• Avery's Pightle, Newbury
  • Audrey's Meadow
  • Bowdown Woods
  • Bucklebury Common
  • Chawridge Bank
  • Decoy Heath

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.

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.

A tranquil lowland meadow, good for summer butterflies and other insects, tucked between ancient woodland.

 

Nestled in the woods

Situated on a hillside below Greenham Church, Audrey’s Meadow sits between ancient woodland and Newbury's expanding urban edge. It is a mix of lowland meadow and woodland with ponds. Within the woodland there is a good variety of trees of different ages and heights. Spring is a good time to visit when you can enjoy ancient woodland plants such as bluebells and yellow archangel and the sound of birdsong. 

A declining habitat

This little meadow is an example of 'neutral' grassland that has been managed as part of an agricultural system and has lost the diversity of wildflower species that would once  have been found here. As a consequence it is now dominated by a variety of coarse grasses. Agricultural improvements have reduced the number of flower-filled neutral meadows that survive, and they are now a priority habitat for conservation.

Mysterious hidden valleys, sunny glades and patches of heathland, a natural playground for you to explore all year round.

Ash dieback

Ash dieback safety works will be taking place here from January 2020. A large number of ash trees at Bowdown Woods 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.

A living landscape
Stretching from the vast heathland at Greenham Common down to the River Kennet, this reserve forms part of the West Berkshire Living Landscape, a Willdife Trust project to create space for wildlife and people together. There are three areas of woodland at this nature reserve, Bowdown, Bomb Site and Baynes.

From bomb site to wildlife haven
The Bomb Site is so named because it was an ammunition store during and after the Second World War. It is a great example of how nature can thrive and develop on a site vacated by people. Many old surfaced tracks create a network through the young birch and oak woodland that has colonised the site. Try the 3/4 mile Wildlife Walk from the car park - it's on old surfaced tracks and ideal for less mobile visitors.

Bowdown walk
This magical dense ancient woodland gives views across the Kennet Valley. A clearing through the wood creates sunny areas where butterflies bask. Look out for the spectacular silver-washed fritillary and the handsome white admiral. The 1 mile Wildlife Walk takes in some damp clay areas on the lower slopes and steep climbs up to higher, drier ground.

Baynes walk
This is the most secretive part of the wood. The dense ancient woodland here has lots of streams and some steep paths. The cool green is a lovely contrast to the open heathland areas. The 1 mile Wildlife Walk has some steep sections, steps and bridges.

Reserve champions - supporting their favourite reserve NatureBureau: "Peaceful and magical - a wildlife-rich mosaic of woodland, heathland and meadow."

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

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.

This sloping old meadow dotted with large anthills has a variety of wild flowers and a wealth of insects.

An ancient meadow
Chawridge Bank is a small area of old Berkshire grassland. It lies on the west-facing clay slopes of the Chawridge Bourne valley. Adder's-tongue and pepper-saxifrage are just two of the species found here which show it is ancient, unploughed ground.

Rich plant life
Bluebells flower along the northern boundary, and an old boundary hedge has pollarded oaks and some beautiful field maples. Other trees and shrubs include ash, hawthorn and blackthorn. In 2011, the Trust expanded the reserve. The plant life on the extension is particularly interesting with a 'lawn' of devil's-bit scabious and tufts of dyer's greenweed growing on the anthills.

Wealth of insects
The nature reserve has a wealth of insects - a study of dung life uncovered 24 beetle species alone. Look out for the large anthills in the grassland. They take many years to develop and show that the site has not been cultivated. Butterflies include the marbled white and grizzled skipper. Skylarks, green and great spotted woodpeckers, blackcap and lesser whitethroat are among the bird life found here.

Here you will see some of the best displays of dragonflies and damselflies in Berkshire, including the downy emerald dragonfly and the rare small red damselfly, as well as wild flowers and birds.

  • Greenham and Crookham Commons
  • Inkpen Crocus Field
  • Sole Common Pond
  • Warren Bank
  • Kintbury Newt Ponds
  • Snelsmore Common

Greenham and Crookham Commons form the largest continuous tract of open heath in Berkshire. It is special for the mix of purple and pink heathers and golden yellow gorse, wildflower-filled grasslands and expanses of bare gravels - all easily accessible to visitors.

Living Landscape

These commons are at the heart of our West Berkshire Living Landscape which covers more than 27km2 of lowland heathland, ancient woodland, reedbeds, rivers and streams. Greenham and Crookham Commons on the southern edge of Newbury forms the largest area of lowland heath in West Berkshire – a fragile and threatened habitat full of very special wildlife – and is particularly important for some of Britain’s rarest ground-nesting birds, including nightjar, woodlark and lapwing.

History of Greenham and Crookham Common

The Commons have a rich history. The heathland is on top of a flat gravel plateau laid down at the end of the last ice age, and since then its use has been many varied, feeding pre-historic hunter/gatherers, used as common land by farmers, and later gaining significance as a military air base. General Eisenhower watched some of the 10,000 sorties flown during D-Day from the nearby Greenham Manor. At the start of the 1980's, nuclear cruise missiles were stored at the base. The demonstrations against these made regular headline news and galvanised the start of the Peace Women movement in 1981. One mass protest called 'Embrace the Base' saw over 20,000 women joining hands around the perimeter of the airbase. After decades of military occupation the Commons were officially reopened for public use on 8 April 2000, thanks to a partnership between the Greenham Common Community Trust and the then Newbury District Council (now West Berkshire Council).

Hundreds of thousands of wild crocuses fill this Berkshire meadow each spring - but the delights don't stop there.

Crocus delight

Inkpen Crocus Field is a pasture bordered by gardens on the north and east sides and sloping down to a brook to the south-west, where it rises again beyond. From late February to early April this field is awash with the purple and white of more than 400,000 blooms - Britain's largest wild display of spring crocuses. Their small heads, some plain, some striped, poke out of the ground at varying times, giving the visitor a window of more than a month to enjoy the flowers. The dark purple spring crocuses are distributed all over the first field, with a few having established themselves established in the grass beyond the stream, where you may also see small clumps of primrose in flower under scrub. The densest crocus colony can be found along the eastern side of the field. Take care for you will find crocuses beneath your feet wherever you walk.

One local legend has it that it was the 12th-century Crusaders who brought them back from central Europe. Others believe that they are garden escapees that have established themselves over the last 200 years.

Meadows and hedgerows

The crocus field slopes down to a spring-fed stream, then rises to become fine meadowland rich with wild flowers and butterflies, an especially rare habitat in Berkshire. Here you may see stalks of heath spotted-orchid with attractive white to purplish pink flower spikes.  Alongside the orchids, oxeye daisies, scabious and knapweed can be seen swaying in the breeze attracting gatekeeper and ringlet butterflies. One species of particular interest is the pignut - a relative of cow parsley. It grows from underground tubers commonly known as the 'nuts in May' gathered in a children's nursery rhyme. Along the edge of the pasture an old hedgerow offers food and refuge to a host of warblers including blackcap, chiffchaff, lesser whitethroat and willow warbler. These are often accompanied by flocks of finches and tits.

The Crocus Field at Inkpen, a Rothschild Reserve

In May 1912, the banker and expert naturalist Charles Rothschild founded the Society for Promotion of Nature Reserves – the organisation that would become the Wildlife Trusts. His vision was to identify and protect the best places for wildlife, and these became known as Rothschild Reserves.  The delights of the beautiful wildflower meadow in Berkshire were noted by botanist George Claridge Druce when he visited the site. He described the crocus field as ‘old pasture’ well known for remarkable displays of Crocus vernus. Inkpen Crocus Field became reserve 274 on the list of Rothschild Reserves.

Fascinating variety

A pond rich in wildlife with areas of bog, heath and woodland in the middle of a piece of ancient Berkshire common. This nature reserve certainly offers value in terms of sheer variety of habitats for its size.

Beautiful bog life

While the pond, heathland and mature woodland are well worth experiencing, the wildlife gem of this reserve is the bog and its beautiful plants.

In the bog, the insectivorous round-leaved sundew can be seen flowering from June to August. Valued as a herbal remedy for breathing problems, the sundew secretes a sticky fluid which traps and entangles unsuspecting insects. Also, look out for bogbean, marsh St John's-wort and the polypody fern.

Carpeted by bog-mosses, the bog has been damaged by collectors in the past although it is recovering well under BBOWT's careful management. Please avoid walking on the sphagnum bog as it is easily damaged.

Damsels and dragons

The pond is also brimming with wildlife. Fifteen species of damselfly and dragonfly have been recorded here - keeled skimmers are abundant over the open water.

The heathland has been invaded by birch and bracken. Listen out for wood warblers in the canopy. Woodcock probe the wet ground for worms and other food.

In autumn, the woodland floor is dotted with many brightly coloured fungi including the large and gaudy bitter beech bolete and the bright red beechwood sickener. The reserve is prone to flood in winter.

About the reserve

Amazing flowers

This small reserve is a small relic of the chalk grasslands that once covered much of the Chilterns. Clustered bellflower, pyramidal orchid, large thyme and deadly nightshade are among the wild flowers which flourish in the three paddocks.

The insect-mimicking bee orchid can be found here. On the continent it is pollinated by bees. Male bees are fooled into thinking the flower's velvet-textured lip is a female and try to mate with it. Sadly, the right species of bee does not occur in Britain, so the bee orchid is self-pollinated here.

The noise of insects

The striking machine-gun call of the great green bush-cricket can be heard from June onwards. Butterflies recorded in this reserve include marbled white, dark green fritillary and green hairstreak.

Home to a breeding colony of the nationally-rare and protected great crested newt, the reserves provides ideal nesting conditions for a range of summer migratory birds. A precious local resource.

Newt home

The ponds in this nature reserve are home to a breeding colony of rare great crested newts. The statutory protection of the great crested newt saved this reserve from being swallowed up by a nearby housing development in the late 1990s. These newts are marked out from their more common relatives by their warty skin and larger size. The bizarre male resembles a small dinosaur with its large jagged crest, prominent during its elaborate courtship display. Smooth and palmate newts also live here.

Wetland habitats

This small Berkshire reserve is made up of several ponds, reedbed, scrub and grassland. Under the magnificent oaks at the southern end of the reserve, damp meadow plants like creeping-Jenny and wild angelica can be found. The dense blackthorn scrub around the ponds provides perfect nesting conditions for a range of summer migratory birds, including warblers.

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

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.

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times, car park is open at 8am but subject to seasonal locking times.

Toilets are open only when the café is open. The café is not run by BBOWT but you can find information and opening times here: https://the-snugg-cafe.business.site.

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

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.

  • Padworth Common
  • Wokefield Common
  • Watts Bank
  • Rack Marsh
  • Inkpen Common
  • Thatcham Reed Beds

Padworth Common nature reserve is a tranquil haven for wildlife with heathland, woodland, ponds and alder-lined gullies.

 

A diverse heathland

The purple swathes of open heathland are set among a tapestry of ancient oaks, grasslands, ponds and pine trees. The common also reveals carpets of moss over undulating mounds of wet heathland. The edges and slopes of the heathland dip down into gnarled oaks and alder in the wet gullies. In spring, marsh-marigold, lesser celandine and opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage grow in abundance here.

A sanctuary for specialists

The heathland supports a community of rare, specialist species. In the summer months at dusk, you may hear the long vibrato song of the nightjar resonating across the open heath. A number of other heathland birds are either resident or regularly breed here such as Dartford warbler, tree pipit, stonechat and woodlark.

Reptiles and amphibians

Padworth is also home to a number of reptiles including adder, grass snake and slow-worm. Amphibians include common frog, toad and both palmate and smooth newts.

Beautiful butterflies and other insects

During the spring and summer months the heath buzzes with activity, butterflies including the elusive grayling use the heath. It is hard to spot on gravelly areas basking with wings closed and tilted in a peculiar fashion. When disturbed it reveals a vivid eye-spot to ward off potential predators. You may be lucky to see the emerald glint of a green tiger beetle passing along the tracks, or hear the buzzing notes from a bog bush-cricket, crawling among the wet areas of purple moor-grass.

A bustling pond

A lovely way to while away half an hour or so is to sit near the main pond on North Common and enjoy the darting dragonflies and damselflies. They include the broad-bodied chaser, golden-ringed dragonfly, downy emerald and common hawker. Here you can also spot a variety of aquatic insects and larvae.

A link to the Kennet

The common is nestled on the upper plateau of the Kennet Valley and can form part of a walk down to the River Kennet and back, past a Norman church, Padworth College and the Kennet and Avon Canal. The paths on this reserve enable anyone wishing to get away from busy life to enjoy a quiet walk for a few hours. 

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.

ragonflies

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.

Watts Bank is a sunny, chalk grassland slope that provides ideal conditions for wild flowers, butterflies and at least 16 different species of grass.Wildflowers

This small reserve on a steep southwest slope is part of a larger wildlife site named after the adjacent track from Lambourn, the White Shute Byway. Fragments of wildflower-rich chalk grassland, like Watts Bank, have usually survived because they are situated on a hill or earthworks which are unsuitable for ploughing.

Butterfly haven

This grassland hillside is a natural sun trap, sheltered from wind by patches of scrub at each corner. It is very attractive to butterflies, with an impressive 32 species recorded, including chalkhill blue, green hairstreak, brown argus and dingy skipper. They fly amongst the wild flowers and at least 16 species of grass including quaking-grass, whose purplish-green flowers dance delicately in the breeze. Hazel, blackthorn and bramble scrub provide shelter for many small birds.

A fine old wet meadow characteristic of the Lambourn valley in days gone by, with a lovely array of wetland wild flowers and birds.

Historical site

This is how the Lambourn river valley would have looked before modern drainage and ploughing destroyed old waterside meadows and pastures. Rack Marsh is a fine old wet meadow. A thick layer of peat has developed on top of the deposits of alluvium and gravel which the river has spread over the chalk. In this peat, the remains of a prehistoric canoe have been discovered, the wood preserved by the waterlogged conditions.

Take a look in spring

Late spring/early summer is the best time to visit this nature reserve. Among the rushes and sedges, it is possible to find patches of water avens, greater bird's-foot-trefoil and southern and early marsh-orchids. Typical water-meadow plants to be seen include marsh valerian and common marsh-bedstraw, followed in summer by other colourful wild flowers such as common fleabane, skullcap, common hemp-nettle and water mint.

In the wetter areas, a most handsome flower, the unusual bogbean, occurs. The bogbean is one of the easiest to identify with a three-part leaf like a giant clover and pink and white flowers with fringed petals.

Smallest of snails

If you have keen eyesight, you may also spot one of the UK's rarer snails, the Desmoulin's whorl snail. It's one of the smallest at just 2mm across and is found amongst the riverside vegetation.

Songs from the sedges

Keep your ears open for sedge warblers and reed warblers and you may catch a glimpse of a kingfisher too. 

A remnant of ancient heathland, a flower-filled wilderness fringed with woodland that rings with birdsong.

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to November

About the reserve

Inkpen Great Common

Lying south-west of Newbury, this rare Berkshire heathland was once part of the old Inkpen Great Common where villagers had rights to graze livestock and collect firewood and gorse for feeding their ovens.

An interesting mix

Today's nature reserve is split into two parts. The smaller south-western portion is now a small woodland of naturally regenerated oak and birch. The larger eastern part includes areas of heather and gorse, fringed by silver birch and oak, a small valley bog and a pond. Some parts can get very wet in winter.

Heathland gems

A variety of heathland plants can be seen here including gorse, dwarf gorse, three types of heather, the scarce pale dog-violet, lousewort and heath milkwort. Look out for the unusual parasitic common dodder - it has no leaves, only pink thread-like stems and dense heads of white and pink flowers. From the boardwalk next to the bog you can admire yellow bog asphodel. Meadow thistle and heath spotted-orchid grow here too. Woodland trees and birds In late spring and summer, look and listen for warblers serenading you from the woodland fringes.

A great place for reedbed wildlife including a host of warblers and a variety of dragonflies and damselflies. You may also hear a cuckoo in spring.

Living Landscape

This reedbed forms part of the West Berkshire Living Landscape which covers more than 27 square kilometres of lowland heathland, ancient woodland, reedbeds, rivers and streams.

Desmoulin's snail

An emblematic species for the site is the tiny and nationally rare Desmoulin's whorl snail which is thriving at the reserve. These minute snails are no bigger than 2 mm.

Reedbed wildlife

This is one of the largest areas of inland reedbed in southern England and home to some rare reedbed specialists such as the scarce burnished brass moth. They are also important for a number of breeding birds including Cetti's warbler, sedge and reed warblers. In among the reeds you can also look out for water rail and reed bunting.  Over 14 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been seen in the reedbeds and at least six are thought to breed here. Look for migrant hawkers, emperor and four-spotted chaser dragonflies, as well as common blue, azure and red-eyed damselflies. 

The open water

Areas of open water on the reserve and on Thatcham Lake support good populations of wildfowl. Purpose-built tern rafts attract breeding common terns in the spring, and sand martins breed in the nesting bank on the island. Moorhen, coot, mallard and great crested grebe can be seen nesting on the lake margins or on the fishing lakes nearby. In winter flocks of tufted duck and pochard gather here along with shovelers.

Attracting breeding bittern

Over the next few years we aim to make the reserve more suitable for bittern to breed here rather than just visit. The improvements to the site will benefit many other species, such as breeding dragonflies and damselflies.

  • Hartslock
  • Nature Discovery Centre
  • Ham Hill
  • Paices Wood Country Parkland
  • Moor Copse
  • Hosehill Lake

Enjoy magnificent views of the winding River Thames and sloping chalk grassland full of national rarities.

Orchids galore
Bee, pyramidal and common spotted-orchids, common twayblade and white helleborine grow on this sloping grassland. In May or early June, the famous monkey orchids flower here, too. These are so rare that they only grow in two other places in the UK and are protected by law. When the Trust took over this steep chalk hillside overlooking the Thames there were just seven plants, now they number more than 400. In 2006, BBOWT was amazed to find a hybrid of the monkey and lady orchids at Hartslock, the only place in Britain where this hybrid has been recorded.  A rich variety of wild grasses and other flowers thrives on the thin soils and south-facing slopes,too. In July, the whole hillside is carpeted with pale mauve marjoram.

Insects too
The reserve is also excellent for insects, featuring a variety of bee species, uncommon shieldbugs, grasshoppers and day-flying moths. Butterflies include the lovely chalkhill blue, green hairstreak and grizzled skipper. The occasional visit by the rare Adonis blue adds a further splash of colour with the brilliant turquoise-blue of the male butterfly.

River views and kites
On summer evenings, enjoy the wonderful river views, and watch swallows skimming the pasture and red kites soaring overhead. 

Hartslock Wood, a Rothschild Reserve
In May 1912 the banker and expert naturalist Charles Rothschild founded the Society for Promotion of Nature Reserves – the organisation that would become the Wildlife Trusts. His vision was to identify and protect the best places for wildlife, and these became known as Rothschild Reserves. 100 years ago Hartslock Wood and the land bordering the Thames as far as Gatehampton was recommended for inclusion on the list of Rothschild Reserves. Read Simon Barnes' e-book Prophet and Loss which describes his visit to Hartslock in 2015 and how Rothschild vision has helped to protect this beautiful nature reserve.

The Nature Discovery Centre is surrounded by a mosaic of different habitats with fantastic wildlife to see all year around.

The Nature Discovery Centre is surrounded by a mosaic of different habitats with fantastic wildlife to see all year around. Wander along the paths beside the lake, visit the internationally important Thatcham Reedbeds nature reserve or explore some of the nearby woodland. There is large network of footpaths, perfect for family days out or for the more adventurous. 

Birds

During the autumn and winter, large groups of wintering wildfowl congregate on the lake, whilst the reedbeds and surrounding woodland and hedgerows host birds like fieldfare and redwing.

In spring and summer purpose-built rafts attract breeding common terns. House martins, swallows and swifts are a common sight over the lake and surroundings.

Throughout the year, one of our volunteers surveys the species of bird found on site. Below is a list showing the trend of different species and numbers of each throughout the year.

Plants

In summer there are glorious displays of purple loosestrife, yellow-flag iris, reeds and sedges on the floating island, the lake shore and in the reedbeds.

All year around look out for the willow and alder around the edge of the lake, and hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle and bullace in the hedgerows.

Invertebrates

A variety of moths and butterflies can be seen, including garden tiger, butterbur, waved black, holly blue, and gatekeeper. There are dragonflies and damselflies including beautiful and banded demoiselles, emperor and four-spotted chaser. A range of beetles such as bloody-nosed beetle and rhinoceros beetle have been recorded on site.

Ham Hill is a tiny area of steeply sloping chalk downland strewn with wildflowers and offering great views. A path runs through it and a flight of steps leads to the top of the embankment and through the ash woodland. The reserve is part of a holloway (sunken track) dating back to Saxon or medieval times on the route from Hungerford to Andover. The banks are a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest for their rich variety of plants and wildlife.

The site is grazed with sheep by a local grazier. This controls the scrub that would otherwise crowd out the wildflowers. Volunteers help clear the scrub and coppice some of the trees.

Beautiful all year round

In spring bluebells carpet the woodland floor. On sunny days during the summer you can see butterflies such as the common blue fluttering across woodland clearings. Later in the year keep an eye out for fungi such as chicken of the woods springing up on logs and stumps of wood.

Refuge for amphibians

On one side of the lake is a network of ponds and grassland filled with amphibian life. 

Fishing available

Seven Lakes Angling run a day ticket fishery in the park. Tickets available on the banks or buy online.

Things to do

Wildlife walks: Orange (approx 3 miles) guides you around different features such as the lakes, woodland and amphibian area. Blue (approx 1.3 miles) concentrates on woodland, ranging from alder coppice in the wet bottom of the valley to sweet chestnut and cherry trees further up the valley. 

This diverse woodland wildlife treasure trove astride the River Pang is a haven of peace and beauty, renowned for its flowers, butterflies and moths.

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

All year round

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.

he BBOWT reserves Chimney Meadows, Moor Copse and Upper Ray Meadows are prime examples of a Coronation Meadow because they are 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.

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

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.

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