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


Cliff Fort


Good Friday. Despite being a candidate for perhaps one of the most ironic epithets ever conceived... when stripped of its religious connotations, the thought of quality time spent upon the Gower today is nevertheless an appealing one. Needless to say the plan didn't involve an unscheduled drive along the northern coastline of the peninsular, courtesy of a navigational error in the vicinity of Gowerton; however to my mind there are less salubrious ways to spend time. (Eventually) arriving at Pilton Green there is parking to be had on the verge of the access track for Pilton Green Farm (incredibly, notices appear to indicate that previous punters have actually seen fit to leave their cars upon the track. No wonder some farmers get pissed off with tourists). More or less opposite, across the B4247, a public footpath heads approx south-west (ish) along the border of a cultivated field, slowly losing height as it approaches the dramatic, crumbling cliff-line that constitutes 'the coast' in these parts. Where better, by definition, for a modern antiquarian with a penchant for cliff-forts to indulge himself on a sunny afternoon?

In a little under a mile (I think) the path reaches said coastline, continuing down a rocky cove toward the equally rocky foreshore below the famous Paviland Cave... you know, the one that was the last resting place of the 'Red Lady'. Clearly well worth a look, but some other time, perhaps? Instead I head to the right along the coastal path and, in short order, come face to face with some pretty substantial defences isolating the cliff top from the hinterland to the north-east, demarcating a reasonably sized enclosure. I count three, successive barriers which, although obviously now pretty denuded - understandably so after being subjected to a couple of millennia of storms and what-have-you - nevertheless must have proved a formidable deterrent to any marauding war band back in the day. Steep, rocky flanks and plunging, vertical cliff-lines rendered any further artificial fortification superfluous to the other points of the compass. So, that's the archaeology, then. Or at least my basic interpretation of it. Good, solid, but not overwhelming. Not so the location.... what a glorious place to be!

Having a 'mooch' about the enclosure, as you do, trying not to be blown over the edge by the powerful - not to mention freezing - wind (again, as you do), I notice an iron ring affixed to a rock. The mind retrieves the image of Neil Oliver (the hirsute archaeologist chap on TV.... Scottish, apparently) standing in what must be this very spot, trying not to appear utterly terrified prior to abseiling down to the Paviland Cave, the cave therefore no doubt located immediately below me. Yeah, buried in the very bowels of the living rock. Fair play to him, I say... it does seem a very small piece of metal to trust your hopes, dreams and aspirations - your very life - to. As for myself, I lie supine and simply enjoy the moment, the sheer aesthetic beauty of the location matched by an overwhelming feeling of belonging, if only for a short while, to something that transcends the here and now, if you get what I mean? The association of what it is to be human, to be part of humanity (and all the good, bad and humdrum 'stuff' that entails) with the imperium of time itself. Hence the need to lie down.... wouldn't be a good idea to get overly dizzy with all that thinking. Not when perched upon a towering cliff face.

There is more. Much more, the enclosure set above the Paviland Cave but one of a chain of fortified settlements located, like a string of precious pearls, along this wondrous coast. One such example, in fact, lies immediately to the west in plain sight upon the Horse Cliff. It'd be rude not to go have a look while I'm here... a good Friday after all.
5th May 2013ce
Edited 7th May 2013ce

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