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Latest news!

We now have two new conservation management plans for the Herefordshire Beacon and Midsummer Hill. Read the background to the work and the plans themselves here:

Working towards Hillfort Management Plans

Herefordshire Beacon CMP

Midsummer Hill CMP

Archaeology

British Camp or the Herefordshire Beacon

In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it may seem strange that the most visible landmark within the region, and that, which attracts the greatest number of visitors, is the least natural. British Camp has not been excavated in modern times and knowledge of its function and use can only be surmised from excavations, which have taken place on similar sites in the locality such as Midsummer Hill. (This is the one hill in the range not owned by the Conservators, having been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1923.)

Extensive excavation work was undertaken on the site in 1965 - 1970 under the direction of Dr. S. C. Stanford. first two during the Iron Age, the third, and much smaller one, known as the Citadel, probably being Norman. The term "camp" is somewhat misleading as the earlier 7 acre (3 hectare) enclosure could have been the permanent home of 500 -700 people, while the subsequent 32 acre (13 hectare) one could have housed up to three times as many. It is these Iron Age ramparts which form the landmark we see today, the later construction being no more than a simple motte. At first this may seem very unlikely as one very important necessity is missing - the camp has no internal water supply. This would present no great problem if the main purpose of the camp was to provide a relatively secure place to live. The only difficulty would have arisen if the inhabitants needed to withstand a prolonged siege.


The Shire Ditch or Red Earl's Dyke

The Shire Ditch or Red Earl's DykeFrom north of the Wyche Cutting to south of Midsummer Hill the Shire Ditch is in part clearly defined as a man-made ditch and bank, and in other places it is less clear. It is an ancient property boundary and still divides the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire for much of its length. Disputes between neighbours are nothing new, but seldom does the evidence remain over 700 years after the event. Gilbert de Clare (Earl of Gloucester) had extensive ownership and hunting rights on the eastern side of the Hills. In trying to extend these to the West he was thwarted by Thomas de Cantiloupe, Bishop of Hereford and in that capacity owner of much of the western side. In 1287, Gilbert de Clare finally acknowledged defeat, having the dyke constructed to prevent his loss of deer becoming the bishop's gain. A further ditch, to the North of the Wyche Cutting, almost certainly dates from the same period, following a dispute between Gilbert de Clare and William Ie Poer, lord of the manor of Farley.

 

 


Pillow Mound

Pillow MoundTo the South East of British Camp, near Broad Down and Clutters Cave, lies a much more humble Scheduled Ancient Monument whose origin and purpose is unknown, although it was possibly a rabbit warren dating from the medieval period. It is described by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments as being approximately 28 yards by 8 yards, with traces of a ditch at the ends and on the lower side. It has an average height of 3.5 feet above the soil on the lower side.

 

 

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