Daneway Banks Nature Reserve, Gloucestershire


★★★★★

Path through the reserve
Meadow saffron

Sloping calcareous grassland plus scrub and patches of trees, supporting a wide variety of plant species; in a quiet part of the Cotswolds, reached by narrow roads
Location
Sapperton, 1.5 miles north of the A419 along a country lane; GL7 6LN
Photo Tour (24 images)
Daneway Banks is one of the best nature reserves in Gloucestershire since it is large and scenically interesting, as well as containing many different plant and insect species. The 42 acre reserve encloses a steep, southeast-facing slope, mostly covered by grassland, plus some scrub and patches of trees; part of a short, dry valley on the north side of the River Frome, about halfway between Stroud and Cirencester. This is rather an isolated location, away from major roads, reached via a narrow lane linking the hamlets of Tunley and Daneway, this latter right beside the river and also a section of the long-disused Severn-Thames Canal, a route which may one day be reopened.

Despite the remoteness, the place is relatively popular during the peak wildflower months of May to August, receiving dozens of visitors each day. The hillside is also a site of special scientific interest (notified in 1954), because of the plant variety. Seasonal grazing, by sheep and mountain ponies, helps reduce the vigorous grasses, and create conditions for more delicate plants to germinate.

The nature reserve lies close to the centre of the Cotswold Hills, which are largely formed of limestone, and even though there are no exposed rocks, the grassland supports a good number of calcareous-specific plants, plus many more general species. Across the lower parts of the hillside, the limestone soils are replaced by neutral fullers earth clays, where fewer wildflowers grow. Up to ten types of orchid may be seen in bloom at different types of the year, plus several regionally rare plants including angular Solomon's seal, mountain bedstraw, cut-leaf selfheal and cutleaf germander. The grassy areas are dotted with numerous anthill mounds up to 2 feet tall, made by yellow meadow ants.

Besides the wildflowers, Daneway Banks is also notable for its butterflies, in particular the large blue butterfly, phengaris arion, which had become extinct across the whole country by the late 1970s, but was (re-)introduced here in 2002, and is now thriving. The butterflies, up to 2,000 of them, are in flight between mid June and mid July.




The Reserve


The closest main road to Daneway Banks Nature Reserve is the A419, one mile south; from here three side roads converge at Sapperton while one continues northwest, across the River Frome, past the Daneway Inn and up a hill, running along the western edge of the reserve. There is parking space for two vehicles opposite the entrance gate, and more on the south side of the road just east of the river bridge. Parking at the inn is for customers only. The nature reserve extends half a mile northeastwards and is 1000 feet across at it widest point. The majority of the area is sloping, but the middle of the hillside is crossed by a belt of flat land, providing a course for the main path, which later loops across some steeper slopes towards the far side of the reserve, while lesser trails visit some other parts. At least two hours would be needed to explore the whole site.