Walk of the week: the iron age hill fort at Danebury

A hill with a lot of history

A system of ancient tracks along the chalk downs of Hampshire leads to the impressive hill fort at Danebury, near Stockbridge. Archaeology has revealed much about Iron Age life here, but the tumulus outside the fort's eastern gateway is a relic from the earlier Neolithic period.

A system of ancient tracks along the chalk downs of Hampshire leads to the impressive hill fort at Danebury, near Stockbridge. Archaeology has revealed much about Iron Age life here, but the tumulus outside the fort's eastern gateway is a relic from the earlier Neolithic period.

Large post-holes have been found near this tumulus, and a study of the horizon suggests that they were used as early astronomical markers. This is an especially interesting place to visit for those with an interest in the prehistoric "landscape calendar". The eastern gateway at Danebury Hill, now an island in a sea of agriculture, forms the hub of a calendar. Sunrises and sunsets for solstices, equinoxes and the various pagan festivals all have their marking mounds, as do the important lunar alignments.

Danebury Hill also has extensive views and there are significant barrows in the surrounding landscape. These barrows were built as far back in time to the Celtic occupants of the hill fort, as the Celts are now from us.

Start this walk of eight miles from Stockbridge, served by buses from Winchester, Salisbury, and Andover. Face St Peter's Church (grid reference SU356351 on Ordnance Survey Explorer 131) and go left. Follow the road across the River Test, and climb to maintain this direction along a hedged track over Meon Hill.

Turn right over a stile to follow a hedge on your right to a road, cross this and continue along the right-hand edge of a field. Aiming for Danebury, you will be walking along what is believed to be a ley line. Bear left at Shepherd's Bush (a white thorn tree), then turn right along a hedged track, go left at a road, and bear left to reach Danebury. The hill fort is now shaded by beech trees. Tour its earthworks and retrace your steps to the road. Go right, pass a road on your left, and fork left with a track which passes a wedge of trees on your right.

Reach the village of Longstock, where you go left along a road, then right down a lane called The Bunny, and across the River Test. Turn right to follow the signposted Test Way along the course of a dismantled railway. Join a road before a roundabout, go ahead to a second roundabout, and turn right back into Stockbridge.

* This walk is included in Walks in Mysterious Hampshire, by Laurence Main (Sigma Press, £6.95).

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