This Green Flag Heritage Award winning site (successfully retained for 2023/2024) is over 2,000 years old and is set within Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is the highest point on Cannock Chase at 240m above sea level. There are views over the Beaudesert Old Park and the Trent Valley area.
One of at least seven hill forts in Staffordshire. The site is believed to have been occupied between 500BC and 43 AD, and is one of the earliest pieces of evidence of settlement in the Cannock area. It was built by the resident Brythonic tribe of the area, the Cornovii. It was likely the site was a combination of defensive feature, ceremonial site, stockade, communication beacon and symbol of power to those who saw it. Their main residence was a hill fort on the Wrekin (near present day Telford) which stood near the centre of their tribal lands, while Castle Ring is near their borders with the neighbouring Coritani tribe (who occupied lands centered on present day Leicestershire).
Whilst the purpose of such structures is a matter of national archaeological debate, what is more certain is that the structure would have been very imposing in the landscape. Castle Ring occupies the highest point on Cannock Chase and the orange sandy banks when the structure was newly built would have been very visible from a considerable distance, as the landscape would have been dominated by heath and small areas of farmland and woods. Indeed, it is probable that the name of Cannock town is a derivation of the Celtic word ‘C’noc’ translated as high place.
Little is known of the site’s use after this early period but it is thought that it was in the process of being modified when it was seemingly abandoned around the time the area was conquered by the Romans. It has indeed been suggested that the site was never completed, although it must be noted that these theories are speculative as very little in the way of archaeological surveying has been carried out on the site.
In the Mediaeval Era, Cannock Chase was in possession of the King and formed part of the Royal Hunting Ground, later passing to the Bishop of Coventry & Lichfield. This would have resulted in retention of a basic open landscape. The remnants of a medieval hunting lodge can just be made out on the surface in the Northern quarter of the inner enclosure of the monument.
In the mid 16th Century, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII confiscated the lands in the manor belonging to the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield and gave then to Sir William Paget. Under his control, the Coal and Iron resources of Cannock Chase were exploited. The open wooded landscape of the hunting forest was utilised for charcoal making. And throughout the Agrian Revolution the estate prospered maintaining an open landscape through heavy grazing.
However the largest effect on Castle Ring came about between 1780-90 following development of a landscape park at Beaudesert. This involved leveling of the north and west side of the inner rampart as a walkway and for viewing the landscape, and creating two carriage drives on Castle Ring. One runs along the Northern boundary, the other running directly from the main entrance in the East, bisecting the inner enclosure and cutting through the Western embankments. Whether this route created this breach or merely used an existing Roman breach is not known.
The Cannock Chase forests that we see today were largely created after 1919 to provide a strategic reserve of timber following the First World War. And it is the establishment of forestry that has impacted most on Castle Ring.
As well as being a SAM (Scheduled Ancient Monument) the site is also an SBI (Site of Biological Importance). The nature of the site has lead to a variety of small but distinct habitats from sphagnum bog, acidic grassland to areas which are more like heathland. This variety provides home to a range of birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. You may see species such as the black darter dragonfly, green hairstreak butterfly and lizards if you are lucky.
These habitats are fragile and easily damaged through pressures from access and disturbance, so please keep to the main paths.
Today the monument is a shadow of its former self. Human activities and weather have worn away the banks. The long term aim is to maintain and preserve the monument in its present state. This is being achieved by preventing invasive scrub taking over site. Repairing erosion scars with locally sourced materials and plastic reinforcement meshing. Due to high visitor pressure the site also requires the topping up of the paths with locally sourced sand and gravel. Recent additions have been a circle created next to the car park representing the size of an iron age round house and new notice boards have been installed to inform visitors about the site.
You can help us protect the site by:
Keeping to the footpaths.
No horse riding on the monument.
No cycling on the monument.
No sledging on the monument.
A circular route can be taken around the top of the monument via steps from the car park. Castle Ring is a great place to start longer walks off into the adjoining Beaudesert Old Park and Cannock Chase.There is also a route down to Hazelslade Local Nature Reserve. Castle Ring is also a registered Earthcache published on geocaching.com.
How to get there
The reserve is found just at the edge of the village of Cannock Wood. There is a large free car park, off Holly Hill Road and opposite the Park Gate Inn.
Last Updated: 20/07/2023