Plugging the Gap

Ely was built on a raised area of land to be above the surrounding boggy marshland, but settlements take the high ground for other reasons too.

Castles are often on raised ground, so they are easier to defend, and villages are often found nearby.

The village of Corfe Castle, in Dorset, is very much dominated by the castle from which it takes its name.

The castle itself sits on a lump of high land within a gap in the Purbeck Hills.

It’s a defensive site, with a good view of the flat land and the line of hills either side.  Approaching attackers would have been spotted in good time and to reach the castle would have to attack running uphill.

Like a bridging point, the gap in the hills is a place where roads come together.  In this case to take the easy route through the gap, rather than climb over the hill.

Where roads converge is a good place for trade and thus a village to provide services for the traders and those passing through – an inn, a blacksmith, a shop…

And nothing has changed – the roads still go through the gap, as does the railway.  You have to go nearly 2 miles along the line of hills before you can find another route across, and then it is only a minor road.

Corfe Castle stands guard over the only main road through the Purbeck Hills.  It’s a bit of a traffic bottleneck but I bet the local shops are thriving.