Area: 86.7 hectares. 

Site Description:

Within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the site comprises downland slopes with rich grassland communities typical of the chalk of west-central Dorset on a range of aspects. Areas of scrub and a small amount of old woodland add diversity to this site. 

The grassland varies considerably in its character depending on the gradient and aspect of the slopes. The steeper slopes have exceptionally rich communities of the sheep’s fescue/meadow oat Festuca ovina/Avenula pratensis sub group. Slopes with a southern aspect have a large amount of rockrose Helianthemum nummularium with a variety of other attractive herbs including small scabious, Scabiosa columbaria, felwort Gentianella amarella, wild thyme Thymus polytrichus, rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus, stemless thistle Cirsium acaule and the local clustered bellflower Campanula glomerata. The highest proportions of devil’s-bit Succisa pratensis and betony Stachys officinalis, which are typically abundant in the chalk grassland of West Dorset are found on the west and north facing slopes. Cowslip Primula veris, hoary plantain Plantago media and pignut Conopodium majus are frequent here and in one location lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica, a plant rarely encountered on chalk downland, is present. 

On flatter ground near the tops and bottoms of the slopes grassland with a high proportion of creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera and crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus predominates. These swards tend to have fewer herbs but generally salad burnet Sanguisorba minor and rough hawkbit are frequent. In places where more acid soils have developed above the slopes on Clay with Flints, tormentil Potentilla erecta is common. 

The fungi of the site are abundant and diverse and include a number of uncommon species. Grassland fungi are particularly well represented. More than 60 genera have been positively identified so far and these include at least 8 species of Wax cap Hygrocybe spp. and nine species of mushroom Agaricus spp. 

Scrub is found principally on the upper slopes and contains hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthorn Prunus spinosa, hazel Corylus avellana, bramble Rubus fruticosus and common and western gorses Ulex europaeus and U. gallii. The woodlands are typical of the small woods of the downs of Central/West Dorset. The dominant trees are ash Fraxinus excelsior and oak Quercus robur with a significant quantity of field maple Acer campestre. The understorey is dominated by hazel and the ground flora by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis or bluebell Hyacythoides non-scriptus. The uncommon parasitic plant toothwort Lathraea squamaria occurs here. 

The invertebrates of the site have not been well studied but the range of aspects and diversity, composition and structure of the vegetation suggests that a rich invertebrate fauna is likely. It is known that there are colonies of two scarce butterflies: Adonis blue Lysandra bellargus and marsh fritillary Eurodryas aurinia.