Category Archives: Snow

Searching for Cannibals in Woking, Surrey, England

Some people spend their weekends going shopping, visiting the local park or having a barbecue in the garden. I have rather more exciting hobbies like, for example, searching for cannibals in the woodlands around Surrey.

Bridge Reflections over Surrey Canal
Bridge reflections over a Surrey canal: Woodham Locks on Basingstoke Canal, near Woking in Surrey (not far from the prehistoric burial mounds in Horsell Common).

Now you may ask, where did I get this interest in cannibalism? And what makes me think that I will find evidence of cannibals in the nice, quaint English countryside. Well if you remember from my Duggleby History page (from the menu above) the centre piece of the village of Duggleby in Yorkshire is a Neolithic ‘Barrow’ or 5000 year old prehistoric burial mound. This was surrounded by a man-made circular enclosure which can today only be seen using aerial or satellite imaging (see the Google map image below). It is believed that the positioning of this very large burial mound had something to do with a magical river, the Gypsey Race, which sporadically flowed from a series of springs nearby.


Excavations of the site uncovered the remains of ancient chieftains who were buried thousands of years ago as well as the bones of the animals which were eaten during what appeared to be very elaborate burial ceremonies. Interestingly some of these partly eaten remains were the bones of fellow humans leading to the conclusion that our ancestors, at least those in and around what is now the village of Duggleby, were Cannibals. As a descendant of that village I would like to think that the ancient art of eating ones neighbour was not just restricted to the village of Duggleby: hence my quest for other signs of ancient cannibalism in the UK.

As my UK base is in Surrey this seemed like a good enough place to start. My home overlooks the Basingstoke canal and I often journey along the canal path, past a couple of bridges, until I reach one of the many entrances to Horsell Common. As the ground is very springy in the common I can go jogging there without doing too much damage to my ageing knees. This can be tremendous fun, particularly when the locals are out training their un-tethered Rottweilers how to differentiate between nimble rabbits and old joggers’ legs.

Horsell Common Running Track
My Horsell Common running track not far from where the Martians landed (from H.G.Wells’ book ‘War of the Worlds’)

One of my runs takes me past three Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds) which are believed to be over 4000 years old. They are thought to be the final resting place of Bronze Age nobility. These people had developed the art of making tools and weapons from bronze and had used these skills to reclaim the tree covered land for agricultural use. It is believed their cremated remains were buried underneath these barrows.

Close up of Woking's Prehistoric Burial Mound in Horsell Common
Close up of Woking’s Prehistoric Burial Mound in Horsell Common

The three burial mounds comprise of two bell barrows and one disc barrow. The picture above is of the larger bell barrow on the side of the common which is opposite the Monument Road car park. I took the photograph when there was some snow on the ground to emphasize the profile of the barrow. At the end of this blog entry I have also included a wider view photograph to give a better indication of the large size of this Bronze Age structure. The following photograph is of the sign at the entrance to the car park which shows the location of the three barrows and provides some information about their history. There is evidence they have been disturbed in the past by antiquarians or treasure hunters but there is no record of any remains or artefacts being found.

Sign for Bronze Age Barrows in Horsell Common
Sign for Bronze Age Barrows in Horsell Common

I find it particularly interesting to consider that the Duggleby Barrow and these Barrow’s in Horsell Common are separated by many hundreds of miles and yet clearly such structures appear to have been as common in Bronze age Britain as churches are today. This is all the more amazing when you remember that the population of the UK was considerably smaller then. Bell and Disc barrows are more commonly found in Wiltshire where sometimes they are in groups of 10 or more. They are very rare in Surrey and their presence in Horsell Common could be indicative that nobility migrated here from Wessex to develop the wooded land for agriculture. Unfortunately once the trees were removed the soil quality diminished giving rise to the Surrey Heathland.

Many people are aware that Woking hosted the UK’s first ‘modern’ cremation at the newly built ‘London’ crematorium in 1884. Few however realise that Woking (or Wochinges as it was called in the Domesday Book in 1086) was hosting formal cremation ceremonies 4000 years earlier. Below is a satellite picture which includes the larger bell barrow from my photograph (on the left) and the disc barrow to its right.  The smaller bell barrow (on the other side of Monument road adjacent to the car park) cannot easily be seen from the air because it is now overgrown with trees.


As I rambled through this area (escaping from yet another Rottweiler!), I followed the path past the large Bell barrow in the direction away from the road and came across another interesting circular earth structure. This was also a ditch, albeit smaller than the other barrows but nonetheless quite distinctive. Perhaps there are other barrows in this area still waiting to be discovered? If you look at the wider aerial photograph below you may just be able to make out a circular structure towards the edge of the clearing in trees to the far left of the more pronounced circular ditch of the bell barrow. A large number of the more common round mound type of barrows have already been identified in Chobham common.


If you are interested in finding out more about prehistoric Burial Mounds in the UK there is a free booklet provided by the English heritage society: simply following this link and download the pdf file.

Clearly this exciting search for our prehistoric origins (and the quest to confirm I am not alone in being descended from cannibals) will continue…..

Over 4000 Year Old Burial Mound in Surrey 1
Over 4000 year old burial mound in Horsell Common, near Woking in Surrey

Snow Returns (or King Richard and the Fairy Warriors)!

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STOP PRESS!! Have you tried the YouTube Playlist featuring all of my compositions for the TRANSFORMATES? Here it is:

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After another exciting week eradicating business risk with the RiskBusters the time arrived for my weekend vaunt into the mountains. Helga, the friendly car rental lady, was already dangling my key-ring on her finger as I approached her counter on arrival at the alpine airport. Hello Mister “Dog-I’ll-buy” I have something extra special to give you in the VIP car park this week.

Snow Back for April in Heidi Land
Snow Back for April in Bavarian ‘Heidi’ Land

Perhaps at this point I should explain why Helga now refers to me as Mr. “Dog-I’ll-Buy”. After hearing many variations of her attempts to pronounce Duggleby I decided to make it a bit easier for her. I explained that my name was derived from my ancestor Sir Henry Dog-I’ll-Buy in the North of England. Sir Henry was King Richard the Lionheart’s official dog purchaser. The English Royal Family is famous for its love of dogs, especially Corgis. During the third Crusade whenever they arrived in a new town or village Sir Henry would go through the streets in front of the King shouting ‘Dog I’ll Buy, Dog I’ll Buy’. I explained to Helga that according to Welsh folklore the Corgi was the preferred mount of fairy warriors and King Richard paid especially well whenever Sir Henry found this magical companion for him.

As was common in the 12th century Sir Henry’s trade became his name. Over the centuries the name “Dog-I’ll-Buy” evolved into Duggleby. I showed her using Google Map the village in the North of England where Sir Henry and his descendants lived. Needless to say there are not many dogs there these days, especially Corgis.

Helga now pronounces my name almost perfectly and I appear to have become something of a celebrity within the airport car hire fraternity. They regularly ask me how are things in the royal dog trade.

So, you may ask, what special treat did Helga give me in the VIP car park? This week’s vehicle was an A3 Convertible. At this point I had no further need for a weekend weather forecast. I drove to my apartment in the dark, parked my little topless beauty and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to see that overnight the whole village had acquired a carpet of pristine white snow. Fortunately I had left the semi naked convertible in my garage.

Although my alpine village gets lots of snow in the winter I manage to escape most of it due to my annual quest to find new sources of vitamin D in the southern hemisphere. This means that for me snow, in moderate doses, can be a bit of a treat. I slipped into some warm clothing, packed the tripod and camera into my rucksack, and headed up the local mountain stream to gets some photo’s of the snowy waterfalls.

Author by the Mountain 'Bach'
Author (Chris Duggleby in tights!) by the Mountain ‘Bach’ (Bad Feilnbach Waterfalls, Bavaria)

It is amazing to think that a week earlier my son Pascal and I had been sitting in shorts and t-shirts in the garden of our local alpine restaurant. Compare this week’s pictures with the ones I published two weeks ago. Within the space of a week the temperatures had dropped over 20 degrees!

I decided that it would be sensible not to take the convertible to the local supermarket. My neighbours know that the Brits can be somewhat ‘interesting’ but I prefer not to overdo it. Just wait until I tell them the story about Sir Henry, official buyer of the King’s dogs!

The Wendelstein taken from the Balcony
The Wendelstein mountain taken from the balcony – still snow capped, still beautiful 

(There is actually another chapter to this story in which Sir Henry Dog-I’ll-Buy had to sell the Royal dogs to help Eleanor of Aquitaine raise the ransom demanded by Duke Leopold V of Austria. This unfriendly gentleman had imprisoned King Richard in Dürnstein Castle on his way back from the 3rd Crusade. The ransom money played a major part in financing the creation of Wiener Neustadt in 1194 – should be worth a few free drinks next time I visit Vienna).

Snow Back for April by the Waterfalls
Snow Back for April by the Bad Feilnbach Waterfalls (Spot the chilly head!)

P.S. Some dog related aspects of this story have been passed down through the family by word of mouth (and via my grandmothers rather messy recipe book) and therefore the documentary evidence may be rather suspect. The stuff that is properly evidence based can be found under the Duggleby History page – just click on the link here