Swift's Hill Nature Reserve, Gloucestershire


Valley to the southwest
The view southwest

Hillside nature reserve at the edge of the Cotswolds, adjoining woodland and a disused quarry; a noted location for wildflowers, including over ten species of orchid
Photo Tour (48 images)
Swift's Hill is one of four closely-spaced nature reserves along the western edge of the Cotswold Hills northeast of Stroud, all arranged along the valley of Slad Brook, a short tributary of the River Frome. The hill is a relatively small feature; a grassy limestone ridge between two areas of woodland, quite flat on the north side where the meadows merge with old quarry workings, but steeper to the south, the land sloping down to a tree-lined combe.

Attractions are the good views, especially southwest, towards Stroud and the Severn Vale, and the profusion of spring/summer wildflowers, in particular orchids, with 15 species recorded. A 0.7 mile path loops around the edges of the reserve, linking with other tracks into the nearby woods, which also contain many flower species. The floral variety, and accompanying wildlife, principally butterflies (22 species recorded), are the main reasons for designation of the hill as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The place is also known as Elliott Nature Reserve, in recognition of landowner F. Elliott, who sold the land in 1967. The other three nearby reserves (Laurie Lee Wood, Snows Farm and Frith Wood) can be seen along the circular, 4 mile Slad Valley Wildlife Way, which partly follows roads but is mostly along footpaths.

The Hill

Swift's Hill lies along Knapp Lane, a narrow route off the B4070 (Slad Road); a layby has parking space for about four vehicles, on the west side. Paths start opposite, one heading south and east across the lower slopes of the hill, another climbing slightly to the rounded summit, and a third leading northeastwards towards the quarry, all three meeting again at the far corner where another route continues into adjacent Abbey Wood. Most of the hillside faces south and west so receives plenty of sunshine; the first wildflowers appear in March, notably cowslip and early purple orchid, while the peak season is during June and July. Other species include the bee orchid, frog orchid, pyramidal orchid, sanicle and viper's bugloss, and in total over 130 plant species have been identified here. The long-disused quarry along the north edge is quite overgrown but retains some limestone exposures, from the Inferior Oolite group of the middle Jurassic period. Fossil ammonites have been recovered from one particular stratum.

Old quarry
Old quarry