THE HARNHAM SLOPE, SALISBURY
If you are looking for woodland scenery, a large wooded green area on Harnham Hill to the south of the city gives shaded walks and spectacular views across to the cathedral, as well as being a site of historic, scientific and geological importance.
The 9 acre Slope consists of a steep chalk escarpment covered by broadleaved woodland of mainly ash, sycamore and beech. It is crisscrossed by a number of paths including the Avon Valley Path, which will take the long distance walker from Salisbury to Christchurch.
Pottery and other artefacts show that Harnham Slope has been occupied since the Iron Age. It was also used as an Anglo-Saxon burial ground - 60 Saxon graves were discovered here in 1846.
Harnham Slope has some links to well known names.
L: The memorial to Bishop Wordsworth who provided the land for the use of the people of Salisbury
R: One of several paths crossing the Harnham Slope
Many of John Constable’s paintings of the cathedral from 1811 onwards include Harnham Slope in the background.
Harnham Hill was also a favourite spot of Henry Fawcett (1833 – 1884) the former Postmaster General who had his tragic accident on this slope, and whose statue stands in the Market Square. Local artist Edwin Young (1831 – 1913) whose watercolours are displayed in the Young Gallery above Salisbury Library regularly painted the area.
The land was gifted to the people of Salisbury by Bishop John Wordsworth after he bought the land in 1898. He wanted the people of Salisbury to “freely enjoy it, with its unequalled view over the city and cathedral, as long as good order were observed”.
A monument on the top path, also known as “Bishop’s Walk” records this act of philanthropy.
At the western end of the woods you will find the Chalk Pits and can clamber up and down the steep slopes. In the 13th century, chalk from here was heated to make lime mortar to fix the cathedral stones firmly in place. It exposed the basal beds of the overlying Culver Chalk Formation and so is designated an area of special scientific interest.
It is also an important wildlife habitat for birds, mammal, bats and butterflies with a large badger site.
At the eastern end there is a mysterious Cold War bunker – an underground military telephone exchange for Salisbury Council in the event of nuclear attack.
It included a control room, a decontamination room and an emergency escape shaft, a chilling reminder of the potential threat to the country in the 1950s and 60s.
Happily it now has a far more peaceful and cheerful role – local music groups are able to practise there.
Opposite Harnham Slope on the Old Blandford Road is a further, smaller wooded area to explore. This is Tut Woods, although known locally as Chiselbury Grove, again used as a source of chalk for making lime mortar or providing building material for cob and cottage walls but now an area to explore and for children to run up and down its slopes.
If you too are feeling particularly energetic, you can join some locals and run/climb the 118 steps up to Bouverie Avenue.
VISITING THE HARNHAM SLOPE
How to get to the Harnham Slope
Postcode: SP2 8BZ
Walking: It is a short walk from Salisbury Cathedral to the Slope, less than ten minutes
Public Transport: Catch the R5 or the 14 from Salisbury Find timetable >>
Parking: If you are driving, there are some free parking spaces on the Old Blandford Road.
When is the Harnham Slope open?
The slope is accessible at any time of day or night. There are no street lights on the paths.
How much does it cost to visit the Harnham Slope?
The site is free to visit
Are there any facilities at the Harnham Slope?
There are no facilities. The nearest locally owned shop is the Harnham Local on Harnham Road
Which is the nearest town to the Harnham Slope?
Salisbury is the nearest town. See our Salisbury City Guide for details on how to get to Salisbury, locally owned accommodation, restaurants and shops, further places to visit and things to do.