The mound, we could say, exists in its mounding. This is to think of it not as a finished object, standing on foundations and set over and against its surroundings, but as a locus of growth and regeneration where materials welling up from the earth mix and mingle with the fluxes of the weather in the ongoing production of life. The mound has not turned its back on us, as we might suppose, hiding secrets within its dark, enclosed interior that we can discover only by tunnelling in. On the contrary, it is open to the world. As the ever-emergent outcome of the interplay of cosmic forces and vital materials, the mound is not bulit but grows.
extract from chapter ‘Round mound and earth sky’ from ‘Making‘ by Tim Ingold
For various reasons, I am not doing my usual round of the Mound of Down today, despite the weather being glorious here. Instead, I am considering it as an anthropological proposition. I might have overstated the case when I said that Tim Ingold had covered all of my favourite things in his ‘Life of Lines’ volume in an earlier post.
It seems that my current fascination with anthropology á la Prof Ingold continues with an earlier book – ‘Making‘. I had been slow to read this because of the title (it doesn’t mention lines or being alive) but, in fact it is the backdrop to the ‘Knowing from the Inside‘ work. But more importantly there is a significant part of a chapter on…MOUNDS.
Of course, the Mound of Down is not specifically mentioned – but it is, to be fair, a poster child for perdurance – and of not coughing up much in the way of archaelogically sound information about what the hell it was/is actually all about.
And, of course, it is always work-in-progress. Yes, like it’s brackets – the Down Cathedral and Inch Abbey – it is a little bit fixed in place by our attempts at preservation. But, unlike both edifices, it is a growing thing. How strange it would be if we found that the Cathedral had an extra layer of bricks that nobody could account for in the time between they were and weren’t there. But it would be much stranger if we came back to the Mound – even after a short absence – and found that it was absolutely the same as we left it.
I wrote the below a couple of months ago. I think it will have been May because of mention of burning gorse. Speedwell (veronica) appeared in the burnt places quite quickly. I also notice – this is in general – that the Mound of Down tends to spit people out. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had about how it should be a big tourist attraction in the town but I always get the sense that the Mound is not over welcoming – siphoning walkers off by a new gate this season.
It is, I am sure, labyrinthine in its history. It has to be, whether abandoned stronghold or other lost earthworks, because it has centuries of all things of this local world tamping it down, shaping it, mounding it. I’m always surprised – perhaps I’ve said this before – that it’s never assoicated with those that are rumoured to live in mounds.
Mound of Down Minotaur
Everything moves in circles here.
Ariadne keeps count of the turns
with different coloured threads.
Growing by burned gorse
blue veronica. Orange tips
and their black-lace ladies fly
above unconcerned. Who knows
what moves below the surface
of these ancient earthworks.
People come here once, then
don’t come back. Mean to,
ought to, but somehow
don’t make the journey.
Except Theseus who wants
it to be a tourist destination.
He needs it clear of menace –
means to get to the bottom of it.
He beats back the overgrown paths,
but they are moats and lead back
to their openings:
first a small descent,
then spit him out,
and he must start again.