Badbury Rings, Dorset

Dating from the Iron Age, a period spanning the years from 800BC to immediately prior to the Roman occupation in AD43, the hill fort at Badbury was constructed on a site that was certainly occupied from much earlier times. This can be seen by the four Bronze Age (2200BC-800BC) round barrows, the most notable of which are the three that lie just to your right as you travel up the track to the present car park.

The hill fort itself consists of three concentric, circular ditches that protect a large inner sanctuary for the inhabitants. Chalk spoil taken from each ditch was built up as loose scree on the inner edge of the ditch, effectively doubling its height and providing an earthen rampart. From the bottom of the ditch to the top of the rampart would have reached a height of some 40ft (15m) and, even accounting for 2,000 years of erosion, the ditches are formidable even today.

Above the rampart a timber pallisade would have been constructed, serving a similar purpose to the battlements of a castle, affording the defender cover whilst repelling attackers. Negotiating the steep ditch, scaling the loose scree rampart, and overcoming the pallisade at the same time as being subjected to a constant shower of assorted projectiles would have required considerable effort. To have to repeat the exercise three times doesn't bear thinking about. The hill fort has entrances at the east and west sides, both protected by large wooden gates, but these would have certainly been the weakest part of the defences. Although no evidence has been found at Badbury, similar sites in the vicinity show that these gates were often burnt down. The settlement would have been situated on the top of the hill, now covered by the pine wood, and the circular depressions in the ground, roughly 10ft (3m) in diameter, are remaining evidence of the wattle and daub houses that were constructed here.

Badbury Rings is believed to have been one of several settlements in the area belonging to an ancient Dorset tribe known as the 'Durotriges' (The largest example can be seen at Maiden Castle near Dorchester). Although the fort has never been excavated, it would almost certainly have fallen to the invading Romans, and probably taken by the 2nd Legion Augusta, led by Vespasian under Emperor Claudius. Evidence of the important Roman road from Old Sarum to Dorchester can be seen running to the west of the hill fort. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early 5th century, Jutes, Angles and Saxons invaded the country. According to the monk, Gildas, this advance was halted for several generations when a fierce warrior named Arthur was victorious at Mons Badonicus (Mount Badon). Geographically, this could well have been Badbury.

Now forming part of the Kingston Lacy estate, and under the guardianship of The National Trust, the site has been restored to light grazing land as this has always played an important role in establishing centuries of wild herbs and flowers.


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