Sovell Down Nature Reserve
A small oasis of flower-rich grassland and scrub offering shelter for wildlife in an intensively managed agricultural landscape.
With its two fields of unimproved, chalk grassland, scrubby patches and thick hedgerows this reserve is a key linking point for wildlife in a fairly inhospitable area of improved grassland and arable fields. As well as providing a permanent home to species such as grizzled skipper, marbled white, bullfinch and yellowhammer the site provides foraging and commuting for birds and bats passing through the area, with recent surveys showing that greater horseshoe bat flight routes pass through the site.
The downland is grazed to encourage an open sward with an annual programme of rotational scrub cutting to stop it from smothering the grassland. There are at least four species of rose in the scrub and a range of typical chalk grassland flowers throughout the slopes; including cowslip, bird's-foot-trefoil, greater knapweed, clustered bellflower, rock rose and wild basil.
A Roman road, the Ackling Dyke, connecting Exeter with London, runs along the length of the reserve, while there is evidence of ancient ditches and chalk extraction over the rest of the reserve.
Heading towards Salisbury on the A354 from Blandford, turn right at signpost to Gussages/Horton. After 1/2 mile turn left to Gussage St. Michael. At junction in village turn right. The reserve is approximately 1/2 mile along road. Park on roadside by water pumping station & take footpath uphill to the reserve.
Access and safety
A rough grassy track follows the course of the Ackling Dyke up to and along the edge of the reserve. There are two access points from this into the chalk grassland, one as the track branches off to the right by the reserve sign, with a rough track along the bottom of the first field, and one further up the hill over the bank. Currently both access points are via stiles which can be slippery when wet so please cross with care. Elsewhere the ground can be a little rough and uneven under foot and is variously sloped so you will need to take care as you work your way between the fields.
Ponies graze the site at times and there may be ticks on site. For more information on these general countyside hazards and other aspects of visiting our nature reserves please see our visitor information page.
Species and habitats
Chalk grassland, mixed scrub, mature hedgerow.
Cowslip, small-leaved sweet briar, burnet-saxifrage, autumn gentian, small scabious, common lizard, brown argus, grizzled skipper, marbled white, bullfinch, song thrush, yellowhammer.
Nearby nature reserves
Nature reserve map
Contains derived data © Crown copyright and database right 2012.Ordnance Survey LA100019790.
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