St Catherine's Hill Nature Reserve
Know before you go
Entry feeDonations welcome
Parking informationParking available on Garnier Road just before the bridge over the river
Grazing animalsCattle and sheep throughout year
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.
Paths are unsurfaced and uneven in places. Contact the Trust for disabled access.
From the south take junction 10 off the M3 and take the first exit off the roundabout. Immediately after the railway bridge turn left into small car park. From the north take junction 9 off the M3 and take the A272. At the roundabout take the second exit (A31) then pass under the M3. At the roundabout take the first exit then immediately after the railway bridge turn left into small car park.
Train station: Winchester (2 1/2 miles). Take a bus to St. Catherine’s park and ride from the train station (1/4 mile).Follow the cycleway that takes you to the main road. Go through the small car park, join the path for 1/3 mile with the river on the right until you reach St Catherine’s lock entrance.
Bus stop: Winchester bus station (2 miles). Take a bus to St. Catherine’s park and ride bus from the bus station and follow direction above (1/4 mile).
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitVisit in summer to rest on the grass and admire the wildflowers. On warm days you are likely to see a number of butterflies on the wing.
About the reserve
A dramatic 220ft climb up St Catherine’s Hill’s wooden stairs reveals showstopping views of Winchester city, as well as the Itchen Valley floodplains and the downland it nestles in. At the summit are the earthworks of an Iron Age fort, buried ruins of the Norman chapel that gives the site its name, and a copse of beech trees. In the summer you’ll be able to hear the cackle of a woodpecker, spy buzzards and kestrels hunting in the valley below, and meet our friendly British White cattle that graze the site to encourage wildlife to flourish.
On the way down look out for some of the 25 species of breeding butterfly that call it home, including chalkhill blues, brown arguses and marbled whites. Keen eyed visitors might also spot some of the rarer orchids dotted across the hill’s slopes and meadows, including musk orchids, frog orchids and autumn lady’s tresses. St Catherine’s Hill is a fabulous place to enjoy a summer walk.
The following notice will appear on the Reserve this winter to explain works being carried out.
"This winter we will remove scrub and bramble from this slope to recreate open grassland and small thickets of mixed trees. Mature trees on the edge of the reserve will remain. Restoring this varied habitat will support more wildlife typical of chalk grassland (downland), such as the chalkhill blue butterfly, green woodpecker and pyramidal orchid.
St Catherine’s Hill is a remnant of traditional downland, once widespread along the South Downs, but now rare. This restoration will increase the wildlife value of this special place."