a summer house built on top of it but none that people and mountain bikers just walk over.

  • Yvonne Aburrow

    When I was a child, there was a special long barrow that we used to visit. We were the only visitors we ever saw there, and there were lots of flowers, vetches and knapweed and scabious. I wish I knew where the barrow was (somewhere in Hampshire or Wiltshire doesn’t narrow it down much). It was wonderful. I think that barrow was one of the places that made me a Pagan.

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