Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal

Paul Mobbs’ photographic record of his walks around ‘Banburyshire’ and ‘The Irondowns’, and occasionally, as part of his work around Britain, the areas beyond.

Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:
Tadmarton Camp

Tadmarton Camp is a 165-metre diameter, circular, double walled Iron Age hill fort, sitting at the location where a number of trackways converge at the top of the ridge. Eroded by time, and the golf course to the south, the best place to see it is the bridlepath that runs around the north side towards Tadmarton.

Summary for ‘Tadmarton Camp’:

Location: Tadmarton Heath, Oxfordshire

Type: ‘Camps & Settlements’.

Condition: Poorly preserved Iron Age settlement

Access: Private; access via public road through the middle and a bridleway around the north side.

OS Grid Ref.: SP387356

Further information: British History On-line.

Walks posts for site: {none yet}

The light and dusty Northampton sands that make-up the surface of Tadmarton Heath are brilliant for golf course construction. Unfortunately they’re not very good for preserving the structure of ancient earthworks. Their acidic nature is also pretty poor for the preservation of any organic or metallic remains buried there. Little remains to be seen at this site today.

Tadmarton Heath is a curious place. It's the meeting point for both ancient and Roman roads, the routes of which persisted almost until the modern era as drove roads. Such as Banbury Lane, which in the Eighteenth Century local accounts was known as the ‘Great Road’.

Perhaps that ancient significance as a meeting point is the reason that the boundaries of five parishes, with Saxon roots, meet near the top; either side of the two road junctions. Though modern field boundaries suggest that those five roads in fact met in the same spot, rather like Shutford Five Ways a few miles to the north.

The listing for the site gives no useful detail. The settlement was most likely constructed around the same period as nearby Madmarston Hill or Rainsborough Camp; at least 2,500 years ago, in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. It is smaller than either of those sites though, and the lack of archaeology makes putting detail on that broad history very difficult.

What excavations there have been produced some late Bronze Age, and also Roman artefacts. And though there was a lot of activity around here in Saxon times, this high and sometimes weather-beaten location never developed any significant settlement of its own.

The site lies on the ridge between two bus routes: The 50A service between Banbury and Stratford; and the 488 service between Banbury and Chipping Norton. My favourite walk, though, is to go out to Hook Norton or Sibford, then walk back into Banbury, stopping for lunch on the commanding heights of Tadmarton Heath.

More than anything, what this location most makes me think of is the mythical ‘crossroads’. The fact that this has been such a travelled point in history for millennia, but very little evidence of that human interaction persists today. In those mythical tales, people go to these lonely ‘crossroads’ to do deals with the devil. If five roads met here then that must make this spot 25% worse!