Hambledon Hill joins our hillfort family

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  • ©Ross Hoddinott

    The hillfort’s Iron Age earthworks are well preserved and clearly visible

  • ©Ross Hoddinott

    A bee orchid on Hambledon Hill, one of five types of orchid recorded

  • ©Ross Hoddinott

    Grazing helps to stop scrub from dominating the steep hillside


Latest update 07.08.2014 09:16

A huge Iron Age hillfort with a history dating back even further to the Neolithic era has come into our care and is waiting to share its secrets with you. Hambledon Hill in Dorset is the first hillfort we’ve gained in the county for 30 years.

Dorset is internationally renowned for hillforts and Hambledon Hill is one of the finest examples of these special historical places. It will tempt you even further with its wealth of wildlife – which includes half of Britain’s butterfly species – and views stretching across three counties.

A sense of awe

At nearly twice the height of the White Cliffs of Dover and with views across Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, Hambledon Hill is a significant landmark in the Dorset countryside. So it’s easy to see why it’s had such a strong impact on our volunteer Jerry Broadway.

‘When I come here I feel like someone would when they go into St Paul’s Cathedral,’ says Jerry. ‘When there’s no-one else around and I sit on the top of the hill looking at the view I feel very privileged. And to play a small part in looking after the hill is a good feeling.’

Hambledon Hill’s historical footprint is also awe-inspiring. Built over 2,000 years ago, the massive Iron Age earthwork defences of the hillfort in fact lie on top of a Neolithic structure of causeway enclosures dating back to the earliest days of farming 5,500 years ago.

Rich in wildlife

Escaping the advances of agriculture since then has however preserved Hambledon Hill’s archaeological features and it has developed into a haven for wildlife. Twenty-eight species of butterfly including the Adonis Blue have been recorded on the chalk grassland and it’s also possible to spot brown hares, glow worms and kestrels.

Orchids including the Bee Orchid also flourish on the site which was previously managed as a National Nature Reserve by Natural England. We were able to buy the hillfort with a Land Purchase Grant from Natural England and with money from a legacy left to us for the countryside in Dorset.

A magical place

It’s the combination of Hambledon Hill’s rich natural and archaeological story that has enchanted our wildlife adviser Simon Ford and which he hopes will inspire you to visit too. ‘This is a place where you feel totally connected to the world around you.

‘Wandering around a site where the human history predates Stonehenge and takes you back to the early days of farming makes the heart skip a beat. The sound of a skylark ascending above the rich grassland and sight of a cloud of Adonis Blue butterfly in flight touches the soul.’

We now look after seven hillforts in Dorset including Badbury Rings, Lamberts Castle and Pilsdon Pen and Hambledon Hill’s neighbour Hod Hill, which takes the story of hillfort settlement in Britain through to the Roman times.

Visiting Hambledon Hill

We’re working on our web pages for Hambledon Hill but in the meantime, you can find out more about the hillfort on the Natural England website or discover other places we look after in Dorset.

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