Tag Archives: barrow

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.


Wisdom of the barrow dog

I   went up to the barrow alone yesterday, to be with the sky, the ancestors and the wide horizon. I went to contemplate, seeking perspective and peace. I’d been sat there some time when the dog found me. She might have been a deer hound – certainly large and shaggy enough, but rather golden. And old kind of dog, the sort you could easily imagine has always roamed these hills. Her people had stopped to chat some yards away, and she ambled over. I am used to dogs checking me out. It’s a popular place for dog walking, and a stationary, meditating Druid is apparently too interesting to miss. I get sniffed a lot.

I was not in a good way yesterday, needing my space. Perhaps the barrow dog picked up on this, because not once did she attempt to make physical contact with me. She came over and asked me to throw her ball, and then she just lay down on the grass next to me, and there we remained for some time, much to the amusement of her people.

I was glad of her presence. To be acceptable to a dog is no small thing, especially if you’re in a dark place, and it is hard to imagine being acceptable to anyone. She reminded me that for dogs, there is no shame in seeking care, affection and attention. Openly social creatures, they arrive with wagging tails and hopeful eyes, and only if someone has mistreated them do they become afraid to make known their wants and feelings. It is very easy to be in the company of a dog. There was a generosity in that presence, the gift of just sitting down with me for a while. No need to talk, which helped. No need to wonder what she wanted from me, or whether I was doing a good enough job of it.

There is no second guessing with dogs. They do not infer or read between the lines. Either you play with them, or you don’t. I’ve yet to meet a dog who gets a perverse kick out of being miserable or who is competitively ill, or who is keeping score. They don’t gossip and, with delightful irony, they never bitch. Tolerant, friendly, ready to make the best of things, open hearted, generous, forgiving, loyal… the virtues of dogs are many. There is much I can learn from the wisdom of barrow dog.