St Catherine's Hill at Winchester
St. Catherine's Hill is a small but dramatic chalk hill to the south east of Winchester in Hampshire, England. Rising steeply some 67 metres (220 ft) from the water meadows of the River Itchen, the summit of the hill at 97 metres (318 ft) provides a fine view over Winchester. This view was taken from footpath beside the River Itchen.
The hill is owned by Winchester College, and largely managed as a nature reserve by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. St. Catherine's Hill is at the westernmost extremity of the South Downs National Park, having previously been designated as part of the East Hampshire AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). In addition, much of the hill and adjoining Plague Pits dry valley (seen on the right here) is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its chalk downland flora, including 'practically the full range of downland orchids', with chalkhill blue and other butterflies.
Recently St. Catherine's Hill has been the location of several local college parties that have resulted in police intervention.
The Plague Pits dry valley is the site of a massed grave for victims of the Black Death (Bubonic Plague pandemic in the 14th Century). However, there is no monument or anything else above ground to be seen.
The South Downs National Park is England's newest National Park, having become fully operational on 1 April 2011. The park, covering an area of 1,627 square kilometres (628 sq mi) in southern England, stretches for 140 kilometres (87 mi) from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east through the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex. The national park covers not only the chalk ridge of the South Downs, with its celebrated chalk downland landscape that culminates in the iconic chalky white cliffs of Beachy Head, but also a substantial part of a separate physiographic region, the western Weald, with its heavily wooded sandstone and clay hills and vales. The South Downs Way spans the entire length of the park and is the only National Trail that lies wholly within a national park.