|As appears to have become custom, my annual October wanderings in North Wales are again subject to a prelibation further south, exploring a little more of the Marches and Mid Wales. Now the allure of the latter for an upland antiquarian is perhaps obvious, the wild landscape, dominated by the legendary Pumlumon, an idiosyncratic synthesis of the stark, grassy beauty of South Wales' great escarpment with the uncompromising rock of Gwynedd. But what of the borderlands, the rolling hills presenting a softer, arguably more classical vision of natural beauty to the passing traveller? Well, appearances can be deceptive, of course. Just as the sublime, scarlet poppy fields of France mask so much past human turmoil, punters looking a little more closely here will notice the shapely green hills of the Marches are crowned by a preponderance of hill forts and lesser fortified enclosures, the valleys dominated by the crumbling stone castles of the Norman Marcher Barons... literally a law unto themselves. Yeah, things clearly weren't always as serene as they now appear.
One such hill fort occupies the south-eastern extremity of Fron, overlooking the small village of Newcastle, the site but one of a trio (as far as I'm aware) of defended enclosures in the southern locale of the Clun Forest. I approach from Clun itself, the town dominated by the gaunt ruins of its Norman castle, heading west along the B4368. At Newcastle, the name no doubt a reference to the motte sited beside the River Clun a little to the south-west, I follow 'Church Road' to park beneath, appropriately enough, St John's Church. Nowadays churches make me very uneasy with their oppressive death cult vibe... so, without further ado, I ascend the bridleway to the edifice's immediate right and, veering steeply uphill to the south-west as later directed, arrive at the nicely compact Fron Camp.
According to EH (see link) the univallate defences are (externally) c10ft high to north-west, facing the path of least resistance, and c9ft elsewhere, enclosing an area c269ft (SW-NE) by 344ft (NW-SE). So, not bad at all. Unfortunately the southern/south-western arc is very overgrown. That aside, there are excellent, far reaching views south-east toward the Clun Valley, not to mention a particularly fine section of Offa's Dyke upon Graig Hill to the north-east. Ah... Offa's Dyke, that great 8th century earthwork which, to me, represents the physical embodiment of the fault line between the 'tectonic plates' of opposing cultures that were integral to shaping the past of this area. Violent times.
Such historic strife seems an almost unfathomable impossibility as I relax upon the northern bank, drink my coffee, get soaked by rain and then bathed in sunshine.... all the while pondering the serenity which reigns supreme here this morning. Yeah, surely human kind, in general terms, has advanced since those days? C'mon, even just a tad? As I wander to the north-west and view the enclosure's defences from without... I reckon so. The bank is impressive for such a small site. But what a sad reflection upon us as a species that such-like were ever needed. Needless to say still are in many places. However, having - just - survived blowing ourselves and the planet to nuclear oblivion perhaps we have a fragile launch pad available to us now. Not for Minutemen ICBMs, but perhaps an allegorical one to build a better future?
Fron Camp is 'mirrored' by another settlement, Castle Idris (I assume name-checking... very unusually for the area... the giant of lore), to the approx west, although forestry negates intervisibility. However I find parking below the site to be an issue so, with time at a premium if I wish to reach Pumlumon by nightfall, decide to pay a visit to the Caer-din Ring instead. Hey, you can take your pick in these parts.
Posted by GLADMAN
30th November 2013ce
Edited 3rd December 2013ce