The Poem Tree
On the summit of Castle Hill, at Wittenham Clumps, is the Poem Tree. Although it died in the 1990's, enough still remains for the poem carved into its trunk to be visible (although not readable).
Joseph Tubbs was so inspired by the views and the history that he carved his poem into the bark in 1844/45. Fortunately, it was traced in the 1960s, so his industry survives (even if only on the accompanying plaque).
As up the hill with labr'ing steps we tread
Where the twin Clumps their sheltering branches spread
The summit gain'd, at ease reclining lay
and all around the wide spread scene survey
Point out each object and instructive tell
The various changes that the land befel.
Where the low bank the country wide surrounds
That ancient earthwork form'd old Murcia's bounds.
In misty distance see the barrow heave,
There lies forgotten lonely Culchelm's grave.
Around this hill the ruthless Danes intrenched,
and these fair plains with gory slaughter drench'd,
While at our feet where stands that stately tower
In days gone by uprose the Roman power
And yonder, there where Thames smooth waters glide
In later days appeared monastic pride.
Within that field where lies the grazing herd
Huge walls were found, some coffins disinter'd
Such is the course of time, the wreck which fate
And awful doom award the earthly great."Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Wittenham Clumps is now a nature reserve encompassing the Sinodun Hills, about 10 miles from Oxford. I'm not sure whether they are in Berkshire or Oxfordshire at the moment (they have changed county on occasion!) so I've duplicated this tip under both counties.
A huge hill-fort (Castle Hill) lies on one of the hills, dating at least from the Iron Age although there is evidence of settlement long before that. Its massive ditches and ramparts still survive; a magnificent feat of engineering.
There are coppices on the summit of both hills, evidence of 18th century landscaping. That on Castle Hill is now closed, due to the danger from falling trees, but one can still visit the 'Poem Tree' (see tip below).
As the surrounding countryside is so flat, there are wonderful views from the top of both hills, from the Thames and Dorchester Abbey to the Chilterns.
The site is managed by the Northmoor Trust, which works to maintain its wildlife and flora.
An excellent place to visit for a bracing walk on a windy day!Related to:
- Historical Travel
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