Badbury Ring's archaeology and wildlife benefit from grant

Visitors at the Badbury Rings at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Badbury Rings is one of 13 majestic Iron Age hill forts 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 all 13 Scheduled Monuments, dating from over 2,000 years ago, which are of national importance not just for their archaeology, but for their diverse fragile habitats which are homes 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 hill fort with its three rings. It is thought the inner most 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, birds 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 the skylark and corn bunting. 

The Early Purple Orchid flowers in May and June at Badbury Rings in Dorset

Early purple orchid

The early purple orchid flowers in May and June at Badbury Rings. In total Badbury is home to 17 species of wild orchid.

The grizzled skipper butterfly found at Badbury Rings is becoming increasingly rare.

Grizzled skipper butterfly

The grizzled skipper butterfly is becoming increasingly rare but is found at Badbury Rings.

The common Lizard, also known as the 'viviparous lizard', the common lizard is unusual among reptiles as it incubates its eggs inside its body and 'gives birth' to live young rather than laying eggs.

Common lizard

Also known as the 'viviparous lizard', the common lizard is unusual among reptiles as it incubates its eggs inside its body and 'gives birth' to live young rather than laying eggs.

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?

Over the summer of 2019, work will be carried out to repair the erosion that has taken place to the paths and ramparts at Badbury. Scars on the ramparts are caused by a number of factors including livestock, rabbits, weather and heavy human footfall. The repair to one of the biggest scars on Badbury will include it being cut back and refilled in a brick like stacking system using degradable hessian filled sacks with locally sourced archaeological kibbled chalk. After the backfilling and compaction of the sacks to recreate the profile of the rampart, the scar will then be covered with spoil from locally sourced molehills from inside the site and covered by turf taken from the bottom of the rampart ditches. This will encourage the grasses and herbs to germinate and help complete the repair in the long term. The turf will then be covered with a heavy gauge rabbit netting to prevent any damage by rabbits or livestock.

Throughout the autumn the Ranger team will be undertaking a system of scrub maintenance which will help to preserve the archaeology of the site, protecting it from root damage, whilst leaving a mosaic of habitats for nature such as the endangered Dingy and Grizzled Skipper butterflies which thrive in good numbers at Badbury.

Longer term we hope to improve the information about the significance of the landscape at Badbury Rings that is available to visitors and to recruit a team of ‘Hill fort Hero’ volunteers to help us manage the land. They will be trained to carry out priority habitat monitoring, and archaeological condition monitoring. This will be invaluable in informing future conservation.

" 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."
- Mark Wratten, Countryside Ranger
" Due to scrub encroachment and erosion, urgent action is needed to protect the site at Badbury for the future for everyone."
- Nigel Chalk, Outdoors Manager at Kingston Lacy

Other hill forts will benefit too

The other Dorset hill forts 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 hill forts will be removed from Historic England’s heritage at risk register.

If you are interested in getting involved please contact Marie McLeish, Project Manager, marie.mcleish@nationaltrust.org.uk.

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.

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