This wonderful promontory fort couldn't be more unlike the not too distant Maiden Bowers - from whence I've just come - if it tried.... occupying the northern tip of a wondrous chalk spur of The Chilterns, set beneath glorious beech.
To be honest there does not appear a lot of archaeology here, the cross bank, isolating the enclosure from the southern hinterland, apparently substantially amended in medieval times to serve as a rabbit warren (hence, perhaps, the name), the defences of the remainder of the perimeter probably never that upstanding in the first place. Yeah, there really was no need, not when the location posessed such natural strength, nothing more than a little scarping of the existing promontory edge deemed necessary, perhaps?
Despite the steady procession of visitors, the vibe here is excellent, the sun, streaming through the thin Spring canopy, sending shadows streaking across the landscape - like the Clappers - to contrast with the brilliant, white chalk in the most striking manner possible. Yeah, the 'Daz doorstep challenge' has nothing on this, I can tell you. Roots, twisting this way and that in a do or die effort to secure a grip, envoke images of the ancient forest in my mind, the gnarled, twisted trees they support the very epitomy of Nature, the lungs of the Earth, in turn supporting the creatures that live upon it. Including me. Ha! QED.
By far the majority of visitors arrive from the south, a car park accessible from Sharpenhoe Road. This would appear the route if you'd rather not - or perhaps physically can not - make the very steep ascent from Barton Road to the north. Needless to say I wasn't aware of the alternative at the time... but, hey, guess I probably need the exercise. Wonderful.
Surrounded by seemingly unpenetrable rings of trees, the inner area of sharpenhoe is remarkably still. Well sheltered and almost relaxing, this place is almost too quiet. Due to the lack of housing nearby the light pollution is kept to a minimum and on a clear night, the silent banks are perfect for losing yourself in the constellations. The atmosphere at most times is pleasent, however, there are times when dusk draws I have felt compelled to turn tail & run. I have never been able to describe why.
This is such a strange name, so I felt compelled to see where it comes from. The OED says 'claper' would be the Anglo-Norman version of the French 'clapier', which means rabbit hole. So a 'clapper' was a rabbit burrow, or maybe a place for deliberately keeping rabbits. The OED says for keeping 'tame rabbits' though I think they probably were often 'tasty rabbits'. But not tasty for our prehistoric ancestors though, apparently rabbits only got established in the 13th century.