I was up at the hill fort only recently. It’s still so lovely up there but obviously, since the trees are now without their leaves, it is possible to see the Ely Link Road. And, surprise surprise, you can see the solar farm... continues...
Due to family commitments it was not possible to get away this weekend for a spot of ‘old stoning’ so a local re-visit was in order.
Although I have visited this Hillfort a couple of times previously I was keen to have another visit after watching the recent Time team episode filmed there.
I was hoping to see where they had put the trenches in.
Dafydd was out with his sister so this was a rare opportunity for a trip out with just Sophie – who duly obliged by falling asleep in the car! This resulted in a rather problematic scramble up the steep hillside mention in my previous fieldnotes whilst trying to carry a sleeping 2 year old! Somehow I managed to get to the top but it wasn’t long before the cold biting wind woke Sophie up – she was not impressed!
We walked up and over the medieval ditches and past the ruined church – still overgrown and showing the signs of recent visits from the locals – empty vodka bottles etc.
We soon arrived at the field behind the church with is the centre of the Hillfort – today occupied by 5 horses – which Sophie insisted in calling cows and shouting ‘moo’ to them! Needless to say the horses ignored us.
We climbed over the fence and walked around the perimeter of the Hillfort.
It was very muddy and I wished I had worn the wellies I had left in the car.
There was little left to see in terms of defences although there were the remains of a rampart in places – approx 1m high. This is one of those Hillforts where they must have relied heavily on the steepness of the sides to act as the main deterrent.
At the far (western) end of the field appeared to be the original entrance to the site which had banks still standing around 2m in height. However, I couldn’t investigate any further as the ‘entrance’ was more like a swamp with standing water at least 1ft deep. Again, I wished I had worn my wellies.
Looking around the field I could see no trace of the Time Team trenches. Either they were backfilled very carefully or the trenches were the other side of the ‘entrance’? The only thing I could make out were two very faint curving ‘ditches’ crossing the site. I have no idea if these are prehistoric or not or even if they are natural? The whole site is surrounded by trees and bushes.
By now it was getting very cold and Sophie was getting very restless. It had also started to rain. We headed back across the site, past the church and back down the hill – which was even harder than trying to get up it. We slipped and slithered down and I managed to pull a muscle in my arm as I grabbed onto a branch to avoid falling – which Sophie found amusing!
By the time we got back to the car we were muddy, cold and wet – I was also in a lot of pain.
After two weeks on paternity leave (and all that entails!) I had an hour or two 'window of opportunity' to get out of the house and stretch the legs. I therefore decided to make the short 7 mile trip to re-visit my nearest Hillfort. Just as well I chose that day to visit as the following day I awoke to nearly a foot of snow! There has been a few letters recently in the local paper by campaigners trying to stop development of the area around the Hillfort – more power to them!
This Hillfort is easy enough to access but finding it in the first place is a bit tricky.
If you are travelling north east off the Culverhouse Cross roundabout into central Cardiff you will see a sign to the right for the Ely Distribution Centre (there is no sign coming the other way). Turn right and keep an eye out on your right for the turning into Church Road. Once on Church Road look out for a Post Office and Greenmont GP surgery on your left. Just a bit further on you will see a rather run down children's play area on your right, on a slope above the road – park here.
Follow the tarmac path which runs up past the play area and up to the trees. You will then see a car bonnet nailed to a tree with a sign on it which states 'Private – no bikers, metal detectors or guns' – I kid you not! All you then need to do is follow the short but steep muddy path up through the trees and you soon arrive at the ramparts of the Hillfort.
There are surprisingly decent views from the top and a rather sad, derelict church ruins. The graveyard is completely overgrown and much neglected – great shame.
Around the northern side of the Hillfort is a double ditch/rampart with a smaller central enclosure with banks approximately 2 metres high in places.
The sky by now was grey and brooding and starting to rain so I cut my visit short and headed home. After all, I did promise Karen I wouldn't be out too long as I am sure she could do with some help with Dafydd and now little Sophie.
When I visited this site I spent a lot of time trying to find it. I would suggest you first look for the children's park with swings etc. (close to the road) Behind the park you will see a grassed area, with trees behind - that is where the hillfort is. When you get to the trees there is (was) a fence which has been pulled down with a large sign stating no motorbikes or guns!! If you are feeling brave go through the fence and start the short but steep climb through the trees and up the bank into the hillfort. The banks / ditches are pretty well preserved and there is the added bonus of a cracking view over Cardiff to be had!!
This bivallate Iron Age hillfort has a ruined church inside, built in the late 1200s (though perhaps there was one there even earlier). There was said to have been a 2000 year old yew tree, but this was burnt down in the 1930s. Isn't that the kind of age people always say about yew trees? but it would be interesting if true. The church has been vandalised in the past but some people set up a group to protect the building and the fort, when they were threatened with housing development in the mid 1990s. Their website is here: http://www.stmaryscaerau.org/