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History surrounds you in Dorset, where many traces remain from ancient times; mystical barrows, Iron Age hillforts, the fascinating Dorset Cursus and other monuments, all explored over 100 years ago by General Pitt Rivers, the father of modern archaeology!
In fact the region's history can be traced back through the Roman occupation to the Iron Age. You may still walk along Ackling Dyke, one of the most spectacular roman roads in Britain following its route from Iron Age Badbury Rings hill fort across the downs to Old Sarum (Salisbury).
There are many historic landmarks to discover, possibly one of the most haunting is the deserted, ruined Norman church at Knowlton Rings. Encircled by an Iron Age rampart it was built to symbolise the power of Christianity over paganism.
Many traditions, born of the region's landscape and heritage, are still in evidence today, from fine local crafts, to colourful local events such as the Wimborne Folk Festival.
As you travel the quiet country lanes traces of the past will surround you, from intriguing place names like Sixpenny Handley, the Gussages and God's Blessing Green, to ancient monuments, country estates and buildings steeped in history, all waiting to be explored.
Dorset has much to offer those interested in archaeology or history, with a landscape that shows traces of human occupation since the Iron Age. Ackling Dyke or Icknield Street, is one of the most spectacular Roman Roads in Britain, it runs for 25 miles from Old Sarum to Badbury Rings and you may still walk along the route, in the footsteps of the Centurions!
Bokerly Dyke is of Romano-British origin dating from the 4th Century, its purpose is unclear but it may have served as a barrier to keep the Saxons out of Dorset. Today it is visible as a bank running for a distance of 4 miles along the present Dorset-Hampshire border.
The Dorset Cursus is one of the County's most famous prehistoric monuments. It runs from Bokerly Dyke to Thickthorn Down, crossing Ackling Dyke at Old Sarum. To the north of Pentridge it appears as 2 parallel banks stretching for 6 miles, 4 miles of which are well preserved and make a delightful walk across the Chase. Both banks are flanked with barrows suggesting it may have been a ceremonial route to a more important long barrow.
Badbury Rings is one of the great hill forts of Southern England, a triple banked Iron Age defensive earthwork offering extensive views. During the Roman occupation it became an important civil base and in the 4th Century a town called 'Vindocladia' (the town with the white ditches) stood below the rings. The site is part of the Kingston Lacy Estate and is now owned by the National Trust. It is approached through a mile long avenue of beech trees planted in 1835 as an anniversary gift for Lady Bankes.
Known as 'Chaseborough' in the novels of Thomas Hardy, the village of Cranborne was also popular with poet Rupert Brooke who stayed at the Fleur de Lys and wrote a poem in its honour. The village is the site of the former Chase Courtland Prison, later used as a hunting lodge. Cranborne Manor itself dates back to the Middle Ages, when King John was a regular visitor during his hunting trips on Cranborne Chase. Each Wednesday during the summer the exquisite manor gardens, laid out by John Tradescant and used in the film "Tom Jones", are open to the public.
Cranborne Chase is a Chalk plateau straddling the counties Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. The plateau is part of the English Chalk Formation and is adjacent to Salisbury Plain and the West Wiltshire Downs in the north, the Dorset Downs to the south west and the South Downs running south east. The scarp slope of the hills is to west, such as at Shaftesbury, and to some extent along the edge of the Vale of Wardour to the north. The chalk gently slopes south and dips under the clays and gravels.
An area of 379 square miles(981 square kilometres)of the Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the sixth largest AONB in the country. The highest point is Win Green, in Wiltshire, at 910 ft (277 m).