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Calne SN11 8PZ
OS map 157 Grid ref: SU025672

  • Not suitable for pushhairs and wheelchairs
  • Dogs on leads welcome
  • 10.07 hectares

Morgans Hill reserve map © WWT

Morgan’s Hill between Devizes and Calne offers incredible views of Cherhill Down and the plains of north Wiltshire. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its orchids, butterflies and for the general quality of chalk grassland and wildflowers.

A Roman road runs along its northern edge and the fifth century Wansdyke defines its southern border - built to defend the northern territory of Wessex. This large bank with a deep ditch is home to early purple orchids and round-headed rampion. It is believed the hill was named after a local man, John Morgan, who in 1720 was hung at this prominent site for murdering his uncle.

Unusually all three of the UK’s native conifer trees grow here – Scots pine, juniper and yew – possibly planted as way-markers to signpost the drovers’ route. Keep your eyes peeled for cowslips, primroses and violets in spring, and wild thyme, horseshoe vetch, common rock rose and marsh helleborine in summer. Where there are flowers, butterflies follow. Along the Wansdyke you can find the Adonis, chalkhill, common and small blues. Further down the slopes look for the marsh fritillary – one of the UK’s most endangered species of butterfly, which feeds on devil’s-bit scabious. The reserve is a magnet for moths such as the Mother Shipton, named after a Yorkshire witch because its wing pattern is thought to resemble an unpleasant face. Birds found at the reserve include kestrel, buzzard, yellow hammer and skylark.

We are improving the grassland by removing scrub and grazing with our Dexter cattle and Herdwick sheep. We have cleared an area of invasive tor-grass, scraping back to the bare chalk, so that different plants and invertebrates can colonise.


Marsh helleborine © Philip Precey Kestrel hovering © Steve Waterhouse Marsh Fritillary © John Notman Round-headed rampion © Rob Large

 

Access – Not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. Dogs on leads are welcome.

If driving - From Devizes head north along A361 towards Swindon. Take first turning left towards Calne on brow of hill. After about two miles take first right after golf course, signposted Smallgrain Picnic Area. Walk up grass slope towards the byway, turn right and walk up gently rising slope for 0.5 miles until reserve entrance comes into view. The byway leading to the reserve is deeply rutted and not suitable for wheelchair users.

If using bus – No bus service is available.

If cycling – Warning for cyclists: the road approaching the picnic site is steep, narrow and fast. The nearest designated National Cycle Route is Regional Route 20, which runs through Heddington, Stockley and towards Calne. Visit www.sustrans.org.uk

Nearby reservesHat Gate, Jones’s Mill, Peppercombe Wood

What to see locally – Cherhill White Horse and Monument (2 miles), West Kennett Long Barrow (5 miles), Avebury (5 miles), Lacock Abbey and village (13 miles)

Morgan

(Photo: Morgan's Hill © Mike Roberts)