Summer on Stockbridge Down
Stockbridge Down is an island of chalk in a sea of intensively farmed land. Carpeted with a changing tapestry of bright wildflowers in the summer months, it’s home to many rare species of butterfly and other wildlife. A walk across the Down offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, and a chance to discover ancient history.
The sunny slopes are scattered with shades of deep blue, purple and yellow from the flowers of round-headed rampion, wild thyme, harebell, birdsfoot trefoil and horseshoe vetch – all characteristic chalk plants.
This rich variety of flora provides habitat to over 40 species of butterfly, including the rare Duke of Burgundy and pearl-bordered fritillary; and on midsummer nights, glow worms light up their green beacons.
Wildlife thrives here thanks to careful habitat management, from scrub clearance to conservation grazing. Our own flock of Wiltshire Horn Sheep and commoner-owned cattle continue to graze here throughout the summer months, to help control dominant grasses and allow for species diversity.
Stockbridge Down is managed by Area Ranger Cat Hadler, who works with a team of conservation volunteers.
" Time passes differently when I’m here, a day can feel like an hour and, when I leave and cross the boundary into the real world, I feel renewed and restored."
Views across Hampshire and beyond
The Down offers spectacular, far-reaching views of the surrounding area. Rosalind Hill donated Stockbridge Down to the National Trust in 1947; her memorial bench now gives sweeping northerly views over Hampshire and across Salisbury Plain. Spread out a blanket on one of the hilltops for a peaceful picnic overlooking the landscape, and watch butterflies dance over the grass.
If you’re feeling more active, try the circular walking trail to take in the views:
A wealth of history
A walk across the Down is a gateway through to our ancient past. Look out for small circular fences which surround 13 4,000-year-old tumuli (burial mounds), which are Scheduled Ancient Monuments dating from the Bronze Age.
The highest point of the Down is an Iron Age Hill fort, Woolbury Ring, with hand-dug ramparts thought to be more than 3,000 years old; this was used in the Second World War as a lookout post for enemy aircraft.
Downhill from the ramparts are a series of levelled areas with steep slopes between, known as ‘lynchets’, which would have been dug by hand to provide level areas for arable production. These are believed to be between 3,000 - 4,000 years old and are considered to be some of the best preserved lynchets in the country.
Planning your visit
Use the postcode SO28 8EG to find Stockbridge Down. The car park is located opposite the site, off the B3049 – you will have to cross the road to reach the gate.
A circuit of the Down takes up to an hour, with gently-climbing slopes. There’s some rough ground, but these patches can easily be avoided and it’s a generally accessible site.
Well-behaved dogs are always welcome, and dog bins are provided, but please keep your dog on a lead to help protect the livestock, which roam freely around the site.
While there are no facilities on the site itself, nearby Stockbridge High Street offers some shops and opportunities for refreshments.