søndag 15. februar 2015

Searching for Spring - Hooked on Hillforts part 3

The slide on "The Fort by the High Hill"
You can read Hooked on Hillforts Part 2 here.

I like to go skiing, although I'm not very clever at it. It goes perfectly well with a few simple precautions:

1. Do not go with cheap and old skis that are not supposed to be waxed. They glide exactly when they want to, and that is an interesting challenge when you go downhill
2. Drop the backpack, use a waist bag instead
3. Never embark on a journey if klister is needed

If I can not follow these three commandments, I'd rather hike with crampons so that I don't have to worry about losing my grip, and when I drop the skis, I can gladly walk all the way up to "High Hill".

The spring always comes first to "High Hill" and that is absolutely true. A bit later on in the year when warmer air has begun to make an impression on us, but the snow still lies firmly in "Serpent Hill", I often encounter a border when I arrive at the top of the slope beneath "High Hill". The ground further on can be completely bare.1 The weary dirtroad smells of newly awakened soil and has some delicious, big and wet puddles that I want to jump in, but I confine myself often to watch the clouds reflections instead in case there is a hunter behind a tree that makes me feel stupid. Here the road flattens out and a cliff wall ascends straight into the heavenly realms. While life barely has begun to move further down in the terrain you can meet whizzing bumblebees up here. I might as well could have been a bumblebee. I feel like one of them buzzing around, a little big and clumsy, keen on myself  and rarely distractable. My favorite color is blue, just like theirs.

One spring I embarked on my first cycle ride for the year. All forest roads were virtually bare, but the snow was still pretty thick in shady places inside the forest. I was greeted by a bunch of "Admirals" as I came along the road below "High Hill". I had only been visited by a couple of "Brimstones" at home, but I figured that they were not in charge at this place anymore. They flew on either side of my handlebar, it was five or six of them and they travelled alongside me all the way until we came to the bumblebees. I stopped to enjoy the sun and the sight of the marshlands and beyond. This was a fixed routine for me when I walked or rode over here. I've always felt that it stood out from the rest of the scenery in the middle of the woods, although it was a bit hard to immediately recognize the marsh, some shrubbery grew on it, but it was very nice, almost like a little cauldron in the vast landscape. Having been charging myself up for two or three minutes, I used to walk or ride on, knowing that now I was going downhill all the way back and my batteries were filled up.

When I fell madly in love with forts I was somewhat surprised that there should be one right in the area where I used to do my gazing by the "High Hill". Once again had I been so close to a "what-it-now-really-was" without knowing, and once again had the area been so appealing to me and I had stopped so many times right there because it was so lovely to be there. The time had come to find the fort, and all I had to help me was a roughly description of where it should be, no path or no map. I felt that I began to be quite an experienced stone fortress explorer. I knew now that I should find the second highest peak in the area and then it was all quite simple, so simple that I thought that I actually had time to have a snack. I had brought with me this exclusive, flat packed coffee, that's supposed to be filled up with hot water, so one can enjoy it freshly prepared. I just have to say one thing about that. It was of course very fancy, something which in the first place basically tricked me into buying it, but all the while I brew the coffee it got lukewarm and it tasted like cheap instant anyway, and what was really the point for me when I needed to bring with me water anyway? In the sad state our planet has come into it was impossible to drink water straight from the stream to boil it anyways. Next time I had go go back to the regular instant coffee again. I packed my rucksack, straightened up and let my eyes sweep over the place. In which direction should I go? I saw a peak right before me, and I thought that must be the place, so I did not go there. I went where I thought it would not be, and boy - I was right! Hah! Great strategy, I'll use the same tactic several times.

At the top of the fort, I performed my usual ritual. I walked along the walls - clockwise - very important and considered the area. Here was an old stone heap marking a property boundary, here was a view to "The Wavy River" and here was a natural slide - from rocks that disappeared into the vegetation below. Above me loomed "High Hill" and I recalled that I had read somewhere that this place had been called "The Fort at the Place beneath the Hill". I sat here and felt really both empty and abandoned, and thought that I was very exposed for an arrow attack from above. It turned out that there were some others who had thought the same thing, and one of them thought about it so much that he chose the socalled strongholds around "Serpent Hill" and researched them.2 What he found out was quite startling. He found that by this very fort people had kept livestock and cultivated grain as far back as the year 2500 BCE. He believed that there were several indicators that a separate outfield culture stayed here, maybe periodically, which reaped all the resources and that they might have been bartered with farmers in the village. No arrowheads or weapons were found here. The fort was not placed on the best viewpoint for keeping control of travelling routes or at the most appropriate place to burn cairns. Who would burn a huge bonfire in their livingrooms anyway? It would have been too great a risk of catching fire and burning everything down. The mound it was placed upon was easy to approach and then one would think that the stonework should be correspondingly high and strong, but it was not. It was relatively slender and small, and below the plateau of the fort was no trace of collapsed walls. It would topographically be quite easy for an enemy to take a different path past the strongholds if one didn't want to be detected. It seemed very unlikely that it should have been used as a refuge for the village people, it was way too small. Most of the scholars thought that hill forts were built and used during the migration period, but some of them suggested a multi functionality for them, and these forts at "Serpent Hill" had not been set up initially as defense fortresses or control posts. They might have been abandoned and later been used with this purpose for example in the migration period, but even this is unlikely because of the simple walls. The stones may actually have been set up to shield access to cultic rituals performed by an ancient Germanic brotherhood.

With this in mind I sauntered quietly down from the hillock, while questions hammered my head. Was it really like that? Who were those people? What did they do here? How did they live? What was their worldview? This trip made me more tired in my head than in my legs.

Go to "Hooked on Hillforts Part 4"

1. I think our old friend, the wood harvester has been in the hills around here as well, and made this nature experience a little less special, but you can still feel the strength of the sun beneath "High Hill" in spring.

2. Tryggve Bernt, Bygdeborgene: Tid for revurdering? En analyse basert på fire bygdeborger i Øvre Eiker, Buskerud

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