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Westwell Gorse

A pocket of limestone grassland within the surrounding farmland where wild flowers and insects thrive.

Prickly past

More than 100 years ago, this area was set aside for raising furze (gorse) and other fuel for the poor parishioners of Westwell. Although this practice came to an end in the middle of the 19th century, the land continued to be administered by the Westwell Charities - luckily for its wildlife. The southern boundaries of the reserve are edged by restored Cotswold dry stone walls.

Flower haven

While surrounding land became intensively farmed arable fields, this small area of limestone grassland has remained a haven for pyramidal orchid, common twayblade, early-purple orchid, harebell, small scabious, purple milk-vetch and the nationally rare down-fruited sedge, whose numbers have dramatically increased thanks to sympathetic management.

Butterflies and birds

As well as the wild flowers, there are extensive growths of lichen on the blackthorn to inspect. Rides cut through the scrub provide sheltered open areas for a variety of butterflies. The scrub is also attractive to nesting and roosting birds. A small pocket of woodland, planted in the 1970s, has wild cherry and hawthorn which attracts a variety of songbirds.

Things to do

Nearby nature reserves

6 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Edward Richardson & Phyllis Amey
7 miles - Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Greystones Farm
7 miles - Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Reserve information

0.75 miles north of Westwell
2.5 miles south-west of Burford
OX18 4LY
Map reference
SP 221 114
Great for...
Best time to visit
Mar - Aug
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
2.50 hectares
Walking information
Flat; rough ground; steps
On A40 west of Burford turn left onto B4425; after 1 mile, park on soft verge between dry stone wall and farm track on right 20m from reserve
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
Tel: 01865 775476

Smartphone Safari

Every weekend on BBC Radio Berkshire and BBC Radio Oxford we broadcast a Smartphone Safari. Listen along as we explore some of our fantastic reserves and introduce you to the wildlife you can see.