One of my earliest memories is lying in grass on top of a hill in the sunshine with a gentle breeze caressing my young face. I’ve forgotten where the hill was and my parents don’t even remember that day. I grew up in a village in Hampshire where country walks were a part of daily life.
I suppose it was natural that at some point I’d begin photographing nature.
Over the years, I’ve explored many interesting places in the geographical area of the RPS Southern Region. One of my favourites is Danebury Hill near Stockbridge in Hampshire.
Danebury Hill is an iron age hill fort with ramparts and 360-degree countryside views.
It’s an important site for both archaeology and conservation.
Parking is free with spaces either at the bottom of the hill or part of the way up, where there is also a toilet.
From the top car park, you reach the hill through a wooden gate.
As you stroll up the short-cropped grassy slope, you are likely to be greeted by a small herd of Exmoor ponies, and this is your first photo opportunity.
The ponies have remained largely unchanged since the Ice Age and are classified as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. They roam semi-feral in high moorland areas across the West Country. They are wild and you will see a warning sign on the hill advising walkers to proceed with caution.
Although the ponies will approach if you are calm and patient, it’s a good idea to bring a long lens. I use the Canon 70-200mm as it’s the perfect length to stay far enough away from the animals and capture them naturally.
As you continue up the hill, you will stumble across a trig point where there are uninterrupted countryside views. On a clear day you can see for miles across Hampshire and Wiltshire. Of course, a trig point is also an ideal substitute for a tripod on dull, low-light days.
A short walk from the trig point takes you into the basin of the hill fort itself. The encircling ramparts have a well-maintained perimeter path from which you can enjoy more lovely countryside views and an occasional glimpse of army helicopters out practicing from the nearby air base.
A copse of trees in the centre of the ramparts was once a focal point for pagan religious gatherings but now provides shelter for grazing animals.
The far side of the ramparts are dominated by giant, ancient beech trees, reminiscent of Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings. The Canon 16-35mm lens is handy here to capture textures and the interplay of light and shadow, but it’s good to carry a longer lens too as some unusual bird life and shy mammals can be glimpsed if you look carefully.
On the way back down the hill there is always time to spend a quiet moment lying in the grass with the sun on my face. It’s not the hill from my childhood, but it’s a pretty good substitute.