Access: Fairmile Road

Grid ref: SZ 14579 94540

Ownership: Malmesbury  Estate

Designation: SSSI, SAC, SPA, Ramsar

Restrictions: Open Access Land, please keep dogs on a lead.

The Reserve

Town Common is 128 hectares of heathland located on the outskirts of Christchurch. The reserve is dominated by St Catherines Hill which runs north to south through the site, half of which is managed by Christchurch Borough Council. The Town Common side of the hill gives tremendous views out to Hengistbury Head and the Isle of Wight as well the New Forest. The reserve mainly consists of dry heath on the hillside grading down to humid and wet heath with areas of acid bog heading towards the Avon Valley. Town Common is a great reserve for all six native species of reptile and especially good for the endangered sand lizard. Management of the reserve is ongoing to prevent the succession of invasive scrub to maintain open heathland.

A Little History

Town Common is steeped in history due to its topographical height, tactical position, and the lack of tree cover. The coniferous woodland that now covers the top of the hill is a recent Introduction from the early 60,s onwards. Four Bronze age tumuli are positioned along the eastern edge of the hill, this area was also used by the Romans for lookout towers. Located in the south east of the reserve is the old site of a military rifle range dating from the late 1800’s which was still active up to the 1950’s. The southern end of the site and the top of the hill were used for gravel extraction from the 50’s up to 1966. Running directly through the middle of the site is the now private Dudmoor Lane which was once a railway line active from 1868 to 1935, evidence of which still exists at the northern end within the grounds of the the Avon Causeway pub.

Species you might spot :

Reptiles.

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)  

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) 

Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) 

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) 

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) 

Adder (Vipera berus) 

Amphibians.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) 

Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus) 

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) 

Birds.

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)

Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)

Hobby (Falco subbutteo)

Wood Lark (Lullula arborea)

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola)

Butterflies.

Silver Studded Blue (Plebejus argus)

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Grayling (Hipparchia semele)

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

Dragonflies.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cynea)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes)

This is by no means a comprehensive list of species on the reserve.