Saltbox Hill SSSI
Bee orchid

Bee orchid at Saltbox Hill credit Mike Waller

Saltbox Hill

Saltbox Hill credit Alister Hayes

Saltbox Hill SSSI

This rare fragment of surviving downland in Biggin Hill is said to have inspired a local man called Charles Darwin.


Hanbury Drive, Biggin Hill
Greater London
TN16 3EE
A static map of Saltbox Hill SSSI

Know before you go

7 hectares


There are three entrances to the site, with public footpaths running east, west and north. The Hanbury Drive entrance is easiest to reach by car and public transport, with bus services 320 and 246 stopping on the nearby A233 Main Road. 

Steps limit accessibility at the eastern entrance. The footpaths are sometimes steeply sloping and the surface uneven. There are some seating areas in the reserve and interpretation boards. 


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

April to September

About the reserve

The long west-facing bank of Saltbox Hill overlooks a hidden dry chalk valley near Biggin Hill, close to London’s border with Surrey and Kent. It features calcareous grassland, ancient woodland and scrub habitats that are home to an array of rare wildflower and grasses, as well as at least 32 species of butterfly. The world-famous naturalist Charles Darwin lived nearby and the abundant wildlife he found in the surrounding landscape was said to have been an inspiration for his evolutionary theories.  

History of Saltbox Hill

Many downland habitats have been destroyed over the past 40 years, having been ploughed up, built over or simply lost through neglect. Saltbox Hill is a surviving fragment of downland and is recognised as one of the richest such sites in Greater London.

Notified as part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985, it was bought by the Trust in 1999 following long-term concerns raised over its condition.  

Management of Saltbox Hill

The priority is to maintain existing areas of chalk grassland and progressively restore areas that have been encroached by hawthorn scrub. The site is grazed year-round by a variety of livestock such as goats and sheep, with supplementary rotational mowing to prevent scrub encroachment and invasive plant colonisation. A proportion of chalk scrub is being retained, as is the existing area of mature ash woodland.  

Status of Saltbox Hill

Part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Site of Metropolitan Importance, Metropolitan Green Belt.  

Volunteer with Saltbox Hill's team

Get involved with our Brilliant Butterflies project happening at this reserve. Email Anna at

Get involved at Saltbox Hill   

Record species you've spotted at Saltbox Hill

Contact us

Shaun Marriott or Anna Guerin

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)