|Church Hill Camp / West Wycombe Hill Fort – 30.8.2003
There is a great little hill fort on West Wycombe Hill. Most of it is National Trust property and totally open access.
If you fancy a bit of a walk, park at the large car park at SU825947, next to the West Wycombe Garden Centre and walk across the road and up to the summit. Most of the paths are relatively ok and reach the summit at some point, although one less well used on the direct south is very steep.
For the less energetic, or less mobile, there is a further large car park at the summit on the North side of the church at SU827951. A small road winds it way around the south and east of the hill fort up to the summit (past a striking red roofed school and the Hellfire Caves).
The south side of the summit (next to the imposing but gaudy Dashwood Mausoleum) is very steep and seems to have no extra defences. The East side is far less steep and had an impressive double bank and ditch. The defences on the west side are also quite impressive. A largish stone (1 metre square) lies plonked in the rampart near the main church entrance on the north east side. Whether this has any meaning is presumably unknown.
The churchyard of St.Lawrence's Church comes right up the defences on most of the north east and north west parts, and may well be a desparate attempt to Christianise the site. Flint from the chalk / flint mines of the Hellfire Caves dominate the buildings on the interior of the fort, both the Church, which is apparently located exactly above the Inner Temple of the caves, and the Mausoleum.
The info board on the lower car park bears the following relevant info, strangely entitled ‘2000 Years of History’…..“West Wycombe Hill (also called Church Hill) was given to the National Trust by Sir John Dashwood in 1935. The Mausoleum and caves are still in the hands of the Dashwood family. In the Iron Age (between the 4th and 5th Century BC) a sizeable fort with double ramparts was established on the hill as a defended settlement which would also perhaps have become a local center for trade and religion. It is possible that the unusual siting of the church within the ramparts was a deliberate attempt to Christianise a pagan Saxon sacred site. The dedication of the church to St.Lawrence might indicate that the site was venerated further into the past as this dedication is often associated with Roman sites. West Wycombe Hill may have been a site of religious worship from at least the 5th Century BC, throughout Roman, Saxon and medieval times up to, and including, the present day”
Posted by pure joy
2nd September 2003ce