Credenhill Woods

A local landmark and historically important, Credenhill Park Wood is a large planted ancient woodland site visible from Hereford, a few miles away. Set in the central Hereford Hills, the site dominates Credenhill itself and, because of its importance as ancient woodland, has been designated a special wildlife site. Dominated by conifers, the wood includes 13 hectares of ancient semi-natural woodland including a small area of alder woodland. Much of the ancient woodland flora still grows here, including small-leaved lime, early purple orchids, wild garlic and bluebells. An integral - and significant - area of the wood is taken up by one of the largest hill forts in the Central Marches area - Credenhill Iron Age hill fort, thought to be one of England's 12 largest. Indeed, the site is thought to have been an Iron Age tribal capital.

As far as been established from archaeological excavation (by the late Dr Stan Stanford in the mid-1960s), the hilltop at Credenhill featured occupation spanning the years c.600 BC to c.AD 150. The exact sequence of construction of the defences is unknown, since these have not so far been examined. However, at the "peak" of site development (perhaps c.200 BC) the hilltop was enclosed by the ramparts that can still be seen today. These comprise mostly double-ditched contour-tracing enclosure works, with a single bank and ditch only where topography renders the need for a double circuit unnecessary. They enclose an elongated rectangular area of 50 hectares, aligned north-south along a prominent ridge rising to 600 feet above sea level, and overlooking the wide valley of the Wye in which Hereford itself is central. The hill fort is the largest multivallate earthwork enclosure in the Marches of Wales.Along the course of the defences, two certainly Iron Age entrances are marked by inturned flanking banks. The larger of these is located close to the mid-point on the eastern side. The second, smaller, entrance is located just to the north of the south-eastern angle of the defences. A simple north entrance may be post-Iron Age. An angled 'postern' entrance appears to have been part of the original defences on the west side, just north of the south-west angle of the defences. This pattern, with major entrances on the east (away from the prevailing wind) and back entrances to north and west is repeated elsewhere in the county in forts sharing the same orientation (such as British Camp on the Malvern Hills at Colwall).

During the Iron Age, the fort interior featured terraces for domestic buildings. A series of post-built store-houses was constructed in the sheltered quarry-ditch within the main (inner) rampart, at least near the main east entrance. A series of sunken and partly embanked trackways may have been constructed (or become worn) approaching the entrances on all sides. Exactly how the fort was used throughout these centuries in uncertain. The post-built structures were rebuilt on broadly the same sites several times. It seems most likely that occupation of the fort, at least on any scale, was episodic. In the period c.40 BC to c.AD 150 an entirely new way of building within, and perhaps also occupying, the site was established. This comprised the creation of stone-paved areas and levelled foundations, probably for partly stone-built structures. It is not certain why the fort was abandoned, but the "new town" at Kenchester that had by the second century become well established on the lower land nearer the Wye may have proved a more attractive location for settlement.