Thursday, 9 May 2013

Walking on a windy "Oliver's Castle" with "Maxi."

The circular, hilltop Stone Age camp at Oliver's Castle.

This prehistoric site atop Roundway Down is called "Oliver's Castle."   Named after Oliver Cromwell, the Commander in Chief of the Puritan "Roundheads" in the English Civil War of 1642  to 1651, there is no evidence that he was ever here!   The "Battle of Roundway Down" was fought on July 13th 1643, with William Waller leading the "Roundhead Parliamentarians," and Lord Wilmot commanding the "Royalist King's Men."  Cromwell's name lives on however, and fortunately for me, there stands at the bottom of the hill a  pub called, "The Oliver Cromwell."     It's nice to think that, maybe he would have enjoyed a quick pint here between clashes with the King's forces, although this is true fiction!   

This stark, windy prominence high up on the down, offers wonderful views out towards Salisbury Plain and the towns of Devizes and Rowde.    A civil war soldier who fought in the battle is reputedly buried in Rowde churchyard, but remains from the conflict are few and far between.   The "Royalists" drove the "Roundhead" cavalry over the edge of the down and into  "Bloody Ditch."  It seems that the site was well cleared after the battle, and only a small amount of gun shot has been found, which is now in Devizes Museum.  I attended a talk in the museum in 2011, in which we all had a chance to handle some of this shot.   It gave us all a great feeling of connection with the battle, and the bloody conflict up on the chalk downland.  

The hilltop view towards a distant Devizes.

We arrived by car at the site, as it is difficult to walk up here from Devizes.  Those with young legs and a strong will can climb it easily via the "Ridgeway,"  but we were with "Maxi" the dachshund, whose little legs are about 6 inches long and her tummy sometimes rubs on the gravel paths.  She much prefers the easy journey up to the hill, and the grassy slopes on which to walk.   With her ears flapping in the wind, she enjoyed the gentle stroll around the hilltop, while we battled to hold onto our jackets in the gusty wind and impending rain.

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