Deprived of both mound and church in the village where we were staying, and being up and about long before breakfast, we decided to take the opportunity to check out the village next door. We knew that here at least was one mound we could get at. As it is part of the same benefice, the chances were that the church at Ogbourne St Andrew would also be kept locked and an appointment required for viewing that would eat into our day. The mound, however, was stated to be in the churchyard. On the other hand, it had been partially excavated long ago and we had no idea how much of it was left or if the place was worth a visit.
Squirrels darted across the grass as we pulled up, taking flight up a telegraph pole and along the wires. A sleepy pigeon ruffled its feathers and jackdaws huddled together in the tower, sheltering from the rain. The weather was being less than kind. On the other hand, the earth banks were immediately visible and the church looked ‘right’ in its place and alignment. My soggy shoes, half dried from the night before, quickly became thoroughly soaked once again. You would think I would have learned by now.
A quick look at the remains of the mound showed it to be well worth a visit with the rest of our party. Dating back some 6000 years, the whole site is littered with traces of the past. The barrow is thought to be Neolithic and was first excavated in 1880, when an early cremation was found along with arrow head and flint knife. Further Saxon and Medieval burials were also unearthed in the mound.
A bank and double ditch runs around the churchyard and the church itself is aligned within it. The Michael/Mary energy lines also meet here… which may explain the mound’s reputation as an abode of ‘venomous vipers’, considering the earth energies, viewed as pagan heresy, were demonised by the early Church as serpents.
In the field beyond the church are the last traces in earth of an early manorial site, and the church itself dates back to 1130AD and is thought to have replaced an earlier place of worship. A cursory check found that the doors were locked, as it said on the board. Even so, we would come back after breakfast… the exterior alone was worth a closer look. For a start, there was a Norman door, front and back and a number of carvings. Including, to our surprise, another green lion.
Over breakfast we discussed our plans for the day and asked our host if he had any knowledge of the mythical lost mound in his own village. It didn’t look good. He promised to ask around and let us know what he might find. We also talked about the symbolism of some of the creatures carved on the churches and the legends associated with the hart and hind in the hagiographies, linking them to one of the themes we will be using for our Leaf and Flame workshop. Then, an hour or so later, we all converged on the little Norman church.
The churchyard was explored, everyone climbed the wooded mound before taking a look at the 12th century doors and weather-worn carvings on the church. There appeared to be Green Men as well as a beast that looked remarkably like a dragon. There were also huge stone built into the foundations and we had to wonder if they had once been part of the more ancient site. It would not be the first time we have seen this, indeed a church not far from my home has a whole stone circle incorporated into its foundations.
We watched a young jackdaw, its beak still fledgling-pale at the corners, taking its first exploratory excursion in the wet grass, watched by its parents, then, having exhausted the exterior, turned and walked to the gate. We were just about to leave when a pair of young women walked up the path. Were they, as one of our number suggested hopefully, armed with a key to tend the church? That would be just too convenient…surely? Our luck was in. We watched as they unlocked the little door in the north wall… then retraced our steps to ask if we could look around…