Tag Archive | Hambledon Hill

Sunday stroll: Bulbarrow

Bulbarrow Hill is a beautiful hill in north-central Dorset, south of Sturminster Newton and west of Blandford Forum. Here the chalk hills rise to 274 metres, making it the third-highest point in the county (after Eggardon Hill at 279 m and Pilsdon Pen at 277 m). It has spectacular views all around, especially to the north and north-west, over the Blackmore Vale, and south-eastwards towards the Dorsetshire Gap. This is in the heart of Thomas Hardy country, and is as lovely as it was in his day, seemingly little-changed. Click on all photos to enlarge: if you then click on the photo again, you get an even bigger version.

View looking south-west from Bulbarrow Hill. The Dorsetshire Gap is on the right in the distance.

By the stile to the footpath leading to Rawlsbury Camp was this sign:

Dating, Dorset style. I wonder what was in the message and if they ever met up again?

Rawlsbury Camp is a small multivallate hillfort, dating from the Iron Age. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and according to its listing, does not appear to have been excavated. A large, fairly new wooden cross has been placed within the hillfort. I can see no mention of this in the listing and wonder if it is a modern construction or replacing an older, historic one.  I would hope the latter, as I cannot see how such despoilation of a scheduled ancient monument would be allowed otherwise.

Rawlsbury Camp with its intrusive cross.

The Dorsetshire Gap is a prominent landscape feature, a very obvious gap (and thus passageway) between Nordon Hill to the east and Nettlecombe Tout to the west. Five ancient trackways meet at the Gap.

The earthworks (ramparts and ditches) of Rawlsbury Camp. It must have been a bleak life living up here. The Dorsetshire Gap is on the horizon.

A beautiful windswept oak on the ramparts.

One of the things that struck us here is that even though there is a road running right across the top of the hill, there is no road noise, allowing you to enjoy the proper sounds of the countryside. This is in marked contrast to another favourite Dorset spot of ours, Fontmell Down Nature Reserve, where the A350 runs noisily close by and the neighbouring Compton Abbas airfield sees plenty of small aircraft coming and going.

Looking north across the Blackmore Vale towards the Shaftesbury escarpment and the lone tump of Duncliffe Hill. You can just make out the clump of trees on Win Green on the very right of the photo, on the skyline. (Click to embiggen/bigify).

On the way home we stopped at the River Stour, just north of the wonderfully named village of Hammoon. Here there is a small brick-built river water monitoring station, run by the Environment Agency, and there is a very touching plaque mounted on the wall.

The lovely plaque at the water monitoring station by the bridge over the River Stour, near Hammoon. Tom Poole was clearly much loved by his colleagues.

The River Stour, taken from Tom Poole’s Bridge (as I shall call it from now on).

The River Stour, and in the background Hambledon Hill. I have a very soft spot for Hambledon: it was here I went on my first proper archaeological dig, in 1979.

Hambledon Hill

I’m a few days late to the news that the National Trust has bought Hambledon Hill, an Iron Age hillfort in North Dorset, for £450,000, thereby securing its future, for ever, for everyone.

Hambledon Hill, Dorset.

Hambledon Hill, Dorset.

The ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort at Hambledon Hill.

The ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort at Hambledon Hill. Photo by David Squire.

I have a very soft spot for Hambledon Hill: it is where I went on my first archaeological dig, 35 years ago. Roger Mercer, then of Edinburgh University, was directing the excavation of part of the Neolithic causewayed enclosure on the hill. The causewayed enclosure is a barely-visible part of the earthworks on the hill: the much later hillfort banks and ditches are the best-preserved and most obvious features. I spent a month that summer hoeing and trowelling chalk in the interior of the enclosure (as a green volunteer I was not allowed near the one large archaeological feature—the enclosure ditch—that was being excavated by experienced archaeologists), and finds were few and far between, but I loved it—summer on the chalk downs, with larks singing overhead and independence for the first time in my teenage life. We camped in a field, washed using water from a tap over a cattle trough, and ate meals cooked by a lovely lady called Grace in the Iwerne Courtney village hall.

(The first ever dig I went on was a Sunday spent at a rescue excavation at a site in the area of the proposed Empingham Reservoir, in 1970 or 1971. The reservoir was later built, and renamed Rutland Water. I found a sherd that I was told was the best found that day. I rather suspect they were being kind to me, but I glowed, and wrote a ridiculously long essay about my archaeological triumph at school the next day. Until that point it had been a toss up between dinosaurs and archaeology. That sherd decided it for me, and set me on course for my career.)

I now live not too far from Hambledon, and Chap and I visit there every now and then. It’s a beautiful spot, and one full of very happy memories for me.