I love the atmosphere at Wandlebury Ring, near Cambridge. Standing in its deep ditches it is easy to feel slightly lost in time. I can dream of giants (Gogmagog), warriors (Romans), knights (see Gervase) and of Kings (James II).
Way back when, Wandlebury boasted an Iron Age hillfort overlooking the ancient Icknield Way. It was built on one of the chalkland hills that make up the Gog Magog Downs. The fort was protected by huge concentric ditches and ramparts of chalk and soil. It remained a structure of some significance for a long time with the Romans occupying it well into the first century AD. Later it was used as an Anglo Saxon Hundreds (administrative councils) rendez-vous point. King James II rather ruined all of that in the 17th century, when he levelled the fort and inner defences to establish a house, garden and racing stable.
It is the stable that is all that remains today, except for that deep outer ditch. The area has become a Country Park, protected from development by Cambridge Past, Present & Future.
I like to visit at this time of year because a large part of the Ring is swathed in aconites and snowdrops. When the sun is out, oblique sunbeams make the flowers sparkle and gleam and there is a sense that the mellow light is filtered through the history of the place.
The aconites were probably already past their prime, but the snowdrops were looking lovely. I am not a galanthophile, so my enjoyment of the flowers is driven by the fact that I simply love their clear drop shapes.
The honey bees were out and about in considerable numbers, visiting the clumps of snowdrops and aconite …
And anything else they could find in flower: In a small orchard area there were more nectar sources in the form of mahonia and plum blossom.
Some of the snowdrops were not bulk standard Galanthus nivalis as even I could see!
Back in the ditch fortifications, I was trying to get a good shot of the yew roots. The trees look like they could be mobile don’t they? Ready to uproot and re-arrange themselves.
In fact, I heard from a friend that there is a debate going on about whether to remove the yew trees to restore the fortification feel of the ring. It is an argument between historians and ecologists I think. I’ve seen barren hill forts like Maiden Castle (admittedly very impressive), but I think that Wandlebury feels special because of the trees.
I would be heartbroken if they did decide to give the yews the chop. They are an intrinsic part of the atmosphere and interest for me. The Ring is surround by woods anyway, so the context isn’t bare Downs landscape any longer.
I didn’t head on through the woods to Roman Road this time, because the weather had taken a change for the worse. Instead I went back through the walled garden to the Stables, admiring more pools of snowdrops under each specimen tree. These clusters seem to be equal part nettle to snowdrop and I was thoroughly stung in the process of taking the photos.
I headed back to the car park through a small tract of beech woods. The beech wood has a completely different feel to it, a clearer quality of light and brighter colours, but it still had classic snowdrops!