Hod Hill perambulation
Hod Hill, Stourpaine, DorsetRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Perched high above a meander on the River Stour, this superb hill fort has the greatest views over rural Dorset. The deep ramparts date back to the Iron Age and Roman period and are home to spectacular wild flowers and butterflies.
- Grade of walk: Walking Boot (steep/rocky)
- Type of walk: 'Beautiful Views', 'Historical Footsteps'
- Bus stop
Start: Car park on Child Okeford road, grid ref: ST855107
From the car park, go through the gate and up the steep grassy field, keeping the woodland to your right.
Deep in the Dorset countryside between Shaftesbury and Blandford Forum, Hod Hill is carved out of chalk downland. Dating to the Iron Age, some 2,400 years ago, the dramatic ramparts of the hill fort provide a great circular walk. What makes this walk even more interesting is one of the best preserved Roman forts constructed within the earlier Iron Age fort.
At the top of the hill, go through the gate beside the National Trust Hod Hill omega sign.
After a steep climb up to the fort, its easy to imagine yourself as an Iron Age warrior or Roman centurion, guarding the hill from invasion. The views across the Dorset countryside are superb, with the River Stour flowing far below to the west and the cars and lorries looking like toy vehicles on the winding A350 to the east. On a windy day, this is a great place to fly a kite.
Turn right (anti-clockwise) along the ramparts. Hod Hill is a Scheduled Monument and was constructed during the Iron Age period. It would have enclosed around 250 round houses.
This walk is also a must for wildlife enthusiasts. In the spring and summer, orchids, cowslips, birds-foot trefoil and dropwort stud the grass, benefiting from the thin, dry chalk soils. Its also a fantastic place to see butterflies, with rarities such as marsh fritillary and Adonis blue as well as the beautiful marbled white in good numbers. The grassland and archaeology are maintained by a mixture of cattle, sheep and good old fashioned bow-saw. Skylarks sing overhead and in the winter, its a great place to watch kestrels hunting small mammals and to see buzzards riding the up draught.
The more sheltered woody edge provides a place for butterflies like the speckled wood. There is a constant battle to prevent scrub from colonising the very important SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) grassland and smothering the chalk flora.
Keep going for about 218yd (200m), where on the left you should be able to see the remains of one of the best preserved Roman forts in the UK. The Romans captured Hod Hill in 44AD and built a fort which was defended by 600 foot soldiers and 200 cavalry.
Continue along the ramparts and have a look down to the River Stour on its route from Stourhead to Christchuch.
The next section of ramparts is particularly rich in wild flowers including cowslip, common spotted, pyramidal and fragrant orchid, agrimony and clustered bellflower.
At the next corner, there's a path which drops down an old lane to Stourpaine. Look out for butterflies here, including the marsh fritillary, chalkhill blue, Adonis blue and marbled white.
Keep going round the hill fort and take in the fantastic views over rural Dorset and the Cranborne Chase towards Melbury Down. If you look down to the A350, the vehicles seem almost like matchboxes from this distance.
Go back through the gate you came through and return down to the car park.
We hope that you really enjoyed this one-mile walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of countryside for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful and refreshing landscapes. To find out more about how you too can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk
End: Car park on Child Okeford road, grid ref: ST855107
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 1 mile (1.6km)
- Time: 30 minutes to 40 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 118
Hod Hill is a steep climb to the ramparts of the hill fort, followed by a moderately level walk. Dogs welcome but please keep under close control as the area is grazed by sheep and cattle.
- How to get here:
- By bus: regular bus service along A350 from Shaftesbury to Blandford Forum, stopping at Stourpaine, from where there's a footpath to the south-eastern corner of Hod Hill
- By car: Park in small car park on Child Okeford road from A350. Grid ref ST853112
- Contact us