Maiden Castle

Maiden Castle and Dorchester

Maiden Castle, Iron age hillfort, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Maiden Castle, Iron Age hillfort, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

So the August bank holiday is upon us. Amazingly, the weather was not only dry but also mostly sunny. I can’t remember the last time that happened. This gave me a chance to catch up on my washing and give Daisy a thorough scrubbing on the inside and Nik even found time to scrub her outside. After the past two muddy weeks, she was in desperate need.

We thought we’d give Dorset the pleasure of our company for another week and Dorchester was our destination. Or rather just outside Dorchester. Why? I’d found a campsite that sits just below Maiden Castle. Despite the name, Maiden Castle is actually a large Iron Age Hill Fort, believed to have been occupied over 6000 years ago. All that is left now are the passageways between the impressive ramparts that were built to defend the inner enclosure. And, the weather wasn’t predicted to be stunning there, but it is supposed to stay dry. After such a wet August this is a massive plus for us.

It has become pretty standard for us to lose most of Wednesday. Because Nik has the car on Monday and Tuesday all errands are run on Wednesday morning before setting off for our destination. We also have to do the weeks shopping so that we don’t need to spoil our time away with it, and as we both enjoy picking our food out together this is another job for Wednesday on the way.

Maiden Castle, Iron age hillfort, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Maiden Castle, Iron age Hillfort, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

We arrived at our site just after 5 pm, had a quick drink and rushed out with the dogs to explore the area while the sun was still out. The castle was close enough for a quick walk in that direction which gave us a chance to see how much of the day it would take to explore properly. It was a lot bigger than we were expecting and the views were as always stunning. The dogs had to be on leads whilst we walk along one of the lower mounds as they keep sheep there. We didn’t have too long a walk that evening as it was getting quite late and Nik wasn’t feeling too wonderful.

We returned to Daisy happy that we could probably manage to get a good few hours out of the walk if not more. Nik was all set to get on with some PC work whilst I prepared dinner but alas we discovered the only bad point about our site. Not only did we have no internet reception, but also our mobiles had no reception either. We thought last week was bad; when we were at least getting very slow internet most of the time. So we opted for an early night instead.

Thursday

Well we woke up to grey skies, we were expecting it but the day before was so nice we were hoping for the same on Thursday. So we fed the dogs, packed a lunch and set off in the vague direction of Dorchester. We followed the bridle path that takes us up around the outside of the castle, it’s quite an uphill trek to start with but then as we came around the side of the hill it went back downhill. Whilst plotting the possibility of walking to Dorchester from our site we had vaguely decided to follow this bridle path until it became a road. Now standing at a point where we could do this or turn left and follow a much longer bridle path, we decided the longer path was preferable as we didn’t know how busy this road would be and we could see it had no pavements.

Market stalls in Dorchester Town Centre, Dorset, UK
Market stalls in Dorchester Town Centre, Dorset, UK

So off we set, slightly uphill and around the corner, at this point we have no idea if we will eventually make it into Dorchester or if the path was taking us for a nice long walk. Thank goodness we took lunch. We followed the path downhill until we came to the main road; at this point we then walked the permissive paths that took us through and around Duchy land before leading through an underpass, safely delivering us across the main road and shortly after onto a little parkland area on the edge of Poundburry. We didn’t think to time it, but we estimate it took us roughly an hour.

We stopped at this little area to water the dogs and look out over the countryside that we had just walked. Once the dogs had a drink we then wandered around Poundburry gazing at some of the beautiful architecture before heading into Dorchester’s town. This took us another half hour, mostly because we had no idea exactly where we were going.

It was quite a boring walk to the town as it took us through a housing estate but still, it was worth it once we got there. Dorchester town centre isn’t huge but it did have enough to fill a day if you fancied it. We weren’t really there for the shopping, we just thought that as we were so close it would be nice to have a wander. Having the dogs with us did curtail too much browsing as one of us was always stood outside with them. So it isn’t so much fun. We did have a good time though and Nik managed to get some good photos.

Re Loved, a vintage shop and tea room, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Re Loved, a vintage shop and tea room, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

Once we finished we found fantastic little tearoom at the far end of the town called “re loved”, that really is worth going to. From the outside, it just looks like a vintage shop, and the downstairs does have vintage style things for sale. Upstairs is the tearoom, where they sell old-fashioned food, like eggs and soldiers, fried eggs on toast; we didn’t really look at the lunch type meals as we were just having a coffee and cake. They had a good choice of the good old sponge cakes. We had apple and blackberry crumble with cream, which was delicious, just like your Mum used to make. They have a couple of tables outside the shop, which was perfect for us with the dogs. Inside was very busy and whilst we were eating there was a constant stream of customers.

On our journey back, just on the edge of the town, we came across Dorchester Borough Gardens. These gardens are beautiful, very well looked after with a brightly coloured clock tower, bandstand, and fountain and public toilets. The lawns are nicely cut and what we found lovely to see was all around the park there were small groups of teenagers quietly sitting and enjoying the peace. It was the perfect thing to find before starting our long walk back to Daisy.

Bandstand, Dorchester Borough Gardens, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Bandstand, Dorchester Borough Gardens, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

Friday

This was our last chance to get some sunny pictures of Maiden Castle and when we checked the weather we found the sun was supposed to be around in the morning, so we were up and out nice and early and full of hope.

The banks and ditches that surround the hill fort are the results of many centuries of modifications and enlargements during the Iron Age and now encloses 19 hectares of land. The remains of a Romano-British Temple can be seen whilst walking the top. There are several information boards around the fort, which the sheep that now reside there enjoy using as scratching posts.

Sheep having a scratch against an information board at Maiden Castle, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Sheep having a scratch against an information board at Maiden Castle, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

We walked around the outside of the fort occasionally popping further in to read an information board and look at anything of interest. Mainly because we knew that if Nik had any hope of getting a good picture that really showed the scale of the fort, it would be from the edge. Not to mention the views from there in all directions are fantastic.

We walked the entire perimeter with faces full of wonder and awe. Nik took hundreds of photos which he was hopeful would show what he wanted. Despite the size, it only took us a few hours to fully explore so we went back to Daisy for lunch.

Maiden Castle, Iron age hillfort, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Maiden Castle, Iron age hillfort, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

By late afternoon the light was again looking good and as there wasn’t much else to in the area we decided to go back up to Maiden Castle so that Nik could get photos in a different light. Whilst walking in the morning I’d made a comment about the dogs needing to be on proper leads if we come back up, as the sheep weren’t overly worried about them and the extending leads don’t give me enough control. Unfortunately, because we hadn’t had any problems with the dogs in the morning, by the time we returned I had forgotten all about this.

All was going well until we were about a quarter of a way around the outside and a sheep just wasn’t moving out of the way until that is, we were almost on top of it. At which point Ella the troublemaker decided to chase. Of course, she couldn’t because she was on a lead, so in her frustration, she turned and growled at Oscar, who was busily ignoring the sheep and minding his own business. At which point he decided that she must have been telling him to help her. I had at this point two dogs at the full length of their extending leads, putting their considerable strength to work against me trying to get at the sheep. I, stupidly,

Rural Dorset countryside, Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Rural Dorset countryside, Dorchester, Dorset, UK

wasn’t expecting this and nearly found myself flat on my face. It took a massive amount of willpower on my part to stop them from pulling me over and bring the little buggers under control. In the process, I managed to pull my back, twist my ankle and jolt both my knees.

 

Nik was so busy taking photos he missed all of this and was somewhat surprised when he turned around to see a snarling wife, glaring at our sweet and well behaved little dogs, whilst limping towards him. Of course, once he’d been enlightened sympathy was nowhere to be seen, as he was too busy roaring with laughter.

The rest of our walk was pretty uneventful but stunningly beautiful. Nik managed to get some fantastic bonus pictures of a field being harvested, which put a big smile on his face.

Another perfect end to our trip.

For more blogs about our adventures, click HERE

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