A wild but tranquil haven with a rich variety of woodland
Variety is the spice of this wonderfully mixed reserve which nestles within two sheltered valleys deep in the Chilterns. Dancersend, once owned by the Rothschild family, has been a nature reserve since the 1940s.
Dancersend's different types of woodland habitats reflect a complex history. Most of its original woodlands were felled during the Second World War, but in the 1950s, two large woods were replanted with mixed woodland including beech, ash, cherry and oak. Today, the delicate fly orchid flowers here.
The sounds of birds
The woodlands are home to many birds. Listen out for the drumming of the great spotted woodpecker and the 'yaffle' of the green woodpecker. Tawny owls can be heard hooting in the trees. You can also find a number of old woodland plants including the white hanging bells of Solomon's-seal.
This Chilterns reserve contains large areas of the chalk grassland habitat, typical of these hills. They are home to a variety of orchids, as well as the delicate local speciality, the Chiltern gentian. The nationally scarce meadow clary, once a common sight here, has been reintroduced from the seed of one surviving plant. The chalk grassland flowers attract a range of butterflies including marbled white, ringlet and meadow brown.
The unusual winter-flowering stinking hellebore provides a welcome dash of early colour. In spring, there are carpets of bluebells in the woodlands. At the clearings and woodland edges, pretty primroses and cowslips flourish. In summer, these sheltered sites encourage rare butterflies such as the Duke of Burgundy and the grizzled skipper. Autumn brings a large number of fungi, including the amazing collared earthstar whose outer layer splits and folds backward into a star-shaped pattern.
Things to do & places to go
Species and habitats
- Grassland, Woodland
- Adder's-tongue Fern, Bee Orchid, Bird's-nest Orchid, Bluebell, Cowslip, Cuckooflower, Dogwood, Greater Butterfly Orchid, Guelder-rose, Primrose, Wild Marjoram, Wild Thyme, Glow-worm, Green Hairstreak, Marbled White, Ringlet, Silver-washed Fritillary, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Tawny Owl, Badger, Red Fox