Hills - British Camp
more than 2000 years of history tied up with the Malvern Hills,
but did an Ancient British chieftain really make his last stand
visitors to the Malvern Hills will make a trip to British Camp
- the Iron Age hill fort that dominates the Herefordshire Beacon.
The 2000 year old ramparts are still clearly visible today,
making the hill look a little like a giant layered wedding cake.
Originally it was thought to have been a purely defensive feature
which people retreated to in time of trouble.
Now excavations at the nearby fort on Midsummer Hill suggest
that they were occupied permanently.
If this is true it was probably home to 4,000 people, and was
occupied for between four and five hundred years.
What did the Romans ever do for us?
The coming of the Romans meant the end of hill forts, but the
start of one of the great Malvern legends.
Popular folklore has it that the Ancient British chieftain Caractacus
made his last stand at British Camp.
The legend says that he was captured after a heroic fight and
transported to Rome, where he so impressed the Emperor Claudius
that he was given a villa and a pension.
Unfortunately, like many legends, it's unlikely to be true.
Caractacus was captured by the Romans, but if the account of
his final battle by the Roman historian Tacitus is accurate
then it's unlikely to have taken place at British camp.
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.
Even given the River Severn's habit of flooding it takes a huge
stretch of the imagination to describe it as being in front
of British camp.
Experts now generally agree that Caractucus's last stand took
place near Church Stretton.
As any good journalist knows the facts never get in the way
of a good story, and the legend still continues to this day.
Elgar was sufficiently taken with it to compose his cantata
Caractacus in 1898.
Even if they didn't make a last stand their the Ancients Britains
are probably responsible for the name Malvern, or moel-bryn
meaning "the bare hill".
The top most layer of British camp is however not Iron Age,
but a Norman motte fortification.
On the ridge of the hills running north to south is the Shire
Ditch, which dates to the 13th century.
If you make the walk along the ridge you will also come to Clutter's
Cave, also known as Giant's Cave or Waum's Cave, after the spring
that once lay beneath it.
This was probably a medieval hermit's dwelling.
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