Coopers Hill Nature Reserve, Gloucestershire


Autumnal trees
People at the viewpoint

135 acres of ancient beech woodland on elevated land at the edge of the Cotswolds, overlooking the Severn Vale; crossed by a network of paths
Five miles southeast of Gloucester, along the A46; GL4 8ET
Photo Tour (14 images)
Coopers Hill Nature Reserve protects 135 acres of ancient beech woodland along the western edge of the Cotswold escarpment, 5 miles southeast of Gloucester, and forms part of the larger Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods, which is both a national nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest; the remainder extends southwards, as a relatively narrow band of trees and rough grassland that curves around several valleys and hills. The Coopers Hill reserve, centred on a minor summit that has become incidentally well-known as the site of annual cheese-rolling contests, consists of two separate forested areas, Upton Wood to the west and the larger Brockworth Wood to the east, separated by a field, and is crossed by a one-mile section of the Cotswold Way. Lesser, intersecting paths allow for loop walks of up to 2 miles.

The woods contain a few grassy clearings, one right at the edge of the hill (above the cheese-rolling slope) affording grand views northwards across Gloucester and the Severn Vale, but the main attraction of the reserve is the dense, moist beech woodland, habitat for a good range of woodland wildflowers, including several types of orchid. The woodland was one of very few places in the country where the exceptionally rare red helleborine (cephalanthera rubra) could be found, however the plant has not been seen for several years. The trees are especially colourful in autumn when the leaves are changing, and again in spring as the new growth begins. Woodland covers the majority of the reserve though open grassland is found in several places including the viewpoint, a few small clearings to the south, and an old quarry within Upton Wood, and these places are home to a different set of wildflowers, those favouring calcareous soils, since the whole area is underlain by limestone.

The Nature Reserve

There are two (free) parking areas at the edge of the nature reserve, the largest along the A46 at the base of Upton Wood, just south of the old quarry, and the other along a narrow lane to the north, at the foot of the cheese-rolling hill. From the A46 carpark, a short connecting path enters the woods, climbs a slope and meets the Cotswold Way, here a fairly level route which to the south exits the reserve after a quarter of a mile, into adjoining woodland, and to the north runs close to the east edge of Upton Wood then passes over a narrow field into the more extensive trees of Brockworth Wood. Another path joins from the east, running along the south edge of Brockworth Wood, bordering a field, and then turns northwards, now right on the east edge of the wood, where the boundary is marked by an old wall, on the far side of which is the similar-looking Coopers Hill Wood, outside the nature reserve. The Cotswold Way path continues northwards past several other intersections, eventually exiting the nature reserve, and the woodland, at the northern parking area. The viewpoint is shortly before the descent, and this place is also reached by the eastern path, allowing a loop.

Tree and grassy bank
The view north