The Distance Project 12
All Behind

Up Light Hill

Ivinghoe Beacon

The Monday Photo

This is Ivinghoe Beacon, a steep sided hill that peaks at 756 feet above sea level. It’s not even the highest hill in the area, but it does have the best and widest views.

There’s a car park three quarters of a mile up the narrow lane that twists up the West flank of the beacon. The lane leads towards Ivinghoe Common and some woods belonging to the National Trust, with another car park.

I stopped at the first car park and took this photo from the picnic spot next to it. This is a popular spot but there’s plenty of room. The ice cream van was doing well and quite a few walkers went through the gate that leads to the beacon, half a mile away.

I haven’t been to Ivinghoe Beacon in 25 years. Last time, I parked at the bottom of the beacon and walked over and round the East side to the woods. Scenes from the film First Knight were being filmed behind the beacon.

The set was in a large clearing at the edge of the woods, three quarters surrounded by trees. I looked at the Saxon village the film company had built, and at the back of one of the cottages where the cameras couldn’t see, I noticed gas pipes ready to produce flames above the roof top when the cameras were rolling.

I sat and watched as the crew set up for the next shot, then I noticed something in the grass nearby. I reached over to find a bit of a film prop; a rubber arrow head, lost from its shaft. I still have it.

Filming began. The gas jets fired up, and I saw another gas jet at the window of the Saxon church. Horses and riders milled about, but I was a bit too far away to recognise the actors. They stopped filming. There was a bit of a problem; somebody had set light to a cottage they shouldn’t have.

That seemed to be it for the day, so I walked back over the hill to my car. The location is quite close to the car park I stopped at yesterday, but I don’t think it was there when the film was being made. There’s nowhere else to stop on this narrow lane.

After a quarter of a century, the clearing is difficult to pick out. I’m not even sure I found it, but it was nice to go back to the Beacon after all these years.

Ivinghoe Beacon is the site of one of a network of warning posts set up in Elizabethan England, to summon men if the Spanish invaded.

Local men kept a 24 hour watch, observing the next beacons in the chain in either direction, to see if they were lit. If they were, their own beacon would be started and the message passed on. They did not use bonfires, but instead set alight pans filled with pitch.

Centuries before the warning beacon in the late Bronze age and early Iron age, there was a hillfort on the top of Ivinghoe Beacon. There’s not much left of the ditch and bank, but there are numerous barrows (burial mounds) on and around the Beacon. There’s a visual reconstruction of the hillfort here.

Ivinghoe Beacon is a National Trust site. The lane that goes to the car park is a turning off the South side of the B489, which runs along the foot of the Beacon. The nearest postcode is HP4 1NF.

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