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Ancient burials come back to life as Wiltshire farmer starts work on barrow

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

Wiltshire farmer Tim Daw has embarked on one of the region's oddest diversification projects – building a long barrow in one of his fields. Drawn by its proximity to Avebury, Stonehenge and at the centre of crop circle country, the area's pagans are already flocking to buy niches in which their ashes will be placed Picture: Clare Green

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The last time it happened in the West was probably on a sunny day in January about 5,000 years ago – but yesterday it happened again: a farmer laid down some huge stone slabs to create the base for a burial mound.

Within six months, the Neolithic-style burial chamber – similar to the ones that dot the countryside of Wiltshire – will be up and running, and available to families to store the remains of their loved ones forever.

Farmer Tim Daw won planning permission last autumn for what is probably the most unusual piece of agricultural diversification in the West.

He is turning one of his fields near All Cannings, in the shadow of a white horse and close to the ancient route between Avebury and Stonehenge, into a 50m-long burial mound, with the design based on one used by the people who constructed the famous long barrow at West Kennet, near Silbury Hill, a few miles from his farm.

The idea is that people pay to lease the niches, the shelves inside, into which their ashes or the ashes of their loved ones will be stored forever. The 52-year-old farmer said the burial chamber will be totally non-religious, but with its alignment to the solstice sunrise and sunset, it is already attracting interest from Wiltshire's small but growing Pagan community.

"We've already had five people sign up, and that's without really pushing it at all," he said. "We thought we'd wait until something tangible is happening, and the thing is being built or built already. Now it has, as this is the first set of stones to go down. It's being made of sarsen stones and is quite a simple construction really."

The 220-acre farm is previously notable for being at the heart of Wiltshire's 'crop circle country', and has the Kennet & Avon canal running nearby. Inside the burial mound, there will be seven separate chambers, each with four shelves containing lockable individual 'niches', that can be secured for a family.

When completed, there will be around 300 individual niches, and the burial mound will be accessible to families to return to.

"We'll have to keep the inside secure as other people's remains will be in there too, but the idea is that it will be a place for families to come. They'll be able to sit and contemplate on the mound."

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