centuries, Twyford Down has been regarded as one of the most mystical
places in the South.
was recognised as a gathering place for ancient tribes, and has
long been acknowledged as a site of extensive ecological and historical
Twyford Down is criss-crossed by 'Dongas',
a network of ancient pathways.
paths, around St Catherine's Hill, were formed over centuries by
people walking their animals into market and travelling between
ancient sites and monuments.
St Catherine's Hill was a centre of human settlement around 3,000
years ago, long before the founding of Winchester. A fort was constructed
in the 3rd century BC, and a Norman chapel was built in the 12th
The mysterious 'Mismaze' on top of the hill is 624 metres in length
and is thought to have been first cut in the 17th Century.
Today the area is a nature reserve, renowned for its flower-rich
turf and for butterflies such as the spectacular marbled white.
Scrub removal and continued grazing helps maintain the hill's clear
open aspect. The presence of cattle and sheep improves conditions
for wildlife, recreating the type of traditional chalk landscape
last seen in the 1930s.
hit the national headlines in the early 1990s when roads protestors,
angry at the building of the new M3 extension which included a 400
foot wide and 100 foot deep cutting through the face of the Down.
at Twyford Down
Down became a byword for a new generation of protests and brought
together people from all over the country, united in their opposition
to the scheme.
Groups like Road Alert, Earth First and the 'Donga Tribe' built
tree houses and tunnels to delay the work.
Between 1993 and 1995, thousands of people joined in the protests
on the site - many were arrested. Although the protests proved unsuccessful
in stopping the M3 extension, they greatly added to the cost of
the project and are credited with starting a re-think in government
road building policy.
A decade after the original protests, the area is once again attracting
the attention of environmental protestors as there are controversal
proposals to turn public land, given in compensation for the original
M3 by-pass, into a park and ride car park.
Emotions unsuprisingly run high over protecting an area that not
only dominates the landscape around Winchester, but for centuries
has been one of the most spiritual locations in the South and now
is ranked alongside the likes of Avebury, Iona and Lindisfarne in
the BBC's poll to find the UK's Favourite Spiritual Place.