Vale of White Horse Parishes
The following wildlife habitats fall within this parish. They are listed according to their associated landscape type or local character area.
If you want more information about any of the sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) listed below, take a look at English Nature's Nature on the Map website. It may also be possible to find out a bit more about the unnamed wildlife habitats in the parish by contacting the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (email@example.com) and quoting the site code next to the habitat description.
The majority of these wildlife habitats are on private land and access to them is not possible without permission of the landowner, unless there is a statutory right of way. However, many wildlife habitats in the county are open to the public. More information on these can be obtained from the Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum.
Chalk Downland and Slopes
Site Code: 28S04/1
A feature of the escarpment of the Berkshire Downs are the narrow dry valleys known as coombes. This site is a good example of this feature with a number of smaller tributary valleys that make a distinctive rippled formation along the slope. The valleys support areas of chalk grassland that once covered much of the Downs but is now restricted to the steeper sites such as this. Chalk grassland is a national nature conservation priority.
Typically for chalk grassland there is a good range of small colourful wildflowers such as clustered bellflower, harebell, small scabious, wild thyme and cowslip. The site also includes a small area of beech woodland. The Downs are one of the places where the brown hare can still be regularly seen. The population of brown hares has declined rapidly in the UK and it is thus a national priority for nature conservation. Hares are regularly seen at this site.
Site Code: 28S04/2
One of the features of the escarpment of the Berkshire Downs are the narrow dry valleys known as coombes. This site has a good example of this feature. The valley support areas of chalk grassland that is now restricted to the steeper sites such as this. Chalk grassland is a national nature conservation priority.
Typically for chalk grassland there is a good range of small colourful wildflowers such as clustered bellflower, autumn gentian, wild thyme, fairy flax and the uncommon bastard toadflax. The site also includes an area of beech woodland. A good range of butterflies can be seen here including the uncommon chalkhill blue.
Site Code: 28S05
The Berkshire Downs were once largely covered in flower-rich chalk grassland. This is now mainly restricted to the steeper areas including the banks along ancient tracks such as this. Chalk grassland is a national nature conservation priority. The track is sunken with steep banks on either side where chalk grassland is maintained by rabbit grazing.
The grassland has a good variety of wildflowers including pyramidal orchid, bee orchid, common spotted orchid and fragrant orchids. Also present are horse and kidney vetches which are the food plants of the uncommon chalkhill blue butterfly and small blue butterfly - both of which are found at this site. A number of other uncommon insects have also been recorded here.
Site Code: 28V02
Area: 24.1 ha
This site is a steep south-west facing slope on the chalky soils of the Berkshire Downs. These steeper areas have prevented the use of the plough so retain grassland that was once much more widespread on the Downs and is now restricted mainly to such steep sites. Because so much of this grassland has been lost, chalk grassland is a national conservation priority.
The chalk grassland here supports a variety of small colourful chalk grassland wildflowers especially in the areas of short turf. These include early gentian which is a national nature conservation priority species. Other wildflowers include horseshoe and kidney vetches, wild thyme, chalk milkwort and devil’s-bit scabious. A good range of invertebrates has been recorded here including nationally rare and declining flies, snails and beetles including glow worm. Meadow pipit, which nests in open grassland, and is now rarely seen in Oxfordshire, can be seen here.
Site Code: 28V01/2
Grid Ref: SP285820
Ashdown Park SSSI
Ashdown Park SSSI is an area of parkland, with naturally situated sarsen stones, near the house at the National Trust’s historic Ashdown Park site in the Berkshire Downs. The stones support a rich variety of lichens including uncommon species. These sarsen stones also support species not found where the stones have been moved, as they often have been at other sites. Natural rock surfaces such as these are very rare in the region and the lichen flora will have developed over many centuries.
Site Code: 28V01/3
Area: 46.7 ha
These woods on the Berkshire Downs are thought to have been established in the early 18th century. Although this means they are not classified as ancient woodland they are certainly long established. The woodlands have a mix of oak, beech, ash and silver birch trees. The shrubs are mostly hazel coppice*. Broadleaved woodland such as this is a national priority for nature conservation
Many woodland wildflowers typical of old woodlands are present including yellow archangel, nettle-leaved bellflower and the uncommon herb Paris. The woods support a good range of uncommon insects and a rich variety of mosses.
* Coppicing is a tradition form of management where shrubs of small trees are harvested by cutting them down to the ground. They then regrow and can be harvested again in future years. This opens up the woodland and is beneficial for woodland wildflowers and insects such as butterflies.
Site Code: 28V01/4
Area: 37.9 ha
This wood is one of a group of important woodlands on the Berkshire Downs. It is a long established woodland site that has been present since the early 18th century. Such long established woodland composed of mainly native species is a national nature conservation priority.
Many trees were felled during World War Two and non-native trees were planted and this altered the mix of trees in the woodland - there is now a mixture of native trees such as birch and field maple and introduced trees such as horse chestnut, lime, larch and Scot’s pine. There is a good variety of shrubs with much hazel and hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle and willows. Although there are lots of nettles on the ground there is a good variety of woodland wildflowers including bluebell, pignut, primrose and nettle-leaved bellflower. In open areas, grassland wildflowers such as meadow saxifrage, rockrose and yellow rattle can be seen. The woodland supports a good range of mosses and liverworts and also insects associated with dead wood which is a particularly important habitat feature.