YEOVIL AREA NEWS: Uncovering Ham Hill’s past to preserve its future

YEOVIL AREA NEWS: Uncovering Ham Hill’s past to preserve its future

THE Ham Hill Country Park has secured initial support and development funding of £98,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to take forward plans for a £1.6 million project that will help to conserve and protect the historic site for the future. 

Ham Hill is an Iron Age hillfort with Scheduled Monument status and is one of the largest in Europe. With amazing views, a wealth of history and an abundance of diverse wildlife it attracts visitors from many miles away, as well as being a popular destination for local families, dog walkers, historians, wildlife enthusiasts, runners and more. 

The importance of Ham Hill to both visitors and residents of South Somerset has become ever more apparent since the Covid-19 pandemic.

When our movements were restricted many residents were saddened not to be able to visit the hillfort, realising the importance of the natural open space to their lives.

The continuing importance of the hillfort as a strategic meeting place has been even more obvious since the easement of lockdown. The hillfort has been inundated with visitors, many using it as a meeting place for reunions with family.

But the popularity of the site comes at a cost. The footpaths are being eroded, damaging the ancient ramparts beneath and the wildlife is more disturbed.

In 2019, Historic England listed Ham Hill on its ‘At Risk’ register, meaning that the archaeological features that define the site are in danger of being damaged beyond repair. Littering and dog fouling are another problem that the small ranger team have to contend with every day. 

Some of the facilities and infrastructure at Ham Hill dates from 1975 when the site was one of the first to be designated as a County Park and whilst it has grown in popularity since that time the team has not been able to properly address the lack of visitor information and facilities.

Better paths and way marking will help more people explore with a lesser impact on the site, the team will address the parking on nearby roads and also aim to give the toilets a makeover.  

The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project  - Uncovering Ham Hill’s Past for its Future – looks to reverse these declines and make the site better for visitors, improve habitats for wildlife, conserve archaeological features and increase volunteer and staff numbers. 

With the release of this funding the project team can now begin to consider the details of the project and consult with users and partner organisations prior to the final stage application.  With a successful delivery stage application and the securing of match funding and consents, the project is planned to start in the autumn of 2022.

South Somerset District Council’s environment spokesman, Cllr Sarah Dyke, said: “Ham Hill is one of the jewels in South Somerset’s crown.

“As the majority landowner for the site, the district council is committed to creating a sustainable amenity for the future where wildlife can flourish and residents and visitors can learn about and enjoy the fascinating history and habitats supported by the hamstone outcrop.

"There are many stories to tell and we look forward to talking to our communities to find out how they would like this project to evolve, so that this important community space is fit for the future, while also preserving the past.”