IMG_6665Whilst on our summer holidays in Cornwall and Devon, we visited a fascinating iron age village – Chysauster, near Penzance. Thought to be around 2,000 years old, this wind-swept, rocky network sits on a south-facing slope overlooking Mount’s Bay.

It’s thought the location takes advantage of a natural spring on the hill slope, for to locate a settlement in such an exposed spot would other wise seem a little crazy. However, having got their supply of fresh water the occupants were able to create a microclimate within their thick stone encircling walls (The walls survive to heights of up to 3 metres). Channelled water to each house and it’s accompanying courtyard/garden and the tall, 4 metre-thick walls created a sheltered, sun soaked encampment – perhaps they even grew food inside these compounds?

Primarily agricultural and unfortified, and probably occupied by members of the Dumnoii tribe, the village today has the remains of around 10 courtyard houses, each about 30 metres in diameter. Eight of these form two rows. The houses have a similar layout with an open central courtyard surrounded by a number of thatched rooms, orientated on an east-west axis, with the entrance facing east. A field system in the vicinity demonstrates the site’s farming connections. The whole site also has wonderful views of the surrounding landscape.

Work is underway with local schools to create an ‘iron age garden’  where some of the old varieties of wheat (such as Spelt) and other plants will be grown. The Site Manager, Steve (whose accent I immediately recognised as East London!) , gave us a great potted guide to the place and he’s obviously enthusiastic for the site’s future development as a super educational as well as heritage ‘must see’ attraction.

 

Further information:

English Heritage

Old School Gardener

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