Level Ground, 17 & 18. A Walk Back in Time.

This morning, I went walking after a hiatus of almost a week. Between errands, laziness, and rain, I had been putting off walking. Partially, also because I thought I had found most of the interesting spots within ten kilometers. 

So, I strode off in another direction, which involved crossing a busy road, something I have tried to avoid until now. In the end, it was over a seven kilometer round trip, and worth the exertion. 

I decided to visit a hill top that was supposed to have the remains of an Iron Age hill fort. The entire area of the Castro de Bexo had been consumed in the atrocious fires of March of 2019, and loggers had been cutting and removing all the eucalyptus. When I got to where the lane upwards begins, I gulped. It looked like something had taken huge bites of earth, chewed them, and spit them out on the lane, again. The tires of the tractors on the wet ground had gouged out long lines in the earth, rising and dipping again. It wasn't the easiest lane to follow, but I did, twisting and turning up the side of the hill, until, at the very top, I noticed a stone wall above me. The soil and plants covering it had fallen away, probably because of the settling of the earth after the passage of the machinery. 

The path took me over the wall and into the largest area. Here, there were lots of stones scattered about, but in one spot I found three or four placed in a circular position. A house once stood there. The land here sloped upward even more, to the very top. I struggled through the growing ferns to reach what looked like a parapet. Once there, I noticed that it was yet another wall, this one much more recognizable. I stood on it and looked at the area it enclosed. There were mile high ferns, both last year's and new ones, along with baby eucalyptus trees. I felt I would have been swallowed up by the undergrowth, so I didn't explore any further, but looked around, appreciating the views. 

To the south, I could glimpse the ocean and Rianxo, even my house. To the east, the mist was thick over the Ulla river, watery gateway to Padrón and Santiago further on. The hills to the west were covered in low clouds, that presaged rain later in the day. I have to return on a sunny day, to be able to see for miles. 

On one side of the area the ground sloped up again, to a group of rocks. The fort probably extended to there, as well. The problem is all the underbrush underfoot; the area needs to be cleaned again. A few years ago the neighbors had already cleaned, and now it's in dire need, again. 

When I got home, I did some research online. It seems the fort has never had an archeological intervention. One was going to be done a couple of years back, but there seems to be no literature on it. In fact, most of the deterioration has come about since the 1980's. Before that, stones were taken to help build houses in the surrounding villages, but there was no planting done on the site. When the eucalyptus species was introduced forty years ago, every available spot was used to plant them, and increase profit. As I climbed, the burned out stumps told their story.

There are legends. Almanzor, the Moorish military campaigner who did incursions into the Christian kingdoms in the far northwest at the end of the tenth century, is rumored to have passed through the Castro de Bexo, on his way to sack the new pilgrimage center at the burgeoning village of Santiago de Compostela. This led to another legend, of an area within the fort where no gorse nor broom would grow because the mouros had fought with the Apostle James (Santiago) and shed their blood there. Along the same vein, there is supposed to be a tunnel that goes from the hilltop all the way down and under the Ulla to the Torres de Oeste. The Torres are all that's left of a fortification built to defend the river from Viking raiders before Almanzor even appeared. And the lucky person has yet to find a well full of gold.

I assume that, with the great fire of a couple of years ago, and the pandemic of last year, that any archeological assessment has been put on hold. I had thought that it had already been excavated in the 1960's, but it seems that honor lies with some Neolithic burial sites nearby. It would be wonderful to have a dig there one summer, soon. I'm sure there's a lot waiting to be found under the top layers of soil.

Life continues.


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