Last month I experienced public perceptions of prehistory on the Ridgeway for the first time, or to be more honest, lack of perception. I had a meeting in Dorchester one morning and afterwards it seemed a shame to waste what was a beautiful day, so I took the opportunity to continue to explore the Ridgeway. However I had inadvertently thwarted my own plans by not taking a map. Reverting to plan B I headed to Sutton Poyntz, and figured that I should be able to spot Chalbury Hillfort. This was not the case (as I approached from the wrong direction) and I resorted to asking locals in the pub.
Except that they had no idea what I was talking about. This was particularly unfortunate as it was mentioned on the information board outside the pub. I didn’t try to be fancy, I didn’t even refer to it as a hillfort to start with, but I didn’t get anywhere. I did then try to explain why I was interested and was directed to a Roman temple, which they insisted was the only archaeology anywhere nearby. Conversation then followed about archaeology and to his credit the main protagonist in the conversation admitted his lack of interest in the subject. I can forgive somebody who has no interest in archaeology for not knowing where an unmarked hillfort is located, however when we moved onto topics of Sunday afternoons and where to take visiting guests. Guess where he goes, yes, another hillfort!
This is a classic example of why the Landscape Partnership is needed and why I’m doing this PhD.