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Hidden secrets of Queen Boudicca's fort

The peace and calm which today envelopes Norfolk’s best preserved Iron Age fort at Warham hides a chequered past yet to be fully revealed.

Warham Camp commands views across parts of Norfolk, some of which have hardly changed in two millennia.

The site was described by historian and archeologist James Dyer as 'The most magnificent hillfort in Norfolk’.

Warham Camp, just six miles from Blakeney, was once possibly occupied - and then abandoned - by Queen Boudicca’s Iceni tribe after the brave but tragic defeat of her tribal uprising against the Romans in AD61.

Archeological digs suggest invading Danes may have re-used the camp.

But the fort - thought to have been built by the Iceni in the second century BC - still hides many secrets.

It is suggested it could have been a fortress residence for the social elite, a centre for local trade, a refuge in times of conflict. It could have been used as a ceremonial or religious centre.

Two almost complete large concentric circles more than 200 metres in diameter mark the fort’s walls and ditches. The circles of massive banks and ditches were cut away on one side by the River Stiffkey when it was diverted in the 18th century. But this hardly spoils the completeness of this ancient edifice.

Archaeological excavations in 1914 and 1959 found signs of Iron Age and Roman occupation among the three metre high impressive earthworks with three metre deep ditches. It was also discovered that the banks have been eroded by three metres since they were built.

The digs revealed that the abandoned camp, which had a timber palisade and a timber platform in its interior, may have been used by invading Danes. But what the huge 1.5 hectare central area was used for has not yet been revealed.

The site is a hidden jewel. It is a scheduled monument tucked away down an unmarked path between Warham All Saints and Wighton.

Few people venture here but it is worth visiting to pause in complete silence and take in the atmosphere, as you gaze at the open views across the valley and the surrounding countryside. Only the calls of birds will disturb you imagining what life was like defending this spot from invaders.

Warham Camp is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) covering 5.1 hectares. Its chalk grassland is a perfect habitat for wild flowers including wild thyme and orchid, butterflies such as the Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus, insects and it attracts a range of birds of prey and songbirds which hunt and live in this undisturbed space.

To find Warham Camp you can walk from the Three Horseshoes pub, crossing the River Stiffkey and along the narrow and undulating lane towards Wighton. The camp is tucked away about half a mile on your right down an unmarked path between Warham All Saints and Wighton.

If you are using a car and driving from Blakeney, follow the coast road through Stiffkey towards Wells. Look out for a left turning to Warham once you have left Stiffkey behind you. With Warham’s Three Horseshoes pub on your right take a left turn to Wighton and follow this narrow road.

The road is only a car’s width but as you come to some bends after climbing a hill you will spot a farm gateway on your left and a narrow green lane leading off to the right.

There is no immediately convenient parking but access on foot is from this narrow grass track and over a stile. It is worth the effort to find it and an information board by the stile tells you about the fauna and flora and the camp’s history.

The Three Horseshoes is a great place to have a drink and a meal inside or in its large garden. Home-made pies are their speciality and the beer comes straight from the barrel behind the serving hatch in the bar.

Drone view of Warham Camp in Norfolk
Warham Camp, Norfolk - Image courtesy Drift Media Ltd, www.driftmedia.co.uk

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