Chesterton, five miles east-north-east of Bridgnorth, Shropshire.
The Walls is a large, unusual, in places formidable, but tragically misused hill fort. The ramparts have become densely overgrown with trees and undergrowth, making it extremely difficult to appreciate their scale and construction, as well as the position of the fort in the context of the surrounding landscape. The photographs below were all taken during the winter months when the vegetation was at a minimum, but even in these the views along the ramparts are highly restricted, and only snatched glimpses of the horizon beyond can be found in between branches.
The fort is privately owned. Its interior is used for arable farming, and so what archeological evidence lay beneath the surface may now have been lost to us through a sustained campaign of ploughing. Public access has been granted along a footpath that runs the length of only about two-thirds of the northern rampart; which is unfortunate as this is the least remarkable part of the monument. Yet when I visited the site, having completely ignored the anti-clockwise route which, I later found, affords fine views of a metal gate and a very clear "out of bounds" notice, I discovered that the frontier between public and private property on the clockwise path was obvious only to those who knew that it existed, and so it was that I managed to work my way around 95% of the circumference before being suitably chastised for my interest in an ancient monument that has no business being closed to the public. Clearly I bore the slight with good humour.
The Walls has a number of features that are not common amongst typical hill forts. They are normally constructed on land that presents an unobstructed view of the surrounding terrain for many miles, and these are still in evidence for the most part, yet there are several larger hills in the immediate vicinity of the fort that spoil this vista.
Rock formations, which have surfaced on the southern, eastern and, to a slight degree, the western faces, appear to play a significant role in the defences. Much of the southern and eastern ramparts are extremely steep, almost precipitous in places; after two millennia of erosion, these could only be sustained by a natural outcrop hidden beneath the surface. Perhaps these sheer, unassailable faces, explain why this hill was chosen at the expense of loftier summits nearby. Certainly in the south-eastern corner, where the rampart tapers down into a triangular shape, these natural formations have defined the shape of the fort. It appears that there is only a single rampart on the southern and eastern faces, easy to understand why, but the western aspect, which is of comparable height but much less sheer, includes a double rampart. The outer ditch, at least in the south-western corner, appears to have been formed out of the rock, though it is difficult to tell how far this rock proceeds along the western face as it quickly vanishes beneath the earth.
In these three directions; eastern, southern, and western, the fortifications appear quite formidable; it is odd, therefore, that the northern face, by far the shallowest, only has a single rampart in its defence. It is possible that recent farming could have obliterated visual evidence of further ditches along this front, though it is also possible, as this face contains what forms the modern and surely also the ancient entrance to the fort, that a particularly impressive wooden palisade more than made up for this deficiency.
A final curiosity is that the fort appears to be amongst the very few to have its own water supply. A tributary of the River Worfe skirts the bottom of the northern, eastern and southern ramparts, encompassing, in the manner of a moat, approximately half of the fort.
The Walls is quite a unique but unassuming hill fort. It is difficult to find; a passer-by who is not actively searching for it would not know that it is there, and at a glance, particularly from the area of public access, it would not appear in any way remarkable. But consider the strategic position that it occupies, the river at its feet, and the clever use of the natural shape of the hill to form some truly imposing ramparts; here is a rarity amongst hill forts. If only a little effort was spent to clear the ramparts of trees and fully open the site up to the public, this could be one of Shropshire's great archeological treasures.
Guide to Photographs