Remember back in July, when the weather was hot and sunny and the excavations up at Caerau Hillfort were in full swing? One Monday afternoon back then we had a visitor to the site who had driven all the way from Yorkshire to see how we were getting on.
The visitor in question was Penny, a resident of Wincobank in Sheffield who had been following the dig on our Facebook page and through our blog (read a blog of her visit here). She was amazed about how much Caerau and Ely reminded her of where she lived – there’s even an Iron Age hillfort just outside of her front door too! She invited us up to Sheffield to see for ourselves and to meet the Friends of Wincobank – a small, but passionate, group committed to conserving the natural environment and heritage of Wincobank Hill. So last week an intrepid group of CAER Heritage volunteers made their way to the Steel City…
On a bright and sunny Thursday afternoon we met up with Penny and the other Friends of Wincobank amongst the houses at the bottom of the hill, ready for a walk up to the hillfort. The first houses built around Wincobank were part of the ‘Flower Estate’, the first social housing estate built outside of London. It was a pioneering attempt by Sheffield council to create good quality and healthy housing for its working population at the start of the 20th century. Strong communities formed, but the collapse of Sheffield’s local industry and a massive rise in unemployment in the 1970s and 1980s led to significant social and economic challenges for the area.
Following an ancient earthwork boundary known as the Roman Ridge, we ascended the hill, rising out of the housing estates and into beautiful woods and heathland with astonishing views across the city. The walk and views brought that same feeling of solitude and calm you get when you climb Caerau Hill up to St Mary’s Church.
Picking up rubbish as they went (‘Wombling’ as they call it!) it’s clear that the Friends of Wincobank care passionately about their history and heritage and the place they live. It was great to hear stories and memories too – tales of sledging down Wincobank Hill in days gone past reminded me of stories I’ve heard in Caerau about Spillers Hill and the Rec.
At the summit of Wincobank Hill sits the awesome Iron Age hillfort. It’s not as big as Caerau – just over 1 hectare in size – but it is surrounded by a massive rampart and ditch and provides amazing views over the surrounding areas. The view from the southern rampart looking across the housing estates and further afield to Sheffield is so reminiscent of the view from the ringwork at Caerau. The hillfort must have been home to an important community 2,500 years ago – perhaps a power centre of the Iron Age Brigantes tribe who lived in western Yorkshire at the same time as the Silures in Southeast Wales.
We descended the hill on its western side where the slopes are covered in an ancient coppice wood dominated by oak and birch. Paths criss-cross the area, a bit like Plymouth Wood, and there was even the occasional sound of a quad bike!
The walk was really inspiring – hearing about and seeing the results of fantastic community projects that celebrate the amazing history and natural environment of Wincobank Hill. We were struck by the similarity of the two areas – the communities that live in these two far-away places in England and Wales face many of the same issues and stigmas, yet they are both surrounded by fantastic history and heritage and share strong community identities and pride in place.
With so many similarities between Caerau and Wincobank it’s clear that we can certainly learn a lot from each other – hopefully this will be the start of long and important connection between our two communities.