You are hereHantsweb HomeHampshire's CountrysideDundridge Nature Reserve

Hampshire Countryside Service

Dundridge Nature Reserve

Dundridge Nature Reserve consists of hay meadows with species rich hedgerows, chalk downland and ancient woodland, part of Beechen Copse and an old chalk pit. Most of the site is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Dundridge nature reserve is adjacent to the Woodland Trust's Runnydown Copse reserve. Footpaths pass through scenic countryside with an excellent vista up the Dundridge valley towards Galley Down woods a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) beyond.

Paths lead from Bishop's Waltham town to the hamlet of Dundridge and the Hampshire Bowman Pub, which is well worth a visit if you can get a seat; the garden has plenty of space though!

This relatively new nature reserve has much to offer now and in the future as the reserve develops and is well worth a look. Guided walks are run regularly by the Countryside Service in Bishop's Waltham on its 4 sites including Dundridge, why not join a walk when you have a chance.

Hampshire County Council's Countryside Service have enhanced the meadows increasing the number of wild flower species dramatically. Hundreds of cowslips and a sea of hay rattle can now be seen in the spring and early summer, just 2 or 3 years after sowing the headlands and patches with a variety of wildflowers using local provenance seeds. The increase in the variety of wildflowers has in turn attracted new species of insects to the reserve. Last summer Brown Argus and Small Copper butterflies turned up in the hay meadows for the first time.

Hampshire County Council's Countryside Service have enhanced the meadows increasing the number of wild flower species dramatically. Hundreds of cowslips and a sea of hay rattle can now be seen in the spring and early summer, just 2 or 3 years after sowing the headlands and patches with a variety of wildflowers using local provenance seeds. The increase in the variety of wildflowers has in turn attracted new species of insects to the reserve. Last summer Brown Argus and Small Copper butterflies turned up in the hay meadows for the first time.

Two new ponds have been created in the corners of the hay meadows, lined with a bentonite clay liner. These will soon be home to dragonflies and newts once they colonise with native aquatic and marginal plants. The ponds have been linked with a new chalk bank running the length of the meadows parallel with Dundridge Lane. The bank faces south and will be an excellent new habitat for chalk loving flowers and insects. The warm bank should prove attractive to butterflies and other insects basking and nectaring in the sun. We will sow parts of the bank with an appropriate seed mix in the autumn of 2006.

Work also includes the restoration of the western part of the down that had become completely overgrown with hogweed and nettles after years of neglect. We have been creating chalky banks and preparing this meadow for re-seeding with a chalk grassland mix in the autumn of 2006. With thin chalky soils we can expect good displays of chalk specialists such as wild thyme, marjoram, trefoils and common spotted orchids to name a few.

Path improvements are on going. Old styles have been replaced with kissing gates and a new flight of steps at the western end of the site through the woodland has been built. A new permissive route has been put in linking the down to Dundridge Lane around the edge of the hay meadow. A bench made of green English oak from Round Copse, Whiteley, another of our Countryside Service's sites, now offers walkers a chance to sit and enjoy the view across the Dundridge valley.

A number of bat and bird boxes have been erected thanks to donations from the Friends Group and the grant schemes. Badgers are very active on the site and evidence of dormice has been found in the surrounding hedgerows and ancient green lanes. Weasels and stoats can occasionally be seen on the reserve.

The eastern part of the down is rich in wildflowers typical of good chalk grassland, with hundreds of cowslips and also species such as greater knapweed and its saprophytic associate the knapweed broomrape, milkwort, fairy flax, field scabious and common spotted orchids. Buckthorn and spindle are common in the hedges both typical chalk species; the former is the food plant for the Brimstone butterfly which lays its eggs on the leaves. The pink spindle berries in the autumn are very attractive.

Beechen Copse and Runnydown Copse at either end of the site are ancient semi-natural woodland with good ground flora. Species typical of old woodland can be seen especially in the spring e.g. bluebells, wood anemone, wood ruff and spurge laurel. There are old records of fly orchids in the woods near by which are probably still there but hard to see.

The old chalk pit below Beechen Copse has a tiny area of rich chalk grassland with plenty of marjoram, basil and nettle-leaved bellflower. Pyramidal orchids have also been recorded here in the past when there was less scrub in the pit. We plan to clear some of the scrub and occasionally graze the pit in the next few years to help bring the chalky areas back into their prime.

A good variety of bird species have been seen on the reserve. Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels are around daily, the Buzzards can be often heard calling, described as "mewing", overhead. Red Kites are now in the area and have been seen over Dundridge. In the summer a Hobby might be seen. Little Owls can be heard calling during the day on most walks. Yellowhammers and Bullfinches frequent the hedges and Skylarks can be heard singing high over head in the spring and summer. Spotted Flycatchers are frequent autumn visitors along the woodland edge. During the late autumn and Redwings and Fieldfares, thrushes from Scandinavia, can often be seen at Dundridge some times feeding in the hay meadows or on berries in the hedges.

 
" "

" " " "

The site is owned and managed by the Countryside Service part of Hampshire County Council's Culture, Communities and Business Services department, with grants from Defra's Countryside Stewardship Scheme and the Forestry Commission's Woodland Grant Scheme.

These together with local donations have resulted in the restoration of grazing with Highland cattle from The Moors, now that the site has been re-fenced and a new water supply has been put in. Hedgerows have been laid in traditional fashion by skilled local craftsmen and new wildlife hedges have been planted using local provenance plants of a wide variety of species to attract a diverse a community of insects and birds.

The Friends of Waltham's Wildlife

The Friends have generously helped by providing both practical assistance on work parties and helping to fund raise.

Practical conservation is undertaken by the Countryside Ranger working with The Wednesday Conservation Volunteers and The Hampshire Conservation Volunteers.
Contact us if you would like to get involved.