Barrow at the Vale of Heath: Boadicea’s Grave

This is to my knowledge, the only barrow to be found in current London. It can be found be going to the Highgate Ponds and walking the pathway between the two largest ponds. I only recently migrated to the UK and the prospect of visiting a barrow, or any other prehistoric earthwork is completely new to me, because these don’t really exist, at least not widely in Canada. I have done a lot of research into what the barrows, cairns, cursuses, etc. actually are and what purpose they serve, dating from the Neolithic through the Bronze and into the Iron Age. And through the BBC series Prehistoric Britain and Celtic Britain. The history of them alone makes me proud to have come to this place.

The barrow here if often called Boadicea’s Grave, who was the Queen of a tribe called Iceni, which is the bio-region roughly of contemporary Norfolk. She led this band against rising Roman forces. 60 years after ‘Christ’s Death’ era, she first destroyed Camulodunum (a place containing a temple to Claudius), and then fought with the Ninth Spanish Legion who were a Roman Legion in Londinium (Londom), where 70,000-80,000 Roman and Brits died. Suetonius eventually maintained control over Britain but Nero was considering to withdraw all his legions from the land. The eventual defeat was too harrowing for Boadicea, and she either killed herself or fell sick and died.

That is the brief history of the woman, but alas, it is still not absolute that she came here after death. There  were excavations in the 19th century but because the soil was so acidic, there is no tangible finds inside the mound. The barrow itself is from the Bronze Age 2000-3000 years ago, and the burial obviously much later. So it does serve as just another feature of the landscape. My visit was a conspicuous one, and it is not truly evident what you are looking at if you don’t already know it is there. There is not external monument or signposts saying what it is, only the circular hill in a vale of other roughly hewn hillocks and uneven terrain. But this one of course is slightly more aesthetical. There lies a ditch surrounding it and current hedges, which is like the spiritual lay line. Inside is the sacred space, outside is the normal park where people run, and take their dogs. I went inside, over the barrier and spent a humblr 90 minutes or so speaking with a friend. High words exchanged about Ancient Europe, the runes, and Heathen ritual. There was a divot where some other souls than ours also took awe in the feature and had lit fires in the past. To not reveal everything, the tall trees and greenery enclosed the circled cleared patch at the top, with views over London. I have read, the mound was built by the Beaker people because it has views roughly over the river Thames, which was their original home region. And of course the intentional size and geographic location to coincidence with a deeper purpose is extremely common in other types of earthworks.

Personally, this was the grounding moment for me to better expound a connection to this land. I have lived here in London for 2 weeks but had not truly felt properly here, I needed a special moment like this for it to amount to something. A friend and I took into the forest after because we were told to leave the site ‘which was of great historical value, and not for the public’. We made offerings to our ancestors, the land wights, and new kin over a few phrases and wine drinking. Leaving food and seeds as an offering. I will be checking out more sites possibly near Portsmouth and on the Isle of Wight in the coming months.

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