St Boniface Down

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St Boniface Down
Ventnor Radar.jpg
The radar station on the summit of St Boniface Down
Isle of Wight
Summit: 791 feet SZ568785
50°36’12"N, 1°11’55"W

St Boniface Down is a chalk down on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, and that island's highest point, at 791 feet. The hill is close to the town of Ventnor, in the southeast of the island. There is reputed to be a wishing well on its southern slope, which requires the wisher to climb up from the south without looking back.

In 1545 a French invasion force attempted to secure the heights of St Boniface Down against a force of the Isle of Wight Militia commanded by Sir John Fyssher, which allegedly included several women archers, and were routed.

In 1940 the radar station on the hill was bombed by Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, which is reconstructed in the film "The Battle of Britain". The top is surmounted by a round barrow.

At the eastern foot of the down, on the A3055 road between Bonchurch and Luccombe, a path descends into Bonchurch Landslips by way of a scenic rock cleft, the Devil's Chimney.


St Boniface Down is the home habitat of the largest cricket found in the British Isles, the great green bush cricket.

The area includes some unusual plant communities including acid grassland and heathland, resulting in parts of the Down being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The gravel capping supports extensive tracts of gorse Ulex europaeus with intervening areas of heathland and acid grassland dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris, bell heather Erica cinerea, purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea, bristle bent Agrostis curtisii and locally bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus. The occurrence of heathland on deep gravel overlying chalk, the naturalised holm oak woodland and the juxtaposition of heath and chalkland vegetation are all unusual biological features in Britain.[1]

Cultural references

St Boniface Down is the name and was the inspiration of a 1956 work by the composer, Trevor Duncan.