Caesar's Camp - more info

Caesar’s camp is the remains of an iron age hill fort. Swinley Forest is the Crown estate forestry area south of the B3430 almost to the A30. The central area of the forest is commonly referred to in local bird reports as ‘Crowthorne Woods’.

Map references are in square brackets [horizontal, vertical]

Don’t be tempted to park at either of the ‘pull-ins’ along the ‘Nine mile ride’. The ‘Nine mile ride’ is a very dangerous road and has had several fatal accidents in the past ten years. Park either at “The Look Out”  just after the A322/B3430 roundabout where you can have a cup of tea in the Visitor’s centre café (you can follow signs to ‘Caesar’s Camp’ from here) or at the eastern ‘dead end’ bit to the roundabout on the A3095 [1, 6] – there’s just room for about ten, carefully parked cars (it does fill up with dog walkers on weekend mornings, however).

It’s a working forest and so is in a state of flux. A lot of felling seems to have been done in the (recent) closure due to F&M. Starting at the ‘A3095 roundabout entry’ you’ll go thru a gate which tells dog walkers to keep dogs under control (Ha!) [1.5, 6]. Stands of birch to left and right are heavy with warblers and common tits. As you walk up the side of “Hut hill” you will see a large pine on your left, isolated on a hill. The very top has died off and can hold Crossbills, if you’re lucky,  in eruptive years. Pine soon takes over as you climb the hill [3.8, 5.8]; follow the path [more or less] straight on then taking the first left will lead you to the western entrance [5.5, 6.6] of the scheduled monument. Mature deciduous trees border the path as you walk thru the cut in the ancient defences. Nuthatch, woodpecker, treecreeper, spot fly and even Redstart can be seen and heard here before reaching the top where heather (sadly being over run with birch and rhododendron) is trying to maintain a foothold. By May you’ll certainly hear and see the parachuting of Tree pipit as well as the clacks of Stonechat. Woodlark, if not driven off by the barking  dogs which uncontrolled, run about the site, are usually present either in the ‘Camp’ or along the paths to the south. It is possible to walk around the top of the ‘ramparts’ which puts you level with the tops of mature beech and elm in places. Lesser Spot were heard here in ’94 (and for 96-00 who knows?) but this is not encouraged by the site managers. While sitting on the seat [6.2, 7.7] at the northern entrance you can hear the common warblers (Willow, Chiff, Whitethroat, Garden and Blackcap!) as well as the rattle of what seems to be a colony of ‘Storm Cock’. This is a site for Nightjar and roding Woodcock on a June evening as well as the new-ish plantation [4.5, 8.5] north-west of ‘Caesar’s Camp’.  Crossbill can be seen in the ‘Camp’ but you can get them all over the area in a good year.

Leave the ‘Camp’ by the southern gate [6.9, 5.9] and follow the overhead wires south-east. The new plantation [7.5, 4.5] to your left held Dartford and Stonechat up to 2000 but the heather is disappearing rapidly under the young pine. Woodlark are heard here and can be seen along the stony sides to the paths. This is still a very reliable Nightjar and roding Woodcock site – don’t try before 20:30 and wear lots of insect repellent. Bring your bat detector – my kids have had pipistrelle and noctule (sic) here with nature wardens a couple of years ago.

A circular walk from here could take you to the Upper [10.4, 0.8] and *Lower Star Post,  passed *Wishmoor Cross and along as far as *Rapley lake. In May or June this walk may get you a Wood Warbler as well as more chances of seeing or hearing a Redstart or two.

There are lots of small paths which do not appear on this, the OS or Crown estate map you can buy at the Look Out and it’s easy to get lost so it’s a good idea to take a compass so if all else fails you can set it to north!

Good birding!

* see Wishmoor Bottom guide

Not far from "The Look Out" is a recently restored "Lily Hill Park" which has a fine variety of trees and may be worth a quick visit