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

Ambresbury Banks

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork


A few too many Saturday afternoons 'doing not an awful lot' prompted this visit, to be honest.... funny how I'm prepared to travel the length of Britain to see the Tursachan, for example, yet can't be arsed to drive half an hour or so to a site in Essex. 'Better late than never' would be a major understatement, since I would cite this enclosure as being a quality site in every respect.

Always the innovative trend setter, my 1:50 OS map is so old it doesn't even show the M25 - due for completion Summer 1983, apparently; nevertheless I manage to locate the B1393, which bisects north-eastern Epping Forest, with relative ease. Why, there's even a roadside layby for parking... although watch your car nether regions, since it's pretty rough. For Essex, anyway. The road is also very busy....

The hillfort, or more accurately 'plateau fort', is just a little way from roadside and therefore not the quietest of prehistoric sites you will ever visit. Having said that, note that Ambresbury Banks is believed to have been used as a protective livestock enclosure, so will presumably have been much louder in it's heyday. Livestock enclosure.... bit of a swizz? Yeah, that's what I thought... but if you stop and consider that animals (i.e. the ability to feed others, henceforth your dependants) are generally equated to power in Iron Age Britain, then it becomes clear that here we have a prehistoric structure of major significance. Not to mention defensive capability.

It is also beautiful, particularly on a day like today with sunlight slanting diagonally through the woodland canopy, trees throwing incredible shadows across the forest floor to furnish abstract definition to the very real bank and ditch. The exquisite interplay of highlight and shade, perhaps prompting a fleeting resurrection of long buried, instinctive memories recalling a time when such environments were our world and woodland spirits were a very real proposition. The univallate rampart is relatively impressive, too, at up to 2m in height in places, although what I take to be a droveway at the south-west corner apparently dates to the Middle Ages. Huh! Only yesterday, then. To the south-east the defences are a little less defined as the landscape slopes down to a very busy bridleway through the forest. Runners, walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders... you name it... even large parties of ramblers dressed head to toe in the latest extreme summit gear. However none, no-one, not one person ventures onto the ramparts in the three hours I'm on site. In fact my only visitors are a stag and his harem, the former clearly 'up for it' in true Essex style. No, you're alright, pal. I've just got myself out of a Saturday rut. Don't fancy another.

The information board reckons it's unlikely Boudicca met her end here, despite the legends. To be honest I'm glad. Ambresbury is the epitome of life today. Not death.
18th April 2011ce
Edited 18th April 2011ce

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