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

Coombe Bissett Down is a unique site for learning on topics from plant adaptations to local history and for a range of audiences. We aim to improve the understanding and appreciation every visitor has for this local habitat.

We will be partnering with Coombe Bissett Down Primary School and St Osmund’s Catholic Primary School to deliver a range of exciting educational programmes throughout the year.

Early years will be learning how farming forms a vital part of Coombe Bissett Down, getting chance to meet our lovely Herdwick sheep. All pupils will have the opportunity to discover the importance of the chalk downland habitat for the creatures that live there, getting up close and identifying them. Classes will get chance to develop these ideas back at school with the Project Officer going into to help them use the data they collected and create their own living science area that can be a haven for wildlife.

With a great array of rare species and management techniques there are a range of research opportunities. Field studies sessions for A-level and University groups will be available along with Nuffield placements.

We will be running group days and events to invite the public to help us out with our habitat restoration work.  This includes our ‘Seed project’, hand harvesting seeds to plant on our new butterfly bank.

If you are interested in any of educational opportunities please contact [email protected] 

If you would like to be involved and lend a hand as an education and events volunteer please visit our volunteering page.