Stourhead's history mystery - Park Hill Camp

Major the horse, clearing timber at Stourhead © Stourhead images

Major the horse, clearing timber at Stourhead

Park Hill Camp nestles in Stourhead's woodland between the landscape garden and King Alfred’s Tower, just above Six Wells Bottom valley. The exact history of Park Hill remains a mystery. Was the camp a defensive stronghold or a peaceful Iron Age settlement?

No archaeological dig has yet taken place. However, the remains of the ditches and banks, along with evidence from neighbouring sites such as Whitesheet Hill, suggest Iron Age activity here.

Ancient monument

Park Hill Camp is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. We think the Iron Age Hillfort was constructed in two phases. The first major structure was a large external defence, followed by an internal ditch and bank to strengthen the network of defences.

Strong, secure entrances were a key feature of Iron Age sites. The interior six acres are surrounded by a system of ditches and banks, providing the defensive network. The ditches would have been two metres deeper when first dug.

Protection project

In 2008 we undertook a major clearance project to protect the site’s archaeological history. To keep the camp’s place within the landscape, young and immature trees were removed to prevent long-term damage. Felled timber was taken from the site using horse-power in the shape of a shire horse called Major.  

Wildlife haven

Today our ranger team manage Park Hill Camp as a peaceful habitat. It is now home to a variety of wildlife and flowers. You might see a flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep grazing there, helping us to maintain the cleared site.

The mature woodland surrounding the camp is home to lots of species of bird including nuthatches, wrens, long tailed tits, thrushes, woodpeckers and finches. Much of the site is also covered in bluebells during late April and early May.

If you want to see and explore the site for yourself, download our short circular Park Hill Camp Walk.