Dowsborough Hillfort

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Dowsborough Hillfort from the North side

Dowsborough Hillfort is an Iron Age fort perched high on the Quantock Hills, Somerset, and as part of my son’s Archaeology coursework, we spent a series of weekends walking in its vicinity, taking measurements of its ramparts and conducting some site analysis. Ours was a fairly unique perspective in that our walks all began at the hillfort and radiated out at the compass points whereas Dowsborough may be a destination point, or place of interest on other walks.

Dowsborough North and East

North Walk

Description: Steep and mainly exposed

There is a clearly marked footpath, near the barrow, from the westernmost part of the north side of the hillfort all the way to Holford. The oak woodland which covers the hillfort peters out as soon as you exit the fort and is replaced by heathland. After a short descent, we came across this cairn with several wild ponies happily grazing, despite the bitter cold wind whipping off the Bristol Channel.

Dowsborough North and East1

As you leave the heathland towards the end of the descent, the area turns back into woodland, and we could hear a woodpecker tapping away somewhere out of sight.

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Dowsborough looking North towards the Bristol Channel

Peter Lane details a similar route from the village of Holford here on the Walking Britain website, although it is worth noting that he grades the walk at Easy/Mod (some of the climb back is quite hard going, particularly when windy).

East Walk

Description: Gentle slopes through sheltered woodland. Some road.

The walk to the East is mostly through the oak woodland which was once coppiced. The woodland itself is quite eerie, especially in winter. On our second visit, we were lucky enough to spot a small herd of deer in the woodland, which soon shot off as the noise of our walking approached.

Dowsborough North and East2

You emerge from the woodland onto a road for a short while before picking up the footpath towards Nether Stowey, down over fields at Bin Combe.

The National Trust has published a nature walk from Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey which encompasses part of the route that we took.

West Walk

Description: Very steep and impassible

Dowsborough West and South

Despite there being the hint of a footpath off the west end of the hillfort, this shortly becomes very steep and the woodland is so dense and knarled that it is impassible. However, it is worth venturing a few steps in this direction for the views!

South Walk

Description: Moderate slope through mostly sheltered woodland, some road.

Dowsborough West and South1

From the southern edge, the path descends towards Dead Woman’s Ditch, which is also thought to be Iron Age and may be linked to Dowsborough. However, as its name suggests, it has a macabre past. This area is well worth exploring, and there is a car park and information board at the site.

Dowsborough West and South2

For more information on the archaeology of this unexcavated site, there is some really useful information in downloadable this teacher’s pack.

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