Winkelbury Hillfort Fieldwork – 6th April 2017

On 6 April, a beautiful early spring day, we returned to Winkelbury, but not, as in the past, to do geophysics but to survey some of the features which, because they are outside the scheduled area of the hillfort, have not been accurately surveyed. Yet, these features are certainly not without importance and include linear features and at least one barrow. The resulting data will serve as a condition survey against which any future changes can be measured. The occasion also provided training for the 10 volunteers present on how to, firstly, recognise relatively low profile archaeological features, put in control points and use both GPS and a Total Station to survey features. Despite the use of sophisticated equipment provided by the University of Winchester Archaeology department, the volunteers learnt that there is still an element of subjectivity and also observational skill in determining when a break of slope occurs, when the bottom of a ditch has been reached or where a linear feature fades and disappears. 




Chiselbury Hillfort

Visibility was poor when we visited Chiselbury on Tuesday 6th December but this did not stop us from getting to grips with this interesting hillslope Iron Age Hill fort, aided as we were by the commentaries and plans of antiquarians and archaeologists from Stukely and Colt Hoare to Heywood Sumner. We had permission from the landowner to roam across the entire site and took full advantage of this to explore the site and its associated features; for Chiselbury actually contains evidence from four distinct eras. The cross-dyke which, as it’s name suggests, crosses the ridge at right angles, in a very self-conscious act of territorial demarcation, and is probably Late Bronze age in date. Then comes the Iron Age hillfort and its now ploughed out D shaped entrance which dominates the ridge and the small promontory that juts out from it. From then we fast forward to the current drove road which was no doubt used in the medieval period as a much drier and easier route between Salisbury and Shaftesbury than the valley below could afford. The drove road cuts through the cross-dyke and by the 18th century was adorned with stone milestones, visually identified from afar by the planting of a tree next to each one. This observation, by Stukely, suggests that elsewhere along the drove road there were none of the trees and bushes that today line the route on both sides. Finally, the scheduled area also includes the below ground remains of a 19th century toll house from the days when this stretch of the drove was turnpiked. It is today a BOAT (Bridleway open to all traffic) and is maintained by Wiltshire CC. Although longer, the drove road affords a more level and easier approach to the site than the steep climb up past the Fovant badges.

DOWNLAOD the Chiselbury Camp Hillfort Handout


Cranborne Chase AONB secures Heritage Lottery Fund support for further work

A grant of £1,684,100 has been given initial approval¹ by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme², it was announced today. The grant will be used to help conserve, enhance, understand and learn about this very special area.

Cranborne Chase is a dramatic and historic chalk landscape. Along with a sense of remoteness, tranquillity and dark night skies, Cranborne Chase offers a deep sense of place.

gurston-hollow-1024x783_andrew-wiltshire The Cranborne Chase Landscape Partnership focuses on the traditional heart of a Medieval royal hunting ground and the river valley to the north known locally as the Chalke Valley. There have always been historical, natural and social links between the valley and the Chase downland which the LP scheme will explore and reinforce. A broad range of activities will allow people to conserve, enhance, understand and learn about their unique heritage.

Starting early in 2017, local people will be developing the projects and activities to be delivered through the scheme. The projects will also build on the links with the surrounding market towns such as Shaftesbury, Salisbury, Wimborne and Warminster. The programme will continue until 2024.

AONB Director Linda Nunn said, “We are absolutely delighted to have received this wonderful grant. It will transform our ability to conserve and enhance this truly outstanding area.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said:

“Our historic landscapes are incredibly important to people’s wellbeing and need to be protected. Some of the landscapes we are funding today are in the most remote parts of the UK; others form an important backdrop to some of our largest cities. What they all have in common is the potential to make people’s lives better, which is why they are so richly deserving of National Lottery money.”

A development grant of £105,400 has been awarded by HLF to enable the Cranborne Chase AONB to develop its plans and seek final approval for the full grant amount of nearly £1.7 million at a later date.



¹ HLF’s Landscape Partnership (LP) programme operates a two-stage grant approval process.  Today’s announcement means that money has been set aside by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the scheme. The applicant initially receives development funding, then progresses to the second round and submits a further, fully-developed application to secure the full award.  This early level of strong financial commitment means that Landscape Partnership projects can move forward with the assurance that funding for their scheme is in place provided that their final proposals fully meet the programme’s criteria. 


² HLF’s Landscape Partnerships are helping bring together members of the community as well as local, regional, and national organisations to deliver schemes which benefit some of the UK’s most outstanding landscapes and rural communities. Grants range from £100,000 up to £3m.  The next closing date for LP applications is May 2017.

The flight of the Stockton Drone – Friday 22 July

Several volunteers have suggested that it would be useful to have some drone images of Stockton. Mike McQueen from Swindon answered our call and, having gained an archaeology MA in early retirement, soon got the measure of this extensive Romano-British site.

Mike and his drone

The advantages of a drone over classic aerial photography are many: it is much easier to get a drone to the site at short notice when conditions are ideal (shadow, snow-melt, drought, etc.); drones fly at low altitude, plunging camcorded fly-pasts give a dynamic impression of the site and the surrounding landscape. The flight on 22 July did not provide particularly good data because there was too much vegetation on the site and the summer sun was too vertical, but this first flight gave us an idea of the drone’s potential.

Mike McQueen

In the footsteps of Pitt-Rivers: A reflection on a sunny Sunday September walk

A full complement of 30 walkers gathered at Win Green on 13 September for a Pitt-Rivers walk. Adrian Green (director of Salisbury museum) supplied the participants with plans and photographs to lead us though the heartland of the General’s experiments, not only in archaeology but also in education, entertainment, animal breeding and estate management. Particular points of interest were views of Winkelbury Hill and a much closer look at Rotherley Romano-British settlement where the General has installed a 19th century version of an interpretation panel – a large inscribed (or is it concrete?) obelisk in the centre of the site. Adrian stressed the thoroughness and attention to detail in the General’s work even if the latter did, with his craniometric measurements and devices, for example, sometimes dive down a few scientific blind alleys.


Along the way, and in particular in the church at Tollard Royal, we were invited to reflect on how the General used archaeological evidence to deliver his very Victorian message that social and economic change had always been gradual and so rapid change or revolution was not a good idea. His audience were the labouring masses in the countryside and the nearby expanding urban centre of Bournemouth. Adrian pointed out the irony that the improvement of the General’s own circumstances had been far from gradual when he inherited the extensive Rushmore estate! The walk also featured press barons and pop stars, a reminder that landscape echoes national life and culture today as much as it conserves deeper layered information about the past. The end of the walk was a steep climb, but what is physical tiredness when the mind is usefully occupied – and if that isn’t a Victorian concept, what is?