Dunscombe Bottom Nature Reserve, Wiltshire


★★★★

The view south
Horseshoe vetch

Small nature reserve across the west-facing side of a dry, grassy, chalk valley, with a wide selection of spring and summer wildflowers
Location
Near the B390/A36 junction, 5 miles east of Warminster; BA12 0JF
Photo Tour (14 images)
Dunscombe Bottom is a short, shallow, dry valley on the south side of Salisbury Plain, 5 miles east of Warminster, and the west-facing slope is is contained within a 12.5 acre nature reserve, protecting around 50 species of wildflowers including seven types of orchid. The chalk downland is typical of this part of Wiltshire, but here the place had for several decades prior to establishment of the reserve (in 2009) been managed without use of pesticides or fertilisers, hence is home to a greater and more varied plant selection than the improved grassland found over most of the county. The reserve is grazed at some times of the year, by sheep and cattle, who help reduce vigorous grasses and allow more delicate plans to thrive.

Dunscombe Bottom Nature Reserve encompasses a narrow belt of quite steep grassland, 0.4 miles long and at most 300 feet wide, crossed by a narrow path, so it does not take long to explore but an hour or two could easily be spent in spring and summer, looking for different flower species. The upper slopes offer good views south, over the valley of the River Wylye towards the rolling hills beyond.

Limited parking, for perhaps three vehicles, is available on the verge at the reserve entrance, along the B390 a quarter of a mile east of the A36 junction, beside Knook Camp, an army barracks. The path crosses an adjacent field, passes over a little ridge and enters the lower end of the valley, which curves slightly and is bordered by a small patch of trees to the east, but otherwise the surroundings are entirely grassy. Wildflowers are fairly evenly distributed, with the best selection across the steepest slopes. Notable species include early gentian, common rock rose, chalk milkwort, wild thyme, horseshoe vetch, knapweed, dropwort, and the early purple, common spotted, greater butterfly and fragrant orchids. The valley sides are crossed by numerous faint parallel ledges, typical of steep chalk slopes, and are dotted with anthill mounds.