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Conderton Camp (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

Conderton Camp was formerly known as Danes Camp, only changing its name in the last few decades. It certainly wasn't built by the Danes though; it dates from the middle Iron Age.

I haven't been able to find any suggestion as to why it was called Danes Camp, but it occurs to me that the site is quite close to Deerhurst, where a treaty was signed in 1016 between the Saxon King Edmund Ironside and the Danish King Cnut (which handed over most of England to the Danes). It says in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that Cnut had his army with him, so perhaps they made use of Conderton Camp and this association got entrenched in local tradition. Well, they had to sleep somewhere and this ready-made hillside camp a few miles up the road was probably as good a place as any.

The Camp was excavated in 1958-59 by Nicholas Thomas, although the report of his findings wasn't published until 2005. It's well worth a read but here is a very concise summary:

The hillfort sits on a spur on the southern side of Bredon Hill, on a sloping site. The original fort was an oval enclosure with a gateway at each end (north and south). At some point the southern rampart was drawn up the hill a short way, forming the two-part camp we see today, though it appears that the lower section was not inhabited. The hillside on the east side of the camp (outside the ramparts) shows some distinctive ridges from ancient cultivation which are thought to pre-date the fort itself. Below the southern gate is a very rich area of springs which provided a plentiful supply of water.

The northern gateway was originally built as a simple gap in the rampart, probably with timber gates set into it. At some stage it was extended with an inturned entrance (still visible today). Later still, a drystone wall was built across it, blocking it off completely. During the building of the inturned entrance, a beautifully decorated weaver's comb (carved from a cattle rib) was placed under its foundations, presumably as some kind of ritual act.

The main inhabited enclosure was found to have contained about ten circular houses, though possibly not all existing at the same time as their foundations overlapped. One of the houses was excavated and its drystone wall foundations had survived remarkably well. Enough information was gleaned from this to allow a full-size speculative reconstruction of the house (now destroyed, but there are still photos of it). The camp was quite tidily organised into two parts, with housing on the east side and lots of storage pits (about 80 or 90) on the west side.

Among the curiosities found during excavation were three sheep burials, under the foundations of houses. The skeletons were almost complete, but very jumbled, and with some small bones missing. They are thought to have been buried like this for some ritual purpose. Other than that, the main find was an iron fire-poker.

The evidence suggests that the fort was eventually abandoned and allowed to decay naturally, rather than being subject to any violent attack - which is known to have happened at the slightly later Kemerton Camp hillfort on the other side of the hill.

For full information, see "Conderton Camp: a small middle Iron Age hillfort on Bredon Hill" by Nicholas Thomas (published by the Council for British Archaeology).

Conderton Camp (Hillfort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Colwall Round Barrows (Round Barrow(s)) — Images

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British Camp (Hillfort) — Images

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Crippets Long Barrow — Images

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Crippets Long Barrow — Fieldnotes

The first time I found this barrow was entirely by accident, not even knowing it was there - a real "wowee!" moment. As I've lived in Cheltenham (about four miles away) for most of my life I couldn't believe I hadn't found it before, and made a return visit a couple of weeks later. Although it's in an open and exposed spot on the crest of the hill, the place is far enough off the beaten track that I had the place all to myself on both visits.

There are two ways to approach it by road: the most direct is the tiny little lane up past Ullenwood Court, which is single track and no fun if you meet a car coming the other way. You can park on the roadside next to the bridleway which runs past the barrow (a short walk), but doing so in February both me and the car got covered in mud. The other alternative is to walk up to it from Crickley Hill Country Park. It's a longer walk, and you have to stump up a quid for the car park, but it's a beautiful stroll. To get to it, walk northwards from the car park (i.e. the opposite direction from Crickley hillfort) through the gorgeous ancient beechwoods, and keep following the path beyond the boundary of the country park until you reach the strip of woodland called Barrow Piece. Within this wood is the gate leading into the field where Crippets barrow is impossible to miss.

The horses in the field are indeed very friendly and like to come over and check you out. On my second visit I was taking some infrared photographs which involves slow exposures and faffing around with tripods etc, and while I was busy composing a shot, a grey pony crept up behind me and began rummaging through my camera bag looking for treats. Having ascertained that I didn't have anything for him he strode forward and contemptuously smacked the underside of my lens, sending camera and tripod flying, and walked off in disgust. Most of the others were more friendly though and just wanted their ears rubbed.

The eastern end of the barrow has a distinctive shape which I thought at first was a 'horned' entrance of the type common on Cotswold barrows but it turns out to be the damage left behind by 18th century pillagers. On my first visit I didn't notice the capstone (if that's what it is) sticking out of the ground, but I found it readily enough when I was looking for it the second time. It's a fairly chunky slab but you can't see much of it as it's pretty nearly submerged in the earth.

I also missed the nearby round barrow on my first visit, but went back armed with a large-scale map and my best intuitive faculties and managed to find it. There is practically nothing left of it though, and I agree with the other reports - it's been ploughed flat and is only distinguishable by a very slight circular undulation and a slight change in the texture of the ground.

Bredon Hill — Fieldnotes

Bredon Hill ... what a strange and magical place.

For a year in 1988/89 I lived in a farm cottage on its lower slopes, right underneath Kemerton Camp. I remember lying in bed at night listening to a strange unidentified hooting creature flying very slowly over the roof. Freaked the living daylights out of me. But it was a wonderful place to live. Great place for sun worship.

The hill is covered with relics of ancient activity, including two separate forts. Kemerton Camp is the largest, occupying the highest point of the hill on the north side, and making the most of a steep natural escarpment. The short stone tower on the top, known as Parsons Folly, dates from the late 18th century and was allegedly built to bring the height of the hill up to a round 1000ft, its natural height being 960ft. The slopes below the escarpment are covered in lumps and bumps, some of which are the foundations of an ancient village and some the remains of quarrying, and it's hard to tell them apart. According to my former next-door neighbour, a local farm worker, the village of Nafford was originally located up here but was abandoned and later rebuilt further down the valley next to the River Avon. Among the bumps is the outline of a small rectangular building ... a medieval pilgrim's chapel very close to the unassuming but still rather special St Catherine's Well.

Conderton Camp, on the SE side of the hill, is much smaller and quite secluded ... possibly a peace-time settlement because it's less obviously defended and has a very different feel to the larger fort.

There's also an earthwork on the lower NE slopes of the hill just outside the village of Elmley Castle.

Slightly less ancient, but really well worth a visit, are some of the 11th and 12th century carvings in the village churches around the hill. Most spectacular is Beckford parish church, which has carvings on its chancel arch of a creature with antennae that looks like an alien. In a more mundane style the porch at Elmley Castle has a really groovy rabbit.

Brean Down (Round Barrow(s)) — Miscellaneous

Brean Down is the setting for Dion Fortune's 1938 esoteric novel The Sea Priestess.

Nottingham Hill (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

A little off the beaten track and much less visited than its neighbour Cleeve Hill, Nottingham Hill is a spur off the main Cotswold ridge a few miles outside Cheltenham.

The whole of the top of the hill is fortified, but the shape of the hill along with various field boundaries make it impossible to see the enclosure in its entirety. But there are some double banks and ditches, and no shortage of interesting things to look at. The slopes are covered with lumps and bumps from stone quarrying ... some of which are ancient and colonised by some strange and wonderful trees.

The highest point of the hill is an open field with a cairn at the top (not of any great age, but nice) and a fantastic 360° panoramic view covering the Malvern ridge, Bredon Hill, Cleeve Hill, the Cotswold ridge, various other local hills and distant Welsh mountains. Our ancestors certainly knew a good fort site when they saw one.

Nottingham Hill seems to have escaped attention in guide books and is one of Gloucestershire's better kept secrets. I'd venture to suggest there's a bit of a goddessy thing going on there. The earth is full of holes, dips and openings. The lower slopes (particularly on the N and E sides) are liberally dotted with springs, some of which are the sources of local brooks and streams. Most of the trees around the fort are elder, hazel or thorn. There's also a very strange grove of trees on the southern edge just below the fort, where almost all the trees are hollow or have holes in them, growing in the dips and hummocks left by quarrying. Some are small finger-sized holes, some cup-shaped holes with grass and violets growing in them, some large oval holes right through the tree. With gorgeous views over the Severn Valley to go with it, it's an incredibly evocative place.

The Tibblestone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

I feel very sorry for the Tibblestone. The petrol station was built in the late 1980s, and is not the most sensitive bit of planning. The stone is small and unassuming, so it's been dwarfed into insignificance by its brash neighbour. It's difficult to feel much of an atmosphere here now, especially if you're being stared at by people refuelling their cars. The busy A435 doesn't help.

It did have plenty of atmosphere when I visited it in 1988, before the petrol station. It was much more integrated with the surrounding landscape, standing very close to a five-way road junction known as Teddington Hands (which lends its name to the nearby pub).

It's a quirky little stone though, and deserves a visit from any sympathetic person who's passing.

Nottingham Hill (Hillfort) — Images

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Cleeve Cloud (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Cleeve Cloud</b>Posted by Rebsie

Nottingham Hill (Hillfort) — Images

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Based in north Gloucestershire.

I'm a graphic designer/publisher, and also a musician releasing psych-folk albums under my own name and with my experimental band Alchymical Muse. I'm also an amateur plant breeder specialising in peas and potatoes, and run a Cheltenham local history website and a blog about ancient sites and the spirit of the land called Sulis Manoeuvre. In my spare time I ... oh, there isn't any.

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