General site character
Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (5%)
Dry grassland, Steppes (50%)
Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (35%)
Other land (including Towns, Villages, Roads, Waste places, Mines, Industrial sites) (10%)
Habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site:
Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (* important orchid sites).
This site consists of a large area of semi-natural dry grassland on the west Dorset chalk. Dry valley slopes with a variety of aspects support extensive examples of sheep’s fescue - meadow oat grass Festuca ovina – Avenula pratensis grassland in the south-west of its UK range. A particular feature of this site is the presence of the devilsbit scabious - ox-eye daisy Succisa pratensis – Leucanthemum vulgare sub-community, especially on south- and west-facing slopes. This type of calcareous grassland is almost entirely restricted to parts of Wiltshire and Dorset. On south-west-facing slopes, the nationally scarce dwarf sedge Carex humilis can be abundant in this sub-community.
Species that are a primary reason for selection of this site:
Marsh fritillary butterfly Euphydryas (Eurodryas, Hypodryas) aurinia.
This site supports a large marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia metapopulation composed of two large and one smaller sub-populations which regularly expand into other nearby areas in favourable years. These colonies occupy calcareous downland situations and complement the wet grassland habitats of the other Dorset strongholds.