Thursday, August 02, 2018


I made a brief evening foray to Barbury Castle, an iron-age hillfort on the scarp of the Marlborough Downs, a few miles south of Swindon. The fort is an 11-acre enclosure surrounded by two concentric ramparts separated by a deep ditch.  (The earth was extracted from the ditch and piled to either side -- hey presto, fortifications.) This time I walked round the inner rampart.

Barbury Castle dates from the 6th Century BCE, but it was in such a good spot, right on the ancient Ridgeway and commanding a vast view to the north and west, that it was later useful to the Romans, the Saxons, and the US Army Air Force, who sited anti-aircraft guns here during WWII.

Cirsium acaule - without stems

Dwarf Thistle (Cirsium acaule). This is the common form, normally experienced as a sharp pain when you sit down on it by mistake.

Cirsium acaule - with stems

This is the less frequent form, in which the flowers (contrary to their Latin name, which means "stemless") actually do have stems. 

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