Twenty minutes’ drive up the A25 towards Borough Green we pass signs to Oldbury Hill Fort. Looking toward the direction of the signposts you can clearly see where the land slopes drastically upwards although there are no visible signs of the old fort and from below it seems like any other tree shrouded hill.
I have fond memories of Oldbury. It is where we used to take the dogs and ride the horses when I spent every school holiday with my Aunt, who still lives just around the corner from Oldbury. Having spent the last 25-30 years intermittently exploring Oldbury, I can honestly say I have only covered a fraction of its vast expanse, sticking always to the footpaths and bridleways and whilst, alas the ‘good stuff’ is never near the well-trod paths, I still love strolling around Oldbury, there is something timeless yet ancient about the place, Oldbury seems unchanging yet every time I go I can never repeat the exact journey, or spot the same landmarks.
I remember as a young’un there being one tree which grew from a single trunk, split into two and then back again to form a strange hoop in the centre, very odd and very magical which I used to climb through every time we passed it (for luck). Nowadays I can only find it sometimes, on some occasions I can’t find it at all.
The area covers 50 hectares which was supposedly fortified and used by the local Iron Age people in times of trouble or crisis, evidence suggests the fort was never permanently occupied. Today you can clearly see the old ditches and ramparts as many have become the footpaths walkers and riders use today. The site is owned and managed by The National Trust and despite that, one of the things I love about this place is that it seems to have avoided the usual trappings and pitfalls tourism may sometimes bring such as litter, damage, noise, traffic and so on. In fact walking around Oldbury you feel like you could be living in ‘anytime’, time seems to stand still under the canopy of Oak and Beech, more so at this time of year.
There are caves and a natural spring somewhere on the hill although I am yet to discover them but such things would make a site like this idea for our iron age ancestors (and for the practising Witch!!!). Sadly the fort didn’t protect against the romans and evidence suggests the Fort went out of use and was abandoned around 50BC.
Now Oldbury is completely covered in trees, all signs of its history are largely unseen and certainly not obvious. I try to imagine what it must have been like up on the hill with clear unobstructed views across the entire Weald and up to the Medway Valley, it must have been awesome!
My personal experience of Oldbury suggests something still inhabit the area. After dark the atmosphere of Oldbury changes, I have experienced a friend being physically harmed when he was cut on his ear by something unseen and remember vividly the blood pouring down his face…we had barely even stepped onto the foot path. I have also sensed ‘something’ unwelcoming and as I have driven slowly past through the wooded area late at night and hit what felt like a brick wall as I tried to enter the wooded area. Whatever the site was used for historically, something very much on the defensive lingers.
Oldbury during the day however is far more hospitable, although eerily quiet. No bird song can be heard, and there are points where the sun seems to disappear and these spots seem to reside in perpetual twilight. Old trees sway in the breeze but seem to make no sound, the fallen leaves under foot are soft and silent with no crunching or rustling…only the occasional twig cracking under foot breaks the otherworldy silence.
One day I would like to make contact with the spirits of this place and explore off the beaten track a little, all in good time…for now I am happy to visit, leaving a respectful offering or two.
I would encourage anyone local or passing through to spend an early morning or late afternoon strolling around Oldbury’s many pathways, I would be keen to hear people’s experiences and especially if they should come across the spring and / or the caves