Old London Road Nature Reserve, Gloucestershire


★★★★

Flowers and leaves of limestone woundwort
Long grass

Small, narrow field bordering Conygre Wood at the edge of the Cotswolds, one of only two UK locations for the very rare limestone woundwort, stachys alpina
Location
Old London Road, on the north side of Wotton-under-Edge; GL12 7PS
Old London Road is one of the smallest nature reserves in the country, with an area of just half an acre - a narrow, long grass field with a somewhat incongruous setting alongside an often rather busy road just north of Wotton-under-Edge. Growing here are a typical collection of grassland wildflowers, none uncommon apart from the very rare limestone woundwort (stachys alpina), which although widespread across eastern Europe is in the UK found in only two locations, other being Coed Cil-y-groeslwyd, near Ruthin in Denbighshire. The plant also grows in a few places just outside the reserve, elsewhere on Wotton Hill, a narrow promontory which extends about a third of mile to the southwest.

The plant, a member of the mint family, resembles the familiar hedge woundwort which also has whorls of reddish-purple flowers, but differs in that the plant is more softly hairy, the petals have yellowish markings in addition to the purple, and the leaves are more heart-shaped rather than ovate. Stachys alpina flowers from June to August, while other species in the field bloom from late March onwards; there is not much to see here at other times of the year, though the reserve is also home to a few species of amphibians and small mammals.

A small amount of parking space is available at the east end of the field, next to a stone barn. A 600 foot path leads through the middle of the narrow grassland, following the road as it curves to the south, and exiting at the far end, out to the pavement. At the east edge of the field is a small pond, lined by yellow-flowered iris; the remainder of the reserve is fairly dry. The woundworts are scattered across most of the area, and grow densely in some places. A thick hedgerow shields the reserve from the road to the north, while to the south the field is bordered by the tall, ancient trees of Conygre Wood, on ground that slopes deeply down towards the town. Another path runs across the upper margin of the woodland, close to the field.