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Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve

This chalk downland valley south west of the city of Salisbury is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also the farm base for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's southern reserves. Cattle and sheep are bred here to provide conservation grazing on our nature reserves and during the spring a limited number of lambing visits are available to schools.
Breeds include the hardy native Dexter cattle. These have been specifically selected for being small - because they are lighweight they do not damage the fragile chalk soils. We also use Herdwick sheep because they can graze on tougher grasses and help to control scrub and bramble regrowth.
The valley bottom area of the reserve is likely to have had a long history of crop cultivation and its steep slopes are patterned by medieval terraces called strip lynchets.
In the summer months the reserve comes alive with butterflies such as chalkhill blue, dingy skipper and marbled white. One area supports the rare Adonis blue butterfly and its food plant the horseshoe vetch. Wiltshire's first record of a wasp spider was made here. Wiltshire's county flower, the burnt orchid can also be found here. The site is also home to yellowhammers, goldfinch and skylarks.


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Entry to the site is free.

What we can offer

  • Pre-visit information available
  • Provision of materials/equipment/livestock
  • Risk assessment
  • Self-guided activities
  • Set programmes
  • Tailored programmes
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