Many visitors come to this corner of Essex to enjoy the 'great' mansion that is Audley End. Hey, even I came here on a coach trip as a kid, although the miniature railway in the grounds made the more lasting impression upon the little philistine mind back then, as far as I can recall.... it's still there. Little did I know that I'd return - some 30 years later - to see an (arguably) far more interesting edifice crowning high ground to the west.
The first thing to point out is that this substantial hillfort is set within strictly private grounds.... the 'Strictly Private' signs fronting the entrance driveway do kind of, er, make that crystal, as we say in these parts. It is also cloaked in a mantle of woodland so nothing is apparent to the passer-by. However the map shows some sort of building located within the enclosure, so I decide to go see whether the occupiers are willing to allow the Essex public access to one of our prehistoric treasures upon request. Is it really so much to ask, and what of the moral duty to celebrate, to share our mutual heritage? As it transpires, no-one is in.... hey ho..... so, having already taken a look at the impressive univallate defences upon the eastern arc on the way in, I return along the arguably more impressive western defences. As mentioned, the crest of the powerful bank is crowned, for the most part, by trees, their spindly roots inter-twinning to create complex structures that might be viewed as somewhat unsettling in any other context, perhaps recalling the imbedded arachnophobia inherent in the majority of our species? Here, however, Nature has created yet another artistic masterpiece contradicting its utilitarian roots, so to speak. Yeah, it looks 'right' and the trees are able to cling to life thanks to their own tenacity, not to mention ingenuity. Everyone's a winner, in fact.
Sunlight plays its part in any visit to an afforested hillfort.... helps to impart a vibe within the human brain which simply does not exist upon an overcast day. Highlight and shadow lends definition to the ancient defences, Ring Hill being no exception. Sadly, however, I am conscious I'm trespassing, having failed to receive permission. A sensitive soul, I guess. However I've gained enough insight into this hillfort to ascertain that it is a special place indeed. Hey, spread the word. Note that I've placed Essex HER's summary of the site as a miscellaneous post....
Back at the car I'm given the most 'evil eye' by a passing ignoramus in a pick-up truck. He receives the same in return, with interest, and thankfully doesn't press the matter further. Yeah, this macho bullshit really is so tiresome. Now whether he was connected with Ring Hill or not, I have no idea... but courtesy costs nothing, does it not? So please be aware this is not an easy site to visit access-wise. But I'm very glad I did, and that's a fact. I would be very interested if any member manages to catch the occupiers at home.
Essex HER (SMR 151) quotes the following summary of this fine hillfort (as mentioned in my fieldnotes I was very taken with the site in a 'Wallbury' sort of way. However I must reiterate that there is currently no public access to the site. Far from it):
'Oval hillfort of uncertain date but typologically it is thought to belong to the Early Iron Age. The defences, which are considerably strengthened by the lie of the ground, consist of a wide ditch with intermittent traces of an internal rampart. There are four gaps in the defences, but the original entrance cannot now be identified. The ditch varies in size, but is c.15.25m wide and 4.5m deep from the summit of the scarp and 1m from the summit of the counterscarp. The total area enclosed is about six and a half hectares and the whole site is thickly planted.'