Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saving The Best Until Last - Part One

The final day of my stay in Dorset started early again as I headed off to fulfil one of the ambitions mentioned in Winter Dreaming - the only one I've managed so far I'm afraid! I arrived to find the car park empty and the sun shining. Needless to say the photo above is not one I've taken myself but an aerial photo is the only way you can really see what Maiden Castle looks like. I came up the little white track on the right of the photo and entered on the western side then walked all round the perimeter. The 'War Cemetery' that I mention later in this post lies directly opposite on the eastern side. I know it looks as though I don't know east from west but it's just that the photo is taken from the northern side:) Clicking on all the photos to enlarge them will make it much easier to see detail.

Maiden Castle is yet another of the many Iron Age hillforts in Dorset and it commands spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. The walk round the perimeter is about 2 miles and, as with Hambledon Hill, I had it entirely to myself most of the way. It was a marvellous experience, wonderful scenery, 6000 years of history around me and the constant sound of skylarks singing overhead, not just one or two but dozens of them.

English Heritage, who own the site, do an excellent job with their information boards, there are just a small number of them and they are dicreetly placed and very informative. This one gives an impression of life here as it would have been 2000 years ago.

I love this photo which shows the ramparts beautifully, these were built 2000 years ago and, as at Hambledon Hill, the only tools that were used were antler picks, wooden spades and shovels made from animal shoulder blades.

This is the information board which describes the 'War Cemetery' better than I can. There is little to see now apart from a large hollow, I scrambled down the bank from the fort to look at the actual site...

...but this is all that there is to be seen as I stand in the area where the burials were found and look up to the eastern entrance to the hillfort. This definitely needs enlarging to make any sense.

This newly shorn and beautifully clean sheep came to see what I was up to in her territory.

This is all that remains of the Romano-British temple that was built on Maiden Castle built in the late 4th century AD.

The information board gives an artist's impression of how the temple would have looked. I find the various artist's impressions on these boards very helpful, even though I know a certain amount about Roman temples it's still hard to visualize one from an outline of stones in the ground.

It's really difficult to give a real impression of the height of these ramparts, I thought the pathway and the line of steps leading down the opposite embankment might help to give an idea of just how massive these earthworks are.

Just to the side of the hillfort is this Bronze Age round barrow, it has stood in this place for about three and a half thousand years respected by each passing culture through the centuries. After a very enjoyable couple of hours I made my way back to the car park meeting hordes of people on their way up, the car park was absolutely full by this time and I was, once again, glad that I'd made the effort to get there early. My next destination was Stinsford church where Thomas Hardy's heart is buried but this will be in Part Two.


Ali said...

Dorset is my favourite part of England. We stay in the Weymouth/Portland area when we're there.

Ali aka Merry Sage

solsticedreamer~laoi gaul~williams said...

oh yes! this made me smile and brought back the memories of the many, many walks i had here.thank you!

Piecefulafternoon said...

Absolutly lovely trek - thanks for sharing.

Sal said...

It's an amazing place!
As Nich was studying archaeology at the time,we did the same visit about three years a few other hill forts too .
We also have an iron age hill fort near us,not on that same scale but nevertheless a fascinating place to visit.
But Maiden Castle has to be my favourite and you're is difficult to get a really good photo!

Roy said...

Another very interesting account Rowan. Its one place I must get around to visiting one day. I have been so close to it hundreds of times and not stopped.

Bovey Belle said...

You really DID go to all my favourite haunts and are indeed leaving the very best until last! When I was pregnant with, and with Tam as a baby, I worked for the Prince's Trust for two summers running, doing the secretarial side of things for their summer camps for disadvantaged young people. They were involved in building revetments to repair erosion damage on Maiden Castle. I got to meet Prince Charles when he and Diana visited Maiden Castle, so these pics bring back very vivid memories for me.

I don't know if you got to visit Dorchester Museum (well worth it) but the body with the ballista buried in his spine is on display there.

Diane said...

So interesting, and really lovely photographs. xx

FireLight said...

Rowan, this was so interesting. I am going to check my journal to determine if this is the same earthen fort where we had a group picture made when I was in the seminar to study Hardy & Eliot. I know it was not far from Dorchester. We definitely went to the church at Stinsford.
Your photgraphs are always so very clear and detailed. I have learned to enlarge all of them whenever I go on tour with you1 Thank you!

Wanda said...

Rowan I love your see your country's ancient history in it's pesent day form through your eyes...makes everything so real...just seeing the green country side is a pleasure...Thank you.

Derrick said...

Hello Rowan,

A bit late joining the tour but enjoyable nevertheless! Your penultimate photo does give a good idea of scale. Can't imagine the backbreaking hours of work involved in digging these earthworks!

Petra said...

what an interesting place. I read all the information boards and right in the first one my attention was caught by similarity between the names of "Dorset" and "Dorchester". I guess there is no rule, just coincidence but it sounds good.
By the way, I like so much the countryside in the second picture above (bellow the aerial photo), it is typical English, isn't it?

Val said...

One of my favourite visits was a specially arranged night time trip with some friends from our village. Our guide, dressed up as a Centurion, and as dusk fell we climbed the ramparts and he regaled us with stories from over the years about the place and the battles there. Magic.