This is a new tour for 2020 which will focus on landscape archaeology but will also include good opportunities for wildlife observation, particularly chalk grassland butterflies and flowers. The tour will be based in north-east Dorset, UK and will be led by Jo Horbury, a local archaeologist who we welcome to the Wildtracks team.
On this tour, Jo and other local specialists will explain how the activities of man over several thousand years have shaped this corner of the English landscape and created the countryside that we see today. Through a series of gentle walks and site visits we will explore the history of north Dorset from the Neolithic Period to the 21st century and see at 1st hand some of the key archaeological sites in this fascinating part of the country.
Many of these sites are situated on chalk downland which, partly because of its geology and past land use, is rich in wild flowers and insects. We will spend time observing typical species including chalk hill blue and dark green fritillary and will listen out for turtle dove which has one of its remaining UK strongholds in this area.
No previous knowledge of archaeology is required for this tour.
North East Dorset, UK
Jo Horbury & Tim Coleshaw
8 (Minimum number of guests required for tour to run: 6)
Easy. Gentle walks of up to 5km, mainly on the level with options of shorter routes for people with reduced mobility.
Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeological sites, private museum of local archaeological artefacts
Chalk downland flowers and butterflies, turtle dove
Arrive at Salisbury station and travel to our hotel on the outskirts of the city. Dinner in a local restaurant followed by an introduction to the tour.
On our first morning we will visit Down Farm and meet the owner. Dr Martin Green, who is a farmer and archaeologist and also the author of ‘A Landscape Revealed – 10,000 Years on a Chalkland Farm’. Martin will lead us on a short tour of his farm and explain its extraordinary historic landscape followed by an opportunity to see his amazing private museum where hundreds of archaeological artefacts found in the area are displayed. After a picnic lunch at the farm we will take a longer walk, visiting some of the barrows and other earthworks in the area and will explore the concept of palimpsest landscapes where the landscape created by one period of history is overwritten and modified by later generations.
This day will be spent at Martin Down where we will view another range of archaeological sites including the northern terminus of the Dorset Cursus, one of Britain’s largest megalithic constructions consisting of two banks, running for 10km through the chalk downs of Cranborne Chase. We will also explore Grim’s Ditch (Bronze Age to Romano-British) and Bockerly Dyke (Romano-British) along with tumuli and WW2 firing butts. Martin Down is also an important chalk downland National Nature Reserve and we will have a chance to see some of the special plants and insects of this area, which at this time of year should include chalk hill blue, dark green fritillary and white admiral butterflies.
After a quick call back at our hotel for a freshen-up will we have dinner at a local village inn and then pay an evening visit to Knowlton Church and Earthworks, a now ruined Norman church built within a Neolithic henge earthwork – a place used for rituals for thousands of years with evidence of continued use today. If the weather is kind to us, this will be a glorious and very spiritual place to watch the sunset.
Our final morning will be spent at the Ancient Technology Centre in Cranborne where fascinating reconstructions of buildings from several periods of history have been created, bringing to life the archaeological sites we have visited over the last couple of days . https://ancienttechnologycentre.com/ . This will include learning how to light a fire with flint and steel in the comfort of a Viking longhouse. Our tour will conclude with a picnic lunch at the Centre, after which we will return you to your cars or Salisbury railway station for your journey home
Banner photo copyright Jim Champion.