Coombe Bissett Project

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Download our project leaflet here

Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve is a 70.6 hectares chalk downland valley south west of Salisbury. 

The Coombe Bissett Down Project (CBDP) is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The three year project has involved an initial land purchase that has doubled the size of the original reserve, and the start of a programme of work to revert one of the newly purchased arable fields back to species-rich chalk downland. A key objective of the project is an enhanced visitor experience, with new opportunities for people to enjoy and learn about this spectacular site. Visitors will be able to follow the new signs, and waymarked routes around the reserve and enjoy the views from a series of new benches.

In addition we have a programme of events that will take place throughout the year, from lambing sessions to art classes, Walking for Health to searches for shieldbugs.

From May to September there are wildflowers to be found, from cowslip and harebells to kidney vetch and Devils-bit scabious. These attract lots of butterflies including adonis blue and dingy skipper. Yellowhammer, skylarks and whitethroat can be heard singing from scrub or overhead and kestrels hover over small mammals below. Take a look at our seasonal spotters sheets to see which species you can find; Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter.

People have also had a close relationship with this site for many years. There have been artefacts from the Neolithic Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman period on Coombe and the surrounding downs. Steep slopes on the site are patterned by medieval terraces called strip lynchetts which were used for grazing. We have a flock of hardy Herdwick sheep and light footed Dexter cattle that crop the grass, maintaining the chalk downland habitat as a part of the reversion process. Why not try writing your own haiku poem to show us what the reserve means to you?

Visitors can come here to enjoy the sweeping views, bask in the beauty of nature and the sound of birdsong. To keep our birds happily singing we ask that dogs are kept on leads and any waste is cleared up. There are many lovely walks of varying difficulty around the site.

With the new NLHF supported project visitors have now got the opportunity to get more involved with the nature they come here to enjoy, this can be through surveying, our training and event days or volunteering in a number of roles. This large site couldn’t be maintained without a wonderful team of volunteers, please take a look at our volunteering page for more opportunities.

To keep updated with improvements to the reserve and to join our official Friends of Coombe Bissett Down group, email us at [email protected] 


Picture: Cowslips (C) Barry Craske

We held our Chalk Celebration event on Saturday 21 July at Coombe Bissett Down. It was a warm summer’s day the straw bales were out and so were the bugs. Many people drifted in from their Saturday stroll to find out what we were up to. We had families from the local Coombe Bissett School come specifically for more minibeast hunting after their school visit earlier in the year. I’ll let the visitors describe the day with their feedback, and it started with a...

Friendly welcome at a beautiful venue.

At 11am, we had a guided walk with Ashley White (the Coombe Bissett Down Reserves Officer) which was a great success, exploring the old arable reversion and looking at wildflowers.

Local artist Gemma Dunn ran lino cutting and printing taster sessions which some participants took home to frame others to send as cards to friends.

Skull identification

Local naturalist, Phil Read brought an impressive skull collection to test our knowledge, with surprising outcomes! We painted plant pots for sowing seeds and caught a multitude of minibeasts. When asked what they loved about today on visitor wrote:

Everything! Minibeasts, skulls and lino printing!

The day allowed people to enjoy and experience chalk downland as they hadn’t before. To find learn something new, discover for themselves, challenge what they know and be inspired. 

The activities provided were really inspiring. My boys loved using the nets to catch minibeasts. My son loved lino printing for the first time. Very friendly staff.

Minibeats hunting

The site in general has a huge impact on visitors some had visited the reserve many times and yet said they were always surprised by “the diversity of wildlife and flora”. Others had never been and were astounded by “how beautiful the area was – can’t believe we had never been here before – yet live so close.”

Of course amongst all this wonderful nature was the essential tea, coffee and cake at the village hall and a barbeque on the reserve!

All of this wouldn’t be possible without our wonderful team of volunteers and staff so a big thank you goes out to them! This had an impact on a visitor all the way from Madrid (to visit family possibly not especially for the chalk celebration)!

I liked especially the friendliness of all the people here today.

Craft activities

We are a lovely team and project to be part of and if you are interested in being involved please get in contact by emailing [email protected] 

If you feel you missed a chance to explore the site don’t worry we have a guided walk suitable for families and all ages on Sunday 19 August. We also have more events later in the year like our ‘Looking after local birds’ which you can find out more about on the events page.

I’d just like to end on this note; Of course I can’t fail to mention the vital contribution of one visitor (illustrated) favourite:                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 Herdwick sheep drawing