Thursday, 23 December 2010

Camping it up in Loughton

I’m holding a flint flake made by an Essex Man 2,500 years ago. Before the big freeze our family took the train to Loughton and explored Epping Forest. It’s an amazing place when the leaves are falling and the lack of signage means it’s easy to imagine yourself miles from the nearest city.

We picnicked at Loughton Camp, an iron age hill fort on top of a hill in the middle of the forest. There are still huge circular earthworks and ditches, plus pits where flints were mined and worked. The flakes from this early example of entrepreneurial Essex are still easily found.

Loughton Camp is also the place where dandy highwayman Dick Turpin was said to have used it as his hide out after committing highway robbery on the A13. There’s also an unsubstantiated legend linking it with Boudica and her big bundle with the Romans.

We tend to think of hill forts as being at places like Maiden Castle in Dorset, or Old Sarum in Wiltshire. Who’d have thought that Essex has its own version right on the Central line. We’ll be finding our own stone ‘enge next.