Natural England - Hog Cliff NNR

Hog Cliff NNR

Hog Cliff NNR is a chalk downland area comprising three seperate sites centred on Hog Cliff Hill.

Hog Cliff NNR

Where: Dorset

Main habitats: Lowland grassland

Why visit: The reserve has downland slopes on a range of aspects with rich grassland communities typical of the chalk of west-central Dorset. Areas of scrub (principally on the upper slopes) and small areas of woodland add diversity to the site.

The reserve forms part of the wider Cerne and Sydling Downs Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and in particular is important for populations of the marsh fritillary butterfly, a scarce species throughout Europe.

Star species: The grassland supports a wide range of grasses, herbs and flowering plants such as sheep's fescue, horseshoe vetch, autumn gentian, clustered bellflower, rockrose, small scabious, devil's bit, chalk milkwort, and betony. Over 100 species of fungi have been recorded including eight species of waxcap.

Butterflies found on the reserve during the summer include the rare adonis blue and marsh fritillary as well as more common species such as the green hairstreak, common blue, gatekeeper, grizzled skipper and dingy skipper.

The small areas of ancient woodland are mostly oak and ash standards with a hazel and field maple understorey. Historically some of the woodland has been managed as coppice. There is a rich spring flora which includes uncommon plants such as herb paris and toothwort. 

There is an information leafletexternal link for this reserve.

Managing the reserve

The main objective of management is to maintain the grassland which has evolved over centuries of traditional grazing management. Cattle and sheep are grazed throughout the year to control vigorous grasses and keep the grassland sward open to benefit flowers and insects. In the winter some scrub is normally cut back to maintain the open grassland.

Please be aware that because the site is continually grazed with cattle and sheep you should keep all dogs under close control and on a lead if livestock are present.

Seasonal highlights

The best time to visit is spring and early summer. Marsh fritillary butterflies may be seen on the wing between the end of May and beginning of July. The unmistakeable adonis blue has two broods and may be seen in May and June, or again later in August.

How to get there

We encourage the use of sustainable transport whenever possible.

Hog Cliff NNR is five miles north-west of Dorchester, near to Maiden Newton.

By cycle

Maiden Newton is on the route of the Wessex Ridgewayexternal link trail. It is also on Route 26external link of Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest train station is at Maiden Newtonexternal link.

By bus

Bus services run from Dorchester along both the A356 and A37 to local towns. See the Traveline SWexternal link website for details.

On foot

The public rights of way network links Maiden Newton with Hog Cliff. The Wessex Ridgewayexternal link trail passes close to the reserve. 

Visiting the reserve

The nearest toilet and refreshment facilities are in Maiden Newton. There are signs and leaflets at the site to aid visitors. 

Want to get involved?

A local volunteer group help manage the reserve. See the EuCAN Dorsetexternal link website for details if you want to get involved.

Further information

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07810 297886.