Strawberry Banks Nature Reserve, Gloucestershire


Grassy slope

Two fields above a small valley, sloping down to a wooded stream, with a good selection of calcareous grassland plants
Photo Tour (12 images)
Strawberry Banks Nature Reserve comprises two steeply-sloping fields with oolitic limestone soil, on the east side of a minor valley formed by a tributary of the River Frome, half way between the villages of Oakridge Lynch and Chalford, 4 miles east of Stroud. The grassland is so named since it is believed strawberries were once cultivated here, and although there is no sign of such plants now, the land does support a fine variety of wildflowers, flourishing since the site has not been subject to any agricultural improvements, and is not grazed regularly - only occasionally, by horses, to reduce growth of grasses and scrub.

The fields are lined by the ancient beech trees of Oldhills Wood to the south and west, and by a narrower band of woodland on the other sides, giving the place a sheltered, isolated setting, with good views from the higher elevations. Another belt of trees divides the two pastures. Besides the varied plants, and some unusual insects, the reserve is also of interest because of the stream along the west edge, flowing through some little cascades, lined by travertine deposits; the brook continues into the adjacent Three Groves Wood, also a nature reserve.

At least five orchid species grow here; green-winged, early purple, lesser butterfly, greater butterfly orchid and bee, while the many more common species include Dyer's greenweed, wild columbine, (in the north field), carline thistle, dwarf thistle, common milkwort, common rock-rose, sainfoin, betony, musk mallow, yellow rattle, kidney vetch, devil's-bit scabious, nettle-leaved bellflower and wild angelica. The most notable butterfly is the marsh fritillary, a threatened species once relatively common in Gloucestershire but now recorded only in this one location.

The Reserve

Paths lead into the reserve from Oakridge Lynch in the northeast and France Lynch to the northwest, but the usual access is from the south, starting at a small parking area (with space for two or three vehicles) along a narrow, unnamed lane along the floor of the Frome River valley east of Chalford, immediately west of the stream. A sign has information about the Three Grove Woods reserve; Strawberry Banks is on the far side, reached by walking 700 feet north along a path. The two fields are approximately equal in size, crossed by a continuation of the trail (1,400 feet), though it is easy enough to walk anywhere. The wildflowers seem well distributed, perhaps concentrated slightly in the upper elevation areas, and a different selection is found in the wooded regions, including around a tiny seep/stream at the middle of the east edge. Like many nature reserves, the place is also a site of special scientific interest, in this case because of the marsh fritillary butterfly, and the general plant life.