Where is the horse now? Where is the rider?
Where is the gold-giver?
Where is the seat at the gathering?
Where now are the feasts in the halls?
Alas for the gleaming cup!
Alas the mailed warrior!
Alas for the prince’s pride! How that age has passed,
Dark under night-helm,
As though it never were!
Now there stands at last
Where were the dear host,
A wall wondrous high
Wound with serpents.
Tickenham, North Somerset is a long village strung along the B3130 road to Clevedon. There is a pub – The Star Inn, but no shop unless you count a car dealership and a couple of garden centres.
On the surface, it’s nothing special, a fairly non-descript ribbon development – the kind of place you either live in or pass through on the way to somewhere else: though if you’re coming from much further afield than Nailsea or Bristol, you probably wouldn’t even bother doing that as, just a couple of miles to the north, the M5 scythes through the southern Gordano Valley, bustling its way west towards the bright lights and estuarine delights of Weston Super Mare and on towards Exeter. If you do stop to look around, you’ll soon discover that Tickenham does have more about it than a scattering of houses. Below the main road near the small river the Land Yeo, stands the 11th century church of St. Quiricus & St Julietta. It’s small, but pretty with various Norman and Medieval features, including – in the Lady Chapel – a Green Man and animal designs carved into some 13 century wooden bosses.
My first visit was to see one of my sisters get married, so I was more focused on the service than the architectural features, but reading more about the church on a local history site has made me want to return for a closer look. However, for me at least, the really interesting thing about Tickenham looms high above the village, through the woods at the top of Tickenham Ridge – the Iron Age hill fort – Cadbury Camp.
Not to be confused with Cadbury Castle, also in Somerset and one of the many claimants to be the ‘real’ site of King Arthur’s Camelot, Cadbury Camp is believed to have been constructed by the Dobunni Tribe in around the 6th century BC and occupied until around the 1st Century AD. According to the National Trust website, the name derives from Cada’s Fort – an Anglo Saxon personal name, so I guess this wasn’t the name given to the place by its original inhabitants. From Tickenham there are a couple of ways to reach Cadbury Camp. A fairly steep direct route up a lane from the Clevedon Road, or a more circular way, The Cadbury Camp Ramble, which skirts the Tickenham Golf Club and through various pockets of ash dominated, rabbit haunted woods, currently decorated with multiple bursts of Bluebell. Go via the ‘Permitted’ walkers route through farmland and you’ll also pass some wonderful lichen covered dry-stone walls and might glimpse some miniature ponies and a partridge or two in the field behind. An area just below the fortifications of the camp itself is managed as a nature reserve by the Avon Wildlife Trust, as it is an important site for wild flowers and butterflies – “If you’re lucky, you might see the day-flying six-spot burnet moth or the silver-washed fritillary butterfly” notes the National Trust website. There were a few trees growing on the fortified banks of the Earthworks itself, but these have been removed in recent years to give a better sense of Cadbury Camp’s original structure. From the Camp, on a clear day, you can look west towards the Severn Estuary, and make out the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm in the distance and beyond them, South Wales.
Turn south and your view takes in Nailsea and the Mendips. Despite the proximity of the M5 and the occasional bleating drone from small motor engines, as people fling themselves on bikes down the wooded lanes downhill from the Camp, it’s quite possible to lose yourself for a moment in time, standing on the grassy banks of the fort, as you imagine the vision of a Dubonni sentry, staring out across the land, scanning the horizon for the approach of strangers or news from elsewhere (so long as you can mentally paint out the mini-sprawl of Nailsea in the middle distance and ignore the Severn Bridges), but even if you register the landscape as it is, you can still enjoy a moment of wind-blown tranquility, as you drink in the view from the very top of Tickenham.
The church has recently launched an appeal to help repair and save its severely damaged west window. If you’d like to help, find out more here