The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Oldbury Rock Shelters

Cave / Rock Shelter


The perimeter of Oldbury hillfort is so substantial... of such extreme length.... a 'hill city', in fact... that my only previous visit here, in 2008, merely focussed upon the well defined defences to the south. Yeah, 'I'm a lazy sod', a phrase once used to great ironic effect by Johnny Lydon when taunting the British establishment out of its own stupefaction. But, credit where due, a few years on I realise my mistake and reckon... at the very least... the bluebells might have made an appearance upon the ancient ramparts once again, earthworks which I understand could possibly - nay, probably - have succumbed to an assault by Caesar and his barbarian boneheads during the course of his self-aggrandizing trip across the water from Gaul. Why not try the whole two and a half-odd miles. Angry farmers permitting? Yeah, why not?

The enormous Iron Age fortress of Oldbury rises above the Kentish village of Igtham, famed - and rightly so - for its exquiste, moated Medieval manor house. Not that the informed passer by would know the former existed at all, if not for the name. Oldbury... hmm. So where's the 'fort, then? A dense encircling canopy of trees is the culpruit here, predominately oak, or so I understand.

Well, to cut a long story short - even with map and compass - I soon lose any sense of positionning upon this tremendous fortification. Yeah, I'm soon bewitched by the ancient forest, so I am. The defences are pretty upstanding for the most - as mentioned, very much so to the south - but have the tendency to go walkabout in places (or so it seems). Some may find woodland claustrophobic, but not I. Love it, the roots of trees clinging to rampart sheltering the aforementioned first bluebells of Spring, the wooden tentacles themselves the very epitome of Nature. I blunder into an orchard and notice the path continues, a couple noncholantly walking a dog.... beyond, the tree line is bordered by a mass of farm implements... not to mention council road signs. Hey, use an ancient hillfort as a storage depot, why don't you? Guess this must be the 'private' part, then? Carrying on along the edge of the hillside I encounter some rocky outcrops...... no, couldn't be? Aren't there supposed to be some cave dwellings here?

There are. And for a reason I can't really explain the experience completely blows me away. Overlooking a steep drop and accompanied by another fine tree with copious roots, I gaze into the black void and know I must brave the arachnids and venture inside. There is no choice. I must.... and, although well versed in crawling down the claustrophobic passages of Orcadian tombs, I begin to freak out within. What appear - at least to me - 'artificial' markings upon the left hand cave wall heighten the vibe, the darkness beyond showing the literal 'light at the end of the tunnel'. To my suprise - aren't caves damp and uncomfortable? - the ground is absolutely bone dry, powder dust, but the roof is perhaps just three foot high. Good for sleeping, then. Hey, much like my one man tent? These Neanderthal fellas (and lasses) had their world sussed, methinks. Although light beckons, the roof begins to contract to a point where I can't go on. No, really. Approx half way, I guess. Retreating towards the entrance I gaze out and am suddenly overwhelmed by a connection to what went before. Hey, the finds prove it. People sat here at a time beyond my comprehension... people of a different species, goddammit!.... and no doubt thought 'look at that bloody rain... and she's gonna kill me if I don't return from the hunt with something better than that bloody squirrel yesterday.... Mighty hunter... me. Ha!'

I sit at the entrance, beneath the overhanging rock protecting the fire... if there was one... eating my pre-packaged lunch... and wonder how I'd cope if I actually had to catch my own lunch. Yeah, I'm sure I could do it. Do or die. But how dare we be-little the people who've gone before. How dare we!! How dare we, indeed..... I sit here in awe, I really do. The birds sing, and perhaps only the distant road noise reminds the traveller this is actually the 21st century.... how can one experience such emotions in quaint modern day Kent, American tourists swarming below? I feel red raw with emotion. And mighty better for it, I can tell you.
16th April 2012ce
Edited 17th April 2012ce

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