Lymington's Iron Age fort and nearby port
Buckland Rings is the best preserved multivallate hill fort in hampshire and dorset
Driving into Lymington along Southampton Road, it is easy to miss the grassy hill on your right. Turn right into Sway Road, however, and the road takes several sharp turns. Buckland Rings is larger than you might think. Today a great place to stretch your legs and walk the dog, it was once an Iron Age fortress, protecting Ampress Port.
The port at Ampress was built at the tidal limit of the river at the junction with Passford Brook, in the shadow of the large port at nearby Hengistbury Head, a major trading and industrial centre.
During the Iron Age, a gradually increasing population and climatic changes caused greater pressures on the land and a more aggressive society developed, needing weapons and defended enclosures.
Buckland Rings is a magnificent embanked and ditched earthen fortress enclosed six acres within its triple ramparts. A multivallate hill fort, it has not been possible to date the fort precisely, but is thought to date from the Iron Age period, 4th century BC to 1st century AD. Early historians thought it was Roman.*
It has well preserved triple banks and double ditches although may have started out with a single bank and ditch system. This type of site is rare in lowland areas and as such is the best preserved and most important in the Hampshire/Dorset basin.
The east side which contained the entrance was partly ploughed up in the mid 18th century and in the present century two houses were built inside the west end near where the outer bank has been lost along Sway Road.
Interestingly it has no apparent landward entrance, suggesting its function was a defended dock. The entrance gate faced the river and an important role would have been that of watchman and ensuring the gate was closed at dusk.
Life at Buckland Rings
The taste of its occupants is demonstrated by the large quantities of oyster shells found in the banks. The density of the population in Iron Age Britain is not known, however it is thought that the Durotriges tribe settled in large numbers.
Now much eroded and overgrown with trees, some of the banks survive, 20' high, bearing testimony to the highly organised society which laboured to build them. It was probably built to repel the refugees, members of the Belgae tribe fleeing from the Romans in Gaul, but the few excavations done have found little evidence of its occupation. This has led to the suggestion that it was perhaps only used intermittently, as a refuge.
Visiting Buckland Rings
There is a small carpark (approx 3 cars), just off Sway Road, opposite the water tower. However the best way to visit Buckland Rings is on foot, through gates along Southampton Road or Sway Road. Free entry.
* Hawkes, CFC, "The Excavations at Buckland Rings, Lymington." (1936)
Illustration of Buckland Rings by Heywood Sumner
- 'Lymington - An Illustrated History' by Jude James
- 'The Story of Lymington' by Robert Coles
both available in Lymington Library