Castle Hill Nature Reserve, Newhaven

With stunning views over the sea and hidden glades full of wildflowers this is place to lose yourself in nature.

This Nature Reserve is managed in close partnership with the Castle Hill Conservation Group.

Get Involved!

Find out how to get involved via our Volunteering webpage.

What's on?

More information can be found on our Community Ranger's Guided Nature Walks page.

Location

Up on the cliff tops, next to Newhaven Fort, this reserve offers spectacular views over the Ouse Estuary, the Downs, Seaford Head and out to sea. We guarantee it’s worth the walk.

Fort Road, Newhaven BN9 9DS    Map Reference: TQ 446 002

Access

There is a network of footpaths across the reserve including a disabled access surfaced path from the car park up onto the cliff top. Many of the footpaths have lots of steps and are on steep slopes. All footpaths are permissive. There are public rights of way leading onto the reserve. 

Parking: There are two car parking areas on site.

Recreation: Walking and Dog Walking is permitted

Walks: Seahaven Coastal Trail, running between Saltdean and Exceat takes is some of the stunning views that the Sussex coast has to offer.

Wildlife

The cliff top is the most sensitive habitat here and a good example of maritime grassland. The grass is kept short by a combination of rabbit grazing and mowing, allowing carpets of yellow Birds-foot-trefoil and pink Thrift to bloom.

The large north-facing hill is dominated by gorse and scrub, which provides an important habitat for lots of birds including the Lesser Whitethroat, which migrates here in summer all the way from Africa. Walk around the hidden paths on a spring morning and you are surrounded by a chorus of bird song.

Amongst the scrub we have created open glades with the help of volunteers. In summer these sunny sheltered clearings are full to bursting with a mix of acid and chalk grassland wild flowers and alive with insects and butterflies.

Below the site, on the West Beach, there are small areas of vegetated shingle and rock pools at low tide. From here you are dwarfed by the huge cliff face, a geological formation of international importance and home to a noisy colony of nesting Fulmars.

Wildlife Designations:
Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). The cliffs are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

History

Human activity at Castle Hill can be traced back as far as the Neolithic Period. A hill fort was built at some stage between the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age and the site maintained an important defence position well into the Twentieth Century.

The Victorian Fortress which now stands is the largest work of defence ever constructed in Sussex and is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It underwent much updating during both World Wars including the construction of the Second World War gun emplacements on the top of the cliff.