For me the hillforts of Dorset are as important as the pyramids of Egypt. When you visit one it feels like you’re travelling back in time; connecting with the people that worked the land thousands of years ago.
On a spring day, as the sun tried to break through, the mist hindered the view but Eggardon Hill loomed large on the horizon. We drove along a road that followed the line of what was one of the vast mounds that surround the hillfort. Down one side was a sheer drop and the other was a defensive moat.
This is the third hillfort in Dorset (all owned by the National Trust) that I’ve visited in the last six months. Hambledon Hill is one of the best sites in Europe, a remarkable place, and Badbury Rings on the Kingston Lacy estate, is a place that comes alive with the arrival of the wild flowers. Dorset really is a hillfort superpower. These magical places are true wonders.
The wind made the short walk to Eggardon bracing. But it was worth it. The earthworks here are stunning: a testament to human endeavour and indigenuity. It’s mind boggling to think that people toiled here thousands of years ago to create this intricate defence system to keep the community safe. This wasn’t some random act of setting up camp, the entrances and banks were carefully thought through to provide a robust way to defend the site from attack. The surrounding landscape would have been covered in trees, hence the need for a high vantage point.
Sheep graze the slopes and fragments of chalk litter the site. Skylarks high above belted out their distinctive and achingly beautiful melodies. On a clear day you can see the coast. The trees here are windswept, growing at right angles, and the banks of the hillfort will be awash with orchids in the summer and butterflies fluttering gently above the chalk rich grassland. It is a place to connect deeply with human history and natural history.
When you’re visiting a place such as Eggardon it really does feel as though you are standing on the shoulders of a giant with commanding views across the landscape.