Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Devil's Den - Clatford Bottom

The Devil’s Den dolmen stands alone in a field at Clatford Bottom, near Marlborough. The word 'dolmen', is thought to be a derivative of ‘dillion’, meaning boundary mound.

The Devil's Den, is a Neolithic burial chamber first recorded in 1723 by antiquarian - William Stukeley, who's illustrations show a long barrow of considerable length with several large sarsen stones which have all but disappeared now, no doubt the victims of agriculture. Today the structure comprises of just three massive sarsens arranged similar to that of a Welsh ‘Cromlech’.

The structure was rescued from imminent collapse in 1921 by archaeologist - A.D. Passmore. Restoration work was undertaken to shore up the dolmen by incorporating a concrete support to one side which was engraved with the year of its salvation - 1921.

The late Guy Underwood dowsed the site in 1958 following up the work of one Reginald Smith, an authority on the Neolithic period. After his survey was completed, Underwood concluded that the megalith was built over a 'geospiral'. Now for those in the know with regard to earth energies and ley lines, you will know what a geospiral is but for those who don’t, me included, put simply, it is a ‘blind spring’ which is said to generate a powerful surface spiral; any-the-wiser? Me neither. Underwood was of the impression that the Devil’s Den has one of the most powerful geospirals in the country.

Like most ancient tombs, folklore abounds. Tales of a ghostly guardian dog with burning piercing eyes, is said to lie in wait beneath the mound, protecting its long dead master. The Sound of an eerie baying hound has been heard echoing across the valley in the dead of night. Spectral dogs are not uncommon at burial mounds, their roots can be traced back to Celtic mythology.

Another tale involves the Devil himself, who is said to yoke up 4 white oxen in an attempt to dislodge the capstone. Just why the Devil should want to do this is unknown.

On top of the capstone are several dimples or ‘cups’. The tale goes, should you fill these dimples with water, then overnight the water will mysteriously vanish, apparently consumed by the fiend that haunts the dolmen.

How to get there (SU151697)
From Beckhampton roundabout, take the A4 to Marlborough. Just before you enter the town, there is a left turn marked Manton House and The Hollow, it‘s easily missed, so keep a sharp eye out for it. Follow the lane till you arrive at the car park, some two miles or so. From the car park, bear right onto a track, you will see the megalith in the valley to your left after about 10 minutes walking.

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