Uncovering Ham Hill’s past to preserve its future thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund
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 Ham Hill 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, this use reflected in its strategic trading past from both pre historic and later Roman communities.
However 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 haven’t been able to properly address the lack of visitor information about the site and visitor facilities that could have the potential to enhance a visit. 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 - seeks 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 commence in Autumn 2022.
It is thanks to the National Lottery players out there that ambitious projects like this can become a reality and heritage and wildlife can be protected and enhanced for the future.
Cllr Sarah Dyke, SSDC's portfolio holder for the environment, 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.”
* National Lottery Heritage Fund grant applications over £250,000 are assessed in two rounds. ‘Uncovering Ham Hill’s past for its future’ has initially been granted round one development funding of £98,000 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £1.6m.
The development funding was awarded in March 2020.