Another sunny Bank Holiday, another Heritage Drive!

Although the plan for the day only involved 4 sites in a distance of around 16 miles, the trip was a long one for us, involving a 200 mile round journey to get to those 16 miles, resulting in a trip that took over 12 hours in total and left us exhausted!

So it was that we headed around the M25 and onto the M3 at silly o’clock in the morning. Despite stopping for a relaxing and much needed breakfast, we still arrived a bit earlier than anticipated, and had to wait for the first scheduled stop, the Museum of the Iron Age  in Andover, to open.

Museum of the Iron Age

Danebury Guard

To enter the Danebury exhibit proper, visitors must pass through a mock-up of the entrance at Danebury, as it’s thought to have been, with a timber facing to the rampart by the gate.

“The Central Wessex landscape around Danebury presents one of the densest concentrations of Iron Age sites in Europe, but there is much more besides”

so states the introductory map display at the museum, which is largely devoted to the finds from Danebury hill fort. Indeed, the map is a mass of red lines denoting field systems, settlements, hill forts and other indications of occupation from the Iron Age, all of which make current day Andover look quite insignificant as a population centre!

As you’d expect from a decent museum (and this is very decent, the volunteer staff were extremely friendly and helpful), there are numerous finds on display, with informative interpretation boards at every turn, covering the structure of the hillfort, defenses and armaments, everyday life in the fort – where over 5000 grain storage pits have been found – and death, with several burials and bones on display.

Danebury Diorama

I certainly found the interpretation boards, dioramas and other displays were a great aid to the imagination, and they definitely enhanced my visit to Danebury later in the day.

It seems I’d also timed my visit to coincide with the start of a new ‘Lego Mania Trail‘ initiative, running from Thursday 28 March to Sunday 9 June. Several attractions across Hampshire are displaying scale Lego models of nearby Heritage attractions. Visit all those listed in the time specified and get a stamp on a form, and you can apparently be entered into a prize draw to win an iPad. I can’t speak for the other sites, but the Lego model of Danebury was certainly impressive, and it’s a great way to get the kids involved!

Lego Danebury!

Bury Hill Camp

Just a few minutes drive from the museum, outside the southern environs of Andover (at Grid Ref SU346435) in Upper Clatford was the first site of the day, at Bury Hill. Although the land both inside and outside the hill fort is private, there is a footpath around the perimeter allowing glimpses of the bank and ditch.

Bury Hill Camp, looking across from the eastern entrance

Bury Hill Camp, looking across from the eastern entrance

The hill fort was constructed in two major stages, the first univallate bank and ditch enclosing 24 acres, and a later bivallate earthwork covering 11 acres on the south east of the earlier fort. Sadly the ditch is very overgrown in places, although a sense of the scale of the place can still be achieved.

Looking down into the ditch on the southeastern side.

Looking down into the ditch on the southeastern side.

Excavation here has revealed the interior of the fort is densely covered with pits, but very little grain or human bone has been recovered. What have been recovered are a number of horse trappings and remains. This suggests that the fort was used as stabling, for stud or training purposes, or maybe even trading of horses. Extensive remains of a settlement have been found a few hundred yards to the southeast of the hill fort, indicating that this place was important, but possibly not in the way that most hill forts are perceived.

Back on the main road, we headed southwest toward Danebury, easily signposted with those brown tourist signs.

to be continued….

All pictures © Alan S.