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Things to see at Pulpit Hill Iron Age fort in the Chilterns Countryside

Iron-age hillfort ramparts at Pulpit Hill
Iron-age hillfort ramparts at Pulpit Hill | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Tucked away in tranquil woodland on the edge of the Chiltern escarpment is the small Iron Age hillfort at Pulpit Hill. The ancient monument is well preserved, with the complete circuit of defences and the entrance still in existence today. Take a walk back in time as you explore this atmospheric site.

An ancient fort

The fort on Pulpit Hill would have once formed part of a series of sites built along the Chiltern ridge during the late Bronze Age and Iron Age periods. It is a small ‘multivallate’ hillfort, which were fortified enclosures of varying shapes located on hilltops.

The enclosure at Pulpit Hill is bordered by two lines of closely set earthworks, consisting of ditches and ramparts, which over time have become gentle but distinct undulations – you’ll notice them when you visit.

An isolated location

The hillfort is located on a prominent position at the highest point on the north-western end of Pulpit Hill - a wooded spur of the Chiltern Hills. Without the modern cover of woodland, this commanding position would have provided wide views over the Vale of Aylesbury to the north.

It was inaccessible by the steep slopes on all but the south-eastern side, and this high location made the site easier to defend. The hillfort’s isolated location helps to create the atmosphere of a place forgotten by time. The hillfort can be approached over level ground on the south-eastern side - the entrance lies near the centre of this side of the fort.

Woodland at Pulpill Hill in the Chilterns showing tall thin tree trunks and winter leaves
Woodland at Pulpit Hill | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Wildlife at the Pulpit Hill fort

The large expanse of dense and scattered woodland and scrub that surrounds Pulpit Hill provides much-needed cover for both breeding and overwintering birds. Explore during the colder months and you might spot some of these visitors.

Further down the slope yew, ash, whitebeam and wild cherry grow among the beeches, accompanied by a variety of shrubs including blackthorn, hawthorn and buckthorn. These lower slopes are also home to a large number of juniper trees, a species which has been declining for at least 50 years.

Explore inside the fort

The interior layout of the fort still survives today with noticeable bumps and ditches. Although the surrounding woodland now obscures the view, you can still imagine being an ancient warrior keeping guard from your vantage point.

The enclosure forms a large rectangle measuring around 90m by 100m, with the northwest and southwest sides defended by an artificial bank up to 2.5m in height.

Ditch and ramparts

A shallow indentation along the foot of the bank shows the line of a buried ditch, which would have added to the natural defences provided by the hillfort’s location. The rampart is more pronounced on the other two sides of the hillfort, where the bank is around 6m wide and up to 1m high, and the wide ditch averages 8m across and 1.5m deep.

A second, outer bank surrounds the inner defences and is accompanied by an outer ditch.

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