West Berkshire Nature Reserves

Hosehill Lakes

Hosehill Lakes

Hosehill lakes are situated 1 mile south of Theale. A beautiful lake surrounded by meadows, ponds and sheltered reedbeds. Mix of grass and surfaced paths, flat around northern part of lake, undulating to south. Narrow bridges. Lakeside paths muddy in winter. Bicycles and horse riding not permitted.

Wetland wildlife

Hosehill Lake hosts a wide variety of water fowl in the winter and nightingales join the butterflies and dragonflies in the spring. Look out for wetland birds including lapwings, little ring plovers, great crested grebes and a number of more unusual visitors like the bittern. A large sand martin bank can be viewed from the other side of the lake and house martins, swifts and swallow can be seen from March/April.

Wildflower meadow

The meadow to the east of the lake is a visual treat throughout the spring and summer. It is cut and then grazed by wild Exmoor ponies for a short period after this in the spring and autumn. The meadow and the Butterfly Bank to the south of the lake are the best places to see a range of butterflies, day-flying moths and other insects.

Things to do

Follow the 1 mile circular walk around the edge of the lake. 

What Can You see
Wigeon
Golden Eye
Gadwall
Shoveler
Pochard
Nightingale
Water Rail
Bittern
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Hobby
Common Tern
Turtle Dove
Peregine falcon
Sand Martin
Swallow
Cowslip
Cuckooflower
Bee Orchid
Comma
Common Blue
Broad Bodied Chaser
Moor Copse

Moor Copse

5 miles west of Reading
Berkshire
RG8 8EY. Flat, soft ground after rain, can flood in winter; some cross slopes and coarse aggregates on paths, gates.
About the reserve

A place of great character. Large swathes of tranquil woodland surround a patchwork of meadows and pastures set in the heart of the Pang Valley in Berkshire. The River Pang meanders through the woodland providing a beautiful setting that is thought to have inspired E. H. Shepard to illustrate The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

An Aladdin’s Cave

The four areas of woods are floodplain woodlands that provide homes to many species that love moist ground, such as alder trees and clusters of yellow iris. Plentiful supplies of rotting wood lying in the damp attract a range of fungi, beetles and other insects.

Seasonal highlights

Moor Copse is a wonderful reserve to visit all year round. In spring, woodland flowers and meadow flowers provide a colourful carpet whilst birds sing their hearts out.

In summer, butterflies are abundant, including the handsome silver-washed fritillary whose larvae feed on violets. Dragonflies and damselflies, such as the beautiful demoiselle and the brown hawker hunt up and down the river.

In autumn, the woodlands provide vibrant colour as the leaves gradually turn, and a diverse range of fungi, including deadman’s fingers and green elfcup, push up from the leaf litter, or appear on dead wood.

As winter creeps in you may see a fox or stoat as they work hard to survive. Walks by the Pang and through the meadows are truly memorable when the landscape is encrusted with a sparkling winter frost.

Creating new grassland

In December 2006, with generous support from its members, BBOWT was able to purchase land adjoining Moor Copse, which doubled the size of the reserve. Supported by an active volunteer group, the Trust is restoring the area for wildlife.

The extension contained a field which the Trust has been transforming into a flower-rich grassland. Thousands of trees have been planted to link the existing woodland areas. Other areas will be left or lightly grazed to form tussocky patches which attract small mammals such as mice and voles, which in turn provide vital food for predators such as the barn owl.

Encouraging water voles

Recently cleared trees from a stretch of Sulham Brook will encourage the nearby water vole population to colonise this part of the stream. The much-loved water vole is Britain’s most endangered mammal because of predation by non-native mink.

Coronation Meadows

Moor Copse is one BBOWT’s most charismatic wildflower meadows which have been named Coronation Meadows. HRH Prince Charles, as patron of RSWT, Rare Breeds Survival Trust and Plantlife, initiated the Coronation Meadows project in 2012/13. It celebrates the historic and extraordinary diversity of meadows, and encourages the creation of many more in the next 60 years through seeds and green hay from the Coronation sites. 

Coronation Meadows represent a certain ethos; an attitude towards farming, rearing livestock and an appreciation of the value of farmland wildlife that has allowed these fragments of flower rich grassland to survive over the decades.

The BBOWT reserve  Moor Copse is a prime example of a Coronation Meadow because it is  rich in a wealth of wild flowers. On each reserve there are meadows which have been regenerated using green hay from nearby land, a natural spread of species from field to field. The meadows are managed carefully using traditional farming methods, sometimes with rare breed livestock for conservation grazing. Ancient hedgerows and tracks connect each meadow to the next these are just as important for wildlife as the meadows themselves. They help to create patchworks of habitats greater than their individual parts. Coronation Meadows is supported by Biffa Award.

Ash dieback

Ash dieback safety works will be taking place here from January 2020.

A large number of ash trees at Moor Copse are showing extensive signs of ash dieback, and may become increasingly unstable. Work by specialist contractors will focus on removing trees which are a hazard to the public, such as along paths and roads.

To minimise the number of trees we need to remove and to ensure the safety of visitors, some paths will be closed temporarily and others permanently. There will be signs on site to help you. Please stick to the waymarked routes and avoid areas where work is taking place.

The work is being timed to minimise the impact on wildlife. Trees have been surveyed and where possible important bird and bat habitat will be retained.

Wokefield Common
Wokefield Common

Wokefield Common is a tranquil site with a good network of paths that lead through tall pine and broadleaf woodland, past ponds, heather and rich wet gullies.

Wokefield Common ½ mile south of
Burghfield Common
Berkshire
RG7 3DR.

Variable; main paths across the common are even and well-drained but minor paths crossing the wet gullies are steep, uneven and soft after rain.
The easy access route is suitable for people with limited mobility, ‘Tramper’ buggies, and those with pushchairs, however, please wear suitable footwear.

Dragonflies

The Dragonfly Pond and Pullen’s Pond support a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies and are well worth a visit, particularly in the summer and early autumn. 

Heathland

Regular woodland thinning benefits the heathland by allowing the heather to spread. This encourages reptiles, butterflies and perhaps even a few woodlark.

Wokefield Common is managed by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, on behalf of West Berkshire Council, alongside the landowner.

What can be seen
Woodlark
Common Blue Butterfly
Brimstone
Comma
Migrant Hawker
Broad- Bodied Chaser
Adder
Slowworm
Common Lizard
Bell Heather
Common Gorse
Broom
Snelsmore Park

Snelsmore Park

Everyone can escape the busy-ness of life by exploring the network of paths across this beautiful and varied heathland.

4 miles north-west of Newbury
Berkshire
RG14 3BQ (nearest, Mary Hare School opposite)
The common is dissected by a number of valley mires so some paths are steep and uneven. A paved circular path 0.75 miles, the Easy Access Trail) is fully accessible by pushchairs and wheelchairs (RADAR key required to fully open gate).
About the reserve

Bird Nesting Season – 1st March to 31st July 

Please do your bit to help us protect nesting birds.

Lots of heathland and grassland bird species nest on or near the ground.  All open areas of the Common need protection during the nesting season.

You can help protect ground nesting birds and other wildlife at Snelsmore Common by:

  • Staying on the main paths and off the sensitive heathland.
  • Keeping dogs on the main paths and close to you to help avoid disturbing nests hidden on the ground or in low undergrowth. If necessary keep your dog on a lead.
  • Using the marked green route to let your dog run along the path.

At all times of the year:

  • Bag and bin dog waste using the bins provided. Bagged dog waste can also be disposed of in ordinary litter bins. There is a dog poo bag dispenser next to the toilet block.
  • Avoid causing a fire: never discard cigarettes or light fires.
  • Portable or disposable barbecues are permitted on the concrete slabs marked BBQ in the main picnic area ONLY.

When near ponies keep your dog on a lead and do not approach the animals.

The BBOWT Seasonal Wardens will be on site during the bird nesting season to talk to visitors, answer questions about the common, point out wildlife and deliver great events.

A varied landscape

Snelsmore Common contains a range of habitats including heathland, wet mires and woodland making it home to nationally rare bird species including nightjar, woodlark and tree pipit.

Spring wonders

When you visit in spring you may be lucky to hear woodlarks singing across the heath. On brash and log piles, look out for adders basking in the sun. You can also see grass snake, common lizard and slow-worm, and the large pond supports a breeding population of palmate newts.

Heather, gorse and mires

Three types of heather can be found amongst the heath; ling, bell heather and cross leaved heath. They are in full flowers in August and September. Other heath plants such as bilberry thrive here too. Areas of scattered gorse provide perching areas for stonechats and other scrub-loving birds.

Mosses and lichens grow between the floor-covering plants. Snelsmore is one of the richest areas in Berkshire for mosses and liverworts, from greater fork-moss to creeping fingerwort. These wetter areas, known as mires, also contain sedges and rushes, as well as common cottongrass, round-leaved sundew, bog asphodel and heath spotted orchids.

In summer months these are the best places to watch dragonflies whizz by, including golden-ringed (our biggest species), broad-bodied and four-spotted chasers. The heathland supports a breeding population of the nationally rare nightjar, whilst the large number of insects also makes the heathland a good hunting ground for kestrel and the green woodpecker.

In the heart of the woodland

The broad-leaved woodlands contain mainly oak and birch but sweet chestnut, beech, hazel and willow are common. Winter parties of long-tailed tits feed on the newly forming buds of the trees, they are often accompanied by goldcrests, great tits and blue tits.

In the spring, the woodland floor is covered with bluebells. The woodland trees are home to great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, tawny owl and grey squirrel. Whilst the shrubs and scrub provide an ideal habitat for smaller birds such as robins, wrens and warblers. 

Conservation and wildlife

Over 75% of the lowland heath like Snelsmore has been lost in the last 150 years and as a result many birds and other animals that inhabit heathland are nationally very rare. Work to restore the heathland at Snelsmore Common involves a combination of tree and bracken removal, and livestock grazing. See more about techniques for managing heathland.

Things to do

Print our crayon rubbing trail and take it with you when you visit to discover more about the special heathland wildlife here. 

Common Gorse
Tormentil
Yellow Archangel
Bluebells
Round Leaved Sundew
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Bog asphodel
Common spotted-orchid
Heather
Raven
Nightjar
Woodlark
Woodcock
Stonechat
Green Tiger Beetle
Small Heath
Golden- Ringed Dragonfly
Broad-bodied Chaser
Adder
Grass Snake
Common Lizard
Fly agaric
Avery's Pightle

Avery’s Pightle

Avery’s Pightle is one of Berkshire’s few remaining unspoiled meadows. It is rich in insect life and nesting birds, and 137 species of plants have been recorded here.

3 miles south-west of
Newbury
Berkshire
RG20 0JY
Newbury.
Flat overall; uneven underfoot; ground soft after rain; gate.
 
Ancient meadow

Avery’s Pightle (rhyme it with ‘title’) is an ancient meadow known for its abundance of wildlife. At one time such wet meadows were common, but now most of them have been drained, ploughed and fertilised for high-yield grasses or grain. Avery’s Pightle is one of the few unspoiled meadows left in Berkshire. It shows what has been lost from our meadows in the way of wild flowers, insect life and homes for birds. Pightle is the medieval world for a small enclosed meadow.

Ridge and furrow

Ancient ridge and furrow lines can still be seen here. In summer when flowers clothe the ground, you can see stripes of different shades, because some plants prefer the drier ridges, while others thrive in water-holding furrows. The 137 species of plants recorded here include 16 species confined to ancient grasslands, such as adder’s-tongue fern, pepper-saxifrage, betony and sneezewort. There are also orchids, and the area near the stream has a colony of broad-leaved helleborines.

Butterflies and birds

The reserve is also rich in insects and butterflies such as gatekeeper, meadow brown and ringlet. The thick hedges provide many nesting sites for yellowhammers and many lively little warblers.

Things to do

Help us manage this reserve by supporting us.

What Can You See
Adder's-tongue fern
Broad-leaved helleborine
Cuckoo Flower
Green-veined white
Orange Tip
Ringlet
Yellowhammer
Bucklebury Common

BuckleBury Common

Bucklebury Common is one of the largest commons in Berkshire and home to a rich variety of wildlife.

Bucklebury Common lies either side of
Upper Bucklebury, 1.5 miles northeast of Thatcham
Berkshire
RG7 6QH.
Paths are variable, those on the main plateau are largely flat and even but can become muddy after heavy rain, paths heading north or south off the plateau are steeper but offer wonderful views across the surrounding countryside.
The common is privately owned by Bucklebury Estate but there is public access for walkers, horse riders and cyclists on an extensive network of public rights of way. Bucklebury Estate manages the common with support from Bucklebury Heathland Conservation Group, a volunteer group carrying out important conservation work to restore the heathland. BBOWT supports other aspects of site management, including attendance at Advisory Committee meetings. West Berkshire Council are responsible for footpath, bridleway and byway management and enforcement and publication of the bylaws.

The common is privately owned by Bucklebury Estate but there is public access for walkers, horse riders and cyclists on an extensive network of public rights of way. Bucklebury Estate manages the common with support from Bucklebury Heathland Conservation Group, a volunteer group carrying out important conservation work to restore the heathland. BBOWT supports other aspects of site management, including attendance at Advisory Committee meetings. West Berkshire Council are responsible for footpath, bridleway and byway management and enforcement and publication of the bylaws.

Habitats

The common is mainly broadleaved woodland of oak, ash and beech with younger areas of birch and large areas of heathland. There is also an old avenue of oaks at Chapel Row which are over 400 years old and planted in the late 16th century to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth I.

Heathland

Bucklebury Common was one of many open, wild and windswept heaths up until the early 20th century when many commoners grazed sheep and cattle on the heather and cut gorse for fuel. When these practices stopped birch recolonised the area and the landscape changed. Today work is being undertaken to restore parts of the heathland by removing invasive bracken, birch and pine trees. This will allow rare and uncommon species such as the nightjar and woodlark to flourish.

Things to do

Bucklebury Heathland Conservation Group run conservation work parties and guided walks on the common, contact Tim Culley on 0118 971 4830 for details.

What Can You See
Great green bush-cricket
Dark bush-cricket
Slow worm
Nightjar
Woodlark
Meadow grasshopper
Common field grasshopper
Bell heather

The Chase

The Chase nature reserve is situated next to the village of Woolton Hill just a few miles South West of Newbury.

Given to The National Trust by Sir Kenneth Swan in 1944, the Chase suffered terribly in the great storms of 1987 and 1990, losing enough trees to make it into the national newspapers.

The Chase that stands today is a beautiful mosaic of habitats found within its 143 acres. Predominantly made up of broadleaf and coniferous woodland interspersed with lades and rides with several streams cutting their way through the reserve to the lake in the east corner of The Chase.

The Chase has an area of wet woodland is made up of alder carr which we coppice on rotation, a meadow with an area of emerging heathland that can be found near the centre of The Chase, just a short walk from the car park off Station road.

The Chase

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