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Special Sanctuary for Nature

Noar Hill

The gentler landscapes of the National Park in Hampshire have their own special beauty. The open western Downs are some of the most tranquil areas in the Park. From the scarp slope north of Petersfield and the internationally important ‘hanger’ woodlands, to the chalk rivers of the Itchen and Meon and the Yew forest of Kingley Vale, the western end of the Park contains a variety of landscapes and important wildlife habitats. Amongst the latter are areas of chalk grassland, including Noar Hill, a special sanctuary for nature, a 63-hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the East Hampshire Hangers Special Area of Conservation, near Selborne.

Noar Hill photo courtesy of Ian Cameron-Reid

A 20-hectare section of Noar Hill is managed by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) which, with the support of thousands of members, supporters and volunteers, has protected and cared for wild spaces and places in Hampshire for more than 60 years. The Trust manages more than 65 nature reserves across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, while also working with partner organisations and landowners to protect and connect wildlife sites across the two counties and inspire local communities and young people to care for wildlife and take action for nature’s recovery.

Noar Hill is one of the Trust’s most important and well-known sites, being one of its ‘Chalk Gem’ nature reserves. The Nature Reserve is nationally renowned for a wonderful array of chalk downland flowers, such as Juniper and Pyramidal Orchid. Every spring and summer, the vibrant flowers and butterflies which nectar on them create a magnificent canvas of colour against the backdrop of surrounding crop fields. Once the site of medieval chalk workings, a walk through this landscape always offers a fascinating experience with its ridges, banks and hollows creating niches for a wide variety of wildlife.

Our Support of this Special Sanctuary for Nature

Friends of the South Downs Council has agreed a donation of up to £20,000 during this year to support the Trust’s vital work at this popular and special sanctuary for nature. This donation will help fund a range of works with benefits to wildlife.  These include surveys that will enable the Trust’s team to record and monitor the rarer species at the site, helping to guide practical habitat management to ensure these species are protected. A programme of scrape creation will prevent scrub from dominating open areas, provide conditions for early, pioneer plant species, and create micro-climates offering warmth, protection and the right conditions for butterflies, an array of orchids and other chalk flora.  Some species require scrub (e.g. Brown Hairstreak, Duke of Burgundy, and rare hybrid roses), so scrapes will be sited away from the most sensitive areas.

The provision of ‘no fence’ cattle collars will optimise conservation grazing efforts for the benefit of wildlife, whilst new and updated signage and interpretation will help to deepen awareness, connection, understanding of, and support for, Noar Hill its wildlife, the HIWWT and the Friends.

These works will directly further the first purpose of National Parks: to increase the enjoyment of the landscape and help preserve the South Downs for future generations.  The project also represents our first truly environmental project and one of our first in Hampshire. We are therefore delighted and excited to be working in partnership with the HIWWT on this important and ground-breaking project.

For further information on Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, visit

Martin Small


Fragrant orchid and Common twayblade photo courtesy of Mike Read