Pepperbox Hill Trail
Ranger's highlight: "Pepperbox Hill is ecologically important for its high quality chalk grassland and mixed-age scrub with a significant population of juniper as well as regenerating yew. This provides a mosaic of habitats which is botanically rich and a home for many different invertebrates including a number of species of butterfly. The Pepperbox itself, built as a summerhouse in the 17th Century, is an interesting feature on the walk, with far reaching views from the viewpoint opposite."
Along the way
Around Pepperbox, thin soil on chalk provides a nutrient poor growing environment that benefits chalk grassland flowers, such as the beautifully named harebell or chalk milkwort, kidney vetch (a member of the pea family) and birds foot trefoils, all of which you may see on the walk. Juniper bushes are common in the area, too, the berries of which are well known for flavouring gin. Pepperbox Hill is grazed with pedigree-registered pure bred Shetland cattle. The cows are an essential tool in the management of the chalk grassland. Unlike commercial breeds of cattle, they will graze coarse grasses and vegetation such as brambles and thorny shrubs, which would normally out-compete the broad range of flowering pants found on the site.
Pepperbox Hill National Trust car park, off A36
Park at the Pepperbox Hill car park, just off the A36. Leave the car park via the pedestrian gate in the fence to your left as you drove in. Pepperbox Hill was given to the National Trust in 1934 by the 7th Earl of Radnor. The hill is named after the 17th century brick folly which stands at a high point on the chalk escarpment and forms part of the Brickworth Down and Dean Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest. The name Pepperbox derives from its resemblance to a Georgian box used to hold valuable peppercorns. It is also known as Eyre's Folly after the owner of Brickworth House who built the folly in 1606. Pause to read the interpretation panel just inside the gate for information about the wildlife you may be able to spot during your walk. Continue straight on along the well-trodden path and The Pepperbox should come into view on your right. Take a detour up to the folly for a closer look, then return and continue along the well-trodden path towards the bench and viewpoint ahead.
Just in front of the bench is a fantastic viewpoint with an orientation map showing you what features can be seen in the distance ahead of you. Spend a few moments here taking it all in before continuing past the bench on the well-trodden path. The path meanders between some scrubby bushes and then heads towards a large metal gate in the fence ahead.
Go through the wooden kissing gate just to the left of the metal gate and head down the slope to the right onto the main byway track. Turn right and continue along the track which can be uneven, muddy and very potholed in places.
When you reach a Y-junction with another track stay left and continue downhill. You should pass a stile halfway down on your left-hand side, on the top of a bank. Pop up to have a look at Grimstead Down, another National Trust property, which is fantastic for rare Duke of Burgundy butterflies. Feel free to explore further before continuing on down the hill along the track.
At the end of the byway turn right onto the road and walk along it for approx. 80 yards until you see a 'Restricted Byway' sign on your left.
Turn left down the byway and continue along this very straight track towards east Grimstead. Go over the railway bridge and continue straight on onto the road and over the second bridge, keeping the church on your left. The old canal here is what remains of the Salisbury and Southampton Canal, which through funding and construction problems was abandoned in 1806. The bridge here is the only original one that remains as the new railway was built over much of the canal along its route.
When you reach the first track on your right, opposite Orchard House and just before the right-hand bend, turn right down it alongside some houses. At the end of the track continue straight on along the grassy path down to the left-hand side of the house ahead and over the stile at the end. Turn left to cross over the sleeper bridge and climb over the low hurdle gate and into the field. Ignore the waymarker arrow and turn immediately right to follow the fence line to the end of the field. You will see a gate ahead of you on the right, go through it and continue straight on along the well-worn grassy path. The path bears around to the left at the end of the field and you will find a gate in the hedge. Go through it and head diagonally right to the corner of the field.
Go through the metal kissing gate in the corner and turn right onto the lane. Continue over the small bridge and head towards the security gates at the end of the concrete road.
Pass through the gap to the right-hand side of the gates and turn left onto the road.
After approx.80 yards, turn right just before the buildings into a large gravel driveway/turning area and then take the track which leads off straight ahead of you. Go under the railway bridge and carry straight on along the track between the two fields.
When you reach the Public Bridleway sign turn left, cutting diagonally across the field following the visible tracks, towards the right-hand side of the clump of trees ahead. Once at the trees continue on the same diagonal towards the post marked with a white square visible in the corner of the field.
Go through the gap to the left of the post and continue along the track between the fence on your right and the trees on your left. At the end of the track go through the small gate next to the large metal field gate and carry straight on through the small field. Go through the gate at the end, closing and clipping the chain shut behind you. Carry on along the track until you reach the road. Cross straight over the road into the farmyard and turn right, crossing through the yard and onto a track/driveway.
At the crossroads carry straight on towards the houses in front of you, and then turn right to walk along in front of them. When the gravel drive ends carry straight on along the narrow path, keeping the fence line on your right, and up into the woods ahead. At the fork keep right following the less-obvious overgrown track up the hill. The path here is narrow, overgrown and steep and slippery in places, especially after rain.
At what looks like a T-junction with a sunken path, with a steep bank ahead of you, turn right following the path along the hillside.
At the crossroads turn left following the path as it turns into a sunken path between two steep banks. At the end of this section follow the path as it climbs out of the hollow onto the left-hand bank and continue straight ahead.
When you eventually emerge onto a road, turn right onto it.
When the tarmac road bends round to the left, towards barns and houses, carry straight on uphill, along the track signposted as a byway (ignore the bridleway to your right).
At the junction with a metal pedestrian gate on your left and a track on your right, carry straight on.
At the T-junction turn left, back onto the byway.
Shortly after you emerge from the woods you will see a track to the left with two metal field gates visible from the byway. Don't go up here but carry on for another 20 yards along the byway and you will see the gate into Pepperbox Hill up a slope on your left-hand side. Go through the gate and turn right. At the Y-junction formed by two well-trodden paths just beyond the gate, take the left-hand path and follow it, keeping the fence on your left.
At the next Y-junction take the left-hand, more well-trodden path, still keeping the fence on your left. Eventually the track will open up into a series of three wild flower areas with scrubby areas between them. Keep left following the path. The site looks particularly good during the summer months with a profusion of Small Scabious, Knapweed, Wild Marjoram, Pyramid Orchids and other chalk grassland flower species. There is a good chance of seeing bullfinches, green woodpecker, kestrel and yellow hammer in the hedges and on Grimstead Down and listen out for cuckoos in spring and skylarks throughout the summer.
The path will start to bend round to the right at the end of the reserve, through a large grassland area and then the path straightens out as it heads down towards the A36 which you can hear through the trees ahead of you.
Just before you reach the road turn right, along a well-trodden path uphill and continue along this path until you reach the car park and return to your vehicle. We hope you have enjoyed your walk
Pepperbox Hill National Trust car park, off A36.
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