Friday, 11 May 2012
Here Be Giants
Look on the Ordnance Survey map for Cambridgeshire and, if you search out the little village of Rampton, you'll see marked "Giant's Hill".
It's not the work of giants though, but what remains of an unfinished Medieval castle abandoned in 1143 AD. Geoffrey de Mandeville was planning rebellion from his stronghold in the fens which in those days were largely undrained marshlands. It was impossible to pursue his men through this difficult terrain so it was planned to surround the area with a string of castles. But Geoffrey met his end before any of the castles could be completed.
The site is now managed for wildlife as well as its historical importance. You can still stroll up onto the low mound intended to hold the castle and see some sections of the moat.
You can wander, too, across buttercup-strewn meadows towards the old church. In fact the scene has been described by Ben Colburn on his excellent website "Cambridgeshire Churches" as disgustingly idyllic! If you're observant you can make out the slightly raised platforms where houses once stood - probably cleared when the castle was planned - as well as the hollowed-out routes of the former roads and tracks.
The picture above shows the main trackway which led towards the church. I hope you can make out the track leading away to the right of the two big trees; it was a lot more obvious when actually there.
The church can be most kindly described as picturesque. Walls seem to be leaning out in all directions and the brick-built porch looks about to collapse! The chancel roof is tiled while the roof of the nave is thatched, with the lower part of slate.
Lets go and have a look inside. The interior is also "picturesque" with a couple of unusual features. First of all some of the medieval wall painting can still be seen:
and in the chancel lies a memorial to a knight in full armour:
no one seems to know who he was or his connection to this little place. Even in death he seems to be about to draw his sword and fight for what is right!
Just across the village road from the church stands a cottage which looks as though it's in need of some urgent renovation. So there we are: No giants but a beautiful fragment of English history just waiting to be explored.