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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

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Greencastle Hill - Field Trip with High Country Hiking

  

Moderate difficulty with steep inclines.Free event, we accept donations!


Greencastle Hill is situated just to the east of the village of Jennings.  The hill rises relatively gently from the north west but has near vertical sides on the east and south.  From the summit of the hill (565 feet high) there are fine views in all directions.  Much of the forest that covered the steeper slopes and ghauts has been lost in the last twenty years in the numerous fires that are set every year to burn off the Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) which now covers most of the hill.  With the extremely dry conditions, there has been little re-growth of grass since a fire in late March.

The hill represents the remains of a volcano that was active 20 to 30 million years ago when Antigua was an active volcanic island.  The central rocks are a light grey andesite, some of which flowed off to the N.W. creating the ridge of hills in that direction.  This hard crystalline rock is good for construction purposes and the AMP Quarry has already removed a considerable quantity of the eastern side of the hill in its quarrying operations.  There is concern that the quarrying could soon begin to destroy the hilltop.  The andesite was able to cool sufficiently slowly that the rocks could crystalise into large columnar pieces, which are clearly seen in the quarry face and at outcrops in various places on the hill. About half way up the western side of the hill, some of these rock formations have very distinct shapes, which have given rise to the belief that they are man made.


There is hard evidence that the Arawak people used this hill, possibly for religious purposes.  Dr. Reg Murphy has made some preliminary investigations on the main area of “standing stones” and found that the artefacts, mostly pottery, were from the late period (about 1000 to 1200 AD).  It appears as if the flat area has been cleared of “rubbish”, as most material was found scattered on the flanks of the ridge.  Dr. Murphy suggests that this may indicate an area kept clear for ceremonial purposes.  There are several groups of rock formations, including the ‘Chair Rock’ and  ‘Phallic Rock’, which are the most easy to see. Whether the stones are natural phenomena used by the Arawaks or were actually erected by them, we can be pretty sure they would have found the place attractive and suitable for ceremonial purposes. Another feature of this site is the good view of several triangular shaped hills to the west, which are very reminiscent of the Zemis used by the Arawaks in their religious observances.   Whatever our own interpretation, we also can enjoy the view and ponder what it would have been like 1000 years ago!


In 2001, the president of the Trinidad & Tobago Amateur Astronomical Association, Dr. Maura Imbert, visited Greencastle Hill with a UWI student in surveying, to record the positions of the major standing stones to see if there was any evidence that the stones were oriented with any astronomical significance.


At the top of the hill, close to the summit, there is a reminder of more recent colonial history.  There is a grave, marked by a tombstone engraved with the name of Oliver Ridsdale, 2nd Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.  Earl Baldwin was the Governor of the Leeward Islands from 1948 to 1950.  His father, Stanley Baldwin, was Prime Minister of Britain during the great depression.  The inscription, which is now difficult to decipher, reads “He loved the people of these islands”


It is possible, with the slopes cleared of grass, to walk down the steep ridge to the south west to the Dunnings reservoir and swing round the base of Greencastle hill to return to Jennings