This is another of the great Essex hillforts to which the Essex general public are actively denied access by the land owner; most, in all probability, therefore having no idea such priceless, tangible links to our past still exist... cloaked as they are within their mantles of trees. Some may argue the 'ordinary' punter wouldn't care if they were aware, but I like to think the people of Essex have more class than that. What a crying shame, therefore, that we tolerate laws which allow such a state of affairs to persist in the so-called 'enlightened' 21st century.... statutes which grant land owners absolution from moral responsibility to the community in this respect. Guardians of sites on behalf of their neighbours and anyone with a love for this land? Ha! What an inconvenience that would be.
To be honest it is amazing that anything remains of Pitchbury Ramparts at all, the southern two thirds (or so) of the great, bi-vallate enclosure having been apparently ploughed to oblivion in the 1920's (according to Essex HER). After all, that's what we fought the Great War for... to preserve our identity, our heritage. Er... wasn't it? [update - to be fair, Rhiannon's comment to this fieldnote strongly suggests the active destruction of the site began somewhat earlier].
What does remain is an arc of double ramparts preserved in Pitchbury Wood to the north, the inner, again according to Essex HER, some 10ft high. Thankfully we know a little about the site thanks to a 'partial excavation' undertaken by Colchester Excavation Committee in 1973, the team recovering dating evidence in the form of Aylesford-Swarling La Tene III period pottery. It seems the dig followed the line of the laying of a gas pipeline.... again, you simply couldn't make it up....
As mentioned above, the remaining earthworks lie within the 'private' Pitchbury Wood, numerous abrupt notices making it clear visitors to this ancient site are not at all welcome. In retrospect I would suggest prospective visitors try calling upon the occupants of Woodhouse Farm since, not being comfortable with 'trespassing', I asked a local emerging from the direction of Scarlet's Farm... only to have the gentleman look at me with complete incomprehension and point me in the opposite direction. Yeah, such notices do little for vibe. The crystal clear winter sky that accompanies me today helps to compensate, however, sunlight throwing shadows of skeletal trees to accentuate the form of the earthworks which provide a good, sure footing for the former's root systems. Difficult to articulate, but there truly is something about wooded hillforts which captures me hook, line and sinker. Perhaps there is something relating to the 'ancient forest' retained deep within the folk memory, the legends of Herne and what-not all too easy to appreciate in such an environment.... shadows inhabiting a parallel world which has no physical 'substance', yet clearly exists. Or does it?
So.... bearing in mind the actute access issues... you will find the remains of this evocative Iron Age enclosure located a little south-west of Great Horkesley, a nice town with a couple of 'watering holes' for the thirsty (modern) antiquarian. Take the Old House Road from the A134 and park just right of where it meets Coach Road (incidentally both roads are signed for convenience), before heading south along the near flank of Pitchbury Wood. As mentioned, recent-looking signs make it all too clear the land is private..... but perhaps some things are just too important, you know? Once they are gone, they are gone. This ancient enclosure is hanging on in there. Just about.
As stated in subsequent comments to my fieldnote of 21/2/12 prospective visitors to this obscure, yet rewarding site are recommended to contact local TMA member 'Castlecorbenic' in order to achieve a stress free (not to mention safe - the woods are used for shooting on occasions) on-site vibe.
alexjones (@) castlecorbenic . com
My thanks to Alex for stepping up to the plate on behalf of Essex heritage. To my mind this is an example of a sensible workaround we should actively encourage.