Posted on

St Catherine’s Hill Nature Reserve

Something New in Hampshire

Friends of the South Downs have recently funded the installation of replacement gates on the St Catherine’s Hill Nature Reserve, a beautiful chalk downland hill a mile or so south of Winchester. The Nature Reserve covers 47 hectares and is managed by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

st catherines hill nature reserve hampshire
Janet Goody, Chair Access & Right of Way Committee

High on the Downs, from which there are magnificent views of the City of Winchester, the old gates were no longer fit for purpose. The bridleway on which the gates are installed is the Pilgrim’s Trail which follows the 155-mile medieval route from the shrine of St Swithun at Winchester Cathedral, via Portsmouth, to the sanctuary of Mont St Michel in Normandy.

In case any of you are wondering how many people will actually use the gates, the Marathon Runners and Walkers taking part in Against Breast Cancer’s recent Fundraiser passed through the gates!

St Catherine’s Hill Nature Reserve

The Nature Reserve is really worth a visit. Standing 70m above the Itchen Valley with 100+ steps on the north and south sides, there is also a flatter route via the surfaced footpath parallel to the Itchen Navigation, then along the unsurfaced bridleway along Plague Pits Valley. There are worn grass paths that criss-cross the hill, valley and ridge.

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. British white cattle and sheep graze the site to encourage wildlife to flourish.

St Catherine’s Hill is easily accessible by train and bus.

Janet Goody

Chair Access & Rights of Way