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October 2006 - Cadsonbury

Cadsonbury - eventually

As a result of some monumental misdirection by yours truly, this months dowsing was a little late starting.

Cadsonbury is an enigmatic place. It is so large, and has such a swathe of panoramic views, that you feel it ought to have been somewhere really significant. In a way, it is - but there is little in the written record or the official archaeological archives to tell us much about it.

Emerging from the now-wooded embankments, through an undergrowth of brambles and bracken, you suddenly come upon a vast open treeless, shrubless plateau. Dowsing here reveals that the site has been in intermittent pastoral occupation for around 5,000 years, but only for quite short spells.

There is underground water in abundance and we found the sites of a number of former wells. A period of settlement by groups building round houses ceased well BCE and a subsequent inhabitation by others, who built rectangular buildings and animal pens in the first and second centuries, was relatively short lived.

A natural defensive site, with such a clear outlook and presumably a sufficiency of fuel, water and food would seem to have been a more attractive development site in less settled times. Yet the absence of any ‘natural’ sacred site on the hilltop, as least as defined by earth energies, and the lack of burial or cremation places within the ramparts may tell a different story. Maybe this place is pleasant enough, but lacks the heart of similar elevated locations in the area. As modern developers are finding, you can put up a super housing estate almost anywhere, given enough will and finance, but making it work in social terms is a much more subtle construction.

The prominence of Cadsonbury makes it the natural siting place of several leys. We found at least four, with a fifth skirting the edge. At least two of these were once marked by a small marker stone, now long gone.

Despite the ‘hill fort’ tag, there is little evidence of armed conflict here - and to defend a camp with a boundary this long would take many legions, for whom all the provisions would need to have been hauled up the considerable slopes.

Yet someone thought it worth erecting a massive oval bank and ditch, in the days before JCBs and when manpower was a far scarcer commodity. Maybe we shall find out who or why on our next visit.

Many thanks to John for providing the handouts - and to Annie for transporting me from the wrong place to the right one rather more quickly than I would have achieved by myself!

Nigel Twinn

Tamar Dowsers

September 2006


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