Drawing Park Hill Camp

As February comes to an end, so the Wessex Hillforts and Habitats Project also officially closes but this does not mean that the conservation work will cease.

Each of the 12 hillforts of the project will have a management plan which sets out funded actions that the ranger team and volunteers will carry out annually. This will ensure that each site will remain on top form for nature and archaeology.

And for visitors to these special places there will be the Wessex Hillforts Guide. Here is the second of Julia Lillo’s drawings which visualise what three of the hillforts may have looked like over 2000 years ago.

Park Hill Camp is on the Stourhead Estate in south-west Wiltshire… on the edge of Somerset and Wiltshire.

It is placed on the crest of a ridge between two valleys that funnel water into.. what is now the great 18th-century lake. The centre-piece of the internationally famous landscape garden created for Henry Hoare in the 1740s.

This is the source of the River Stour that flows through Dorset, past Hod and Hambledon hillforts, past Spettisbury and Badbury Rings to Dudsbury and finally to Christchurch Harbour and the Iron Age trading settlement of Hengistbury Head ….where the Stour finally flows into the sea.

Park Hill is nearest of three hillforts around the Stour’s source and its construction may be linked to a sacred and strategic significance. Perhaps the local Iron Age people revered this place where their great river was born. Something to wonder at… but who knows ?

It is a hidden hillfort. Not well known. The whole site was covered in pine plantations before the NT was given the Stourhead Estate in 1944. Now Kim is gradually unveiling the hillfort and grazing the site so that it can be a grass covered, better conserved and visible archaeological site.

This month’s storm blew another tree down just outside the west entrance.

The double ramparted enclosure of Park Hill Camp emerging from the trees after woodland clearance.

The initial woodland clearance was carried out by shire horses dragging the heavy trunks off site. Thus protecting the archaeology by preventing any rutting into the soft ground surface.. which heavy forestry vehicles might have caused.

Anyone inside Park Hill, has no sense of its position in the landscape. Everything is hidden by trees. NT plans to cut views through the conifer plantations towards the other Stourhead Estate hillfort on White Sheet Hill and across the valleys to north and south.

There should be spectacular views from here and the LiDAR demonstrates this.

Park Hill Camp on the summit of the flat ridge top between the two valleys with the Stourhead lake in the foreground fed by water funneled along the valleys.

So, with the trees stripped back by LiDAR I turned the terrain model to show the hillfort looking back towards the lake and Stourhead House.

After some rough sketching, I asked Julia to draw the view as it might have been in the Iron Age.

Park Hill Camp showing the double ramparts crossing the width of the ridge.

The difficulty with Park Hill Camp compared with Badbury Rings is….there has never been an excavation on the site and it has never had a geophysical survey. Very difficult with trees all over it.. Now the trees are largely gone we plan geophysics in the autumn.

However, we can see the earthworks and have a good idea of the entrances and can compare Park Hill with other hillforts where we have more information…so we’ll try to illustrate it anyway.

Julia’s east entrance into Park Hill Camp

The eastern gateways through the two ramparts are clear as earthworks. Visitors would have to weave their way into the hillfort in full sight of the guards. A good security check.

Once again, Julia has shown much detail within the hillfort. Fenced homesteads with stock enclosures, granaries raised on stilts, weaving frames, outhouses and people. Imagining a busy place full of life rather than a quiet area of grassland surrounded by woodland.

Then the full illustration with the fort in its landscape, farms and fields and meadows, trees on the steeper slopes.. crossed by tracks and pathways disappearing into the distance.

Illustration of Park Hill Camp for the National Trust Wessex Hillforts Guide by Julia Lillo

We’ll have a look at Figsbury Ring tomorrow.

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