Rough Bank Reserve, Gloucestershire


★★★★

Reserve entrance
Tree-lined path

Sloping grassland above a narrow valley in the Cotswolds, home to many species of butterflies and plants. Reached by a half mile path
Photo Tour (16 images)
Rough Bank is an area of uncultivated grassland on the steep, south- and west-facing slope of a narrow valley in the Cotswolds, and is managed as a nature reserve, not by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, as is usually the case, but instead by the Butterfly Conservation Trust, and was established in 2012 to protect the great number of butterflies and moths found here - approximately 30 and 600 species respectively.

Like the other Cotswold nature reserves, the land is underlain by calcareous soil that results in varied and abundant wildflowers, here numbering over 100 including 13 types of orchid - autumn lady's-tresses, bee, broad-leaved helleborine, common spotted, common twayblade, early purple, fly, fragrant, green-winged, greater butterfly, lesser butterfly, pyramidal and white helleborine. Animals of note are deer (roe, fallow and muntjac), encroaching from the surrounding woods, and also lizards, slow worms and various insects, in addition to the many butterflies and moths.

The site is peaceful and secluded, half a mile from the nearest road, and quite enclosed, bordered by two patches of dense woodland, Nottingham Scrubs to the south and Famish Hill Plantation to the west. Trees around the southern margin of the grassland are mostly beech, some quite aged, and they shelter a different range of plants including the helleborines. The site has remained undisturbed since the slopes are too steep for farm machinery, and have only ever been used for grazing. This still takes place, with a herd of belted Galloway cattle, usually during autumn and winter.






Location


The valley contains a tiny seasonal stream that soon meets Dillay Brook, itself a tributary of Slad Brook, and the grassland is part of the same winding limestone escarpment that runs through Swift's Hill Nature Reserve, another noted orchid location. The Rough Bank reserve also includes two fields east of the valley, mostly flat and previously cultivated, and so home to a much smaller selection of plants. The main part of the reserve is 24 acres, crossed by a loop path, though it is easy to walk anywhere since the ground is covered only by short grass, with just a few patches of scrub and trees. The rough grassland, though not the two adjacent fields, is also of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), while the reserve was recently incorporated into the much larger Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods National Nature Reserve.

The Reserve


Rough Bank Reserve is served by a fenced, gated parking area with map and information board, on the west side of the minor road (Calf Way) between Bisley and The Camp, 4 miles northeast of Stroud. The car park adjoins one of the two pasture fields in the reserve, Little Myers, which, like Great Myers to the south, contains several seeps and boggy patches, where plants include marsh thistle, ragged robin and brooklime. A path crosses the field, descending slightly, then forks, twice; the left route runs along the south rim of the valley, the middle branch follows the valley floor, while the left fork leads through a short belt of beech trees and emerges to the narrow, eastern corner of the grassland. This widens steadily to the west, as the land drops down below and the upper margin gradually bends away to the north. Helleborines can be found in the woods near the entrance, while the rest of the flowers are fairly well spaced out though concentrated on the steeper part of the slopes. The best orchid location seems to be about two thirds of the way towards the far side, where the ground faces southwest.