Size : 128 hectares

Ownership: Malmesbury Estate

Designation: SSSI, SAC, SPA, Ramsar

Restrictions: Open Access Land, please keep dogs on a lead and keep to main paths. Horse riding and cycling is only permitted on statutory
bridleways. No camping or fires of any kind.

Access: Fairmile Road, Christchurch, BH23 2LA

Grid ref: SZ 14579 94540

A large area of heathland, a great place to visit to get some excellent views of the area and see some rare wildlife too.

The Reserve

Town Common is 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 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 early 1960s onward. Four Bronze age tumuli are positioned
along the eastern edge of the hill. The area was also used by the Romans for lookout towers.

Located to 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 Avon Causeway pub.

What to see: 

It 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.

ARC statement on St Catherine's Hill fire on 5th April 2022