Malvern Hills Challenge – 3: British Camp
Its been some weeks since I posted an update on my challenge to climb all the hills that make up the Malvern Hills. Life has been incredibly demanding and tiring recently with the retirement of my boss of 15 years and a range of meetings one on top of the other at the end of the academic year. But today some pressure was lifted and my personal future is a little clearer and I feel a sense of contentment returning. But I needed some air, some space and so finally I managed to find time and energy to climb hill number 3
My youngest son also felt in need of some fresh air and exercise so we decided to cross one of the higher hills off my list – British Camp. Whilst it is one of the highest in the range, you actually park very near the top so apart from these steep stairs not far from the car park, the climb isn’t that challenging and takes no time at all. You can understand why it is one of the most popular peaks in the chain.
I realised that so far my walks have been in the evening and they have benefited from the wonderful evening light on the top of the hills.
British Camp is also known as the Herefordshire Beacon – the Worcestershire Beacon is at the other end of the chain and is where we enjoyed a wonderful evening during the diamond jubilee and is the summit in the middle of the photograph below.
The reason the hill is called British Camp is because it is the site of a 2000 year old Iron Age fort and you can start to see the ramparts as you come close to the summit.
Archaeological digs on the adjacent Midsummer Hill have led the experts to think that this was not just a defensive site but a settlement for around 4000 people for a period of 400-500 years. With the coming of the Romans the site was abandoned although the Romans gave the hills one of its legends. Apparently the Ancient British chieftain Caractacus made his last stand at British Camp but there are some that dispute this legend since the historian Tacitus’s record of Caractacus’s capture states :
Caracticus played his final card and chose a site for a battle so that the approaches, the escape routes, everything, was awkward for us and to his sides advantage. On one side there were steep hills. Where ever approaches were gentle he piled boulders into a sort of rampart. In front of him flowed a river of doubtful fordability and squadrons of armed men were in position on the defences.
For those who know the area it is hard to imagine that the River Severn would have ever reached the foot of the Hills and even the argument that it might have changed its course is tenuous but it is a nice story. The legend also says that Claudius was so impressed with Caractacus when he appeared in Rome that he gave him his own villa.
Later there was a Norman motte fortification at the top of British Camp and if you look along the ridge line you will see the Shire Ditch which runs along the hills from North to South
British Camp also benefits from having the Malvern Hills Hotel adjacent to its main car park. A great pub with great food which is always popular.
So that’s Hill 3 ticked off the list, not sure which one I will do next.