Hillforts above the Wye

There are at least nine prehistoric hilltop enclosures dotted along the lower Wye Valley. These earthworks, constructed between 700BC – 43AD are a tangible link to our prehistoric past and striking reminder of the people who once gathered here. Although most Iron Age people lived in small farmsteads, they also constructed enclosures surrounded by banks and ditches. These sites overlooked the river and were visible from the surrounding countryside. At Symonds Yat the hillfort was defended on two sides by steep cliffs and on the third by five concentric ramparts, each a substantial bank with a ditch alongside. The size of these hillforts suggests they were as much a statement about the prestige of the inhabitants as a defensive place – and much more than places to retreat to in times of tribal trouble. They were probably the local focus for politics, religion and trade.

We don’t know if the Wye actually marked the border between the Dobunni and the Silures tribes, or whether they were designed to control the river Wye itself – and its valuable trade. But there are pairs of hillforts – Symonds Yat facing the Little Doward, and Piercefield facing Lancaut – as well as the promontory fort at Bulwark, which controlled the mouth of the Wye.

At Symonds Yat Rock many visitors don’t realise they are passing through the ancient ramparts of an Iron Age hillfort when they walk from the Forestry car park to Yat Rock itself.  You can find out more by following the Head for the Hillforts Walk which takes you on a walk between the two hillforts facing each other at Symonds Yat Rock and the Little Doward.

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