Dave’s Glow Badbury Blog

Bringing history alive, by Dave Smith, National Trust Volunteer at Kingston Lacy

I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time when, in 1983, the National Trust offered me the job of being responsible for the maintenance and management of the countryside on the Kingston Lacy Estate. 

The fantastic grassland site at Badbury Rings was quite overgrown with thick bushes, brambles and trees and the archaeological features of the Iron Age hill fort were in a very bad condition. In 1984, it was decided to carry out a major programme to restore the site with the assistance of The Prince’s Trust who brought more than 450 volunteers and personnel working with a team of Royal Engineers. It was incredible to see them all enjoying themselves and working so hard, forming teams which brought about many competitions to see who did best or who could push a wheelbarrow the fastest!

Since that amazing time, together with National Trust staff and many groups of volunteers, we went on to carry out further improvements to the Rings’ archaeology, as well as to the grasslands which are highly noted for their wildflowers, rabbits, roe-deer, weasels and, even toads and frogs. Amongst the favourite flowers for visitors are the many different forms of wild orchid, especially the Common Spotted, shown in the photograph here.

Common spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) flowering at Badbury Rings, Dorset, in June ©National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

We carefully recorded and photographed these and everything else that lived on and around the Rings, including hundreds of different flowers and plants, numerous birds, beautiful butterflies and moths, and the most mysterious night-time glow worms. As you might imagine, it took a lot of time but every moment was absolutely worth it. I can remember my manager asking me where I had been all day – and me answering, “Just lying on my tummy, taking photos of some snails” Well, someone had to do it!!

In 1988, we were very proud to introduce an exciting education programme across the whole of the Kingston Lacy Estate to run with the many aspects of the National Curriculum and this was well accepted by a large number of schools from Junior through to Upper levels. We had a philosophy that one day of ‘hands-on’ experience had a very high value. At Badbury Rings, there were many opportunities to learn about a huge range of topics, from Celtic everyday life, hill fort construction, Roman influence and warfare, to environmental and conservation issues. It was exciting. 

So, all I can say is that the opportunity to take on this role to care for this fantastic piece of Dorset was an absolute gift and an ever, open book. If I am able to influence one single young person, then I have succeeded. I retired in 2005, but still live here on the Estate and I still walk here almost every day.

The Glow Badbury Project:
I feel that the field visits to Badbury Rings by the schools were very worthwhile and successful in that the pupils were able to actually experience the history of the place, where it had originally taken place rather than from the pages of a book. 

I encouraged them to express their own thoughts and ideas by showing them a lot of pictures about the people who had lived there in the Iron Age; and, between us, we talked about what they were actually like, what clothes they wore, the food they ate and, how they built the massive earth defences of the hill fort. 

I think that I was able to totally capture their imagination when I showed them lots of actual Iron Age pottery and flint tools, including axe, spear and arrow heads, knives and scrapers, as well as Iron Age and Roman coins. 

Another successful experience was when I got them to stand in the bottom of the outside ditch looking up at the height of the defensive rampart; then they were able to realistically see it’s true scale and how difficult it would have been to attack. 

All in all, I think that this whole conception of bringing children to a place like Badbury Rings is that they can feel it because it is real. They can let their imagination open, they become excited, they make their own stories, they chatter and never stop asking questions. 

Well done Glow Badbury!