Saturday, 22 February 2014

Ancestors - Mysterious and Enigmatic Landscapes

Ancestors woodcarving from Justbod

As a teenager, on holiday in Cornwall, I bought the book ‘Mysterious Britain’ by Janet & Colin Bord. It’s a cliché, but it was a life changer for me! I had already heard of Stonehenge, but hadn’t realised just how rich the British landscape was with mysterious and enigmatic structures, stories and legends – most of which we know very little about. This fascinated me, and I then spent all my available time visiting as many sites in the book as I could.

Newgrange before excavation

When I was working the Ancestors carving,  the site most in my mind was Newgrange, which I was fortunate enough to visit, on a holiday to Ireland.

What I didn’t realise, until I started reading up on it prior to my visit, was that Newgrange is just a part of a whole collection of megalithic monuments clustered in the river Boyne Valley in County Meath, Ireland, principally the Neolithic burial mounds of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.


I visited the three mounds in the order above, which was really interesting, as they all share similarities, but are also quite different. Newgrange has been redeveloped as an interpretation of what it may have looked like when first built, and I was able to gain access right into the inner chamber, which was amazing, and humbling. Knowth has also been excavated and was thronged with vistors, but Dowth, by complete contrast had no visitor centre, no visitors, and just sat in a field behind a flimsy fence.


The contrast of these three sites was startling, and almost a journey in itself, from ‘Busy Modern Reinterpretation’ through to ‘peaceful romantic ruin!’

Just next to Dowth, sits Dowth castle and Netterville Manor. These had also been on my list of places to visit, as I am distantly related to the Netterville family whose ancestral home was the adjacent Dowth Castle. I could write a whole post just on this amazing place, with it's derelict and haunted atmosphere; and the eccentric Netterville family, who seem to have had a lot of adventures.

I hadn’t realised that the burial mound of Dowth also sat on their land. 
The sixth Viscount Netterville, who built the Georgian Mansion Dowth Hall was “somewhat eccentric, fell into dispute with the local priest and was banned from the chapel on his own land; in retaliation, he built a ‘tea house’ on top of the Neolithic tomb from which he claimed to follow religious services through a telescope.” Robert O’Byrne
Netterville Manor and Dowth Castle

In the 1930s Dowth suffered further violence when a group of English Israelites searching for the Ark of the Covenant used dynamite to blow a hole in the mound! More.
When I visited, the 18th century Netterville Manor was derelict (looking at the internet it seems it has now become a hotel and had a bit of building work done!) and Dowth Castle was also just a ruin. It was a fascinating visit.

Britain and Ireland are truly magical places, and I don’t think I will ever tire of visiting all the unusual and mysterious sites that inhabit all the nooks and crannies of our landscape, and exploring our rich history, myths and legends.

Trethevy Quoit Cornwall

Hopefully this carving captures a small part of that.

You can find Ancestors carving on our 'Just Wood' page.

Ancestors hand burnt plaque from Justbod
Now also available as a hand-burnt plaque from 
our 'Dark & Light' range 

I hope you like ‘Ancestors.’

Thanks for reading!

Justbod Team

Artwork, carvings and sculptures
~ inspired by history and nature ~

Ancestors was also previously available in a sculpted metal version
 in our 'Wood & Metal' Collection:

Ancestors wood and metal hand sculpted wall plaque

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