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Wilton SP5 5DT
OS map 130 Grid ref: SU047238

  • The slopes are very steep to climb
  • Not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs
  • Dogs on leads are welcome
  • 25.42 hectares

Middleton Down reserve map © WWT

The curves and dips of this peaceful and secluded reserve in the Chalke Valley offer stunning views across the countryside, but be aware that the slopes are steep to climb. The reserve is a wonderful example of the traditional chalk downland that was once widespread in Wiltshire and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rich variety of its grassland plants.

From May early purple and other orchids blossom on the slopes - common spotted, fragrant, pyramidal, bee, frog and autumn lady’s-tresses. Here too are clustered bellflower and the nationally rare dwarf sedge. Its many butterflies include the rare Adonis blue, common blue and marbled white. Most are attracted by the trefoils and vetches that provide food for their caterpillars.

On late summer evenings glow worms sparkle on the slopes. These are not worms at all, but beetles. The wingless females glow for a few weeks to attract the flying males, only to die soon after laying their eggs. Look out for a large, shiny oil beetle in early spring, or the narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth – a day-flying moth, which looks like a bee. Listen for the rustle of grasshoppers at ground level and the pure notes of the skylark above.

The reserve is grazed by our own Dexter cattle, giving us flexibility to vary the grass height to be best for insects. Since we acquired the reserve in 1988 biodiversity has increased. Grazing also prevents invasion by scrub and coarser vegetation.

 Common blue © Sarah Marshall Clustered bellflower © Steve Day Glow worm © Steve Day Small copper © Andrew Kerr

Directions

If driving – Travelling from Salisbury on A354 to Blandford. When you reach Coombe Bissett turn right on to Stratford Tony Road heading for Broad Chalke. Drive through Bishopstone and turn left on to Newtown which takes you into Broad Chalke. In village take left turn signposted for school and sports centre. Continue past school and Knighton junction. Continue along Bury Lane to Howgare Road and drive for about 2.5 miles to crossroads. Turn left onto Ox Drove and continue for 0.5 miles past farm buildings. Immediately after farm and before track fork, is parking area – please don’t block gates. Walk down track for 0.25 miles and entrance to reserve is on right.

If using bus – The 29 Salisbury-Shaftsbury service stops in Broad Chalke approx. every 1.5 hours. From the Broad Chalke stop, follow the above walking directions to reserve gate. Visit www.salisburyreds.co.uk

If cycling – Leave regional route 20 at Broad Chalke. Lock bike up in car park and follow walking directions as above. Visit www.sustrans.org.uk

Other reserves nearbyCoombe Bissett Down

What to see locally - Rockbourne Roman Villa (7 miles), Larmer Tree Gardens (8 miles), Edmondsham House (8 miles)

Middleton Down location map © WWT
(Photo: Middleton Down © Sarah Marshall)