After a rather up and down walk along the face of the escarpment, it’s something of a relief to reach the trees that mark the promontory fort, where I'm greeted by the rat-a-tat of a woodpecker looking for lunch. The Cotswold Way enters the wood at the single rampart, which is at its most impressive at this northern end. It has been damaged by quarrying; there’s a big pit across the path outside the camp. Aside from this feature, there is little visible to indicate the presence of Iron Age occupation. The interior is covered in trees, albeit a light deciduous wood that allows plenty of visibility through the site.
The ground falls away very steeply on the north and south sides – my path runs to the end of the promontory and then back along the opposite side. Reaching the southern end of the rampart, there is hardly anything left of the earthwork here. It’s a pleasant spot on a sunny day, but don’t expect to be blown away by the visible remains.
Visited 29.3.2009, approaching from Great Witcombe to the SW.
A small promontory encampment, coming to a point at the western end before dropping sharply off the Cotswold edge. The enclosure is covered in trees, so the interior is obscured and the views across to the Malverns are obstructed.
The rampart at the eastern end is low and, at its southern end, almost imperceptible.
"Black dogs are scattered fairly widely over the Cotswolds and are of different kinds; some of them are human ghosts, some of them doggy and some are evil spirits. One on Birdlip Hill is a helpful spirit who guides lost travellers. Ruth Tongue however heard of another visitant on Birdlip Hill, the Devil. She heard the following tale from a groom in Cheltenham in 1926:
'There was a shepherd above Birdlip Hill, and there was Old Nick on the road to catch travellers. The shepherd wanted a potion for a sick ewe from the farm below.
He went afoot - horses and carts never went that road. Horses don't care for devils. So Old Nick was glad to see him pass. 'I'll have him on the way back' says he.
The shepherd had a black jack there and his drinking-horn filled to cheer him on the long uphill road, and he wrapped up the sheep's medecine which smelt nasty and hot, and started off. Up he goes and up till he comes to the turn near Black Dog's Lane.
He'd a notion that Old Nick might be about there, so before he passes it he has a swig of ale from the horn to hearten himself, and pours back in some of the sheep's tonic, well-boiled.
Then he goes on up.
Out comes Old Nick and grabs him. 'Ale!' says he. 'Good brown ale.'
'Spiced for you, sir, special,' says the shepherd civilly, handing the horn, and taking to his heels.
Old Nick was in such a hurry to catch him that he gulped the drink down first, and then it - the sheep tonic - caught him. They heard him roar right away in Cheltenham.
He never goes near Birdlip Hill now!'"
From "The Folklore of the Cotswolds" - Katharine M. Briggs (1974 Batsford).
A Neolithic promontory enclosure comprising a projecting spur of Birdlip Hill with two curving concentric earthworks cutting across the axis of the promontory. The site was surveyed by RCHME in 1996 as part of the Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic Project. Quarrying has lowered the tip of the promontory and eroded the north and south sides; the east area is intact. The promontory is cut off by two earthworks across the spur, about 90 metres apart, with vestigial banks which appear virtually continuous. The outer would originally have enclosed an area of more than a hectare. The inner earthwork consists of a bank; the outer, 55 metres to the south east, is a bank with slight external ditch. The area narrows in width from 95 metres at the south eastern end to 15 metres on the northwest. Excavations were undertaken by T Darvill (who referred to the site as Peak Camp) in 1980-1, comprising a trench across the outer earthwork and a small trench towards the western end of the promontory. The outer earthwork comprised a single rock-cut ditch with an internal bank of limestone rubble. The ditch featured at least one causeway, and had seen at least four phases of recutting. Finds included flints, animal bones, and pottery. The second trench revealed a ditch or gulley, which contained further Neolithic pottery, flints and a quantity of bone. The lithic material included leaf-shaped arrowheads and a flake from a polished axe. Research into the dating of Early Neolithic enclosures indicates a construction date for the outer circuit of probably of 3655-3540 cal BC. The enclosure at Peak Camp may have been used into the 33rd century cal BC, although this late date is dependent on a single measurement. The research also highlighted the relationship with the Crickley Hill enclosure nearby, suggesting they were probably built within a generation of each other and were in concurrent use, at least until the destruction of Crickley in the mid-35th century cal BC.