Hampshire Butterfly Sites

Brief descriptions and locations of more than 30 places to see Hampshire's butterflies, with links to more detailed "Site Features"

Vehicle Crime - Take Care!! 

Every year, a number of butterfly observers in Hampshire are the victims of vehicle crime, their vehicles having been broken into by thieves whilst they were away. Sites targeted include the most visited butterfly sites (such Bentley Wood), however the problem is by no means confined to popular sites, and no site should be considered to be free from the risk of vehicle crime.

It almost goes without saying that you should always lock your vehicle when unattended and do not leave valuables inside. Advice on other simple precautions to reduce your risk of becoming a victim can be found on the Hampshire Constabulary website (safer vehicles page which includes downloadable dashboard card indicating "no valuables in vehicle"). Other useful sources of information include the Crimestoppers UK website, as well as many commercial websites which offer various vehicle security products for sale.

Introduction

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

In addition, for a significant number of these sites, a longer feature has been created, providing a more detailed site description, site/habitat photos, and other useful information. These are sites which I know particularly well and are mainly in the south of the county. These longer features can be accessed via the links on the left (arranged in the order they were produced) or via shortcuts in the site list below. 

 

List Of Hampshire Butterfly Sites With Summary Descriptions

Clicking the name of each site below will take you to a navigable map, courtesy of Streetmap.

Sites which are located within the New Forest National Park boundary are indicated by the postscript "New Forest" in parenthesis.

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

Alice Holt Forest     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 vistor 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 site feature on Alice Holt & Bentley S M - click here or use link on left

Beacon Hill (Warnford)     Steep chalk downland escarpment (arrowed on map) overlooking the Meon Valley. Chalk downland species represented include Chalkhill Blue, Brown Argus, Small Blue, Grizzled and Dingy Skipper, as well as common species. Site used to have decent colony of Silver-spotted Skipper, however habitat in recent years has become much less suitable for the species.

Beaulieu Heath (New Forest)    Large expanse of heathland in the New Forest and a good example of this type of habitat found in the 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 link on left.

Bentley Station Meadow
     Butterfly Conservation (Hampshire & IoW) managed reserve. The reserve consists of a strip of ancient meadow with 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 close proximity to Alice Holt forest. Covered in site feature on Alice Holt & Bentley S M - click here or use link on left

Bentley Wood     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. Bentley Wood is normally 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 link on left

Broughton Down     Broughton Down is a fine example of unimproved chalk downland lying on 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 Silver-spotted Skipper, Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus, however the down is also one of few sites in Hampshire where the Adonis Blue can be found, albeit in low numbers. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Browndown     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 flourishing colony of Grayling, in addition to Purple Hairstreak at 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 link on left. The site feature also provides a link to the Lee Residents website which publishes Browndown South closure times.

Broxhead Common     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 & Oxenbourne Down  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 also has populations of Silver-spotted Skipper and Chalkhill Blue and thus is also a good summer destination. It also encompasses the remote valley of Wascoombe Bottom for a circular, if quite challenging, walk Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Castle Bottom    A small National Nature Reserve located in the north of the county, managed by Hampshire County Council. It consists of a mixture of heathland, woodland and, at lower levels, valley mire bisected by small streams. The site is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) with particular importance for its breeding populations of Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler. In the heathland areas there are good populations of both Grayling and Silver-studded Blue, as well as common butterflies. Access to the reserve is via a gravel bridleway from the B3016 (Cooper's Hill) leading to the western entrance of the reserve here.

Farley Mount Country Park    Large Country Park west of Winchester jointly managed by Hampshire County Council and Forest Enterprise with good visitor facilities including picnic places and 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 are present in modest numbers on Pitt Down as well as many common species, whilst Crab Wood is notable for Silver-washed Fritillary. Purple Emperors are also occasionally recorded from different woodland locations around the park. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Godshill (New Forest)   Pleasant Area of undulating heathland in NW of New Forest. Decent site for Silver-studded Blue and Grayling.

Havant Thicket   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.

Hawkhill Inclosure (New Forest)    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 as a mini-feature within  New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use link on left.

Lymington-Keyhaven   Hampshire & IoW Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve of international importance, overlooking the Solent, and comprising salt-marsh, shallow lagoons and mudflats. Whilst it is especially noted for its wading birds and specialist flora, it is also one of the few places in the county to see the Wall butterfly, which is still reported in reasonable numbers along the coastal footpaths bordering the lagoons and also along inland tracks around the Normandy, Oxey, Pennington and Keyhaven marshes (such as the track known as the ancient highway here). Much of these inland areas actually comprise rough grassland and scrub (with some areas out of bounds), where the Wall butterflies breed. Green Hairstreak are also reported from the reserve and there is a decent range of widespread species to be seen including common Nymphalids and Small Copper.

Magdalen Hill Down     Butterfly Conservation (Hampshire & IoW) reserve close to Winchester and one of Hampshire's best chalk downland butterfly sites. 34 species have been recorded there. Original western section of reserve consists of steep slope of unimproved chalk downland which has important breeding colonies of Chalkhill Blue, Green Hairstreak Brown Argus and Small Blue, as well as 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 link on left.

Martin Down    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. Marsh Fritillary are also present but usually in small numbers. There is an area of woodland and scrub also within the reserve, to the north of the Salisbury - Blandford road where Dark Green Fritillary are also found as well as woodland species such as Silver-washed Fritillary. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

New Copse Inclosure (New Forest)    A mainly deciduous inclosure in the New Forest, close to Brockenhurst, with impressive stands of oak and beech. Pearl-bordered Fritillaries are present along the open rides, and benefitting from sympathetic management by the Forestry Commission to improve 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 as a mini-feature within  New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use link on left.

Noar Hill     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 numbers seem to be declining in recent years. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Old Winchester Hill     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 in the early 2000's, however they can be scarce. A few Duke Of Burgundy have been recorded on the site in recent years. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Pamber Forest     Large mature woodland in the north of the county, and good site for several woodland species including, Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak. Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary used to be recorded in small numbers but are now believed to be extinct here.

Pignal/Parkhill Inclosures (New Forest)    Mixed woodland inclosures close to Brockenhurst in the New Forest which is very popular with visitors. Pearl-bordered Fritillary can often be seen along the open rides and in clearings during May and there are good populations of Silver-washed Fritillary and Purple Haistreak, as well as common woodland species. Pignal is included as a mini-feature in New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use link on left.

Pilot Hill    Steep chalk downland escarpment in the extreme north of the county, close to the Berkshire border. It has a decent colony of Chalkhill Blue, but other species reported, usually in small numbers, include Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Small Heath and Small Copper as well as common species. There are also occasional isolated sightings of Adonis Blue.

Pondhead Inclosure (New Forest)    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 a good populations of White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak. Pondhead is also included as a mini-feature within New Forest - East Inclosures - click here or use link on left.

Portsdown Hill     Chalk downland  escarpment which overlooks 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) and Green Hairstreak.  Brown Argus are also occasionally recorded. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Roydon Woods (New Forest)     Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust reserve located about 1 mile south of Brockenhurst. The reserve extends for almost 1000 acres and consists of ancient woodland, wood pasture, heath, fields and meadows. There are a number of trails to be explored where woodland butterflies including Silver-washed Fritillary may be seen. Towards the western side of the reserve (in an area known as Roydon Common), Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary are just hanging on in a damp meadow area (here), numbers having dwindling alarmingly in recent years. There are also Silver-studded Blue in the adjoining heathland.

Shipton Bellinger    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 of Chalkhill Blue, Adonis Blue and Dingy Skipper are also reported, possibly thanks to the proximity of chalk downland sites on nearby Salisbury Plain. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

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

Stephen's Castle Down     Access area land to the north of Bishop's Watham consisting of an east facing strip of chalk downland. This little gem of a site is a newcomer to the Hampshire butterfly map. Most downland species are represented including Duke Of Burgundy, Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper and Green Hairstreak as well as common species, so it is especially worth a visit during spring. The best areas are the lower slopes towards the southern end of the site and especially in the vicinity of the shallow gulley here.

Stockbridge Down     National Trust managed chalk downland with some woodland to the west of Winchester. 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. Silver-spotted Skipper used to be found on the down and may just be surviving. A White-letter Hairstreak colony is present in a group of surviving elms. Site feature - click here or use link on left.

Whiteley Pastures     Whiteley Pastures, despite its name, 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 link on left.

Wootton Coppice Inclosure (New Forest)    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. The damp meadows along the north side of the main east-west track, used to contain a small colony of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, however at best, the species is only just hanging on there.

Yew Hill    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 are believed to reside in the elms along the wooded lane to the south east.

When visiting butterfly sites, please help safeguard our butterfly populations by following the "Code Of Practice", prepared with consultation from several organisations (including Butterfly Conservation) and individuals. You can access it via the main menu.