A cliff top woodland nature reserve and the home of the Countryside Service.
Steamer Point is a 32 acre cliff top woodland nature reserve that is situated
between Highcliffe Castle and Friar's Cliff on the Christchurch coastline.
It is comprised of woodland and aquatic habitats and supports a wide variety
of flora and fauna. The Information Centre at Steamer Point provides extensive
information regarding Christchurch's countryside and also incorporates
an interactive display for children to play and learn with. The centre
is also the home of the Countryside Service and many of the countryside
events in Christchurch are based at or originate here. The site was
formerly declared as a Local Nature Reserve on 24 July 2005.
Records show that the area was known as 'Common Gate' early in the 18th
Century and that by 1773 the area was simply referred to as the grounds
of 'High Cliff House' (now known as Highcliffe Castle). 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 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 under the demesne 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. The woodland is a candidate Local Nature Reserve and the cliffs upon which it is situated are designated as SSSI for their fossil content (They were laid down 43 million years ago).
Steamer Point woodland is more than just an excellent home for wildlife,
it is also full of hidden artistic surprises and beautiful views of the