Our conservation work at Badbury Rings
Badbury Rings was one of 13 majestic Iron Age hillforts across the Dorset and Wiltshire landscape to be given a new lease of life as part of a generous award of £800k made to the National Trust by Postcode Earth Trust, raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The £119k Wessex Hill Forts and Habitats project will help protect 13 Scheduled Monuments, dating from over 2,000 years ago. These sites are of national importance not just for their archaeology, but also for their diverse fragile habitats, which are home to threatened butterfly species.
Rich in history, flora and fauna, the rings at Badbury sit 100 metres above sea level and offer sweeping views across Dorset. There is evidence of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation here. However, the site is known mostly for its Iron Age hillfort with its three rings. It is thought the innermost ring dates from around 500-600 BC.
The chalk grassland habitat at Badbury Rings is home to many nationally rare species such as the greater butterfly orchid, bird's nest orchid and frog orchid. It also supports many different invertebrates including the scarce Adonis blue, the dingy skipper and the grizzled skipper. Badbury Rings is an important feeding and breeding site for red listed, ground-nesting birds such as skylark and corn bunting.
The National Trust acquired Badbury Rings as part of the Bankes Estate in 1982. Since then, a programme of careful conservation management has preserved the rings and enabled centuries-old wildlife and plant life to flourish. Today Badbury Rings remains a favourite spot for nature lovers and walkers but there is more we need to do to improve its condition.
What will we be doing at Badbury?
In 2019, work was carried out to repair erosion to paths and ramparts at Badbury. Scars on the ramparts are caused by factors such as livestock, rabbits, weather and heavy human footfall. We repaired one of the biggest scars by cutting it back and refilling with degradable hessian sacks filled with locally sourced, archaeological kibbled chalk. After the backfilling and compaction of the sacks to recreate the profile of the rampart, the scar was covered with spoil from locally sourced molehills from inside the site and covered by turf taken from the bottom of the rampart ditches. This encouraged the grasses and herbs to germinate and help complete the repair in the long term. The turf was also protected with heavy gauge rabbit netting to prevent any damage by rabbits or livestock.
The Ranger team regularly carry out scrub maintenance, which preserves the archaeology of the site by protecting it from root damage, but leaves a mosaic of habitats for species such as the endangered dingy and grizzled skipper butterflies.
" Although the livestock have played their part in the erosion at Badbury they are an extremely important tool for conservation. The livestock’s key role is to control the more aggressive species of plant that dominate large areas, helping to prevent scrub encroachment. This is a more sensitive approach than cutting and burning the scrub using machinery. The work we are doing to the eroded areas will ensure that the landscape can still benefit from the conservation style grazing that the livestock provide whilst protecting the integrity of the landscape."
Other hillforts will benefit too
The other Dorset hillforts to benefit from the grant include Hambledon Hill, Hod Hill, Lambert’s Castle, Coney’s Castle, Pilsdon Pen, Lewesden Hill and Eggardon Hill. In Wiltshire Cley Hill, Figsbury Ring, Whitesheet Hill and Parkhill camp will also benefit. Some 332 hectares of priority habitat will be in better condition as a result of this generous award, and four hillforts will be removed from Historic England’s heritage at risk register.
The remaining £680k awarded by Postcode Earth Trust and raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, will support the National Trust’s wider ambition to restore a healthy, beautiful more natural environment. Conservation projects include wildflower meadow and apple orchard restoration at the Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire and the Trust’s national Riverlands programme, including on the River Bure in Norfolk.