It was a wet, windy weekend and Storm Callum was blowing across England. What better day, then, to set off into the woods of Devon to see an abandoned iron-age fort with a three-year-old and two dogs. The aim for today was Hembury Hill Fort, nestled in a wooded area on the way to Dartmoor. I came across it only through using my National Trust app, which reveals not only manor houses but also interested walks all across the country.
It was a tough walk, mostly with it being up-hill after optimistically following a sign that directed us. On finally reaching the top – at which point my daughter was feeling proud at having traversed “the mountain” – we then made our way into the ‘castle’. Only, nothing of a castle remains today. The inside is covered in grass, trees and bushes. This itself isn’t too surprising, considering that Hembury Hill Fort’s history stretches back two thousand years. However, a couple of features do remain: the motte earthworks that stretch around the fort. This is noticeable when looking at the map from above, and also when on the ground. We spent ten minutes simply following the motte in one direction.
It is hard to find any of the fort’s history (again, not surprising, considering it had not been in operation for many centuries). The one legend that does appear is connected to the Dark Ages, at a time when the Danes were taking the territory of the Anglo-Saxons. A Danish army supposedly held the fort and exerted their power in the local vicinity; a group of women allowed themselves to be taken by the invaders back to the fort. The legend concludes by stating that at night, once the Danes were in a drunken stupor, the women gathered together and killed the men, thereby providing the fort to the natives once more.
Hembury Hill Fort was an interesting visit, especially on a windy weekend. I look forward to next spring in returning to the location to again walk in the motte and to take in more of the wooded walk. Hopefully by then I will have discovered more of the hidden history of the location, especially regarding the massacre from the women of Devon during the time of the Danish invasions.