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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Maiden Castle Echoscape, English Heritage; Sounds and Memories of Maiden Castle


This audio journey is meant to be downloaded and listened to on a mobile device when walking on top of Maiden Castle.

"Echoscape is an immersive audio experience that connects time, place and imagination".

Listen to the mp3 file

"Maiden Castle has been a focus of imagination for countless people over its history. In this audio experience visitors can listen to the viewpoints of modernist painter Paul Nash, writer Thomas Hardy and Iron Age storyteller Nonna. By exploring their stories within this ancient landscape, Echoscape asks us to consider our own place within Maiden Castle’s ongoing history. The audio experience is 40 minutes long and is suitable for ages 7+. There is no set route to follow but the visitor is encouraged to explore the ancient earthwork as they listen. The piece uses 3D sound and requires headphones".

"The roar of the storm can be heard travelling the complete circuit of the castle — a measured mile — coming round at intervals like a circumambulating column of infantry. Doubtless such a column has passed this way in its time, but the only columns which enter in these latter days are the columns of sheep and oxen that are sometimes seen here now; while the only semblance of heroic voices heard are the utterances of such, and of the many winds which make their passage through the ravines...

Acoustic perceptions multiply to-night. We can almost hear the stream of years that have borne those deeds away from us. Strange articulations seem to float on the air from that point, the gateway, where the animation in past times must frequently have concentrated itself at hours of coming and going, and general excitement. There arises an ineradicable fancy that they are human voices; if so, they must be the lingering air-borne vibrations of conversations uttered at least fifteen hundred years ago". 

Thomas Hardy, from A Tryst at an Ancient Earthwork

Echoscape script, transcript (pdf)

Mai-Dun, John Ireland (extract)

A poem inspired by Maiden Castle, written when on leave from my posting in Prague, Czechoslovakia, circa 1987:

On Leave After an Illness
(At Forty-Five Degrees)

Gale-force winds on Maiden Castle,
My lungs, restored, blow full again.
Up and down the ancient ramparts
Running, falling, with my son; then
Leaning back against the wind -
Invaders of the hill-fort earthworks,
The grass swept wave-wild like our hair.
Dorchester spread out below us.
Thank God it's Hardy here, not Kafka.
On leave from Prague and airless office -
Breathing deeply, inhaling Dorset,
The old tribal force and fortress-free.


Thomas Hardy, A Tryst at an Ancient Earthwork; A Changed Man -ebooksadelaide

"At one’s every step forward it rises higher against the south sky, with an obtrusive personality that compels the senses to regard it and consider. The eyes may bend in another direction, but never without the consciousness of its heavy, high-shouldered presence at its point of vantage. Across the intervening levels the gale races in a straight line from the fort, as if breathed out of it hitherward. With the shifting of the clouds the faces of the steeps vary in colour and in shade, broad lights appearing where mist and vagueness had prevailed, dissolving in their turn into melancholy gray, which spreads over and eclipses the luminous bluffs. In this so-thought immutable spectacle all is change.

Out of the invisible marine region on the other side birds soar suddenly into the air, and hang over the summits of the heights with the indifference of long familiarity. Their forms are white against the tawny concave of cloud, and the curves they exhibit in their floating signify that they are sea-gulls which have journeyed inland from expected stress of weather. As the birds rise behind the fort, so do the clouds rise behind the birds, almost as it seems, stroking with their bagging bosoms the uppermost flyers.

The profile of the whole stupendous ruin, as seen at a distance of a mile eastward, is cleanly cut as that of a marble inlay. It is varied with protuberances, which from hereabouts have the animal aspect of warts, wens, knuckles, and hips. It may indeed be likened to an enormous many-limbed organism of an antediluvian time — partaking of the cephalopod in shape — lying lifeless, and covered with a thin green cloth, which hides its substance, while revealing its contour. This dull green mantle of herbage stretches down towards the levels, where the ploughs have essayed for centuries to creep up near and yet nearer to the base of the castle, but have always stopped short before reaching it. The furrows of these environing attempts show themselves distinctly, bending to the incline as they trench upon it; mounting in steeper curves, till the steepness baffles them, and their parallel threads show like the striae of waves pausing on the curl. The peculiar place of which these are some of the features is ‘Mai–Dun,’ ‘The Castle of the Great Hill,’ said to be the Dunium of Ptolemy, the capital of the Durotriges, which eventually came into Roman occupation, and was finally deserted on their withdrawal from the island".

"Two miles out, a quarter of a mile from the highway, was the prehistoric fort called Mai Dun, of huge dimensions and many ramparts, within or upon whose enclosures a human being as seen from the road, was but an insignificant speck. Hitherward Henchard often resorted, glass in hand, and scanned the hedgeless Via — for it was the original track laid out by the legions of the Empire — to a distance of two or three miles, his object being to read the progress of affairs between Farfrae and his charmer" - Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Chapter 43..

From the biography of her father, William Barnes, by Lucy Baxter:

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