Hampshire Butterfly Sites - Overview

Brief descriptions and locations of more than 30 places to see Hampshire's butterflies, some with links to a more detailed site feature page.

Introduction​

The butterfly species pages include references to various places in Hampshire as examples of where a particular species can be found. Most of these places are indicated on the map above followed by a listing in alphabetical order, each with a summary description.

List Of Sites With Short Descriptions

Acres Down (New Forest) (Map) - Picturesque area of undulating heathland in the New Forest, with surrounding woodland. Very pleasant for walks. Silver-studded Blue present on the heath (arrowed on map) though not in large numbers.

 

Alice Holt Forest (Map) - Large mixed woodland in NE Hants managed by Forest Enterprise. The majority of common woodland dwelling species are represented as well as Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak. The forest is also a stronghold for Purple Emperor. There is a visitor centre (with café), waymarked trails, pleasant woodland walks and picnic areas which provide an additional dimension as a family day out, as well as being a good site for the butterfly enthusiast. Covered in the feature on Alice Holt And Bentley Station Meadow - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Beacon Hill (Warnford) (Map) - National Nature Reserve to the west of Warnford in the Meon Valley. It essentially comprises an eastwards facing chalk spur with herb-rich downland slopes (some very steep) on its southern, eastern and northern flanks capped by a strip of predominantly beech woodland on the clay-rich summit. There are ancient earthworks too, most visible on the eastern part of the spur. The site supports around 25 butterfly species, however, for a number of years populations had been seriously declining due to habitat degradation. Thankfully, following a major effort by English Nature in recent years, the site has been transformed and its butterfly populations are gradually increasing. These include scarcer species, such as Silver-spotted Skipper which had almost been lost but are once again recolonising local areas on the southern and eastern slopes. Dingy and Grizzled Skippers are quite widespread, and there are populations of Green Hairstreak, Small Blue and Chalkhill Blue in their niche areas of habitat, as well as common species  A small colony of Duke of Burgundy resides at the far western end of the north slope, where there is more scrub.

Beaulieu Heath (New Forest) (Map) - A large expanse of heathland in the New Forest and a good example of this type of habitat found in the National Park area. Parts of the heath are sheltered by gorse and other bushes as well as by woodland edge. Key heathland species such as Silver-studded Blue, Grayling and Dark Green Fritillary (the latter in low density) can be found on the heath. Other attractions include a large pond (Hatchet Pond) and a picturesque stream at Crockford Bridge with many dragonflies. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above. 

Bentley Station Meadow  Butterfly (Map) Conservation (Hampshire & IoW) managed reserve. The reserve consists of a strip of an ancient meadow with the woodland edge. Good variety of commoner species including Peacock, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Large and Small Skippers as well as Silver-washed Fritillary. White Admirals are occasional visitors and Purple Emperor sightings are not uncommon, bearing in mind its close proximity to Alice Holt forest. Covered in site feature on Alice Holt & Bentley Station Meadow - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Bentley Wood (Map) - Large mixed woodland on Hants/Wilts border and recognised nationally for its importance as a butterfly site, with all woodland species found in Central Southern England present. In the Hampshire section, called the Eastern Clearing (arrowed on map) there are colonies of Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, although numbers of the latter are dwindling. Duke of Burgundy are present in very small numbers and Marsh Fritillary is also occasionally recorded. Bentley Wood can be one of the best sites in the county to observe Purple Emperor, in particular around the car park close to the Hants/Wilts border and along the track leading west called the switchback. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Broughton Down (Map) - Broughton Down is a fine example of unimproved chalk downland lying on a north-east facing escarpment which provides good views over the Test Valley. It is managed by Hampshire Wildlife Trust as a Nature Reserve and is also a designated SSSI taking into account the good range of chalk habitats represented. Resident chalk downland species include Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus. The down is also one of few sites in Hampshire where the Silver-spotted Skipper and Adonis Blue can be seen, albeit in modest numbers. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Browndown (Map) - Browndown occupies MoD land on either side of the coastal road between Lee-on-the-Solent and Gosport. Bowndown South (which is subject to closures for military training) provides a unique coastal heath habitat and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, noted particularly for its unusual coastal flora. Browndown South has a flourishing colony of Grayling, in addition to Purple Hairstreak at an unusually low level (in scrub oak) and common species. Browndown North has a greater variety of species. In addition to Grayling, it has oak woodland where White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak are present, A White-letter Hairstreak colony is closeby.  Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above. The site feature also provides a link to the Lee Residents website which publishes Browndown South closure times.

Broxhead Common (Map) - Dry heathland remnant in East Hampshire which is a local nature reserve owned by Hampshire County Coucil. Silver-studded Blue thrive among the heathery heath - one of few colonies in East Hampshire.

Butser Hill (MapAnd Oxenbourne Down (Map) - These two adjoining locations represent fine examples of chalk downland habitat within the South Downs and are part of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. The hills and valleys within the Butser complex provide excellent walks and stunning views from the highest point on the South Downs. Butser Hill has good populations of Duke of Burgundy, Green Hairstreak, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers as well as common species and excels as a spring butterfly destination. Oxenbourne Down, which is about 1 mile south of Butser has modest populations of Silver-spotted Skipper and Dark Green Fritillary as well as a substantial population of Chalkhill Blue. It is thus is a good summer destination. Oxenbourne Down also encompasses the remote valley of Wascoombe Bottom for a circular, but quite challenging, walk.  Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Farley Mount Country Park (Map) - Large Country Park west of Winchester jointly managed by Hampshire County Council and Forest Enterprise, with good visitor facilities including picnic places and covered barbecue - and not forgetting its monument (folly) providing fine views. The park also provides a diverse habitat for butterflies, comprising chalk downland (Pitt Down), ancient woodland (Crab Wood) and a working woodland (West Wood). Dark Green Fritillary is present in modest numbers on Pitt Down as well as many common species, whilst Crab Wood is notable for Silver-washed Fritillary. In West Wood, there is a fledgeling colony of Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Purple Emperors are seen in several of the rides. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Hampton Ridge (New Forest) (Map) - Sandy escarpment with wide vistas, located in the NW of the New Forest, east of Fordingbridge.  The ridge comprises areas of heather heath with some woodland. Butterfly interest includes not only common species but also Grayling and Silver-studded Blue. Focusing on the western section of the ridge, a pleasant walking route starts from Frogham car park (here), then NE along the top of the ridge, past the trig point, then down into the Alderhill Inclosure, returning via the south side of the Latchmore Brook. Explore the heather dominated areas using minor tracks/pony trails for Grayling and Silver-studded Blue, particularly on the south side of the ridge. The mostly coniferous Alderhill Inclosure has Silver-washed Fritillary. Note that the terrain just to the north of the Latchmore Brook contains some very boggy areas.

Havant Thicket (Map) - Mixed woodland managed by the Forestry Commission in SE Hampshire. It addition to butterflies, it is known for its nocturnal wildlife including nightjars and glow-worms. Wide flowery verges along some of the rides enhance its butterfly diversity. Woodland species such as Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Purple Hairstreak and Purple Emperor are all present. There are also are good populations of Marbled White and Skippers along the verges, as well as other common species. Most species can be found not far from the car park along the main east-west track here (including occasional Purple Emperor sightings and groundings), however, the shadier rides can be better for some species, such as White Admiral. There are Purple Emperor assembly points in Bell's Copse in the south-west and at Horsefoot Hill in the north, for the more adventurous.

Hazeley Heath (Map) - CC/RSPB reserve in the NE of the county. It consists of lowland heath, with areas of scrub, gorse and woodland. Ornithological interest includes Dartford Warbler and Nightjar. Resident butterflies include Silver-studded Blue, which is widespread on the areas of heath, and Grayling which is more sporadically distributed. One location where both can be found is here. The reserve also supports some woodland species, including Silver-washed Fritillary.

Hawkhill Inclosure (New Forest)  (Map) - Mainly coniferous New Forest Inclosure on the Brockenhurst to Beaulieu road, which contains one of the few woodland based colonies of Dark Green Fritillary in the county. They frequent the area close to the stream (Worts Gutter). Woodland species such as Silver-washed Fritillary are also present. Silver-studded Blue can be found in the heathland area immediately in front of the inclosure. Hawkhill is included within the site feature called New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Magdalen Hill Down (Map) - Butterfly Conservation (Hampshire & IoW) reserve close to Winchester and one of Hampshire's best chalk downland butterfly sites. 34 species have been recorded there. The original western section of the reserve consists of a steep slope of unimproved chalk downland which has important breeding colonies of Chalkhill Blue, Green Hairstreak, Brown Argus and Small Blue, as well as a small colony of Grizzled Skipper. The more recently acquired eastern extension and north down are being returned to flower-rich downland from arable farmland. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Martin Down (Map) - National Nature Reserve in the far west of the county and one of Hampshire's best butterfly sites.  The reserve occupies a large expanse of undulating chalk downland bounded to the west by a prehistoric earthwork called the Bokerley Ditch. Most of Hampshire's chalk downland species are represented including Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Small Blue and Dark Green Fritillary, as well as Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak. The site is also the best location in Hampshire to see Marsh Fritillary. There is an area of woodland and scrub also within the reserve, to the north of the Salisbury - Blandford road where Dark Green Fritillary is also found as well as woodland species such as Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

New Copse Inclosure (New Forest) (Map) - A mainly deciduous inclosure in the New Forest, close to Brockenhurst, with impressive stands of oak and beech. Pearl-bordered Fritillaries are present along with the open rides, benefitting from sympathetic management by the Forestry Commission to improve the biodiversity of the ground flora, by thinning out the under-storey vegetation. Silver-washed Fritillary and common woodland species are also present. New Copse is included within the site feature called New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Noar Hill (Map) - Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust reserve close to the Meon Valley. The wide variety of habitats including chalk scrub interspersed with woodland and blackthorn scrub reflect the good range of species found at the reserve. Medieval chalk workings now reclaimed by nature provide a sheltered environment for butterflies, including Duke of Burgundy and Dingy Skipper. Site is also noted for its variety of flora including orchids. The reserve is also one of just two locations in the county for Brown Hairstreak, although they can sometimes seem especially elusive here. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Old Winchester Hill (Map) - Large National Nature Reserve crowned by an Iron Age hill fort on species-rich chalk downland. Butterfly residents include Chalkhill Blue, Dark Green Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak, Marbled White and common species. Small numbers of Silver-spotted Skipper are also present although emerging later here than usual. Old Winchester Hill was also chosen by English Nature for an experimental re-introduction of Adonis Blue and, following some difficult years, seem to be doing reasonably well. A few Duke of Burgundy has been recorded on the site in recent years. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Pamber Forest (Map) - Large mature woodland in the north of the county, and a good site for several woodland species including, Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak.

Pignal/Parkhill Inclosures (New Forest) (Map) - Mixed woodland inclosures close to Brockenhurst in the New Forest which is very popular with visitors. Pearl-bordered Fritillary can often be seen along with the open rides and in clearings during May and there are Silver-washed Fritillaries and Purple Hairstreaks too, in addition to common woodland species. This location is included the site feature called New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Pilot Hill (MapSteep chalk downland escarpment in the extreme north of the county, close to the Berkshire border. It has a good colony of Chalkhill Blue, but other species reported, usually in small numbers, include Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Small Heath, as well as common species.

Pondhead Inclosure (New Forest) (Map) - A true New Forest inclosure (i.e. fenced) just SE of Lyndhurst. Restricted grazing has allowed species like Silver-washed Fritillary to flourish. This mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland site also has decent populations of White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak. Pondhead is also included within the site feature called New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use the link on the menu above. 

Portland Coppice (Map) - This coppice, to the north of Portdown Hill is part of the Southwick Estate. Whilst the coppice itself is modest in size, it does represent one element in the mosaic of high-quality woodland in this part of SE Hampshire. Shady rides such as here and a more open grassy ride here provide excellent habitat for key woodland species, particularly White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. Other adjoining coppices are also worthy of exploration, although some areas within this part of the estate are not for public access and are clearly marked as 'private'.

Portsdown Hill (Map) - Chalk downland escarpment overlooking Portsmouth and the Solent. The best part if the Hill for butterflies is the area between the two disused chalk quarries (arrowed on map). Despite its proximity to urban areas, the Hill has a very good species count, including Chalkhill Blue, Small Blue (very local where kidney vetch can be found), Brown Argus and Green Hairstreak. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Shipton Bellinger (Map) - The unusual site on Crown (MoD) land located in the far NW of the county and consisting of a network of tracks with thick hedgerows, scrub and woodland edge bordering arable farmland. It is presently the strongest site in Hampshire for Brown Hairstreak and also has a good variety of common species. Occasional sightings Chalkhill Blue, Adonis Blue and Dingy Skipper are also reported, possibly thanks to the proximity of chalk downland sites on nearby Salisbury Plain. A few Wall sightings are also reported each year and it is believed they may be breeding in the area. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Silchester Common (Map) - Large area of common and heathland in the north of the county, containing a large colony of Silver-studded Blue.

St Catherine's Hill (Map) - The hill rises dramatically beside the river Itchen, overlooking water-meadows and the city of Winchester. The top of the hill is ringed by the ramparts of an iron-age hill fort, which is a scheduled ancient monument. Today, the hill is managed as a nature reserve by the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust. Its butterfly interest includes many chalk downland species, for which the lower southern slopes are especially suited. These include Chalkhill Blue as well as small colonies of Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper.

Stephen's Castle Down (Map) - Access area land to the north of Bishop's Watham consisting of an east-facing strip of chalk downland. Several downland species are represented including Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper and Green Hairstreak as well as common species, so it is especially worth a visit during spring. Duke of Burgundy has been recorded in some previous years but it is not clear if they are still present. The best butterfly areas are the lower slopes towards the southern end of the site and especially in the vicinity of the shallow gulley here.

Stockbridge Down (Map) - National Trust managed chalk downland west of Winchester, capped by Woolbury iron-age hill fort. The reasonable population of Chalkhill Blue with other chalk downland species present in low/variable numbers including Grizzled Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Dark Green Fritillary. Silver-washed Fritillary can sometimes be seen in the woodland at the eastern end of the down and a White-letter Hairstreak colony is also present in a group of surviving elms. There are sightings of both Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Duke of Burgundy on the site in most seasons, possibly as the result of dispersal from nearby colonies on private land. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Whiteley Walks (Map) - Formerly known as Whiteley Pastures, Whiteley Walks is a woodland managed by Forest Enterprise in South Hampshire. Most woodland species are represented including Purple Hairstreak, Purple Emperor, Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. Populations of the latter two species are recovering, following extensive forest operations which left a large area too open for them to thrive. In the adjoining Botley Wood,  Grizzled Skipper can also be found. Site feature - click here or use the link on the menu above.

Wootton Coppice Inclosure (New Forest) (Map) - Mixed woodland inclosure located in the south-west of the New Forest with flower-rich rides and meadows. There is a good population of Silver-washed Fritillary complementing the common woodland species. White Admiral and Dark Green Fritillary are also occasionally recorded.

Yew Hill (Map) - Small reserve managed by Butterfly Conservation close to Winchester. The 5-acre reserve consists of a fragment of chalk downland, beside a covered reservoir, with some hedgerow and a wooded lane. Deep gullies in the downland provide a sheltered habitat for butterflies. The reserve has reasonable colonies of Chalkhill Blue and Marbled White. Other species regularly seen include Holly Blue, Brimstone, Gatekeeper and other common species. There are also occasional sightings of Dark Green Fritillary and even White-letter Hairstreak which is believed to reside in the elms along the wooded lane to the south-east.

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