Friday, 8 November 2013

The Fort At The Farm - 15 June 2013

I had jumped at the opportunity of a couple of places on a walk to the Iron Age fort site at Burton Point. Even though I am a regular visitor to Inner Marsh Farm, I knew very little of its history and I welcomed the chance to find out more from two local experts.

We met at 10am in IMF car-park where Geoff (RSPB) introduced us to Gary, a local historian and archaeologist. We soon set off down the IMF path where we stopped briefly to admire a male Whitethroat singing from his regular perch below the bench gate.

We left the path and headed south-west across the meadows towards Burton Point. From the highest point here we had a fine view over both Burton and Parkgate marshes, and looking up the coastline we could just about see Hilbre Island 11 miles away off the north-west point of the Wirral Peninsula.

A little further south, after making our way between a badger sett and a small copse, we got our first sight of the large mound that was all that remained of the Iron Age hill fort. It dates to around 200 BC and it was hard to imagine what it would have looked like in those days. Fortunately, a nearby info-board provided an artists impression and Gary added the words to give us a real flavour of the site as a major promontory, jutting out into the old course of the River Dee. The fort was likely to have been an extended family farmstead, easily defendable with its 5 metre high banks of earth and stone, surrounded by a ditch.

We worked our way down below the mound and onto what would have been the river bed, and here we found the medicinal herb White Horehound (Marribium vulgare) rare for these parts, it was once thought to cure almost everything!

As we stood below the mound, Gary informed us that a burial site to the south of the fort was excavated in 1878. This revealed over 50 burials but whether these were of an early Christian date or the remains of a 1637 shipwreck, has never been determined.  

Below the mound we saw the evidence confirming the old course of the river, in the heavy water erosion on the sandstone. And there was plenty of evidence of more recent sandstone quarrying. 

We continued around to the east side of the mound to a quaint spot with a small brook, where Swallows, House Martins and Swifts were hawking insects. We stopped for sometime to enjoy the spectacle and even managed a decent view of the rare Wall Brown Butterfly. From here we had a short climb back to the higher ground, then made our way back through the meadows where we came across a Green Woodpecker feeding in the distance.

It flushed as soon as we started crossing the meadow and we soon noticed its food source, the small nests or mounds of the Meadow Ant (Lasius flavus). And by the time we reached the point where the woodpecker had been feeding, the little orange-yellow fellows were already out repairing the opening and giving us a good look at what is normally an underground forager.

After thanking Geoff and Gary for a fabulous morning, we couldn't leave without dropping down to the IMF hide and we were rewarded with this magnificent Spotted Redshank.

Ain't history fab!