Stockbridge Down

A view of Stockbridge Down under blue skies, on the estate at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Discover breathtaking views and spot a variety of wildlife at Stockbridge Down on the Mottisfont estate.

A chalk hill supporting grassland, areas of scrub and partially wooded margins, the habitat diversity of Stockbridge Down is hugely beneficial to local wildlife. 

Possessing the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, earthworks and around 14 Bronze Age burial mounds, this is also a site of importance for archaeology, as well as nature conservation.

Managing the Down

We work in conjunction with local commoners to graze the open grassland areas with Aberdeen Angus cattle, in order to maintain a good vegetation diversity and to prevent dominant grass and scrub species from taking over.

We also have our own flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep which graze the Western slopes of the Down where Yew (poisonous to cattle) is prevalent.

A flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep
A flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep at Stockbridge Down, Hampshire

The site is classed as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its scrub communities. By clearing areas on a rotational basis, we can encourage a good diversity in the ages and structure of scrub stands which benefits more flora and fauna species than a single age woodland with no structural diversity.

It also prevents the scrub from naturally succeeding onto the grassland and taking over. By grazing the grassland and controlling scrub we allow these two diverse habitats to exist side by side.

Restoring our landscape

Due to the decline of Juniper in Southern England the Juniper population of Stockbridge is of high importance. Juniper has declined due to changes in land management after WWII and previously uncontrolled grazing of livestock, deer and rabbits throughout the country.

Unlike most tree species, Juniper trees are either male or female, needing at least one of each within the area in order to create new seedlings. The seedlings also need bare soil in order to grow, and so can be easily shaded out by other plants.

We manage our Juniper by clearing the scrub around the base of each tree, to prevent overcrowding and subsequent losses from over shading.

Wildlife spotting

Mating common blue butterflies
Common blue butterflies mating on Stockbridge Down

Stockbridge Down is a fantastic place to go for all sorts of wildlife but is especially wonderful for its butterflies. It has over 30 species of butterfly here and on a warm sunny day in mid-summer you can be surrounded by clouds of them.

It is also a very important site for overwintering birds that rely on the scrub habitat for shelter in the midst of the acres of surrounding farmland. Bird species found here include Linnet, Bullfinch, Long Eared Owl and Skylark.

Walking on the Down

Stunning views from Stockbridge Down
Walking trail

Stockbridge Down wildlife and history walk 

Explore this isolated island of characteristic chalk downland set in a sea of intensively farmed land to discover a gateway to the past that is still relevant today.

Planning your visit

Park at the Stockbridge Down car park (Sat Nav SO28 8EG).

Dogs are welcome on the site, and dog bins are provided, but please keep your dog under control when in the presence of livestock or ground nesting birds.