About Me

My photo
Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Leigh Woods and Stokeleigh Camp

It was raining. Hard. As I drove past the playing fields, I wondered whether to pull into a side road and ring Son the Younger to see if he still wanted to meet up for a walk at Leigh Woods. Then I looked at the glorious colour of the trees even in the downpour, against charcoal clouds, and decided to press on. He'd be there waiting. 

And he was, though the rain forced a change of route, away from the exposed path along the side of the Avon and over to Stokeleigh camp instead, which we could reach under cover of the trees. We're not completely mad. 

On the way to the camp we passed some fabulous trees. I love this beech, which is still leafing despite the fact it fell long enough ago to grow ivy over its exposed root ball. 

And this ancient yew is magnificent still. 

Fungi on a beech

It's been a long, slow, glorious autumn burn this year. I suspect it's a knock-on effect from the hot, dry period we had at the end of spring, that caused the seasons to concertina and autumn to come earlier than usual.

Two sentinel oaks ... 

... and a hollow one.

Stokeleigh Camp is an iron age promontory fort, one of three that stood on top of the cliffs, overlooking the Avon Gorge. This vast chasm offered Stokeleigh protection to the north, and to the east, the steep slopes of Nightingale valley. The remainder was bordered by three ramparts which increase in size the nearer you get to the middle. 

It's thought that Stokeleigh Camp was occupied from the late pre-Roman Iron Age. Archaeological investigations have suggested that the Dobunni might have ceded it to the Belgae tribes in the 1st century. There may then have been a break in occupation before reuse in the middle to late 2nd century. It's unclear whether this was for a formal garrison or just as a place of refuge in times of crisis. It might also have been occupied in the Middle Ages. 

There is evidence of dry stone walling along most of its length, but it's not known whether this is an original feature or a later addition. 

By now we were high above Nightingale valley and the Clifton Suspension Bridge was coming into view. No need for protection against marauding invaders in Victorian times - unless you were on the receiving end of British imperialism. 

On the opposite bank, another hill fort is visible, that of Clifton Down camp with the observatory built in the middle of it. (The third camp was Burwalls, the other side of Nightingale Valley, the only trace of which survives in the area's name - burgh walls.)

Far below is the River Avon.

As we left the camp, a family approached. 

*cough cough cough* said the father.

'I thought we'd be going up this path!' pouted the elder child. 'What's the point of coming if we aren't going to explore the ruined castle!' 

*cough cough cough* explained the father, who wasn't wearing a mask. 

'Ooh là là!' exclaimed the four-year-old, splashing in a puddle. 

*cough cough cough* answered the father. 

At least cattle don't catch Covid-19. 

Spalted wood


  1. nice to see the cattle still there! Daisy the tree surgeon explained spalting when we were cutting up that fallen ash. Fancy that!

    1. Jan's husband Paul made a base for one of our ceramic birds out of spalted wood - the crow, Murdo McLeod. Fascinating, innit?