The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Membury Camp



Membury Camp is one of those sites I've 'seen' many - goodness knows how many - times from the M4 services of the same name.... but never got around to visiting. Well, you know how it is? Probably not much there, better places on the 'list' etc.... However I decide to remedy that today, inspired, I guess, by tjj's images back in October. Which is what TMA is all about, is it not?

I approach from the north, so, leaving the M4 at Junction 14, I take the A338 toward Wantage, almost immediately turning left upon the B4000. At Lambourn Woodlands, where the b-road veers sharply right, continue upon a minor road past Fox Farm, parking at the entrance to a farm track on the left. Follow this, past a house, to pick up a public footpath crossing the M4 via - you'll no doubt be pleased to note - a bridge. The stony track continues, passing a prominent wood and with the nissen huts of the former RAF airfield to the left, towards another phalanx of trees concealing the hillfort. The track becomes path and, eventually, affords access to the enclosure. Jeez, it's a big one, Dyer quoting a very impressive 12 hectares, although I'm arguably more impressed by the sheer size of the defensive bank encountered by the traveller. Initially I take the enclosure to be bi-vallate - that is protected by two concentric banks; however Dyer cites the outer as being a counterscarp to the massive ditch. Whatever.... splitting hairs, perhaps.

As with all hillforts, the only real way to appreciate the form and substance of the defences is to walk them.... suffice to say, despite the vegetation being, relatively speaking, not that prohibitive - at least in winter - a circuit takes me over an hour, such is the circumference of this massive earthwork. In fact it is only the distant hum of the M4 which provides an indication of where exactly I am. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? Shut-up. Not that this is exactly a hardship, not with Nature having taken over the ramparts to do her thang, occasional pieces of flint lying provocatively upon the bank, as if to say 'for all you know I'm an ancient tool'. But therein lies the problem... I'm no expert. Sigh.

Following lunch, I'm just about to complete my second, and final circuit when the hitherto hidden, entirely unwelcome side of a visit to Membury raises its head. To be fair, I guess she was only doing her job, but I'm suddenly confronted by a 'plummy' middle-aged woman with dogs (I'd seen her about half an hour earlier and thought nothing of it - guess it took some time to summon the bravery to confront me, then... honestly). In short, it appears that I've strayed from the path (I know), that this is very bad (she has no answers to my demands to know why this should be and why the estate wish to forbid me access to my heritage) and that if 'security' catch me I'll be sorry. Oh dear, threats. I assure her I most certainly will not be - sorry that is - that I had no idea walking the ramparts was an issue (there are currently no signs or fences when approaching from the north) and as I've been on site for some three hours, 'security' aren't exactly a formidable unit, are they? I complete my exploration of the defences and have a wander inside the massive enclosure before leaving this exceptional hillfort.

So, there you are. Sadly it seems that here we have another 'high end' landowner who has a problem having a (very) fine example of England's heritage upon his/her land. How damn inconvenient, what? Now there are many ordinary - dare I say 'common' - landowners/ farmers throughout this land who, from experience, I know do not see this as an issue and consequently apply a morally decent attitude to access. Work with the people who want to see your stuff and attitudes invariably improve on both sides, do they not? Yeah, I know. It's plain common sense. Unfortunately such intelligent reasoning, although prevalent somewhere as off the beaten track as the environs of Loch Fyne, for example, does not appear to have caught on yet at Membury. Guess it takes time to filter down....
4th February 2012ce
Edited 4th February 2012ce

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