Corporate report

Wiltshire's National Nature Reserves

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Fyfield Down

Fyfield Down has a unique combination of geomorphological, biological and archaeological features.

Main habitats: grassland

Features of interest

This is one of the country’s oldest National Nature Reserves, created in 1955. The site is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the landforms it contains and the wildlife it supports. The whole site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and its historical importance was recognised when it was made part of Avebury World Heritage Site.

The sarcen “train” dominates Fyfield Down. Sometimes called grey wethers as from a distance people have mistaken them for sheep, the sarcen stones are the most striking feature in the landscape. This stone was used to build famous monuments like Avebury Stone circle and Stonehenge.

The stones of the reserve are home to rare lichen species. Thin strips of chalk grassland survive where the soil was eroded away by carts travelling between Avebury and Marlborough. This exposed the chalk, creating the conditions these plants need. Elsewhere on the clay soil slopes small pockets of neutral grasslands survive while around the sarcen stones little pockets of acid grassland can be found.

Spring and summer wildflowers include the round headed rampion and frog orchid, amongst others. The reserve supports a wide range of birds, including a breeding population of skylark, as well as large numbers of farmland birds such as lapwing, tree sparrow and stone curlew.

Directions

By cycle

Route 45of the Sustrans National Cycle Network crosses through the reserve, connecting Avebury and Marlborough.

By train

The nearest train stations are Swindon and Pewsey.

By bus

Bus services run from Swindon to Avebury and from Pewsey to Avebury, via Marlborough. See the Traveline SW website for details.

By car

You can’t drive to the site, but you can park in Avebury and Marlborough and enter the reserve on footpaths and other Public Rights of Way.

The official NNR car park is located 1km east of the reserve. It’s reached by a minor road, signposted “Manton House and Hollow”, that connects to the A4 2km west of Marlborough. The car park is surrounded by trees and accessed by turning left off the road before it becomes a private road leading to Manton House.

On foot

You can reach the reserve along Public Rights of Way from Marlborough 5km to the east and Avebury 2km to the west. The Ridgeway National Trail passes by the western boundary of the site and starts a short distance south of the reserve at Overton Hill. Heading north from the NNR the Ridgeway leads to Hackpen Hill, where there is another car park. The reserve is also on the White Horse Trail which links Wiltshire’s 8 white horses.

Within the reserve, the field below Wroughton Copse and the lower half of the valley containing the sarcen train is Open Access Land. Just outside the NNR the SSSI to the north of Delling Copse is also Open Access Land

Contact

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07771 944 557.

Langley Wood

Langley Wood is a large area of ancient oak woodland that marks the northern tip of the New Forest.

Main habitats: woodland

Features of interest:

The reserve has been named a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the variety of woodland habitat, woodland birds that breed on site and rare lichens that live on the older trees. It’s also part of the New Forest Special Area of Conservation because of the oak woods and the rare wet alder woodland that can be found along its watercourses.

The site is a home to a wide range of insects, including rare butterflies, beetles and moths. Almost 600 species of fungi have been found in the wood as well as dormice, bats and rare plants like yellow bird’s nest.

It’s also an excellent habitat for woodland birds including cuckoo, hawfinch, nightjar, redstart, wood warbler, spotted flycatcher, lesser spotted woodpecker and tree pipit.

In May the bluebells come in to flower and some parts of Langley are covered in a layer of the characteristic purple flowers.

At the end of autumn, the deer rutting season begins and the strange calls of the bucks can be heard as they gather for the rut. Now the leaves have fallen, large herds of deer can be seen.

Directions

By train

The nearest train station is Salisbury.

By bus

A bus service runs from Salisbury to Lover, which is the nearest village to the reserve. See the Traveline SW website for details.

By car

The reserve is 10 miles southeast of Salisbury and is most easily found by exiting the A36 between Salisbury and Southampton on to the B3079 at Landford. Hamptworth Road is the first right hand turn and the entrance to the NNR is 2.5 miles along this road.

There is a small car park at the reserve.

On foot

There are limited public footpaths to the reserve entrance with no continuous link that avoids roads from the village of Lover.

Contact

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07771 944 557.

North Meadow, Cricklade

North Meadow is an old, flower-rich hay meadow on the northern edge of Cricklade. It lies on the glacial flood plain of the River Thames and the River Churn.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

Features of interest

North Meadow has a great variety of wildflowers and is of international importance as one of the finest examples of a lowland hay meadow in Europe. It is protected as a Special Area of Conservation.

The meadow also supports Britain’s largest population of the snake’s head fritillary, which appears in spring along with bright yellow clusters of marsh marigold and the pink of cuckooflower. Also at this time of year you may see the adder’s tongue fern.

Greater burnet, common knapweed, cowslip, meadow buttercup and yellow rattle, ox-eye daisies, meadow rue and meadow sweet may be seen in the summer months.

There are also over 20 species of grass, including crested dog’s tail and yellow oat grass

See the site visitor leaflet for more details.

Directions

North Meadow is about 20 minutes walk north west of Cricklade town centre. Car parking and bus links can be found in the town, from where the reserve can be reached by public footpaths.

There is roadside parking within 300 metres of the reserve, and a bus service which runs through Cricklade. There is a disabled access gate at the site, although the reserve can become very wet, so access is not advised at these times. Access is restricted to the public footpath.

Contact

For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities contact Anita Barratt, Reserve Manager, on telephone 07795 3216191, anita.barratt@naturalengland.org.uk or phone Senior Reserves Manager on 01452 813 982

Parsonage Down

Parsonage Down NNR is a working farm owned and managed by Natural England.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

For health and safety reasons, there is no access to the farm.

Features of interest

The site is notable for its abundant wildflowers with over 150 species being recorded, including salad burnet, dropwort, devil’s-bit scabious and knapweed. Orchids are also abundant with burnt tip, green-winged, frog, fragrant and pyramidal all being recorded on the site.

Anthills cover the old downland. Green woodpeckers feed on the anthills and they are the favoured site for plants such as thyme and rockrose.

The site also contains areas of scrub and these support birds such as yellowhammer and turtle dove, with lapwing and grey and red-legged partridge breeding on the downland.

As well as its wildlife interest the site includes two scheduled monuments and several other archaeological features.

The best time to visit the reserve is during the summer, for wildflowers and livestock

See the site visitor leaflet for more details.

Directions

The reserve is 12 kilometres north west of Salisbury and 1 kilometre north west of the village of Winterbourne Stoke. There is no access to the reserve from the farm office at Cherry Lodge. The access gate is 1½ miles from the farm on the old Drove road, at SU033415, and can be reached by walking from Shrewton.

Train

The nearest train station is Salisbury.

Bus

Bus services from Salisbury to Winterbourne Stoke and along the B3083 are provided by the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company.

Car

Parking can be found at Yarnbury Castle (SU041401), off the A303, and the access gate is a pleasant walk of about half a mile from here.

Contact

For more information contact Natural England Enquiries, tel. 0300 060 3900 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Pewsey Downs NNR

Pewsey Downs NNR lies on the southern edge of the Marlborough Downs situated on a steep south-facing slope overlooking the Vale of Pewsey. The reserve includes three hills: Milk, Walkers and Knap.

Main habitats: grassland

Features of interest

Pewsey Downs NNR is one of the finest remaining areas of Wiltshire’s iconic chalk downland habitat. Consisting of three hills on the southern edge of the Marlborough Downs the reserve is famous for the Alton Barnes White Horse. Views from the reserve stretch across the Vale of Pewsey all the way to Salisbury Plain.

The site is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its orchid rich grassland and one of the few remaining sites where the internationally important early gentian can be found. It is also part of the larger Pewsey Downs Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In spring and summer plants including the rare early gentian, orchids like the burnt tip, lesser butterfly and frog orchid help support the butterflies for which the reserve is well known, including the internationally rare marsh fritillary, the adonis blue and the chalkhill blue.

Directions

By train

The nearest train station is in Pewsey.

By bus

Bus services run to Alton Barnes, from Devizes or Marlborough, via Pewsey. See the Traveline SW website for details.

By car

The reserve is located by the Alton Priors White Horse, one mile north of Alton Barnes at the base of Knap Hill. A car park is situated on the minor road leading from Alton Barnes to Lockeridge, which continues to join the A4 west of Marlborough.

The road cuts across the eastern end of the NNR, separating Knapp Hill from Walkers Hill. To access the majority of the NNR from Alton Priors or the car park this road has to be crossed on foot.

This car park is not managed by Natural England.

On foot

The White Horse Trail runs through the reserve. This 90 mile circular trail connects the chalk horses in the region.

Contact

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07771 944557.

Prescombe Down NNR

Prescombe Down NNR is a botanically rich downland site consisting of a deep forking coombe (valley) system eroded into the chalk.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

Features of interest

Prescombe Down has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the species-rich chalk grassland and resident population of adonis blue; the iconic Wiltshire chalk downland butterfly.

More recently it was recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), for its grassland but also for its populations of European Protected Species. These are early gentian, a rare annual plant and marsh fritillary butterfly. The reserve is also home to rare butterflies like grizzled skipper and birds such as skylark.

Early in spring, Prescombe Down is one of the few places where the the purple early gentian can be seen in large numbers. Later the yellows of horseshoe vetch, rock rose, bird’s foot trefoil and kidney vetch can cover whole areas of the hillside, interrupted by the occasional orchid. The dark purples of devils bit scabious emerge in late summer.

In most years, the Adonis blue butterfly can be seen twice a year, once in June and again in August. This butterfly can only survive in areas where horseshoe vetch grows in short grassland.

Directions

By cycle

Ebbesborne Wake is also on regional route 20 (Wiltshire Cycleway) of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest train station that also has a bus service to Ebbesbourne Wake is Salisbury. The closest train station to the reserve is Tisbury

By bus

A bus service run between Salisbury and Ebbesbourne Wake. See the Traveline SW website for details.

By car

The nearest main road is the A30 at Swallowcliffe where minor roads lead south to Ebbesbourne Wake. There is no car park at the site.

On foot

The reserve is most easily reached on foot via public rights of way from Ebbesbourne Wake, entering via the adjacent access land to the south of the NNR. The Old Shaftesbury Drove is a public by-way running along the northern boundary of the reserve, which connects Shaftsbury and Salisbury.

There is currently no access to the NNR where this by-way meets the reserve’s northern boundary. To access the NNR from here walk half a kilometre east along The Old Shaftesbury Drove, where a bridleway heads south through the neighbouring valley of Church Bottom. This is the same public right of way that leads to the access land south of the NNR; before eventually reaching Ebbesbourne Wake.

Contact

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07771 944557.

Wylye Down NNR

Wylye Down NNR comprises calcareous grassland that is rich in wildflowers and other plants.

Main habitats: grassland

Features of interest

Over 100 different plants have been recorded on the species-rich grassland, including the internationally protected early gentian. For this reason, Wylye Down has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The reserve is most impressive during spring and summer when the rich diversity of wildflowers are in bloom. The early gentian is one of the first to flower. This purple flowering annual plant relies on short grazed chalk grasslands to survive. Wylye Down is one of the few remaining sites in Europe where it can be found. Not surprisingly this species is one of only 9 plants given international protection as a European Protected Species.

An impressive selection of rare orchids can also be found on the reserve. These include burnt tip, frog, green winged and fragrant orchid, the latter in large numbers. Less obvious amongst the grassland are field fleawort, dwarf sedge, bastard toadflax and tuberous thistle.

Directions

By train

The nearest train station is Tisbury

By bus

A bus service runs from Tisbury to Wylye via Swallowcliffe and Wilton. See the Traveline SW website for details.

By car

The reserve is one mile south of Wylye, close to the junction of the A303 and A38. There is no reserve car park.

On foot

A public right of way runs from Wylye village to the reserve. Immediately south of the village the bridleway crosses a railway line. Network Rail signs provide instruction on how to cross safely.

The Monarch’s Way trail passes near to the reserve.

Contact

For more information, contact site staff on 07771 944557.