Corporate report

Hereford's National Nature Reserves

Updated 22 May 2024

Applies to England

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 and Gillian’s Wood

This reserve is in 2 parts: Moccas Park and Gillian’s Wood.

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 managed by Natural England and the owner.

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. To apply for a permit call 01299 400686 or email for more information.

Gillian’s Wood is accessible to the public at all times.

Features of interest

Moccas Park is best known for its ancient trees, some more than 500 years old, and the rare saproxylic (deadwood) beetles that they support, including the Moccas beetle (Hypebaeus flavipes).

It is important for other invertebrates, such as 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 1 other site in the UK.

The open water on site supports strong populations of dragonflies and damselflies, and the medicinal leech.

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.

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).

Well-preserved historical features show evidence of habitation dating back to at least the Bronze Age. These include a Bronze Age round barrow, a Norman motte and bailey, and an 18th century park wall and lime kiln.

Gillian’s Wood

This comprises 2 areas of land previously known as Moccas Hill Wood and Woodbury Hill Wood.

Moccas Hill Wood was part of the Moccas Deer Park until the 1950s, when it was sold to the Forestry Commission. The site has since been purchased by the Woodland Trust and leased to Natural England to restore the land to wood pasture. The restoration process will take many years but already the site has seen an increase in wildlife, with bluebells carpeting the site in spring and tree pipits and linnets nesting in the developing scrub.

Woodbury Hill Wood has recently been purchased by the Woodland Trust who will manage it as part of the NNR extension. The ancient woodland site requires restoration, including the removal of conifers and the encouragement of the native broad-leaved woodland structure to re-establish.


Gillian’s Wood is open to the public and you can access it from Pentre Lane, between Bredwardine and Dorstone.

There’s a small car park - voluntary car parking charges can be paid in advance or on the day using the RingGo app.

There are a couple of waymarked trails, a smaller one in the more open wood pasture restoration area and a longer more challenging route that takes you into the new woodland restoration area. Alongside these, there is a network of footpaths within the parkland restoration area, including short circuits from the car park (with easy access for wheelchairs and pushchairs) and longer, more challenging routes with some steep slopes and rougher ground.

Ancient woodland restoration

Ancient woods have been around since at least the 1600s and cannot be replaced. Many were planted with conifer trees in the 1950s. Restoration involves gradually removing the conifer trees to allow light to reach the woodland floor allowing the plants, trees and associated wildlife found within an ancient woodland to start to establish themselves once more.

The ancient and veteran trees are an important indication of the wood’s history. These are currently crowded by and hidden amongst the conifer trees. Part of the restoration of this woodland will be to identify and tag these ancient trees and carry out initial management to ensure their survival.

School and community groups

Groups that wish to access Moccas Deer Park for educational reasons need to apply for a permit. 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). There may be local village halls available for hire; ask site staff for details.

Groups are welcome to visit Gillian’s Wood. Contact the site manager for details before you visit.


There are regular volunteer work parties each month, plus other opportunities to get involved with the restoration of Moccas Hill Wood.


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

For more information about Gillian’s Wood, contact the Woodland Trust.

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 2 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 email