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MAIDEN CASTLE LEY, Dorset

Stretching for just over 8 miles SE-NW across the countryside immediately S of Dorchester, this ley runs from Warmwell Church to tumuli at Winterborne Steepleton.

Holy Trinity (75288580) at Warmwell sits on a fairly circular piece of high ground. The present church was restored in the 19th century but there are 13th century traces on the squat tower. The ley grazes the NE corner of the church.

The second marker is a tumulus (73528641) near a track off the A352 just E of Broadmayne. Even the recent Second Series 1:25,000 map is misleading regarding this site. A large group of buildings are shown which no longer exist, whilst the barrow is in the garden of a house not depicted on the map!

A short distance down the ley from the tumulus, and visible from it, is St. Martin's (72848665), Broadmayne. The ley seems to pass where the 13th century tower joins the main body of the church and is off-set to it.

The ley continues to the NW, over a crossroads near Whitcombe and onwards along a section of the N banks of Maiden Castle (669008850), beyond doubt one of the most physically impressive of all prehistoric sites in the whole of Britain. It also exemplifies the ley hunter's concept of evolved sites. Around 300 BC there was a causewayed camp on the saddleback hill; much later a bank barrow, a third of a mile long, was built along the hilltop going over the W ditches of the earlier Neolithic camp and containing two burials of children and a Saxon secondary burial of a mutilated man. During the Iron Age there were 4 phases of building, ranging from about 350BC to 60BC. The latter phase of this work finalised the form of the hill-fort as it is seen today. In AD43 the Romans successfully stormed the site; later a Roman-Celtic temple was erected within the ramparts of the camp. Objects depicting a three-horned bull, Diana and Minerva were found on this site. The long axis of Maiden Castle is well over half a mile long, and a walk round the inner circumference of the feature is three times that length. It can be approached along a signposted track off the A354 road S of Dorchester.

The ley next passes through the SE end of a long barrow just to the NW of Maiden Castle at 66508879. This is situated at the S end of a field, and has been ploughed out so that all that can be seen on the ground is a very slight undulation beneath the crop.

The final ley markers are two tumuli immediately N. of Winterbourne Steepleton. Only one of the barrows is marked on the 68/78 21/2 inch sheet at 63028998. The barrows can be approached from the B3159 by a public footpath, which is marked on the map and by an old sign in the hedgerow, but is otherwise not physically evident. The features are good examples of round barrows, and from their position Maiden Castle can be seen as a ragged contour on the horizon. The tumuli are about 70 yards apart, both on the bearing of the ley.





Archives

Length 13km

Bearing 108.5°/288.5°.

MaidenCastleLine