Corporate report

Hereford's National Nature Reserves

Published 31 October 1998

Downton Gorge

An area of ancient woodland along the limestone gorge through which the River Teme flows, Downton Gorge NNR contains a wide variety of trees, including sessile oak, lime, ash and wych elm, among others.

Main habitats: woodland

Downton Gorge is currently closed to the public.

Features of interest

Downton Gorge is one of the few remaining relict fragments of the ancient Royal Chase of Bringewood, which covered a large area in this part of the Welsh Borders during medieval times.

The gorge contains a number of woodland types, some of which are nationally scarce. Much of the more calcareous part of the gorge is covered by woodland with sessile oak, ash and wych elm, together with both large-leaved and small-leaved lime. On the upper slopes where the soils are more acid silver birch becomes more prominent.

Large-leaved lime is a nationally rare native tree and its association with small-leaved lime and sessile oak in the acidic areas of the woodland is considered one of the more important examples remaining in Britain of this type of woodland.

The narrow ravine of the gorge provides a humid microclimate, which benefits a variety of ferns, bryophytes, lichens and fungi.

During April and May, Natural England staff and volunteers lead a limited number of guided walks along the gorge. Guided visits to the gorge can also be arranged by appointment for small local groups with an interest in the site’s geology, flora and fauna.


To arrange a guided visit, contact Stiperstones reserve office on 01743 792294 or email:

Moccas Park

Moccas Park is one of the largest and most diverse examples of wood pasture remaining in Britain.

Main habitats: wood pasture

Moccas Park is closed to the public as our tenure of the land does not allow public access, except for certain special events and for those holding a visitor’s permit. You can apply for a permit to access the site (see contact details below).

Features of interest

The ancient trees host a large variety of epiphytic plants (plants that grow non-parasitically on other plants). More than 200 species of lichen have been recorded and a wide range of fungi grow in the forest and grassland, some of them very rare.

The park is home to rare insects, at least 13 species of bat, and mammals including polecat, brown hare, hedgehog and a specially protected subspecies of badger. There is also a managed herd of fallow deer.

The reserve has considerable importance for other invertebrate groups, particularly diptera (flies) of which nearly 1000 species have been recorded. Of particular importance are the endangered and UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species, English assassin fly (Empis limata) and the Western wood-vase hoverfly (Myolepta potens), which has only been found at one other site in the UK. The open water on site supports a number of dragonflies and damselflies.

There have been 13 species of bat recorded in recent years, including the Priority BAP species barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus), Bechstein’s bat (Myotis myotis), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), noctule (Nyctalus noctula) and soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).

Other mammals species present include the UK BAP priority species polecat (Mustela putorius) (once thought to be extinct in England but which has recently recolonised from Wales), brown hare and hedgehog along with specially protected badger (Meles meles). There is a managed herd of fallow deer (Dama dama).

The land shows evidence of habitation dating back to at least the Bronze Age, with a wealth of well-preserved features, including at least 1 Bronze Age round barrow, a Norman motte and bailey and an 18th century park wall and lime kiln.

School and community groups

Limited access may be granted to groups wishing to access the park for educational reasons. Visits are only allowed if a permit is granted. The park has no toilets, indoor areas or car parking (although this can be arranged if a permit is granted). We can advise on local village halls available for hire.


Some volunteering opportunities are available on the reserve, with members of staff.


To apply for an access permit, or discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities call 01299 400686 or email: for more information.

The Flits

The Flits NNR is an area of low-lying grassland, fen, scrub and woodland on peaty soils. The reserve’s name is thought to come from the Old English ‘fliet’, meaning ‘stream’.

Main habitats: woodland, grassland

There are currently no public rights of way and no way marked trails, although the public are permitted to access the site for quiet enjoyment and appreciation.

Features of interest

The Flits is a 28ha site that is situated in the flood plain of the River Wye and is crossed by one of the river’s tributaries. The area is fed by a ditch system that has partially silted up and resulted in impeded drainage.

Plants found at the reserve include bogbean, marsh valerian, great hairy willow-herb, spotted orchid, lesser water parsnip and globe-flower.

The site is, however, most notable for its diverse invertebrate community. Many rare flies are found here, including species of soldier-fly, snail-killer fly and crane fly, together with numerous spider and beetle species. Some 200 butterfly and moth species have also been recorded.

While on site you are advised to stick to obvious paths. Please be aware that cattle do graze this site; please remember to shut all gates. There are no hard pathways and it is not the easiest site to access for disabled users.


The nearest train station to the Flits is Hereford. Bus services run from Hereford along the A438 to local villages.

By car you can reach the reserve through minor roads from the A438. The site has a small car parking area that is suitable for only two cars.

You can also reach the Flits on foot from the Wye Valley Walk.


During wetter periods and hay cutting the the ground can be very slippery so it’s important to take care.


For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities call 01299 400686 or e-mail