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Services in Christchurch

Steamer Point Local Nature Reserve

A beautiful cliff top wooded nature reserve situated between Highcliffe Castle and Friar's Cliff in Christchurch. Steamer Point is a designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR) which covers 11 hectares (24 acres) of predominantly deciduous woodland, with some areas of grassland, ponds and wetland, and sea cliffs.

Steamer Point Nature Reserve is comprised of woodland and aquatic habitats and supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. The location, facing Christchurch Bay and the Solent, close to Hengistbury Head and Christchurch Harbour, and connected to the continuous open space habitat of the undercliff, makes Steamer Point an essential part of a larger coastal wildlife corridor. The reserve is also an invaluable stopping off point for migratory species such as summer birds and insects. Managed as a nature reserve since the 1980s, the site was formally declared as a Local Nature Reserve in 2005.

The nature reserve has an unmanned information centre providing extensive information about Christchurch's countryside and incorporates an interactive display for children to play and learn with. The reserve, and the centre itself, is also used by volunteers, schools and other group visits.

The site takes its current name from the steamer boat that was pulled up into a gap in the cliff and wedged between two ilex trees in 1830. This was arranged and paid for by Lord Stuart de Rothesay and the steamer boat was then used and inhabited as a sea-lodge for many years. The steamer fell into disrepair around the beginning of the 20th century. During the war, Steamer Point was used by the Signals Research and Development Establishment (SRDE) as the site of a military radar research station that helped to develop the radar cover of the south coast. Specifically, the devices developed at Steamer Point included radar guided anti-aircraft guns, radar beacons and the 'Tenset' radio telephone used by Lord Montgomery during his campaign through Europe. The building known as site 16 (the 16 is still visible today) was used as an anti aircraft gun emplacement that incorporated a Lewis machine gun.

Steamer Point was once part of the grounds of Highcliffe Castle and was originally intended as a formal and functional woodland with salt tolerant tree species such as Holm Oak planted to help stabilise the cliff. Today it is managed for nature conservation with non-native species such as sycamore and rhododendron gradually removed to promote the growth of native species such as oak and hazel. The area has been extensively surveyed by Dorset Environmental Records Centre and a full species list has been compiled. Part of the grassland and the cliffs upon which the nature reserve is situated are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their geological importance. (They were laid down 43 million years ago).

Nearest town: Christchurch / Highcliffe
Grid reference: SZ 197 929
Nearest train station: Christchurch / Hinton Admiral
Nearest bus stop:

Wilts & Dorset route 123 - Bure Lane, near junction with Seaway Avenue


Municipal car park (pay and display) at end of Seaway Avenue. Possible to walk from bus stop on Bure Lane or Sainsbury's at Somerford.

Facilities: Picnic benches. Several seats along cliff top with views out to sea and towards Isle of Wight and Hengistbury Head. Small information centre with educational material. Nearest toilets on beach and at nearby Highcliffe Castle.

Good access. Most of site is flat with gravel paths. Main route through site is tarmac. Gates with easy access latch at car park end of site.


Broadleaf woodland, ponds, grassland.

Look out for:

Nuthatch, Woodpeckers, White Admiral Butterfly and fungi

Size: 10.5 ha
Managed by: Christchurch Borough Council Countryside Service
How to get there: Car parks at either end of the site (pay and display). The 123 bus route passes close by and it is easy to access on foot from Highcliffe village centre. The site is well signed from the A337, Lymington Road.

Greenspaces and Conservation Team

Name: Greenspaces and Conservation Team
Tel: 01202 795000
Full details for Greenspaces and Conservation Team

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