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I went outa town to visit the hostess for a few days.  She’s an ultra hippy chick living in the sticks in Gloucestershire.  Studio flat on the side of a house; full of flowers, big drape of Buddha and Krishna, big picture of some fat Indian lady waiting to hug you, wall of bright abstracts, table of ritual artifacts, scented candles, Himalayan pink crystal salt, the business.

Neighbours are fellow free thinkers.  I was told by some stranger on the train down that I was going to a place that attracted “free thinkers”.

Don’t think I’ve ever eaten so “whole”somely before.  e.g. The hostess believes that the animals she eats should have a good run round before their deaths, even if it is because someone’s running after them with an axe.

She took me round local sites of interest.  At one beauty spot, after taking in the views across the Severn to the Welsh mountains, we ambled up a path looking for a place to picnic.  The path divided and we chose the way which led up a hill.  The top was broad and flat and was ideal for our sunny picnic.
After eating, I explored the edge and realised we were standing on an ancient hill fort !! 

The hostess knew nothing of such things and my thinly sketchy knowledge sounded authorative. 
“The edge falls away sharply.  Those little ripples on the way down were once terraces.  That green path that we didn’t take runs around the bottom and was once a ditch.  A defensive ditch.
The view is down onto the plain but that wouldn’t have had the hedges and fences that we see.  That would all have been open, right up to the treeline and then it would have been trees as far as you could see to the river and beyond.

We’re standing on something that may have been sorted out four or five thousand years ago.  The people who last lived here may have had no knowledge of who put it up, or even that it was put up.
Then again, they may have always celebrated the founders in song and ritual.”

The hostess is, among her many achievements, a sorceress.  What she doesn’t know about herbs, potions and tinctures I couldn’t imagine to ask.  She has a familiarity with ancient knowledge.  Arcane knowledge.   Ritual is one of her things.  F’rinstance she’s also a minister, qualified to officiate at weddings, funerals, etc etc. 
(Book your ritual now !!)

The ideas of ancient knowledge interested her.  How to recognise a hill fort interested her.  That anyone would know, or puzzle it out, interested her.  Same for a lot of people.

A day or so later we visited a gallery.  In a neighbourhood of free thinkers, a gallery can be a garden shed.  We found the house and the artist gave us directions down the garden.  The exhibits in the shed were amazing,  large dolls and sculptures, really striking.  On a table was a book of pictures, an archive of the artist’s life’s work.  Sixty years’ worth.  Terrific.  

It became clear that some of the work had been influenced by Hetty Pegler’s Tump.  Errrr...... What??

We made our way back up the garden path and knocked on the house door to thank the artist.  She appeared and apologised that she was about to sit down to dinner.  We quickly asked about Hetty Pegler.  It’s a neolithic site.  Wow.

Driving back we were just full of “we gotta find it”.

Google was no help.  It’s right at the top of the search but the map couldn’t help us from our location.  We took down the road map, “the old ways are the best ways”, and found it off the beaten track.

It rained.  The first sunny day we went in search, armed with our road map and torches.  It was easy to find, a slow drive along a narrow country lane and a sign at an open gate on the right.
We stopped, there was nowhere to park.  A narrow strip of slippery grass then a ditch on the left and  solid hedge on the right.  We backed up and drove through the gate into a corner of the field, parking where it was least muddy.

Getting out of the car, we saw that there was a campervan parked under the adjacent hedge.  Walking down the track we met a couple coming the other way,  their faces shining with excitement.  We greeted and they began telling us what an amazing thing we were going to see.  They were so thrilled by the experience.  We should take torches. I reassured them we’d come equipped.

We walked on and there it was.  A green tump, with a path leading up to an opening.  We had to get on our hands and knees to get through the opening.  Torches on.  Inside it was more roomy,  I could stand nearly upright.  There were a couple of small chambers off and one big chamber.  The small chambers, I could touch both walls with my hands, about the same size as my bathroom.
The whole thing was made of stone.  Well, stones but the size and fit of them it may as well have been one solid stone.

We felt our way around the walls and listened to our voices coming off them.  Then we sat in the big chamber, our backs to a wall and listened to the silence in that tump.  Then we turned off our torches and looked at the blackness in that tump.  Then we mused on how “stone” the whole experience was and who else we’d shared it with over the millenia.

The ceiling was made of flat stones.  Huge flat stones, you couldn’t have lifted them by hand.  Whoever put that together was into some engineering.

Having marvelled our fill, we crawled back out into the sunlight.  Finding our feet we saw two women walking up the path towards us.  One of them was known to the hostess and familiar greetings were exchanged.
We began telling them what an amazing thing they were about to experience and I saw in their faces the expression that I had worn when told earlier by the campervan couple.  I saw, reflected in their faces, that I now wore the excited expression.

We lent our torches and a while later they emerged, shining with excitement.

So I know of six people who were all wearing the same expression one day in Goucestershire.

It’s deeper than heritage.  It’s, for a moment, experiencing an aspect of an artifact that was part of life for someone else five thousand years ago.  Something tangible.   It’s a shared experience with ancient mankind.  Something we can feel we have in common. 
It’s soul food.

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