Monument of the month – Blackbury Castle

A foggy trip to Blackbury Castle in East Devon

A fruity hill fort?

While planning my trip to Blackbury castle I was amused to see in a recent AA walks book it is referred to as Blackberry Castle. However, it is called Blackbury Castle by English Heritage so that must be the right name!

One of the nice things about Blackbury Castle is it is well signposted from the main road at Branscombe Cross. For a good day out in fair weather a walk around the surrounding area ending with a picnic at the hill fort is hard to beat. On a less clement day lunch at the Mason’s Arms in Branscombe is a good Plan B!

Seasonal sign and EH sign
Modern entrance and English Heritage signpost

Oh fog it!

I picked the wrong day for this trip. When I left home it was reasonably clear at sea level and I hoped it would brighten up later. Optimism was no match for Autumn in East Devon as I found out on hitting thick fog after Sidmouth. I was impressed how many drivers of silver cars thought having no lights on was a good idea…

Spot the scenery
There's an ancient monument around here somewhere...

Could you see it though?

On arrival the fog had lessened and created atmosphere rather than obscuring the hill fort. As I walked around the hill fort pondering its odd flattened D shape the fog steadily lifted. Less atmosphere but more to see. There is a rather attractive monochrome interpretation panel by the car park with a potted history of the hill fort. It was briefly occupied in the Iron Age, well for two centuries anyway.

Blackbury Castle in Autumn mist
Blackbury Castle in Autumn mist

This site is famous for its “barbican” entrance. Despite excavation in the 1950s it is still not clear whether this was built to impress, made for practical reasons as a paddock for stock, or an attempt to extend the hill fort. Excavation showed there was a single impressive timber built entrance on the south side possibly with a gate house including a tower – the three other modern entrances are just that by the way.

Spaniel channeling an Ancient Briton?
Spaniel channeling an Ancient Briton in the southern entrance?

Another quirk of this place is that the central area is domed in shape as can be seen from either side of the D.

Blackbury Castle centre
Blackbury Castle central dome no problem with 4-paw drive!

And there’s more?

One of the pleasures of this site is there are plenty of footpaths around it. These range from lanes to footpaths to permissive paths. There’s a good circular walk to be had from Devon’s most rebellious town, Colyton, ┬áto Blackbury Castle. Probably best done on a dryer day though!

Woods taking over the sign
Well established permissive path in the western woods

By Rick Lawrence

Making models and playing tabletop games since the late 1960s, and still enjoying it! Now working in heritage and dabbing around with photography, with quality cafe time when I can.

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