Location: Wroxton, Oxfordshire
Condition: Mostly erased by agriculture
Access: Public footpath passes remaining section
OS Grid Ref.: SP405408
Further information: Historic England.
If I have a spare hour then I will take a walk ‘around the block’ to Crouch Hill. If I can spare a little more time, especially in the Autumn, then I will make for Castle Bank.
It may not be the most magnificent local ancient site, but it occupies a wonderful location in the local landscape. It’s just a nice place to sit, between the earthwork and the steep ravine below, and take in the landscape with a picnic.
Castle Bank is one of those strange sites of which little is known; and the damage by agriculture over the last millennia means that we’re unlikely to find out much more about it. The site is probably contemporary to other local settlements, but it’s a perfect square, about 190 metres either side, rather than circular. Past excavations have found little to give any further insight into exactly what purpose this site may have had.
A diagram of Castle Bank from British History On-line.
The Historic England listing for this sites doesn’t really add much either:
The site is possible late Bronze Age or Iron Age, Fifth to Eighth Century BCE (2,500 to 2,800 years old). The bank was made of stone and earth – though much of what existed has been lost since to the fields that are behind the bank.
The entrance was on the north-western side, where the footpath is today. That gave access to the water source below. That for me is the most significant feature of the site. A large stream emerges from this hidden valley – so large that it once ran Wroxton Mill just half a mile downstream. When the air is still, you can sometimes hear the springs gurgling in the gorge below.
It may have been a site that marked the spiritual significance of the springs below; it may have just been a cattle enclosure. Either way, they picked a really nice site for it. It sits on what may have been a significant north-south trackway (now the road to the east of the site), later used by the Romans. And but for the trees on the side of the valley, it would have a line-of-sight view to the more significant location of Madmarston Hill.
Castle Bank is roughly an hour’s walk from Banbury via Drayton and Wroxton. That means it is possible to view the sunset here – in February or November when the sun sets directly down the line of Padsdon Bottom (see pictures above) – and then walk back to the edge of town before the advancing twilight makes it difficult to see. Personally, that’s my favourite experience of Castle Bank: A silent Winter landscape, illuminated by the colours of the setting sun, where we might imagine looking upon a similar scene to that of its creators two-and-a-half millennia ago.