I went to stay with my brother and little sis’ last weekend, my first trip to them since before Lockdown. There was much social distancing – elbow touches rather than hugs, so it wasn’t ‘normal’ but none of us wants to get this virus. Nor do we want to be responsible for passing it onto anyone else who may be less healthy than us.
None of that probably matters anyway, I think my brother was trying to kill me off by taking me up Hambledon Hill. Let me explain. My brother and his wife live in Dorset and yomp up hills and over fields regularly, and have continued to do so throughout Lockdown. I have not done much walking for the past few months, and certainly not hill walking. So there really was ‘much panting’ from me.
About Hambledon Hill
Hambledon Hill is a prehistoric hillfort in the Blackmore Vale, just by the village of Shroton or Iwene Courtney (we’ll come back to the name later). The hill is now owned by the National Trust. It is 630 feet high at its highest point. It is a Site of Special Scientific Importance as well as being a National Nature Reserve.
The National Trust says that it is considered to be one the best representations of unimproved calcareous grassland in the country. It is home to a number of rare species of plants and animals: 28 species of butterfly have been recorded here.
The hill was first occupied back in the Neolithic, whilst the area was still mainly woodland. Various skeletons have been found over the years that give information about what happened here, but I’m more interested in recent history, the Battle of Hambledon Hill.
The Battle of Hambledon Hill
During the English Civil War, there was a defence force called the Clubmen. They were neither supporters of the Royalists nor the parliamentarians. They simply wanted to protect their local areas against the ravages of the other armies. (Like it or not, not much has changed in war since these times, and the soldiers would come around, steal food, rape the women and generally cause mayhem.)
The clubmen were so named because they did not have fancy weapons, they were armed with various agricultural tools and clubs. They were predominate in Dorset, and somewhere between 2000 and 4000 of them camped on Hambledon Hill in 1645.
The Roundheads had not long captured the Royalist Sherborne Castle, and Cromwell ordered the Clubmen to be dispersed. Cromwell’s New Model Army did this efficiently and the leaders were arrested, but Cromwell soon sent most of them home saying they were ‘poor silly creatures.’ Not doubt the ones that weren’t sent home were tortured and executed because they were not so silly.
I took the opportunity to take photographs as a means of getting some air into my poor, laboured lungs. The views are stunning, even though the weather was overcast as we were going up. The heavens opened while we were on the hill, which meant we had to go into a local pub afterwards.
What? Shame, I hear you say. I know. But it was a duty to help the local economy pick up after Lockdown.
We went into the Cricketers www.thecricketersshrtoon.co.uk What a lovely pub! One-way systems and plenty of hand sanitiser in the pub, although we were the only ones in there for a while. We’d gone in for a coffee and decided to stay for lunch, which was fab. Bro had a root vegetable soup, Alison and I had starter portions of whitebait. Yum.
The Village Names
It seems a bit greedy, not to say confusing, for a village to have two names. It seems that the name Iwerne Courtney (the Iwerne bit) is a Celtic river name which means either goddess or yew river. The Courtney part comes from the land being owned by a family named Courtney during the 13th century. The Courtneys were the Earls of Devon.
Shroton is from the Old English and means ‘sheriff’s town’ or ‘sheriff’s estate.’ Apparently, the locals call it Shroton.
© Susan Shirley 2020