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




A very overdue visit on 17.12.2016.

It's the best part of 7 years since I added this site to TMA, so really about time I made the effort to come here. Heeding the warnings of Carl's approach, I come at the site from Little Dean to the south, via the edge of the woods below Chestnut Inclosures. It's been a claggy, misty December day and the light is dull, tendrils of mist rising from the Severn a couple of miles or so to the east.

Where the path Carl was on gets to the southern edge of the hill, a narrower footpath heads north up the hill - it might be easy to miss this in summer as the vegetation seeks to strangle it, so look out for a stile into a field on the south, which is opposite the entrance to the footpath. Coming from this direction the ascent is at its most gentle, the steeper slopes of the hill are on the north and east sides.

Before reaching the fort, there is a meeting with a remarkable tree, a massive beech of huge height and girth, and great age for the species. The woods here are a lovely mix of deciduous trees, birch and beech, oak and chestnut. The footpath arrives at the southern tip of the fort, where a bank rises on the right but nothing on the left, making it a little difficult to gain bearings of the layout at first. In fact the fort is an irregular shape, like a "q" with this bank being the western side of the short tail (in fact it's very similar in layout to Midsummer Camp on the Malverns). It's immediately apparent that the banks here are stone-built, plentiful mossy stones protruding through the winter cover of dying vegetation.

Because of this disorientation I initially keep heading north rather than following the bank around. The ground is still rising slightly, with a big drop now becoming apparent on the right (east). Soon I reach a confused junction of banks and ditches, which resolve themselves into the point where the tail of the "q" meets the body. The drop the east is now quite severe, with any view curtailed by the heavy tree cover and mist rising from the river valley beyond. Without the trees I imagine I might be standing in the thin upper reach of a temperature inversion.

Deep leaf litter muffles my footfalls. Towards the north I come to a clearer circle, a fairy ring among the trees. This is the only clear and relatively flat spot within the fort interior, and makes a good place to stop and take in the quiet of the woods on this somewhat eerie day.

At the northern end the ground drops very abruptly, a 5 metre drop from the top of the rampart to the next level down. It seems that this has been created by terracing the naturally steep slope rather than needing to create a wholly artificial defence, but it would certainly be a formidable obstacle and provides an excellent vantage over the valley below.

The killer construction though is on the west. Here a massive inner bank towers above two further lines of bank and ditch. There is a wide space between inner and middle defences, which gives the impression that the outer ditches are slight and shallow in comparison. This impression is quickly dispelled by dropping down the slippery slope for a closer look, which reveals the middle ditch to be a good 6 feet deep.

Near the southwestern corner, the lines of ramparts are crossed by a slightly raised causeway, but it's not clear whether this represents an original feature or a later intrusion. Either way it's a pretty steep climb back up to the inner rampart.

Disembodied voices and the bark of a dog rising from the valley settlement below to the west, the screech of an irate squirrel somewhere in the trees above me and seagull cries from the Severn are the only noises to interrupt the quiet. No boars today, although grubbings and scrapings in the soft earth at the top of the hill appear to indicate their occasional presence.

The day has been grey throughout, and this close to Midwinter the light fails early. By the time I've walked around the site and its defences, it's getting towards 4 o'clock and already darkening. Although it's a fairly compact fort, the multiple lines to explore make it feel bigger and it's taken me a good hour to get round it. It's an atmospheric place, and one that would repay a visit on a sunny spring day before the canopy refills and the brambles entwine the accesses.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
18th December 2016ce
Edited 18th December 2016ce

Comments (3)

Nice atmospheric notes to match the atmospheric place, SC.. and I note Carl's last sentence re 'mobile and fairly fit' it appears you're getting back into shape. Well done, particularily if you were solo. Me ditto, first fieldwalk in the long heather - on Burbage looking for cupmarks etc - since the start of May today. A good feeling, eh? : ) spencer Posted by spencer
19th December 2016ce
Thanks Spencer, much appreciated. It was my first solo trip out since June, although competing priorities and lack of cash have probably been as much a factor in that as illness. Glad you're on the mend too, those Peaks and D&G sites won't visit themselves.

To be fair to Carl he went at it from the "impregnable fortress" angle, whereas I went for the easy stroll without much gradient angle :)
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
19th December 2016ce
Cheers. Not 100%, crap again today, hi ho, may end in op as last resort but am not keen as outcome'd be uncertain. And I'm a coward. Am still to upload some of my Peak finds from spring, as legwork needed either for more pix or they're yet to be inspected, inc prob settlement found on last trip out into deep wilds at start of May and row of 10'-16' recumbents I've cleared near's been OK'd but I revealed more after. Am chomping at bit, but dodgy terrain demands fitness, as you know. Burbage's an easyish tester, no quags or streams to ford. Can't wait for a nice dump of snow to press down the damn bracken....roll on Feb-Mar, then frenzy till the stuff erupts again. Heather'll have to do for now, 'as and when'... spencer Posted by spencer
19th December 2016ce
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