Dorset’s largest hill fort, Hod Hill, is perched high above a meander on the River Stour, close to Blandford Forum.
Hod Hill together with nearby Hambledon Hill have wide ranging views over rural Dorset. They are both home to rare native wildflowers and butterflies which thrive on the unimproved calcareous soil.
The fort is roughly rectangular with an enclosed area of 54 acres.
Hod Hill is in a chain of Iron Age earthworks or hill forts. The chain stretches from adjacent Hambledon Hill to the Iron Age port at Hengistbury Head. The Iron Age people known as the Duratiges inhabited the hill fort. These were the same people who were at Maiden Castle near Dorchester and Badbury Rings near Wimborne.
The Romans arrived in AD43 and captured the hill fort from the Duratriges. They established a garrison within the hill fort for a few years, but it was quickly abandoned.
The National Trust owns and looks after both Hod Hill and next door Hambledon Hill.
National Trust staff and volunteers work to protect and restore the downland habitat on these ancient hill forts. Scrub encroachment is a challenge and conservation grazing with sheep and cattle is being trialled to reverse the encroachment.
These nationally significant hill forts support diverse fragile habitats which are homes to threatened butterfly species. The brilliantly coloured Adonis Blue, the small Duke of Burgundy, and the orange, yellow and brown Chequered Marsh Fritillary are three of these butterfly species.
Adonis Blue butterfly
This beautiful species of butterfly is one of the most characteristic of unimproved southern chalk downland. They fly low over shortly grazed turf, usually on steep, south-facing slopes.
The males have brilliant sky-blue wings, while the females are chocolate brown and far less conspicuous. Both sexes have distinctive black lines that enter or cross the white fringes of the wings.
This species has undergone a major decline through its entire range. However, despite its restricted distribution, on good sites it can be seen in many hundreds.