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Portsdown Hill is the boundary between the city of Portsmouth and Hampshire’s rolling countryside to the north. Much of the hill is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its wildlife-rich chalk grassland. A variety of woodland and scrub habitats can also be explored via a network of paths.
Most of the SSSI is between 50 to 100 metres high, with the highest part of the hill reaching 120 metres. It is an excellent vantage point both north and south, with spectacular views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
The practical management of the site is carried out by the Portsdown Hill Countryside Service with additional tasks being carried out by contractors, volunteers and various community groups. The most appropriate management is extensive grazing and scrub control.
Grassland management and footpath maintenance keeps this wild and fascinating area accessible. A wide variety of plants and animals, particularly butterflies, thrive on the chalk grassland and include many species which are uncommon in wider countryside.
As well as being an important area for wildlife, Portsdown Hill has an interesting military history, and there is much to explore, including. six Victorian hill forts built to protect Portsmouth’s dockyard and naval base. The six forts stretch from Wallington to Farlington.
Up on the hill you will find plenty of car parking space and a variety of trails to follow. These will provide pleasant walks with interesting information along the way about the history and wildlife in the area.
Feel free to discover the joys of Portsdown Hill – there is much more than spectacular views to enjoy.
The Portsdown Hill Countryside Officer is based as Fort Widley, Portsdown Hill Road.
Due to the outdoor nature of his work, there is no guaranteed time he will be in the office, so it may be advisable to telephone first.
There are Interpretation Boards throughout Portsdown Hill that highlight self-guided walks, explain the history of the Forts, illustrate the variety of wildlife and describe some of the grassland management techniques employed to maintain this precious chalk downland.
Information is also available in the form of a leaflet, which you can download below.
Portsdown Hill Countryside Service has many friends who have created their own working parties and information sources – more information is available at the links below.