– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –
So, this week, we are considering iconic Dorset hills, hills that have amazing views and which just seem to typify Dorset. And today’s fits the bill well, and has a strange name to boot! This is Nine Barrow Down.
Nine Barrow Down
Nine Barrow Down rises to 199 meters (653 feet) and is part of the Purbeck chalk ridge that stretches some 15 miles from Old Harry Rocks in the east to Lulworth Cove in the west. This ridge itself is part of a much larger system of chalk downlands that stretches across Southern England. Nine Barrow Down sits part way along the ridge with flatter land on either side giving spectacular views all along its length.
These views stretch all across Poole Harbour to the north, and across the Purbeck valley to the Dorset coast in the south. In the picture below, you can see the Purbeck Ridge stretching away into the distance.
So, why the unusual name of Nine Barrow Down? Well it has been given that name simply because there are said to be nine barrows, or burial mounds, along the ridge. These are mainly Bronze Age round barrows together with one Neolithic long barrow. The number is something that I have never been able to prove because whilst some barrows are obvious, others, due to erosion, are not. In fact I have read that there were probably double that number although it is possible that there were just the nine on the ridge top with the others being elsewhere on the downs.
One of the problems with this ancient barrow cemetery is that riders, both bike and horse, and walkers will often follow a route over the top of the barrows, causing even more erosion. In an effort to prevent this, some wattle fencing was erected for a time. This was intended to keep people to the footpath but I am not sure it worked terribly well.
In addition to the barrows, this ridge is also a great place to spot wildlife. There are butterflies aplenty, with species such as Adonis Blue and Common Blue inhabiting this area, and of course the ever present skylarks which for me just typify summer.
Nine Barrow Down, and in fact the whole Purbeck Ridge, has a very special place in my heart as I have walked it all my life since I was a young child. It is just a beautiful place with miles of great walking, many grassy ‘bare foot’ paths, and fantastic views. Because the paths are generally smooth, it is a place where you can walk and take in the views at the same time without fear of losing your footing, and that is always welcome.
So where does Nine Barrow Down fit in with the hill classifications that we have talked about in previous posts? Well it is actually a Marilyn, which is defined as a mountain or hill having a prominence of at least 150 meters (492 feet) regardless of its overall height. The reason for the name Marilyn is simply a pun on the famous Munro’s of Scotland. The latter all have an overall height of 914 meters (3,000 feet) so lots of Munro’s will also be Marilyns, making them Marilyn Munro’s!!
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