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Saltbox Hill SSSI

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

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.


Species you can see at Saltbox Hill

Birds: great spotted woodpecker, nuthatchtreecreeperlesser whitethroat

Invertebrates: chalkhill blue, grizzled skipper, dark-green fritillary

Plants: pyramidal orchid, man orchid, wild basil, quaking-grass, field scabious, salad burnet, yellow archangel


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.


Facilities at Saltbox Hill

There are no facilities at the reserve.


How to get to Saltbox Hill

There are four entrances to the site, with public footpaths running east to west and north to south. 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. Bus service 464 runs along Saltbox Hill itself, passing the southern entrance to the site.

Saltbox Hill



Opening times for Saltbox Hill

Open at all times.


Accessibility at Saltbox Hill

Steps limit accessibility at both the eastern and southern entrances. The footpaths are sometimes steeply sloping and the surface uneven. There are some seating areas in the reserve and interpretation boards. Street parking is available in Hanbury Drive.


Status of Saltbox Hill

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


Get involved at Saltbox Hill 


Nearby nature reserves

West Kent Golf Course
1 miles - London Wildlife Trust
Hutchinson's Bank, Chapel Bank & Threecorner Grove
2 miles - London Wildlife Trust
Downe Bank
2 miles - Kent Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Hanbury Drive, Biggin Hill
Greater London
TN16 3EN
Map reference
Great for...
Insect spotting
Best time to visit
Apr - Sep
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
6.88 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Limited street parking available.
Dogs must be on lead
Reserve manager
Shaun Marriott
Tel: 07710 194 268


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