fbpx Skip to main content

Hampshire Downs

Hampshire Downs

The Hampshire Downs is a large scale, open landscape of rolling farmland divided by blocks of ancient woodland. The South Downs Way follows the ridgeline, passing Bronze Age barrows and Iron Age hillforts. At their highest points Butser Hill and Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserves give 360 views across the South Downs.

The clear spring waters of the rivers Itchen and Meon, both renowned for fly-fishing, carve out deep valleys in the chalk downland creating lush, wet woodlands and water meadows.

In the south of the National Park, the ancient royal Forest of Bere is a mix of woodland and heathland with ponds and streams, as well as farmland and downland. A network of walking and cycling trails lead you through coppice and woods, carpeted with bluebells in the spring.

The River Itchen flows through the Winnall Moors Nature Reserve, creating different habitats for a wonderful array of wildlife. On the river banks amid purple loosestrife and yellow flag are nesting birds like the little grebe and mute swan. In the river, otters and water voles swim and feed among the water crowfoot and water parsnip. In summer dragonflies and damselflies swoop overhead. The reeds and meadowsweet of the fen meadow attract sedge warblers, and wild orchids dot the hay meadows.

The rare natural chalk grassland of Magdalen Hill Down is untouched by modern agriculture, making it a paradise for butterflies. Over 34 species of butterfly are found here, including the Brown Argus, Green Hairstreak and Chalkhill Blue.

St Catherine’s Hill Nature Reserve is an ancient site with Bronze Age pits, Iron Age ramparts and Saxon boundaries and named after the Norman church that once stood here. The nature reserve has flower-rich chalk grassland and many rare species of butterflies.


"The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness."