Laverstock SP4 6DR
What3Words: ///picnic.shiver.sleep
OS map 130 Grid ref: SU173320

When to visit

Free and open to visit 24 hours a day.

Know before you go

  • Not suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs
  • Dogs on leads are welcome
  • 6.81 hectares

Download the reserve leaflet

About the nature reserve

Cockey Down reserve map © WWT

This chalk downland, offers superb views of Salisbury Cathedral spire and the surrounding countryside.

Cockey Down is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. It has a rich variety of chalk grassland flowers because it has not been ‘improved’ by chemical fertilisers and because a long history of grazing has kept the coarser grasses in check. There is evidence of Early Bronze Age and Iron Age occupation nearby and the substantial lynchets (terraces) indicate that most of the down was ploughed in the late prehistoric and Roman period.

What can be seen here?

It is best visited in spring and summer to see orchids, including fragrant and pyramidal, and other flowers such as the nationally scarce field fleawort. The nationally scarce bastard toadflax grows on the steeper slopes, its white star-shaped flowers belying its parasitic nature. Its roots attach themselves to those of nearby plants to draw nutrients and water. A metallic-blue shield bug lives on its sap, found here in late summer.

You can see butterflies such as chalkhill blue, marbled white and dark green fritillary, but keep an eye out for the large, brown-and-yellow-banded hornet robber-fly. Yellowhammers, linnets and willow warblers inhabit the scrub, while meadow pipits and skylarks nest in the long grass. Listen for their song. Raptors such as buzzards, kestrels and sparrowhawks hunt over the down.

How can I get here?

Download directions for Cockey Down