OS Map 186, Grid Ref SU738323
Client: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
Noar Hill, Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is one of the Trust's best reserves. Situated on the East Hampshire Hangers just south of Selborne, Noar Hill is a 20Ha (49 acre) jewel in the landscape, and an important refuge for the stunning flora and fauna found there.
Today Noar Hill is a mosaic of chalk grassland and scrub with areas of beech woodland around its perimeter. The many ridges, banks and hollows not only provide a variety of habitat niches but also create an unusual and historic landscape to walk through and explore; you could easily imagine that you are on a Doctor Who set.
Floristically Noar Hill is very rich, with over a dozen species of orchid, including a nationally important colony of musk orchids, and strong populations of cowslips as well as scarcer species such as early gentian and hairy rock-cress. There are also numerous juniper trees throughout the site. Butterflies include declining species such as the duke of burgundy and brown hairstreak, and there are other invertebrates of interest: glow-worms, rufous grasshopper and the bizarre fairy shrimp, which lives in ephemeral puddles on the rutted track and survives as eggs when the puddle dries out.
When the Trust took over the site, about two thirds of it was covered in scrub. The Trust cleared much of this, just leaving manageable blocks to enhance bio-diversity. Today the grass swards are grazed to help control scrub invasion and to keep rank grasses in check. The remaining scrub is coppiced to prevent it becoming woodland. However, battling with encroaching scrub on such a small site is a continuous struggle and so in the mid 90s the Trust took the radical step of scraping a sizable area of scrub back to bare chalk. This seemed to some like wanton vandalism on such an important site, but it has to be remembered that Noar Hill is as rich as it is because it was once all just a hole full of bare chalk.
Meet at 10am at the bottom of the north track into the reserve. This can be gained from the minor road running between the A32 from East Tisted, to just south of Selborne. Beyond the minor crossroads with the Newton Valence-Hawkley road are two small roads to the south forming a loop on which several farms lie. Noar Hill lies east of the side closer to Selborne. Just beyond the houses, two gravel tracks run uphill into the reserve.