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

Capler Camp



Visited 12 August 2017.

After last weekend's unplanned spontaneous trip to British Camp in the Malverns, this weekend I have a plan. And it's a cunning plan, so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, etc. Anyway, I'm off to Fownhope, a little village on the banks of the River Wye towards the south of Herefordshire.

As well as two pubs (one called the Green Man), a shop and fine church with slightly twisty spire and a Norman tympanum carved with a toothy winged lion, Fownhope sits between two wooded Herefordshire hillforts. I have three hours to visit them both. That's the plan.

Things start promisingly, the sun has come out and the bus from Hereford drops me off on time. I've decided to visit Capler Camp first, on the basis that it looks less likely to be an overgrown slog and also it's further away than Cherry Hill, which is right next to the village, so will help gauge the time I have better. A fairly straight minor road leads from Fownhope church towards Capler. I've anticipated a slow climb followed by a steep bit at the end, but that's because I haven't read the map properly and don't realise that the whole way is a succession of up and down hill bits, guaranteed to tire out of practice legs before I even arrive at the proper hill. The first of these ridges does at least give a nice view of both forts from about halfway between them.

A buzzard flies over the tractor throwing up dust in the nearby fields, sheep are cajoled and corralled at Rise Farm, and I realise that there is a good view of Aconbury, another of Hereford's fine hillforts.

Passing Capler Cottages marks the start of the steep section of the road, but a slightly overgrown track beckons invitingly off to the left, promising a less direct and more zig-zag route up to the fort. It proves a good choice, quite dry despite the ridiculously wet summer, and far less steep than the road would have been. It emerges near the top of the footpath to the south of the fort.

From here I head to the ramparts. The fort is in two distinct halves, the western side covered in trees, the eastern side an open field. I head west, into the trees.

It's not a good time of year to visit wooded hillforts, brambles make the earthworks difficult to access and the thick canopy makes photography frustrating. Nevertheless, getting round this fort is easy enough as a wide swathe has been cleared inside the perimeter of the inner rampart, and a broad track follows what would have been a ditch between the inner and outer defences. The defences are strongest on the south, two lines of earthworks making up for the relatively shallow gradient compared to the west end and north side. It's very pleasant under the trees and on reaching the north side I drop down from the inner rampart to the track below.

On the north side the natural steepness does all the work, and the track is a good three metres or more below the inner rampart. Some of the trees that mark the outer "bank" here are towering, one is a venerable beech that wouldn't be out of place on the chalk Downs or limestone scarps to the southeast. The woods are an attractive deciduous mix, not the dense conifers of recent forestry plantations, but an older woodland that feels right on this hilltop.

At length I come round towards the eastern end. Climbing the inner bank brings me out into the open half of the fort. I'm somewhat surprised to find a tall post, carved to the effect that this is an Iron Age hillfort. It turns out that this is the end of a succession of similar posts marking a permissive path up from the picnic area on the road to the south. The interior is lovely, the inside of the southern rampart is rich with harebells. From here the view stretches south and east. I'm not in the slightest surprised to see the ever-present shape of May Hill, while the vista to the south is filled with the dark mass of the Forest of Dean, over the border in Gloucestershire. To the southwest the edge of the Black Mountains is visible. This is a great spot, and I end up sitting here for a while in the summer sunshine.

Finally leaving through the eastern entrance, past a lovely old stone barn and a neat cottage, I follow the Wye Valley Walk footpath along the outer rampart. It's a good hillfort this, not perhaps in the front rank of Herefordshire examples like Wapley Hill and British Camp, but a very decent site nonetheless.

Reluctant to leave, I take a final turn around the wooded half of the interior, before heading south back to the road. A little picnic area gives glimpses of the Wye sparkling in the sunshine below, living up to its picturesque billing. I follow the road down, noticing the steepness and also how many cars seem to be driving up and down this narrow lane, from nowhere to somewhere or back again.

The extended stay has wiped out the time I have left, and Cherry Hill will have to wait after all. A Spring visit would be better anyway I reckon. The best thing about a cunning plan is how easily it can be abandoned or reshaped, and this one will easily bear a bit of reshaping.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
14th August 2017ce

Comments (6)

You paint a fine picture of what sounds a nice day out. Visits to sites always seem to take longer at this time of year I think. Too nice to rush. thelonious Posted by thelonious
14th August 2017ce
Thank you :)

It was a very nice way to spend a bit of time, Herefordshire is lovely in the summer.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
14th August 2017ce
Wow Fownhope tympanum is proper top drawer Hertfordshire School stuff, very nice toothy creature and bird. And the baby Jesus's hilarious rock 'horn hand' (surely that's what he's doing).

It sounds like you had a super time. I do like it when you can spot other forts and hills from these places. And it must be rather picturesque in those turns on the Wye. Excellent.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th August 2017ce
Herefordshire (bloody Hertfordshire, mutter mutter). I guessed you might have been, I only put the bit about the tympanum in to get your attention :)

It was a nice place to go, and a bit of Herefordshire I've not visited before. I'm quite tempted by the Wye Valley Walk, but getting to the far end might be challenging.

On the journey home I counted 7 hillforts through the train window, and there's probably more that I don't recognise on the route as well.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
16th August 2017ce
Hertfordshire! What a disgrace, sorry. In my defence I was only there last week so it must have been in my mind. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th August 2017ce
You're forgiven, obviously. I've never been to Hertfordshire, tis one of they furrin places. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
17th August 2017ce
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