I couldn't resist taking a look at this Hillfort after visiting the nearby Bones Caves.
Parking is difficult along the busy A368 although we did manage to pull over in front of a wooden gate which was padlocked. A sign on a tree stated 'Private – No Access'.
(The O/S map shows there is no public right of access to the Hillfort)
If you are the sort to ignore such signs (hypothetically speaking of course!) this is what you will find:
Up and over the gate and head straight up the steep side of the hill. The whole side of the hill is covered in trees / bushes / brambles etc. It is certainly tough going. When you get near the top of the hill there is evidence of tumbled stone walls – I do not know if these are the remains of stone ramparts or some later building? There is then a levelled area of about 20 metres before more tumbled stones can be seen.
You then come to the largely eroded ditch with its inner rampart – standing about 2 metres high from the bottom of the ditch. Through more trees and you come to another wooden field gate leading to the centre of the Hillfort. This consists of a large grassed area which is conical not flat – no crops or animals in evidence. (I have no idea why this gate is here as it doesn't lead anywhere!)
Due to the fact that I wasn't supposed to be here in the first place and more importantly, I had left Karen and the children in the car which was rather dodgy parked on the verge near a bend, I didn't want to hang around and explore any further. I therefore can't comment on how well preserved (or not) the rest of the Hillfort is.
I slip/slided down the hill and was soon back at the car.
There wasn't a lot to see in all honesty although those tumbled stone walls were certainly interesting. I didn't see any sign of a cross cut into the bedrock.
The cross on Banwell Hill apparently stands 2ft proud of the ground's surface, with compass-bearing pointing arms four feet broad. The local explanation is that people tried to raise a cross on the hill, but the Devil repeatedly blew it down by raising huge gales every night. Eventually they figured out the solution - to build one on the floor (this is mentioned by Ruth Tongue in her 'Somerset Folklore' 1965).
You can read more about the cross in an extract from "The Birthplace of St. Patrick in Somerset"
by Harry Jelley, at Vortigern Studies. http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artgue/guestjelley.htm
.. which, as you can tell, also expounds the theory that Banwell is where St Patrick was born. The plot thickens.
Other explanations have the construction as a warren (dismissed due to the effort digging out the bedrock) or a windmill base (but it would be a very big windmill with 20m arms of the cross).