AS a blood-red moon rose large and low over Beeston Castle, the 30-strong group waited for the first flare from the Welsh hills before they began to signal.

Their torch-light shone bright across the darkening Cheshire plain as they made contact with their distant counterparts on the night of the full moon.

This auspicious evening just before the spring equinox, when the moon was also at its closest for 19 years, was chosen by organisers as the perfect night to bring iron age history to life across Cheshire and north east Wales.

The Hillfort Glow experiment took place at 10 ancient sites at dusk on Saturday, including Beeston Castle, Maiden Castle, Kelsborrow, Helsby, Burton Point, Moel Y Gaer Rhosesmor, Pen Y Cloddiau, Moel Arthur, Moel Fenlli and Caer Drewyn.

Each hillfort in turn set off a flare, which was the signal for volunteers at all other hillforts to shine torches at that site, where volunteers there flashed their torches back.

The aim of this was to show the visibility between the hillforts and illustrate the relationship that may have existed between them in the iron age.

Dan Garner, from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWAC) Habitats and Hillforts project, co-ordinated Hillfort Glow at Beeston Castle.

He said: “At certain times of the year these hillforts may have been used for gatherings of people, perhaps to celebrate equinoxes or other important times of the year.

“We’re coming up to the spring equinox so it’s a fitting time of the year to do this experiment – we’ve just substuted torches for their large bonfires.

“We want to prove the intervisibility between the hillforts – hillforts with strong connections with one another may have been part of a larger tribal identity.”

The experiment was a resounding success, with flares and torchlight visible between Beeston Castle and the hillforts at Foel Fenlli, Moel Arthur, Pen Y Cloddiau, Moel Y Gaer, Burton Point, Helsby and Kelsborrow.

Dan said: “It was a clear night and worked really well – the results were better than we expected.”