Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve is a 70.6 hectares chalk downland valley south west of Salisbury. It’s a large haven for wildlife protected by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, thanks to National Lottery players through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the rare flora and fauna found here.
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.
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.
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 HLF 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.
Picture: Cowslips (C) Barry Craske
From small seeds come big changes! Seed collection is a really important part of the restoration project as we intend to return the newly purchased land to quality chalk downland. We have to make sure the soil and conditions are right of course, but without the seed we wouldn't create the quality chalk habitat unique to Wiltshire.
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.
The theme of this month's blog is blooming! This describes the habitat the best at this time of year. We see waves of wildflowers and minibeasts as the seasons progress.
The Coombe Bissett Project with Heritage Lottery Fund is now officially underway! I’m Melissa Spiers, Project Officer at Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve. I’ll be running the community engagement events on the reserve over the next three years.