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.