After my last failed visit it is nice to report success!
Directions: Take the sea front road past the new pier and head north towards the old derelict pier. When you get to the pier take the road opposite and head uphill until you reach St Joseph's Catholic Church – park here. Facing the church, walk down the dead end to your left. When you get to the end you will see an old, faded sign pointing you to 'the old British encampment'. 173 steps later and you are there!
The steps take you onto a very pleasant woodland walk, high above Weston - Super -Mare. The west, north and south sides of the Hillfort are defended by sheer drops – no wonder I couldn't get here last time from the west!
The east end of the Hillfort is where the entrance would have been and this is where the defences can still be found – and very impressive they are.
As you walk east through the trees you will notice lots of stones scattered all about. The other thing I noticed was several large 'pit like' holes either side of the path. These seemed to be stone lined – something to do with the Hillfort?
As you come out of the trees you come across the remains of the three ramparts / ditches. The ramparts consist of the substantial remains of collapsed stone walls.
The outer rampart is about 2 metres high, the middle one about 2.5 metres high and the inner defence 3 metres high. These must have been impressive in their heyday.
I would highly recommend a visit as it is a lovely woodland walk although there wasn't much of a view due to the trees. You also need to be fairly mobile to climb all those steps! I am glad I finally accessed this site.
I tried to visit this site last summer but failed! After a couple of hours on the beach I persuaded the rest of the folks that a small detour was in order! I approached the site from the west near the disused pier. After finding a suitable parking spot (not easy on the narrow busy road) I made my way through the undergrowth, up the very steep embankment. The soil underfoot was very loose and I had to pull myself up by hanging onto trees. As I approached the top I was confronted by a vertical cliff face of rock. I suppose it may have been possible to climb but I decided it was too dangerous and made my way back to the car. On my way down I noticed the sign which warned people not to enter the area as it was dangerous! I would recommend a visit from the east, although when I drove past I couldn't see any obvious access points past the rows of houses.
Knightstone was a few years ago a solitary rock extending into Weston bay, and an island at high water, but joined the land at its retreat by a bank of loose pebbles thrown up by the sea... It is said to have derived its name from having been the burial place of a Roman knight, who probably had been stationed, either at the settlement at Uphill, or at the camp above, on the summit of Worle hill. The tradition is in some measure confirmed, by some human bones of a gigantic size having been discovered, when the rocks were blown up, preparatory to the present buildings. The author has examined some of these bones, which are in the possession of a gentleman of Bristol, who carried them from the island, and can vouch for their gigantic dimensions.
From 'Delineations of the North-West Division of the County of Somerset' by John Rutter (1829).
In Notes and Queries (I. ix. 536) I find, "On the highest mound of the hill over Weston-super-Mare, is a heap of stones to which every fisherman in his daily walk to Sand Bay, Kewstoke, contributes one towards his day's good fishing."
The same superstition is mentioned by Mr. Jackson in his "Visitor's Handbook to Weston": he gives the name of the mound as Peak Winnard.
On asking an old inhabitant of Worle if he knew the custom referred to, he replied that many a time he had thrown his stone upon the heap on his way from Worle down to the fishery at Birn-beck. Every one, he said, threw a stone, saying as he did so, "Pickwinna," (or rather) "Peek weena,
Send me a deesh of feesh for my deener."
Alas! the sprats have now forsaken Weston Bay and the sprat fishery seems likely to become a thing of the past. Had my old informant been alive he would, I doubt not, have ascribed their departure to the neglect of the due observance of Pickwinna.
From a letter by W F Rose in Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, v III, 1893.
At the base of Worlebury hill, just north of the pier, is Spring Cove. The hillside hid a mysterious cave that was only accessible at low tides, and inside lay the Dripping Well: "a solemn place, high vaulted, with water pure and cold dripping from the roof into a crystal pool." The water was believed to be medicinal, and as is so often the case, was especially good for the eyes.
A tunnel was believed to run from the well up inside the cliff to the hillfort.
Regrettably a landslide destroyed the cave (or at least access to it) in 1861 but clear water still drips from the cliffs here. (this doesn't really agree with the info below, incidentally. Maybe it was still used. RT's information implies the well was inundated by the tide every day, but in between gave good fresh water).
Info from Paul Quinn's 'Holy Wells of the Bath and Bristol Region' (1999).
Interestingly, this seems to connect with folklore connected with the cairn: An old inhabitant of Weston told Ruth Tongue in the 1920s that the spring would always give 'fresh sweet water' as long as the fishermen threw back the first of their catch. "You look after they and they'll see you don't come to want."
The stone ramparts of this wooded hillfort are still up to 10ft high? There are also dewponds known locally as 'fairies' wells', and Apparently there have been regular sightings of the little beggars themselves over the years. In 1938 L E Meyer wrote (in 'West Mendip Fragments') about a sighting which took place in a coppiced area on the northern slopes. (info from Bord's 'Fairy Sites')
Perhaps the following story refers to somewhere on Worlebury hill too (in 'Somerset Folklore' by Ruth Tongue, 1965):
At Worle, when the fishermen go down to the sea, they each put a white stone on the cairn or 'fairy mound' on the hillside and say: "Ina pic winna / Send me a good dinner." And more times than not they come [back] with a load of fish.
This was told her by a Weston-super-Mare fisherman (who presumably wasn't just taking the mickey out of people from Worle)
Apparently the cairn of stones on the highest point of the hill was called 'Pickwinner or Pickwynnard' which goes to 'explain' the first line of the rhyme (perhaps) - Rev. HG Tomkins noted in 1876 that the cairn 'is nearly taken away'. He was writing in v3 of the Bath Field Club journal, and also includes much info on the skeletons found there, ramparts etc with diagrams. He also mentions St Kews Steps which lead from Kewstoke to the crown of the hill.
It may be of no relevance at all, but King "Ina" was king of Wessex in Saxon times, founded the city of Wells, and apparently lies buried in the cathedral there. Might just be a coincidence of sounds of course.
There was a magazine called 'Picwinnard' in the 1970s, which according to Jeremy Harte's 'Alternative approaches to folklore' bibliography, mentioned local folklore of 'secret tunnels' at Worlebury.
The fort was described by Collinson in his 'History of Somerset' in 1791. It was known as Caesar's Camp.
Barry Cunliffe, in 'Danebury' (1986), explains how excavations at the site really kicked off interest in hill forts. In 1851 a group of local enthusiasts led by the Reverend Francis Warre began..
..what can fairly be regarded as the first serious exploration of a British hill fort, excavating an impressive total of 93 pits and finding for their pains a miscellaneous collection of domestic debris.
The details of this work, together with the results of further excavations on the defences, were brought together by C W Dymond and published in 1886 in a substantial volume devoted solely to Worlbury [sic].
The early work at Worlbury became widely known among antiquarians and inspired others to explore their local forts.