Wallbury? To be honest I don't know where to begin trying to describe a visit to this frankly overwhelming Iron Age behemoth... an audience made all the more awe inspiring since the mighty bi-vallate ramparts are entirely hidden from the casual glance of passers-by within thick woodland. Not to mention being 'out of bounds' to the general public, 'courtesy' of the site's occupation by a private estate, Wallbury Dells. In short, the sheer scale of what is to be found here, in this sleepy corner of Essex, leaves me gobsmacked... and that's a fact. Yeah, Essex. Who'd have thought we'd possess an Iron Age enclosure to challenge the nation's best? Oh, sorry. Forgot. We, the people of Essex, don't even have access to surely the finest example of our ancient heritage .....
For better or worse, I'm no militant activist and have an aversion to blatantly disregarding 'Private' signs, such as to be found at the entrance to the modern driveway at Wallbury. Guess it's how I was brought up. I therefore park near Lock Cottage and make my way northwards along the public towpath beside the River Stort, the water - and accompanying marsh - greatly enhancing the natural defences to the west of the hillfort. Approaching a footbridge a path heads uphill to the right (eastwards), glimpses of rampart materialising through foliage, also to my right. I knock at the door of the adjacent house and receive no answer...damn! Deciding it'd be rude not to have a quick look whilst I'm here, I promptly freak out at the sheer size of the aforementioned bi-vallate ramparts on view. The outer defence is powerful enough, the inner bank towering in excess of 4m, the outer face rising nearly vertical from the ditch bottom.... still, after some two millennia.
Intrigued, I follow the circumference clock-wise, the defences much more heavily overgrown here, passing what Dyer believes to be the original entrance before reaching the modern driveway. I retrace my steps and return to riverside to see if I can find a way through the marsh and vegetation. With the assistance of a fallen tree, I can... just... although the steepness of ascent emphasises what folly an assault from this direction would have represented back 'then'. The western arc of the enclosure thus has no need of the impressive artifical defences found elsewhere. Nature already had that sussed, me-thinks, subject to a little scarping here and there, no doubt.
So, just the southern arc to have a look at, then. This can currently be accessed from the minor road (Dell Lane) with little difficulty and consists of a continuation of the powerful bi-vallate defences encountered earlier, albeit much overgrown. Sunlight filters through the canopy throwing shadows across the inner ditch, these subsequently convoluted in contact with the soaring, earthern banks of this ancient fortress. The effect is dynamic, hypnotic even, the action of light creating an ethereal parallel world which, for me, provides a most fitting analogy for Wallbury. I step back out into the sunlight and Wallbury is seemingly gone, as if hidden once again behind the mists of time.
In my opinion it deserves to be celebrated, treasured.... not kept locked away from the public gaze like some impressionist masterpiece in the private collection of a disturbed billionnaire. But then perhaps that's just me?
This is my local hillfort, but it is almost impossible to get a decent photograph of it! Situated on a spur overlooking the River Stort, two banks and ditches enclose 12.5 hectares. The ramparts are still over two metres high, but absent where the steep drop to the waterlogged land by the river is a natural defence and still impassable. The fort is huge and must have been a very important defence of the Trinovantes as the territory of the Catuvellauni began across the river.
In private hands as a residential property called "Wallbury Dells", access is limited.