Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve is a prime example of species-rich chalk grassland in the South Downs National Park.
Main habitats: Chalk downland, woodland
Why visit: Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve is a prime example of species-rich chalk grassland in the South Downs of Southern England. It is 63 hectares in size and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, including the Meon Valley, and in good visibility, the Solent and the Isle of Wight.
As well as offering the chance to see nature up close in a variety of different habitats, the site is important for archaeology, with prominent Bronze Age burial mounds and well preserved Iron Age hill fort ramparts.
Star species: A wide range of classic chalk grassland plants can be found throughout the spring and summer, such as wild thyme, squinancywort, clustered bellflower, salad burnet, horseshoe vetch and restharrow. Less common species such as round headed rampion and field fleawort can also be found.
Old Winchester Hill is known to be a hot spot for the chalk hill blue butterfly, with many hundreds, if not thousands visible on a peak day at the beginning of August. In all, 37 species of butterfly have been recorded on the site, the less common of which include the silver spotted skipper, dark green fritillary and duke of burgundy.
The reserve is a good place to encounter many of the declining farmland bird species such as linnet, yellowhammer, corn bunting. Raptors such as the red kite, buzzard and kestrel can be seen, as well as summer migrants like whitethroats, willow warblers and blackcaps, and passing visitors including the wheatear and the ring ouzel.
Access: From the main car park, visitors can walk directly to the hill fort on a relatively flat path which is approximately 1 mile in length. Alternatively, there is a way-marked circular path, which involves undertaking very steep inclines.
Contact the NNR enquiry line on 0300 060 6000 or email: email@example.com