Pasqueflower Site of Special Scientific Interest, Gloucestershire


A pasqueflower
The valley

Short, dry, grassy, limestone valley in the Cotswolds, containing many specimens of the rare pasqueflower, pulsatilla vulgaris, plus a variety of other wildflower species
Along the A429, 4 miles north of Cirencester
Photo Tour (16 images)
Pasqueflower Site of Special Scientific Interest comprises one of the very few UK locations of the pasqueflower, pulsatilla vulgaris, a particularly beautiful and richly-coloured species in the buttercup family, that blooms in April and May. Several thousand plants grow on a grassy, southwest-facing limestone slope along a shallow, dry, valley near Cirencester in the Cotswold Hills, together with a good range of other plants including the early purple and green-winged orchids.

The location is not signposted and not much visited, especially outside of the pasqueflower blooming season, yet it is a peaceful and atmospheric place, more scenic than many other floral reserves which are often merely a level field or meadow; the valley curves through several gentle bends, and its smooth, grass-covered sides are interrupted only by a few patches of yellow-flowered gorse bushes, a landscape perhaps more similar to the rim of the coastal cliffs of Dorset or Somerset rather than the Cotswolds. The sssi encompasses just the northeast half of the valley, the opposite side being pastureland, grazed by cattle.

Entry to the site is along the A429 (Fosse Way); on the east side, 3 miles north of the A417 junction - down some steps and over a style through a fence to the start of a narrow path. Parking for about three vehicles is available 150 feet back on the west side, at the entrance to a disused track, originally a railway line. This location is just north of Ampney Downs Farm.

The Site

The path into the valley heads southeast, close to the boundary fence, through a patch of gorse, then angles downhill, through a dividing fence and onto the densest area of pasqueflowers, starting about 900 feet from the entrance and extending another 600 feet or so. The path continues to and past a larger cluster of gorse, towards the far side of the field, while another path returns higher up. Only a certain percentage of the pasqueflowers bloom in any one year but they are numerous in peak season, and instantly recognisable owing to their rich purple colour. After blooming the petals quickly wither, and are replaced by long, feathery seeds. Orchids seem to be concentrated towards the south side of the site, all around the larger patch of gorse. Beyond the southern boundary, the ravine meets a slightly deeper valley, also usually dry, and a narrow strip of public land continues north and south, but lacking any official paths.