On the hill part 1: South and central
This page follows Miscellaneous photos, home 3. It is about St. Catherine’s Hill, Christchurch, Dorset, England.
The darker green patch to the northwest of my light blue text St. Cath’s Hill, across the A338 ‘spur road’, is also a part of the hill, or it was before that road cut through it. Its northwest side overlooks the airport. It is labelled Ramsdown Hill in Google Maps (although not in this screenshot).
The hill has two parts; north and south, divided by the A338 ‘spur road.’ These photos were all taken on the south hill, nearest Christchurch. The south I refer to in the subtitle means roughly the southern-most part of the south hill.
The main path, which seems to be labelled St. Catherine’s Hill Lane, starts at Fairmile Road just left of the G in Google at the bottom and proceeds almost directly north. It disappears under trees in this image just north of the roughly hexagonal patch.
Although bracken and gorse now (in 2021) covers the south-facing slope of the promontory that, in the mid 1960s, my friends and I named Sandy Point, in those days it was light-colored sandy material with stones embedded, as is evident in this photo just below where the people are sitting. The late 1960s/early 1970s trials riders rode straight up that face, starting from a clear patch among where the gorse was already fairly thick on its lower slope, and cresting the edge, which was sharper then than it is now. See Trials motorcycles in Off-road bikes for more.
I took the second photo on a morning when the firing range was in use — as denoted by the red flag and the open gate on the left.
Instead of proceeding up the main track past the gate toward the top, trudge up the sloping wooded area between the main path and the smaller track at left about in line with the flag pole, just a few metres. Stop, turn around, and time-travel back a century…
See New Zealand army engineers on the hill, 1918 for more.
I took these photos with my Fuji HS50EXR zoom camera from the triangulation point at the top of the main path (branching a few yards/metres to the right).
These two photos are zoomed in equivalents of the preceding (taken on a different day).
For a closer look at the church on Millhams Street whose spire protrudes from behind the Travelodge to the left of the priory tower, see Christchurch: Bargates, High Street, and Castle Street. (That page also includes the priory and its surrounds, as does Christchurch: Quay and Church Street.)
The murals decorate a cylindrical concrete water container with a domed top and an older rectangular water tower. (Neither are really towers though.)
See Water tower art for more.
The track labelled Dudmoor Ln is the old Ringwood railway line that runs close to the base of the east side of the hill. More about that in part 2.
See how the place has become crowded with plants over a half century…
When I first came here in the 1960s, there was a rusting crane and corrugated iron shack at the edge of the pit just to the left of this view. This sand and clay pit was a great biking area — bearing in mind that we used ordinary road bicycles with the fenders removed. Sammy Miller’s drop is visible through the trees/bushes on the right.
See Off-road bikes for more.
This is the view north-east from the saddle between the southern and northern parts of St. Catherine’s Hill (not Ramsdown Hill).
As far as I know, originally the sole purpose of at least the taller tower was to support the anti-collision light that warned low-flying aircraft, such as those on approach to or climbing out from nearby Hurn airport (now Bournemouth International Airport) of the presence of the hill. Clearly the towers now support radio and/or microwave communications. I assume the skyward pointing antenna is aimed at a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, but I am unfamiliar with such things.
In 1974 I taught myself to fly a hang glider on the north-east slope of the hill. It is inside the airport airspace. When they found out about my hang gliding there, they had no objection to it, but they wanted me to refrain from flying higher than the collision light tower. (I had done that only once, in a winter gale. Scary!)
This topic continues in On the hill part 2: North, east, and west.
Scenery in Miscellaneous photos.