Friday, 6 March 2015

Cissbury Ring and its location in the landscape

So I was back working with the National Trust at Cissbury Ring, clearing scrub to allow cattle grazing and a restoration back to it's managed environment.
To the North, on the horizon, you can see the beech hanger that is Chanctonbury Ring a Romano-British temple and thus the temple for the people who built Cissbury. The suffix bury, in this context, comes from the term Burgh to denote a fortified place. Chancton may well come from the Old English meaning Chanc's ton where ton mean farmstead. Cissbury means Cissa's burgh, Cissa is one of the legendary three sons of the South Saxon leader Ælle who is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle as invading in CE 477.

The use of Burgh may well denote their implementation by King Alfred the Great as fortified places to halt the Viking incursions. Cissbury is a defensible high point where the views to the East, South and West would provide good warning of any attacks. Chanctonbury, to the North, has views right across the Weald to the North Downs. There is a clear track, almost a cursus, between the two places and it would seem sensible for our ancestors to combine their need for defense with a their spiritual needs. Cissbury itself is very ancient and was first a centre for Flint mining before the defensive ramparts were built in the Iron Age.

Eastwards you can vaguely see the rise that is the next old hillfort at Devils Dyke. A couple of hours by mountain bike and a fairly hard walk for most people even along the relatively easy South Downs Way.

Southwards the view is over the coastal towns of Lancing and Worthing, the -ing suffix denoting their pagan Anglo-Saxon origins, and the sea of the English Channel. Which would give plenty of warning of any coastal raiders.

Westwards you can see the Long Furlong and then onwards towards Harrow Hill, Harrow probably coming from the Anglo-Saxon hearg meaning a holy sanctuary it does have the following features in addition to an ancient enclosure where evidence of Anglo-Saxon ritual feasting has been found. "One of the distinctive features of what seem to be genuine heargs is that they are prominent hills. And these hills are often, though not always, of a distinctive 'beached whale' shape...The hearg seems to have constituted a naturally significant location that formed a place of gathering and ritual for many generations over a long period of time." from here You can also see Sullington Hill along the South Downs Way, a similar distance to Devil Dyke, which has a series of Cross Dykes that are thought to be defensive structures controlling the boundaries or trade routes.

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