Nature Reserves of Southwest UK




Lancaut Cheddar Complex Coaley Peak Ban-y-Gor Woods

Most UK nature reserves are administered by county-based wildlife trusts, charitable organisations, though a few are more local, run by the council or other groups, while the RSPB have a separate collection of riparian reserves. There are also a number of national nature reserves, which protect larger or more scientifically important sites, and these are managed by the government and/or the National Trust. The national reserves are not necessarily the most photogenic or scenically interesting places, however, and some are poorly signed, often with limited access; instead it is the wildlife trust reserves that tend to be the most well-known, and varied. Although primarily managed for plants and wildlife - typically birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, fish and other aquatic species - many, perhaps half of them, are also of interest for the natural landscapes, either within the reserve itself, or the immediate surroundings.

Nature reserves may contain meadows, ancient woodland, heath, gorges, hills, lakes, wetlands, coastline, abandoned railway lines and old quarries, and in southwest UK they range in size from a few acres, for example the seven acre Badgeworth Nature Reserve near Gloucester, protecting a rare buttercup species, to several hundred acres, such as Lower Woods or Lancaut. All are free to enter and virtually all are open all year without restrictions; only a very few need permission to access, or are currently closed to the public. Some charge a fee for parking, however. For about half of the reserves, the main reasons for visiting - the plants and wildlife - are seasonal, so such places are not generally of interest from late autumn to early spring, while others are worthwhile any time of the year. Most nature reserves are not well signposted, perhaps marked only by a small sign at the entrance, usually but not always accompanied by a map and information board, so visits generally need to be researched in advance.

In southwest England, nature reserves are concentrated in geologically interesting regions, especially the Cotswolds, the Mendip Hills, the Quantock Hills, Exmoor, Cranborne Chase, and along the coast, while in south Wales they are more evenly distributed, reflecting the generally more rural landscapes.



Featured Nature Reserves

, and/or Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Blaenau Gwent


★★★★★Silent Valley - deep, wooded valley containing a small stream

Bridgend


★★★★Kenfig National Nature Reserve - varied coastal dune habitats south of Port Talbot
★★★★★Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve - extensive, overgrown sand dunes beside the mouth of the River Ogmore

Buckinghamshire


★★★★Homefield Wood - beech woodland and chalk grassland in the Chilterns

Cardiff


★★★★★Coed-y-Bedw - atmospheric woodland on a north-facing slope, crossed by several streams

Ceredigion


★★★★★Cors Caron National Nature Reserve - the largest surviving area of raised bog in the UK

Devon


★★★★★Blackadon - ancient woodland, riverbanks, moorland and a tor
★★★★★Bystock Pools - pools, heath, grassland and woodland
★★★★★Dart Valley - deep, wooded gorge with many cascades
★★★★★Dawlish Warren - sandy promontory at the mouth of the River Exe, containing varied habitats
★★★★Lower East Lounston - ancient woodland bordering a stream
★★★★The Rough - sloping, boggy grassland
★★★★Venn Ottery - heath, grassland and a raised bog

Dorset


★★★★★Bracketts Coppice - ancient woodland, rough grassland and a stream
★★★★★Fontmell Down - extensive area of chalk downland
★★★★Hendover Coppice - quiet, steeply-sloping woodland with extensive bluebells
★★★★Hibbitts Woods - ancient woodland crossed by a few tiny streams
★★★★Holway Woods - ancient woodland on sloping ground

Gloucestershire


★★★★Badgeworth - small pond home to a partucularly rare buttercup spcies
★★★★Ban-y-Gor Woods - shady woodland in the Wye valley
★★★★Barrow Wake - steep-sided limestone hill in the Cotswolds
★★★★Cannop Bridge Marsh - pools, streams and marshy woodland
★★★★Charfield Meadow - undisturbed grassland and woodland
★★★★Clarke's Pool Meadows - semi-natural pasture filled with abundant wildflowers
★★★★★Coaley Peak - high point along the west edge of the Cotswolds
★★★★Collin Park Wood - semi-natural, ancient woodland on acidic, clayish ground
★★★★★Coopers Hill - ancient beech woodland at the edge of the Cotswolds
★★★★★Crickley Hill - prominent, flower-covered summit at the edge of the Cotswolds
★★★★★Daneway Banks - sloping calcareous grassland; many wildflowers
★★★★Edgehills Bog - pools and boggy land on a ridgetop on the east side of the Forest of Dean
★★★★Foxes Bridge Bog - acid bog in the Forest of Dean
★★★★Frith Wood - ancient beech woodland, near Stroud
★★★★Hobbs Quarry - overgrown quarry with interesting geology
★★★★Kilkenny - unimproved calcareous grassland, in the Cotswolds
★★★★★Lady Park Wood - broad-leaved woodland in the Wye Valley
★★★★★Lancaut - steeply-sloping woodland in the Wye Valley
★★★★Laymoor Quag - boggy heath in the Forest of Dean
★★★★Lippets Grove - remote patch of ancient woodland on the rim of the Wye valley
★★★★★Lower Woods - large area of ancient woodland, crossed by grassy tracks
★★★★★Midger Wood - ancient woodland and a tufa-lined stream
★★★★Old London Road - narrow grassland, home to a very rare plant
★★★★The Park and Poor's Allotment - acidic heathland near the River Wye
★★★★★Pasqueflower - rare wildflowers in a peaceful valley
★★★★Plump Hill Dolomite Quarry - varied wildflowers in a disused quarry
★★★★Rough Bank - flower-rich grassland in the Cotswolds
★★★★★Sapperton Valley - woodland and wet meadows along the River Frome
★★★★★Selsley Common - limestone grassland at the edge of the Cotswolds
★★★★Siccaridge Wood - ancient coppied woodland with several rare plant species
★★★★Stenders Quarry - abandoned limestone quarry
★★★★Strawberry Banks - tree-lined, steeply-sloping grassland
★★★★Stuart Fawkes - south-facing pasture on calcareous soils
★★★★★Swift's Hill - hillside reserve at the edge of the Cotswolds
★★★★ Westonbirt Arboretum - trees and shrubs from around the world
★★★★★Wigpool - ponds, marsh and acidic heath

Herefordshire


★★★★★King Arthur's Cave - ancient woodland below limestone cliffs
★★★★Lugg Meadow - floodplain pasture beside the River Lugg
★★★★Rudge End Quarry - long-abandoned limestone quarry with several rare plant species
★★★★Upper Welson Marsh - hidden area of marsh and fen
★★★★White Rocks - wet and dry grassland, and ancient woodland

Merthyr Tydfil


★★★★★Darren Fawr - limestone plateau edged by sheer cliffs

Monmouthshire


★★★★Brockwells Meadows - four fields of calcareous grassland
★★★★Dixton Embankment - calcareous grassland and woodland bordering the River Wye
★★★★Magor Marsh - fen, damp grassland, reens and a pond
★★★★★Margaret's Wood - steep slope with ancient trees and wild daffodils
★★★★New Grove Meadows - four fields of species-rich grassland
★★★★Priory Wood - mixed woodland on a steep slope above the River Usk
★★★★★Prisk Wood - ancient, atmospheric woodland beside the River Wye
★★★★Springdale Farm - meadows, pasture, streams and ancient deciduous woodland
★★★★Strawberry Cottage Wood - ancient oak woodland
★★★★The Wern - rough grassland, heath, scattered trees and millstone outcrops

Newport


★★★★Great Traston Meadows - marshy grassland crossed by drainage ditches

Neath Port Talbot


★★★★★Llyn Fach - remote montane lake below steep, north-facing sandstone cliffs
★★★★Melincourt Falls - sheltered, wooded valley leading to an 80 foot waterfall

Oxfordshire


★★★★★ Hartslock - calcareous grassland at the edge of the Chilterns, a noted orchid location
★★★★★ Letcombe Valley - chalk stream, ancient woodland and calcareous grassland
★★★★Tuckmill Meadow - dry and marshy grassland, partly calcareous

Powys


★★★★★Craig Cerrig Gleisiad a Fan Frynych - sheltered cliffs in the Brecon Beacons

Rhondda Cynon Taf


★★★★★Cwm Cadlan National Nature Reserve - varied watery habitats in a shallow, upland valley

Somerset


★★★★Aisholt Wood - broad-leaved woodland on the east side of the Quantock Hills, bordered by a small stream
★★★★Aller and Beer Woods - ancient woodland extending 2 miles along a steep, west-facing slope
★★★★★Browne's Folly - ancient woodland and calcareous grassland
★★★★★Berrow Dunes - grassy and sandy dunes, with over 270 plant species
★★★★Bubwith Acres - fields on the southern slopes of the Mendip Hills
★★★★★Cheddar Complex - three adjacent, contrasting reserves at the upper end of Cheddar Gorge
★★★★Clapton Moor - wet meadows on low-lying ground in the Gordano Valley
★★★★★Dolebury Warren - calcareous grassland and an Iron Age hillfort
★★★★★Draycott Sleights - grassland and limestone outcrops at the edge of the Mendip Hills
★★★★Fivehead Arable Fields - cultivated fields supporting an usually wide range of plant species
★★★★★Goblin Combe - shady, thickly wooded valley below patches of calcareous grassland
★★★★Hellenge Hill - grassland in the western Mendips
★★★★Holford Kelting - overgrown woodland and a shallow stream
★★★★Hollow Marsh Meadow - remote meadows, woodland and a stream
★★★★★Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve - ancient woodland bordering the Avon Gorge
★★★★Lots Grassland - pasture, hay meadows and boggy heath
★★★★★Prior's Wood - broad-leaved woodland on a limestone ridge, with extensive fields of bluebells in the spring
★★★★Prospect Fields - three fields on steeply-sloping, calcareous ground
★★★★Purn Hill - minor limestone peak at the west edge of the Mendips
★★★★★Stephen's Vale - woodland, a stream and a waterfall
★★★★Tor Hole Fields - sloping fields in the Mendips
★★★★Ubley Warren- field and old mine workings, within the Mendip Hills
★★★★★Walborough and Uphill Hill - hill and grassland beside the coast
★★★★★Walton Common - secluded ridgetop overlooking the coast
★★★★★Weston Big Wood - ancient woodland on a narrow ridge
★★★★★Withial Combe - narrow, wooded, steep-sided gorge
★★★★Yarley Fields - fields on the Somerset Levels
★★★★★Yarty Moor - wet grassland in the Blackdown Hills

Swansea


★★★★★Oxwich National Nature Reserve - varied habitats beside Oxwich Bay
★★★★★Whiteford National Nature Reserve - beaches, dunes, wetlands and forest

Torfaen


★★★★Henllys Bog - remote lowland mire with rare plant species

Wiltshire


★★★★Coombe Bissett Down - dry valley within chalk downland
★★★★Dunscombe Bottom - west-facing side of a dry, grassy, chalk valley
★★★★★Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve - remote chalk grassland with varied plant life, and numerous sarsen stones
★★★★Ham Hill - narrow strip of chalk grassland
★★★★High Clear Down - sloping, flower-rich chalk grassland
★★★★★Lower Moor Farm - four adjacent reserves, with lakes, woodland, pasture and wildflower meadows
★★★★★Middleton Down - remote, branched, grassy valley in the chalk downland
★★★★★Morgan's Hill - chalk grassland supporting an unusually wide range of wildflowers
★★★★Oysters Coppice - woodland and shallow streams
★★★★Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve - large expanse of grassland and fields across undulating chalk hills
★★★★★Pewsey Downs National Nature Reserve - chalk hills and dry valleys, with many wildflowers and grand views
★★★★White Sheet Hill - chalk downland and ancient monuments
★★★★Wylye Down National Nature Reserve - chalk grassland across both sides of a shallow valley in Cranborne Chase