Leaving the junction, the Cotswold Way follows a straight track up to the top of the hill. The wind is keen, blowing the sculpted snow into flurries of spindrift. The walking is hard work, the shin-deep snow a plague for tired legs. Beckbury is another site visited last year, with overdue field notes. On that occasion, I approached from the southwest, up the steep escarpment. Today I have it easier, crossing the gentle slopes from the east. Like the other forts visited today, Beckbury is a promontory fort, with the west and northern sides relying on the escarpment for protection. Here the length of single rampart is rather longer, the curving bank on the east and south sides enclosing an area approx. 160 x 130 m.
The eastern bank is rather damaged, with a gap halfway along its length that is not original but has been broken through in recent times. This has exposed some big chunks of the limestone that make up the rampart’s construction. The southern curve of the bank is topped by a drystone wall, but remains fairly well-preserved. Apart from a short section at the northern end, there is little sign of a ditch, although on today’s visit it would be filled with snow anyway!
Last time I came here there were quite a few people out for a stroll. Today it’s deserted, the howling wind the only company apart from the sheep sheltering in the lee of the escarpment. The western slopes have developed cornices of snow that wouldn’t be out of place in the Cairngorms, although obviously without the life-threatening drop below. At the northwestern corner is an enigmatic limestone monument, graffiti scratched but naming no names as to whom it commemorates. Ozymandias, perhaps?
(SP 064299) Beckbury Camp (NR) The univallate promontory hill-fort of Beckbury Camp (2) is sub-rectangular in shape with rounded corners. It measures 600 ft by 495 ft and is protected on the west by the escarpment. The remaining sides are defended by a rampart still 15 ft high on the SW. Many coins of Severus and Aurelius, some flint arrow-heads (3) and a sherd of Western Third B pottery have been found here (2). (2-5)
The north and west sides of the camp are defined by the steep slope of the escarpment; on the south and east the bank is about 25 ft wide and rises 5 ft above the interior. The entrance was probably in the SW where there is a 40 ft gap between the end of the bank and the edge of the escarpment. A low scarp continuing the line of the bank across the gap is probably a natural feature. Fire-reddened stones are visible in the outer face of the bank (at SP 06462983), and also in a field well on the bank east of the entrance. The outer ditch has been levelled except for a short length at the north end. (Visited 3 5 67). (6)
Beckbury Camp is as described by authorities (2) and (6); it is in a generally good state of preservation, and the interior is under pasture. No surface finds were made. At SP 06402979 the bank weakens, forming a now blocked field entrance. Drystone revetting is visible in the outer face of the rampart at SP 06462994; here the bank attains its maximum height. Many fire-reddened stones are visible in the NW corner boundary wall.
RCHMs suggestion of a probable SW entrance gap can be discounted. At this point the escarpment has been cut back to turn into the rampart, which is now represented for 10.0m by a weak scarp. Evidence of a filled outer ditch is exposed where the ground falls steeply away; the line of the ditch remains visible in the natural rock and continues about 6.0m down the escarpment. A more favourable entrance occurs at the NW where a natural depression has been utilised as a hollow-way. Springs occur in the lower vicinity. Published 1:2500 survey revised. (7) Information as in Authy. 6 now published. (8)
The univallate Iron Age hillfort known as Beckbury Camp (1-8) is visible as earthworks on aerial photographs. The site is centred at SP 064 299 and comprises a single bank which measures between 7m and 9m wide and defines the southern and eastern sides of a sub-rectangular enclosure with curved corners and concave and convex sides. The bank partially encloses an area that measures 169m long by 131m wide and is orientated north / south. The southern side bank is narrower and a field wall has been built along its top. The bank of the eastern side has been damaged by animals repeatedly passing through a break in the bank at SP 0647 2987. (9)