The ancients were a wily lot who knew a thing or two about the safest place to inhabit although I cannot help but think they were also better equipped to deal with the high winds that seem to be a permanent feature of their Dorset Hill Forts.
Lewesdon Hill, like its neighbour Pilsdon Pen, was home to our ancient ancestors but unlike Pilsdon the approach to the summit starts with a walk bordered by banks that are densely packed with a vivid assortment of wild flora from the resplendent richness of the Ranunculus acris L or buttercup to the dainty graceful face of the Fragaria vesca or wild strawberry .
After a very short walk along the concrete path, you go through a gate and are instantly planted into the woodland. There is a variety of ferns including the Hartstongue but there are also plenty of reminders that there is more animated life in the area.
The strength of creeping plants such as ivy has always intrigued me and especially when you see the solid wooden remains of its entrails that have wrapped themselves around a tree, only to be ingested into the tree’s structure in a rather scary alien absorption kind of way! But the sweetheart of the English meadow is always a welcome sight in the form of bluebells and white campion.
You do have to be aware of the tremendous tree root obstacle course that emerges along the path. One of the drawbacks of being a popular walk is the erosion caused by tramping feet, exposing the extensive and often treacherous tree root systems. But anyone finding offence in this may as well turn around and go home because there is worse to come!
Through the years, some of the trees have developed some very unusual and quirky shapes and sizes, with fairy sized caves, caverns and arches and I’m sure if you stayed there long enough and kept quiet, you would probably find yourself whisked off to some far away land.
After the steep and perilous climb you reach the summit, the flat top of Lewsedon Hill. It is a relatively open area flanked by huge trees, but through the gaps you can still see the miles of patchwork quilt, hedgerows, trees and hills that make up the Dorset and Somerset landscape.
If you can, stand quietly for a few minutes; let the wind sweep over you like a huge invisible wave whilst you look far away into the distance or simply shut your eyes and allow yourself to be transported to another time and another place. Somewhere that relied on the seasons and the land for survival, when you lived by your wits and the co-operation of those around you; where technology and gadgets were represented by something crafted by hand, when the latest must have was an essential not a luxury.
Imagine the sound of the wind rushing through the green canopy and hurtling through the branches is the hushed voices of ancient tribes that carved their existence out of that land, all of them whispering at once trying to share their secrets with you.
Of course if like me you have your young sons with you, that moment of serenity and peacefulness is likely to be short-lived as you hear the whoops of delight when they have found the ideal branch to attach their rope swing. The remains of a previous visitor dangles and sways like the hangman’s noose that has long since held a victim.
Another thing I love about this walk is creating different creatures from the shapes that have morphed from decaying branches such as this wide mouthed frog with gaping giant jaws! Or canyons of decay that have become home to a whole new set of life that feeds off the carrion of the tree’s partial decomposition.
There are plenty of climbing opportunities for novice and experienced tree acrobats, the dismembered parts of trees are scattered everywhere giving both low and higher branches to practice a variety of monkey skills!
And whilst your offspring are finding their inner jungle selves, take a look around; I found ground lichen that looks like a green starburst and I loved the shaggy fringes of moss alongside the tight perm curls of green that blanketed the trees. There was also evidence of a very active woodpecker that had obviously found its cornucopia of insect life.
So for a combination of a challenging walk, beautiful wild flowers and remarkable trees, I can definitely recommend Lewesdon Hill. But I would say this, if you do go there, bear in mind it comes at a cost and it is the National Trust that takes care of this wonderful place, so why not contribute towards its upkeep and join this worthwhile organisation?
Link to the National Trust info on site http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lewesdon-hill/