As Karen is now only 7 weeks away from producing the newest member of the clan, I thought it would be best to stay fairly close to home for the next few weeks! With this in mind I decided to visit a site I became aware of last year but had forgotten about. (Isn't it always the case that you often neglect the places closest to home?)
Anyway, I traversed the maze of lanes to the north of Cardiff and parked in the small, pretty village village of Draethen. I would recommend visitors not used to the area to get to Draethen via the A468 between Newport and Caerphilly.
The footpaths up to the Hillfort are well signposted and easy to follow. I picked up a very good (free) information booklet from the Hollybush Inn in Draethen. The booklet states the Hillfort was built in around 200BC and gives artists impressions of how it may have looked.
The walk from the village to the top of the Norman Motte (which sits proudly at the centre of the Hillfort) took 30 minutes. It was a beautiful autumn day, deep blue skies, not a breath of wind and early morning frost turning the grass white and crispy. Not a soul about, so quiet in fact that you could actually hear the leaves falling when walking up through the trees! The views from the top are excellent, overlooking Cardiff, Newport and the Bristol Channel with the islands of Flat and Steep Holm easy to see.
You can also look down upon the ruined Ruperra Castle at the foot of the hill.
As for the remains of the Hillfort, I am sorry to say there isn't much to report. I took the path which runs right through the centre of the site. I could see no trace of defences on the eastern side of the Hillfort although I possible saw some on the western side. I say possibly as I am not 100% sure. There is a small path which runs around the side of the hill at this end of the site and it may follow a single bank ditch. It is hard to say as the ferns which cover this end of the hill are chest high, making clear observations impossible at this time of year. Perhaps things would be clearer in the winter?
Despite this, I really enjoyed my visit, no doubt helped by the fantastic weather. It has been a long time since I enjoyed a visit so much without actually finding anything! I would certainly recommend a visit if in the area. One word of caution though, the paths up to the Hillfort are very muddy, so make sure you wear your boots!