King's Play Hill and the search for a Long Barrow
King's Play Hill is a fascinating place, riddled with tumuli, a long barrow in a nearby field and steep sided hollows with terracettes. In the middle of March, I was the only one on the hill traipsing around the open access land. But looking across to nearby Oliver's Castle I could see many cars parked up, and plenty of people walking around the well trodden paths. King's Play Hill is close by, but a little bit more remote which means it is reserved for those willing to explore a bit further.
I have often looked across to it when driving along the road from Bishops Canning to Quemerford, where ancient tracks lead you along gentle slopes to its summit. From this side you can't appreciate that (just like Oliver's Castle) the ground drops away on the other side, with steep slopes leading down to the village of Heddington. It was the Long Barrow in a nearby field which really committed me to making the journey though, as I can't resist finding another one of these ancient burial chambers.
I parked just off the main road below Furze Knoll, and headed due West. Walking along this track takes you close to the site of the Civil War Battle of Roundway Down, marked on the OS Map with the battle symbol next to the year - 1643.
After passing a large cow shed, you eventually arrive by Hill Cottage, and a stile on your right affords entry onto the hill. As it is open access land you are free to wander all over the hill, but I headed north to the summit where I could see quite a large tumulus shape. As I reached the bowl barrow I walked to the top and could see the tell tale indentation which told me that this had been excavated in the past and filled in.
From here I looked into the field and saw the long barrow. Sadly it was less of a long barrow and more like a pimple. Time had not treated it well, and much of it had been ploughed over but the shape was still possible to discern - at 30 metres long and 8 metres wide, and even though its height is now a mere 1 metre it is still there.
The long barrow was excavated in the 19th Century by Cunnington. Finds included a crouched skeleton and 19 flint flakes.
My attention then turned to the stunning views from the top of the hill across to Heddington.
It is possible to extend a walk from here across to Oliver's Castle and Roundway Hill. It is a shame the long barrow has lost much of its former glory, but it still sits in a beautiful landscape that is worthy of a visit at all times of year.