Last Sunday was a lovely day, so we decided to go for a walk on top of Butser Hill, instead of going to the cinema. It is part of Queen Elizabeth Country park. Both are now part of the South Downs National park which stretches from Hampshire to East Sussex. This means the area, landscapes and wildlife are protected.
Butser is 270 metres (886 ft) high and is the highest point on the South Downs and is considered a Marilyn Hill.(1) It is a designated site of scientific interest and has a rich flora and fauna and many butterflies have been recorded there. It is also a site of archaeological interest. Artefacts from the Later Mesolithic period have been found and the area was probably used for hunting. There is evidence of the Neolithic period but no causewayed enclosure has been found. But there is evidence of "an extensive upland plateau defined by cross dykes."(2) There have been Iron Age grain pits excavated there.
We parked the car in the upper car park, but still had to walk uphill to get to the path round the top. There is a café and toilets just above the car park.
Just above the car park on the left there is a gate. We went through the gate and this is the view, looking West towards East Meon. We walked on round the hill until we got to the dry valley and then walked around the East side of it. A few years ago, we watched a dramatic rescue there. Snow was on the ground and someone had sledged down the valley and hit a tree at the bottom and broken his leg. We watched as the air sea rescue helicopter tried repeatedly to rescue him. It was very dangerous, because the valley has steep sides, but they won in the end. An ambulance had been called, but there was no way to get down to him.
The pilot was wonderful and did a remarkable job.
This is the dry valley, looking West. We watched 3 Kestrels hovering over it and diving and swooping to get their prey. We could hear their calls, echoing around.
There were lots of harebells and scabious growing near the path which was quite narrow in places. When we got to the end of the path we had to climb up and walk towards the North side of the hill. There were some noisy birds but I couldn't see what they were, they were too quick for me.
This is looking North West.
This view is looking North towards Petersfield and you can just see the Lake where we walk on most days.
Looking East with the South Downs on the right of the picture.
We walked a bit further, then climbed again to walk along the West side of Butser Hill with the A3 on our left, walking towards Portsmouth.
This is looking towards Portsmouth with the Solent and the Isle of Wight in the background. In the foreground is the village where we live. About 5 years ago I used to walk from my house up to the top of Butser very early in the morning to hear the dawn chorus and see the sunrise. I used to see rabbits, badgers and deer on the way up. It was so peaceful. That was when I was fit, its a long way. Its something I would like to do again, though.
A wild flower growing near the top of the hill.
There were lots of people walking with dogs and children, people flying kites and one elderly gentleman was sitting with his easel painting the view.
The not so pretty view of the very top of the hill of the transmitter which is perched on top of the radio station.
It took us 1 hour to walk around.
On Friday we went to the other side of the A3 to the forest at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. There is a visitor centre and café near the car park at the bottom of the hill. We went in to get some information on places to visit and a map of the area. Then we walked up steps and steep paths to the top of the hill. It took us just over 10 minutes to climb up and we came down a lot quicker. It took 20 minutes altogether, so we were quite pleased. There is a seat half way up. The noise from the road is terrible and it spoiled the tranquility, but the trees are lovely. We did not take any photos, we didn't have time. We will do that another day when we go for a longer walk. There are barbecues you can rent out as there are on the lower parts of Butser and also picnic areas. At the top there is an adventure playground for 8 year olds and upwards. Near the visitor centre there is a playground for younger children. There are lots of planned walks you can go on. The shortest is about an hour. The South Downs Way runs through it and there is a Roman Road nearby. There are barrows at War Down. So there is a lot to see on another trip.
Ref: (1) Wikipedia (2) Wessex to A.D. 1000 by Barry Cunliffe.