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St Catherine's Hill

Flower-rich chalk grassland cloaks this hill which is of great conservation and archaeological importance

A 58 hectare flower-rich chalk grassland with an abundance of wild flowers and butterflies. This is a great place to enjoy wildlife, ancient monuments and the most spectacular views over Winchester, the Itchen Valley and the surrounding countryside. St Catherine’s Hill is a fabulous place to enjoy a summer walk and picnic. The site has been owned by Winchester College for about 130 years and has been been managed by the Wildlife Trust for over a decade.

Things To Look Out For

This site is 58 hectares of flower-rich chalk grassland with an abundance of wild flowers and butterflies. Shetland sheep roam the down throughout the year eating the grass, keeping it short to prevent the flowers being shaded by taller grasses. The sheep also browse the hawthorn and bramble to reduce their spread over the open down. Most butterflies like warm sunny places, so some scrub and trees are kept to shelter the ground from the cooling wind. There are also ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort cut into the hill, buried ruins of the Norman chapel that gives the site its name and several rectangular burial mounds along Plague Pit Valley which mark the location of mass graves.

The sites offers spectacular views over Winchester, the Itchen Valley and the surrounding countryside.

Wildlife Highlights

Short downland turf rich in wildflowers or herbs such as bird’s-foot trefoil, salad burnet and dropwort. A square metre of turf will contain over 20 different flowers. Delicate orchids such as musk orchid, frog orchid and autumn lady’s tresses can be found on the south facing hill slope through the summer. There are over 25 different butterfly species that breed on the site. Most striking are the marbled white, chalkhill blue and brown argus.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust manage our nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife and we would like to thank all of our visitors that take care when walking on our nature reserves. We are working hard to engage with the dog walking community, in particular those that visit our nature reserves with their dog. The Trust’s "Dogs on Reserves" project has produced a leaflet that explains how to act responsibly on our nature reserves, along with some general guidance for dog walking visitors and advice about walking amongst cattle.

Getting to St. Catherine's Hill

Reserve is at OS grid reference SU 484 280.

Car: From the south take junction 10 off M3 then take the first exit off the roundabout. Immediately after first bridge turn left into small car park. From the north take junction 9 off M3 and take the A31. At the roundabout take the second exit (A31) and pass under M3. At the roundabout take first exit and immediately after first bridge turn left into small car park.

For sat nav users: SO23 9PA to Garnier Road.

Public transport: Winchester train sation is 2 ½ miles away. From the train station take the bus to St Catherine’s park and ride. Follow the cycleway that takes you to Garnier Road. Go through small car park, join path with river on right until you reach St Catherine’s Lock entrance.

Winchester bus station is 2 miles away. Take a bus to St Catherine’s park and ride and follow the directions above.

Nearby nature reserves

Hockley Meadows
1 miles - Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust
Winnall Moors
2 miles - Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust
Barton Meadows
2 miles - Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

1 mile from Winchester
Please see 'Getting to St. Catherine's Hill'
Map reference
SU 484 276
Great for...
historical interest
spring flowers
stunning views
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Opening Times
Open at all times
58.00 hectares
Paths are unsurfaced and uneven in places. There are steps up the hill on the northern and southern sides. Contact the Trust for disabled access
Walking information
The hill stands 70m above the river valley with 100+ steps on the north and south sides. There is a flatter route via the surfaced footpath parallel to the Itchen Navigation, then along the unsurfaced bridleway along Plague Pit valley. There are worn grass paths that criss-cross the hill, valley and ridge. Beware of rabbit holes if venturing off the paths. There is a kissing gate at the car park entrance, and gates at the other entrances.
Car park on Garnier Road
Dogs allowed
Reserve manager
Mike Allen
Tel: 07831 692963