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Castle Hill

Hillfort

Fieldnotes

Who'd have thought it, eh? My mum used to stay at nearby Tudeley 'hop picking' when she was a kid.... loved it to bits, no doubt passing some of that passion for the British countryside onto yours truly. I've also a fondness for the hop, but guess we'll leave that out of this. I've been to (equally nearby) Tonbridge a few times, too, the town dominated by the de Clare motte and bailey castle, the great gatehouse of which is cited as being inspiration for those of that other - incomparable - de Clare fortress of Caerphilly, South Wales. Yeah, but what sorcery is this? Another 'Castle Hill' rising above the A21 just outside of town bearing witness - according to the deliberations of excavations carried out in 1969, 1970 and 1971 (see Pastscape, English Heritage, National Monuments Record TQ64SW1) - to human activity ranging all the way back to the Mesolithic, with Neolithic and Bronze Age finds to bring us to the days of Iron. Hey, Castle Hill has quite literally seen it all. However it is the latter epoch which has left by far the most substantial trace, albeit in the form of a paradoxical combination of earth and Kentish chalk. Iron, indeed. As for the Norman barbarians.... Ha! Only yesterday...

For some reason I had a bit of a pre-trip 'downer' this morning. It happens. Guess I anticipated access issues, what with a brace of antennae crowning the hill top. Probably just a few lumps and bumps to see anyway. Not really worth going? I nevertheless find myself parking at the entrance to 'The Brakes' and ascending a track (gated to vehicles, but not pedestrians) through trees to arrive at the aforementioned towering antennae. Veer left here into the trees and some pretty substantial ramparts are not long in coming. This northerly section appears bi-vallate, if overgrown. Nice. The cooling fans of the nearby installation kick into life and I prepare to be annoyed. But I'm not. Not with the sunlight slanting through the foliage, the whole woodland vibe making me very glad I came. Heading east, the banks are overwhelmed in soaking knee high fern for a while before standing proud and defiant once again... only to peter out (presumably destroyed) at Castle Hill farm. The owners of said establishment want you to 'keep out'. Strictly. However the notices are superfluous since shotgun reports are audible nearby. I've no desire to meet such people, let alone dance to their tune.

Retracing my steps and heading beyond the antennae, a sunken track gives access to more substantial defences in the form of a 'bastion-like', well, bastion to the approx south-west... all shimmering highlight and shadow, the perfect environment for fungi, the archetypal ethereal vibe. I can handle that. OK, the earthworks lose focus once again as I approach the farm from the other direction, but clearly there is much more to Castle Hill hillfort than I ever supposed. Or rather 'hillforts', the excavators having concluded that a later enclosure superseded an original earthwork apparently intentionally destroyed at some point. Before which, or so it would appear, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples had either lost, discarded or deposited their artefacts. The continuity, the sheer breath of human experience boggles the mind. Really, it does.

Some three hours have now elapsed upon this obscure hilltop. So I must leave to - unwittingly - take almost 45 minutes to move a couple of miles because of roadworks on the A21. Such is life. Yeah... life. The word sort of sums up Castle Hill, does it not? I think so.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
10th September 2012ce
Edited 11th September 2012ce

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