I am often amazed at the places which I discover along my routes and travels…some are worthy contenders in a top ten places to visit…and some are just fascinating to me but would hardly hold the appeal of a leaning tower of Pisa perhaps.
Recently, I have been on somewhat of a challenge to visit as many old forts and encampments in my area as possible. Some are well known, however some are neatly tucked away, overgrown by passing years and forgotten from everyday memory.
I do have a weird attraction to maps, but not necessarily in any studious form, but rather merely to gaze upon them and be held in hypnotic trance whilst osmosis would let some trivial bits of information enter my brain. I repeatedly scan over OS maps when I’m planning riding routes on the dirt trails and I’m often finding places of interest that really should be investigated further.
In fact, the other day I was looking at a particular map of an area quite close to where I live and found that there was a fort that was partially overgrown and covered from celestial prying eyes by a thick wooded area. As I knew the roads nearby were great to ride, I decided to hop on the bike and go search the area and see what I could find.
Suffice to say that only after a short ride in fantastic scenery, I came across the area which housed the fort, I parked the bike and proceeded to enter the forest on foot…in the direction my senses suggested I should go. Luckily the earthworks of the fort were soon clearly visible and the elements of the fort area were remarkable obvious too.
I had my camera with me and was making a video for the youtube cannel too, but it almost felt disrespectful to be filming whilst standing in the middle of a place that would have been a once thriving community in a strategically dominant location. All other remnants of the fort had disappeared and in its place stood towering trees with a canopy that still permitted ample light from an overcast sky to stream down onto a carpet of brown leaves.
When I eventually stopped filming, I took a moment to stand in silence and listen to the trees talk to each other, as the wind whispered a lullaby and as the leaves of the floor yelled out in pain beneath my feet. Isn’t it noisy in the woods when you’re trying to be quiet?
As I walked around the fort boundary, I began to imagine what life would have been like and whom might have lived here…and whom would have visited. This was an Iron Age fort and reputedly there had stood a castle in the past too…but there was no evidence to support such a claim now.
Over two thousand years later and you still get the sense that this fort was the centre of the universe for some of its people. Perhaps people of rank or nobility had walked where I walked, perhaps a king or a queen of the land had built their castle here. People were born, raised, thrived…survived and died here…but now all that remains are mounds or earth and trees to mask them from view.
Forts hold much interest for me because there is often little that is tangible at the site that is a direct link to the past. Of course there are historical facts that you can latch onto but merely standing in an area that had such significance for local people thousands of years ago…is the real gem here. It is less about history, geography and geology…but more about a feeling of knowing that many people have been there and have stood where you stand. It is a catalyst to let your imagination run wild whilst enjoying some amazing views too.
There will be more Biker’s Travelogs on the YouTube channel: RevelatorAlf coming soon but in the meantime check out this video below of the ride and exploration of the Wyfold Hillfort in Oxfordshire UK.