Work days are held by WHPS on a regular basis in which members get together to carry on with the endless task of cleaning, tidying and maintaining the sites around the Western Heights. Recently this has focused on the Drop Redoubt, including moving rubble out of the sergeant’s mess and ablutions area; cutting the grass in the ditch and on the Redoubt itself; sweeping inside the caponiers, adding a new floor to the main magazine, clearing the area around the officer’s quarters and guard cells…the list goes on. Work days continue throughout the year, with the added advantage of being sheltered in the Drop Redoubt out of winter winds and rain! The work is endless, and it is essential that the site is maintained as best we can to prevent the further growth of plants such as buddleia and ivy that are having a devastating effect on the structural integrity of every structure around the Western Heights. The more people come along to lend a hand, the more can be done. Members are always very welcome, and even if you are walking through the ditch and think you would like to lend a hand, please feel free to join in. PLEASE NOTE ALL WORKDAYS ARE ON THE 3RD OF EACH MONTH
North Entrance Ditch Clearance
The North Entrance was the main point of access to the Western Heights fortifications. During construction, it was the point through which the building materials were brought to the site. The hill from town was an easier gradient for the horses from this side rather than via the South Entrance!\r\n\r\nAs a major point of access, the North Entrance would clearly have to be well defended. This was start before any attacker even reached the entrance via a system of bridges and ditches. The two ditches defending the North Entrance are known as the Outer and Inner Ditches. They are separated by a defensive bank known as a tenaille. The two ditches could be crossed by bridges, slightly offset from each other to prevent an assault being mounted from the far side of the Outer Ditch directly at the entrance. While the Western Heights was in use, the road ran through the North Entrance and across both bridges, before heading back down Military Hill towards the town.
The ditches were maintained to remain clear at all times while the fort was in use, but as the Heights began to fall into disrepair, long before it was abandoned by the MOD, the ditches began to become overgrown with weeds and, as time went on, trees became well established. Access was no longer possible along either of the ditches and the bridges fell into disrepair, before disintegrating completely, leaving little more than rusted frames. This was the state of the North Entrance ditches that the Western Heights Preservation Society was met with. The brickwork on the inside of the Inner Ditch was heavily vandalised and large sycamore trees were growing in both ditches and even, in places, out of the ditch walls. Work to clear these ditches took a long time to be planned and agreed on with English Heritage and finally began in 2015. The aim is to clear the ditches of the 200 or more self-seeded sycamore trees, while maintaining some other certain plants which are essential in supporting the local wildlife which now call these ditches home.
It is hoped that by the end of this project people will be able to ramble through the ditches in exactly the way they can walk around the Drop Redoubt ditch today. Visibility into the ditch and its daily use by dog walkers and other members of the public will hopefully add security to the area, making it a more pleasant and easily accessible place for everyone to enjoy. It will also help to preserve the built heritage of the North Entrance and conserve the local wildlife throughout the year.