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Figsbury Ring, NE of Salisbury is an enigmatic monument in dire need of some care. Partially excavated by the Cunningtons in 1924, based on that excavation the site was classified as an Iron Age Hill Fort. But within the extent of this hillfort is an enigmatic inner ditch, separated from the outer rampart by a berm of up to 30 metres in width. It seems likely that the site is actually much earlier and may have begun as a late neolithic henge monument, or an even earlier Causewayed Enclosure.

When Figsbury was considered within the context of the wider landscape and a range of other nearby monuments it appeared possible that the site may have begun as a Causewayed enclosure. This may then have been modified into a Henge monument in the later Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. There is certainly sufficient evidence to state with some degree of confidence that the site was occupied, (albeit temporarily or intermittently) towards the middle of the third millennium BC. Further modification of the site appears to have taken place during the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. – Wikipedia

The site can be clearly seen on Google Earth.

Look to the East and NorthEast of the monument, at the inner ditch. See all that white stuff? That’s chalk, dug out and spread by the present incumbents of the inner ditch, a large colony of rabbits. Some of the burrows are large, implying that this is a long standing problem. Also, where the dog-walkers climb the outer bank, the soil is badly eroded, exposing some of the earlier attempts at damage limitation – the use of buried chicken wire in an attempt to stabilise the surface.

Figsbury Ring inner ditch, looking SW © Alan S

Figsbury Ring rabbit burrows © Alan S

Figsbury outer bank damage © Alan S

Today, the site is in the ‘care’ of the National Trust and is mainly used by dog-walkers exercising their animals. Access to the site is free and largely unrestricted (there is a gate on the access path but I’ve never seen it locked on the several occasions when I’ve visited the site). I say it’s in the NT’s ‘care‘ advisedly, as the name of the organisation also includes the word ‘Trust‘, implying that the public have placed our trust in the organisation to look after our nation’s heritage. Just how often do the NT visit/inspect the site, are they aware of the problems, and do they have any plans to tackle them?

Of course, the main issue may be lack of finance. That’s not to say that there should be a charge for entrance, but the money generated by some of the properties owned by the NT – stately homes etc. – should perhaps be spread more widely to maintain and preserve all our heritage, not just the revenue-generating sites.

But back to Figsbury. Whilst grubbing about in the spoil from the burrows, I chanced upon a round chalk boulder, about the size of a large egg. This was completely out of character from the rest of the spoil, which was mainly broken chalk marl with some flint included.

Figsbury 'egg' © Alan S

This was the only one I saw and it intrigued me enough to pocket the item for FLO inspection. Was it a possible slingshot weapon? Or even an offering of grave goods from a very early burial (remember the Causewayed Enclosure suggestion)? Sadly no. The ‘official word’ is that it’s a natural flint nodule. A bit disappointing, but it will now be returned to the site on my next visit.

But the question still remains: can we trust the National Trust to care? The damage has been reported but there has been no response to emails to date…

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