Wandlebury Hill

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Wandlebury Hill
The stable block at Wandlebury House
Highest point
Elevation74 m (243 ft)
Prominence10 m (33 ft)
Parent peakGreat Wood Hill
Coordinates52°09′31″N 0°10′57″E / 52.158611°N 0.1825°E / 52.158611; 0.1825Coordinates: 52°09′31″N 0°10′57″E / 52.158611°N 0.1825°E / 52.158611; 0.1825
LocationGog Magog Hills, England
OS gridTL493533
Topo mapOS Landranger 154

Wandlebury Hill (grid reference TL493534) is a peak in the Gog Magog Hills, a ridge of low chalk hills extending for several miles to the southeast of Cambridge, England. The underlying rock is present in a number of places on the hill. At 74 metres (243 ft) it is the same height as the nearby Little Trees Hill, although the latter is a more notable landmark.

The top stands in Wandlebury Country Park,[1] a nature reserve owned by Cambridge Past Present and Future, formerly known as the Cambridge Preservation Society. Wandlebury was already inhabited in the Bronze Age[2] and 2500 years ago there was an Iron Age hill fort here known as Wandlebury Ring. This hill fort once had concentric ditches and earthen walls which were kept in place by wooden palisades. Although the fort has vanished, the ditch (the Ring) dug around the edge can clearly be seen and walked along, being 5 metres deep in places and offering an adventurous route along its edge. There is no evidence that it was ever used in defence.

The reserve, mainly beech woodlands and fields, is a place for birdwatching. Banyard bird hide, overlooking Varley's Field, was completed in February 2012. Like Little Trees Hill, the summit is on public land and is accessible when sheep or Highland cattle are not in the field. Dogs must be on a lead everywhere in Wandlebury Country Park. It can be reached by walking across the field from post 3 of the nature trail. Virtually no climb is involved in the ascent, just a stroll through woodland.

Wandlebury House[edit]

Wandlebury House, home of among others Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin, stood within the Ring. The house has been demolished but the monumental stable block remains, now used for accommodation and as headquarters office of Cambridge Past Present & Future. The grave of the Godolphin Barb horse, which died in 1753, can be seen under the archway. Maps and leaflets are available from the porch at all times and from a shed in car park on summer Sundays. The tail of a crashed World War II Wellington Bomber was visible wedged high in a beech tree within the estate, until it was dislodged by strong winds in the early 1990s.


A number of hypotheses have been made about "the Wandlebury Enigma": the purpose, function and decoration of Wandlebury Hill.[3][4]

The first is the suggestion that an ancient hill figure had once been carved into the side of Wandlebury Hill, similar to the Cerne Abbas Giant. This was thought to have been overgrown or effaced in the 18th century. The figure was first recorded by Bishop Joseph Hall in 1605 and later by others including William Cole and John Layer. Investigation was carried out in 1954 by T. C. Lethbridge, an archaeologist and parapsychologist. He found small lumps of chalk to the south of the hill and proceeded to survey the area with a sounding bar, probing areas of soft ground and disturbed chalk. By placing markers he was able to draw out the pattern of what he claimed were 3 hill figures picturing ancient British deities - A horse Goddess (Magog or Epona), a Sun God (Gog, Bel, Belinus or Lucifer) and a warrior figure with sword and shield. The Times reported on Lethbridge's discovery as a "previously lost, three thousand-year-old hill-figure". A later article about Lethbridge's efforts was written by W.A. Clark in 1997 which did not confirm his claims, nor did magnometer and resistivity meter testing.[4] This suggestion was dismissed by Professor Glyn Daniel who commented that Lethbridge had not found any real antiquities but was "probably confusing geological features".[4] A report by the Council for British Archaeology concluded that the 'hollows' were caused by common geological processes.[5]

Another Wandlebury Enigma dismissed by Glyn Daniel that was featured in a 1978 Sunday Telegraph article is the Line A Loxodrome or Cam Valley Loxodrome, a series of what retired geologist Christian O'Brien considered to be hand-carved stone monolith markers placed 1,430 metres apart between Wandlebury Earthworks and Portingbury Hills Mound[6] at Hatfield Broad Oak, in Hatfield Forest. O'Brien stated that eleven of the original twenty-six stones are still in situ, with several others lying nearby. According to O'Brien local records indicate that at least one was moved due to it impeding modern agriculture.[3]

The names suggested for the stones featured include the Wandlebury Stone, Great Chesterfield Stone, Bordeaux Stone, Wendens Ambow Stone, Shortgrove Monolith, Newport Stone (also known as The Leper Stone), Springfield Stone, and the Priory Stone. The line forms a perfect rhumb line, so that wherever an observer stands on the line between Wandlebury and Portingbury, the North Star is always at the same oblique angle. Based upon this alignment, O'Brien believed that the line's builders possessed knowledge that the Earth was round, and also of its approximate circumference.[7] O'Brien believed it to have been created in the Bronze Age.

O'Brien was following up a suggestion put forward by Alfred Watkins that the Wandlebury bank had astronomical purposes.[8] According to O'Brien dents point from its exact centre to the North Star, the midsummer sunrise and the lunar summer maximum, he suggested probabilities for this and the markers being in the correct locations by pure chance were in the order of 10 million to one. By factoring in the Earth's drift, O'Brien placed the date of its construction around 2,500 BC. His hypothesis met with mixed comments. Interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph, Glyn Daniel, Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University dismissed the paper as "nonsense" and could find nothing in it to revise the documented view of Wandlebury. Archie Roy, Professor of Astronomy at Glasgow University commented that "in the absence of a more convincing explanation, this conclusion also has to be taken very seriously.” Alexander Thom stated that he believed it to be only an Iron Age Hill Fort.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wandlebury Country Park on CPPF's website
  2. ^ Over the Hills to Cherry Hinton, H. C. Coppock, 1984, Plumridge, Linton, Cambridge, p.14.
  3. ^ a b c Hoppit, David (18 March 1978). "The Wandlebury Enigma Solved? - Line A Loxodrome". Sunday Telegraph Magazine (78).
  4. ^ a b c Newman, Paul., Darvil, Tim., Lost Gods of Albion: The Chalk Hill Figures of Britain, pp. 114-125, The History Press, 2009 (earlier editions 1997, 1987).
  5. ^ Price, Simon., "The Gog Magog Hills"Fortean Times May 2006
  6. ^ W. R. Powell (1983). A History of the County of Essex: Volume 8. Victoria County History.[failed verification]
  7. ^ Wilson, Colin., Starseekers, Doubleday, 1980
  8. ^ Price, Simon., "The Gog Magog Hills" Fortean Times May 2006

External links[edit]