Oliver’s Camp

Back in 1970 I came for a job interview in Wiltshire. I had no car then and I found that Chippenham was the nearest available station. From there I was given a lift to Devizes for the interview.

Regular readers will know of my love of chalk downland, so that car journey absolutely captivated me, for we passed some glorious chalk hills. One in particular stood out. It was steep sided with a clearly earth worked plateau on which a few gaunt trees struggled to survive. This was, I was led to understand, called Oliver’s Camp or Castle.

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With such a hill so close by, I had to get this job, and I did, beginning what is now a 45 year association with Wiltshire. This photo of Oliver’s Camp dates from 1973.

It is a fairly unchanging scene – except with the seasons. This similar picture was taken in 2006. It is amazing how little those gaunt trees have changed in over thirty years.

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Things would have looked different back on 13th June 1643. That was when a civil war battle took place in the area – the Battle of Roundway Down.

Cromwell’s men had camped on the headland the photos show although Oliver himself was not amongst them. The hill’s name comes from that day. Although it would seem that Cromwell’s men had all the advantages when the King’s men arrived from Oxford, it turned out to be a huge victory for the Royalist side. They won this battle, but in the end, of course, Cromwell won the war.

Today what was once a scene of utter carnage is quiet and peaceful.

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It is wonderful walking country with fine views over the Vale of Avon, the Vale of Pewsey and, with a short walk the vale to the north.

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