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OS map 130 Grid ref: SU11 1248

  • Not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs
  • Dogs on leads are welcome
  • 35.6 hectares

Coonbe Bissett reserve map © WWT

This chalk downland valley is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and worth a visit at any time of year for its sweeping views. Peak time for flowers is late May and early June but the display continues all summer with delicate harebells, bee orchid, devil’s-bit scabious and Wiltshire’s county flower - the burnt orchid.

The coombe’s steep slopes are patterned by medieval terraces called strip lynchets. Some fields used to be sown with crops but have been restored to downland for the benefit of birds and invertebrates. Wildflowers are returning, including the pyramidal orchid. Yellowhammer, goldfinch, and skylarks are here. In the summer months the chalk downland comes alive with butterflies such as Adonis blue, chalkhill blue, dingy skipper and marbled white. Listen for grasshoppers chirping. Wiltshire’s first record of a wasp spider was made here. Typically found on the south coast, their range is expanding northwards. On some slopes you can see very old anthills, covered in wild thyme and common rockrose.

Coombe Bissett is the farm base for our southern reserves. Cattle and sheep are bred here to provide conservation grazing on our nature reserves. The reserve is sectioned by fencing – this lets us graze areas differently for varying species. Volunteers help to prevent scrub from encroaching.

Marbled white on field scabious © Steve Day Sheep with lamb © Barry Craske Wasp spider © Steve Day Harebell © Rob Large


If driving - Travelling from Salisbury on the A354 to Blandford, at Coombe Bissett take first turn left after Fox and Goose pub signposted Homington. After about 0.5 miles turn right into Pennings Drove which is on the junction with the Coombe Fellowship Building. Follow road uphill for 0.25 mile. Reserve entrance (metal gate) and car park on the right.

If using bus – Buses to Coombe Bissett village. Visit

If cycling – Visit

Nearby reserves - Middleton Down, Nadder Island, Cockey Down

What to see locally - Salisbury Cathedral (3 miles), Rockbourne Roman Villa (6 miles), Martin Down National Nature Reserve (6 miles), Heale House and Garden (7 miles)

Coombe Bissett location map © WWT
(Photo: Coombe Bissett Down © Steve Day)