Coombe Bissett Project

Heritage Fund logo

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?

Photograph of sheep at coombe bissett down

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] 

Image of walking trails on a map of coombe bissett down nature reserve

 

If you would like to offer some of your time to get involved with our volunteering opportunities at the Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve, take a look at some of the opportunities on offer:

Learning and events assistants

If you have a passion for engaging children, young people and families with the great outdoors then this is the opportunity of you. Come and assist on the running of school, public, uniform and community group visits to the site. Get involved with our crafts, surveys and games. Dates are dependent upon the groups.

Guided walk leaders

Would you like to share with others your love of Wiltshire countryside, conservation and history? You will take groups on guided tour around Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve, incorporating wildlife experiences, conservation explanation and instilling enthusiasm and support for our work on this site. You will be fully supported and trained by Project Officer. Guided walks will be running weekdays and weekends, we’d love to hear from you.

Reserve management: practical tasks

If your goal is to get outside, contribute to conservation and enjoy tea and biscuits with likeminded people this role is for you. You will be involved in many aspects of nature reserve management.  Tasks vary from tree felling, meadow management and clearance to important footpath work and maintaining accessibility of our reserve for visitors. Our Coombe Bissett Down work parties meet on the second Tuesday and last Sunday of the month, please contact us to find out when we’ll be meeting and what tasks we will be completing. Task leaders are also required, full training will be provided.

Reserve management: monitoring and surveying

If you have a passion for identifying wildlife and a curiosity to discover then join our surveying and monitoring team. You will be essential in helping us gain baseline data for our reserve.  We need to conduct surveys of various types over a 12 month period, such as butterfly, habitats, plant, spiders and birds. Training will be provided for these surveys and supported by the Project Officer.

Creation and Support 

If you would like to be involved in a varied office-based post using your creative and computer skills, then please join our support team. You will create new activities, write for the website, organise data and help out with general administrative tasks. This is a varied post and provides crucial support. Our offices are based at Devizes in Elm Tree Court, Langford Lakes nature reserve or you are more than welcome to work from home.

Please contact [email protected] with your area of interest.

Heritage Fund logo