Caesar's Camp Hillfort - Wimbledon Common - 7.8.2003
After Jamie (Juamei) had left me at the end of our day out I went off to Caesar’s Camp. The best place to park is just off Camp View around TQ229711, opposite the Club House for the Wimbledon Common Golf Course.
Then walk west towards a small split in the road, and walk past the sign that says “Camp Rd, leading to Kinsella Gardens, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development”. At the end of the tarmaced road (TQ225711), the footpath across the fort is directly in front of you. Unlike the egalitarian Wimbledon Common Golf Club to the North, this hillfort is on the private Royal Wimbledon Golf Club. Just as you enter this section there is the chance to officially trespass and explore the east side of the fort, by using the gates that leads to the greens/tees of several holes in the area. A badly broken large stone plaque lies unkempt inside this fence and says “…….[broken bit]…probably in the 3rd Century BC. The fort was surrounded by a circular earthwork, about 300 yards in diameter, two ramparts with a ditch between, it’s outline is difficult to follow but the footpath passes through the middle of the fort. Its easterly limit is marked by this stone, and its westerly limit by a post 300 yards along the footpath and inside the fence. Re-erected by the John Evelyn Society 19??” (looks like 1968 but can’t be certain).
Or before you enter the fenced in footpath you can also quite easily sneak down the track that leads south towards the centre of the golf course, and see the south east side of the fort just as the trees clear. It’s a nice site I think.
Walking along the footpath to the west the most impressive easily reached section of the ramparts is at the western end, around TQ222710. There are also handy gaps in the fence here (both sides), although these are presumably not there at aid TMA’ers but to aid golfers who have shanked their ball onto or over the normally fenced in footpath. There is also a small metal plaque close by, just on the north side of the fence, which says “This camp is protected as a monument of National Importance under the Ancient Monuments Acts 1913-53. Min of Public Buildings and Works”. This is presumably ‘the post’ alluded to at the stone plaque, although it’s not actually the westerly limit because its just inside the limit of the inside of the fort.
PS – possibly unsubstantiated info from www.thelondongolfer.com - if all the Caesar’s Camps in England were stayed at by Caesar himself, he must have been a very busy man - “Royal Wimbledon Golf Club - .....Its gently undulating land also attracted Roman emperor Caesar to camp there on his BC foray to Britain. One of the holes - the fourth - demands a short chip-and-run over what was once an embankment of the emperor's camp.” And it conveniently ignores our history, as if we had none before the romans. rant rant.
[Second visit 14th July 2002]
I popped back here whilst wandering around the common again, after inspecting several maps as to the actual location of the ditches. The addition of a much clearer head helped me spot the single bank and ditch visible from the fenced in footpath quite easily.
Basically, as you start on the path through the golf course, you cross the defenses which go away from you at right angles on either side. Note, you may need some imagination to see this part.
Now walk about 100 metres down the path keeping an eye out either side for the defenses to circle back round to you. You'll see them as first a bank, then a ditch in the middle of the fairways on either side. And thats it.
With a bit of illegality, you can follow the path of the bank (or even ditch) most of the way round the hillfort, by trespassing onto the golf course, though of course it is illegal (and a bit dangerous).
Yet another depressing London site. This entire hillfort is covered by an exclusive golf course; bunkers, leveled off greens, hazards, the lot. The only legal public access on the hillfort is a 3 metres wide path, that goes perfectly straight across the fort running north-east to south west.
I don't doubt that this is actually a hillfort but it is very hard to distinguish on the ground exactly which earthworks are ancient. A couple of bank-ditch-bank combinations seem slightly more excessive than a normal golf course would desire, 7ft from top of bank to foot of ditch, but the extensive restructuring for a select few to play golf has destroyed this as an effective encampment.In addition to the caged walk with a 6ft wire fence either side of you for 200+ metres, you can walk around the outside of the course, the outer side of another 6ft fence.
Prehistory, but not as we like it.
On Putney Heath or Wimbledon Common there are said to have been twenty-three barrows, some of which were opened in 1786 and pottery found. They seem to have been both long and round. Some thirty years earlier others had been opened, perhaps by Stukeley. Barrows also existed near the camp and traces of hut-circles are said to have been visible about 1856. The Ridgeway is probably part of the primitive road from the ford at Kingston along the slopes on the southern side of the Thames Valley. The name and situation, like the road similarly named in Berkshire, indicate a pre-Roman track.
At the south-west corner of the Common there is a nearly circular entrenchment of about 7 acres, which Camden called 'Bensbury,' and Salmon in 1740 says was called the Rounds, and which within the last hundred years has been called Caesar's Camp. It is defended by a single bank and ditch, with a second low bank outside the ditch. It has been much damaged by a late owner.