Little Solsbury Hill
Little Solsbury Hill is situated to the north east of the city of Bath, above the village of Batheaston. The top of the hill (altitude 191m, 625 feet) is owned and managed by the National Trust and offers views back towards Bath and the surrounding countryside. The hill is also the site of an Iron Age hill fort, and was the inspiration for Peter Gabriel’s song “Solsbury Hill”.
" Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I could see the city light. Wind was blowing, time stood still, eagle flew out of the night"
Solsbury Hill was occupied as a hill fort during the early Iron Age, between 300BC and 100BC, one of the southernmost of fortifications across the Cotswolds. During this time huts were built from timber and wattle and daub. A 20 foot wide rampart was constructed around the settlement, flanked on both sides by dry stone walls. In previous times there were tales of a temple on the top to Bladud, the legendary king of the Britons and also that the visible remains were of a Saxon fort used in the siege of Bath in 577 AD. However, archaeological excavations suggest that the site was occupied from about 500 to 100 BC with up to 30 huts in occupation at any one time. Possibly the huts were then burnt down and the rest of the settlement destroyed and abandoned.
In later history, Little Solsbury Hill is a possible site of the Battle of Badon, fought in around 496AD between the Saxons and the British. There is also evidence of medieval field systems on the hill top.
The site has a past history of agricultural use. Barley was grown on the summit at the end of the eighteenth century and the hill was still under cultivation well into the nineteenth century.
The National Trust owns the top plateaux, following a generous donation from the Hicks family in 1930.
Watch the video below to see Little Solsbury Hill from the air.
The hill’s geology consists of mudstone and oolitic limestone. The presence of springs leads to geological instability of the site (and often muddy conditions).
Little Solsbury Hill displays flora and fauna characteristic of calcareous limestone grassland. In late spring and early summer you will find plants such as birds-foot-trefoil, vetches, yarrow and scabious, and the invertebrate fauna associated with these species. The slopes are richest in wildflowers and you can find fairy flax, squinancy wort and mouse eared hawk weed. It is also a good site for yellow meadow ants and their characteristic ant hills. Look out for birds of prey flying overhead.