Friday, 9 April 2010

The Park Pale

The Ashdown park pale is a thing of beauty. Not only that, it is enormous and ought really to be an ancient monument in its own right. Built originally around 1300AD, it was intended to keep the deer within the bounds of the Ashdown hunting chase at a time when there was a hunting lodge belonging to Glastonbury Abbey on the Ashdown site.

Park pales consisted of a bank and ditch with a wooden palisade, or fence, on the top. They were designed to let the deer in through gaps in the pale called deer leaps, but once inside the emparkment the deer could not get out again. At Ashdown the park pale that surrounded Middle and Hailey Woods has mostly been either ploughed out of the fields, demolished or worn away, although the later haha is still visible. However to the south of the sarsen field and most particularly around Upper Wood, the park pale is a magnificent earthwork that still stands up to 9 metres high on the escarpment of the hill. There is a footpath that runs up the back of Upper Wood and around the top of the park pale and from this vantage point you get a superb view of the surrounding landscape and in particular the remains of the Romano-British settlement to the south. All part of the complex historical landscape in which the current house sits, and a reminder that though the history of Ashdown post 1660 may be a fascinating one it is matched in interest by what happened before the house was built.