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Bacombe Hill

An ancient chalk grassland site high on the Chilterns escarpment, with extensive views over Aylesbury Vale.

A special place

Bacombe Hill is a precious fragment of chalk grassland, scrub and woodland. More than 100 years ago it was identified by Sir Charles Rothschild as a site to be protected. Subsequently, it became one of the original Rothschild Reserves.

Sweeping views of the Vale 

East of Coombe Hill and the last chalk hill before the Wendover Gap, this site has a commanding position on the Chilterns escarpment. Whatever the season, you can enjoy superb views over Wendover and Aylesbury Vale and watch red kites soar above the windswept hillside. Long ago this site held importance for Bronze Age settlers and you can still see the traces of two barrows and numerous other archaeological features here.

Chalk downland beauties 

Bacombe Hill is noted for its orchids and butterflies such as the pyramidal, chalk fragrant- and bee orchids and the chalkhill blue butterfly. Within the open chalk grassland you can also find clustered bellflower and carpets of wild thyme, both indicative of long-established chalk grassland.

Juniper, buckthorn and spindle 

Within the scrub, wayfaring tree, buckthorn and spindle grow – all plants that take centre stage in the early autumn months as their vibrant berries ripen. Of special interest is the population of juniper, a shrub which has drastically declined across the Chilterns in recent years, which in turn supports a number of rare insects, including the juniper shieldbug. On the slopes communities of whitebeam and ash dominate the woodland. While oak and birch thrive on the plateau. The wooded base of Bacombe Hill comprises hazel with birch, ash, beech and hawthorn.

Restoration project 

Bacombe Hill is a clear example of how much of the Chilterns scarp has changed during the 20th century. Once open chalk downland with little or no scrub, with changes in farming techniques and myxamatosis, livestock farming was given up in favour of arable production. If not possible to plough, much of the steep scarp of the Chilterns was abandoned and so the process of succession took hold. By the end of the 20th century the upper slopes were dominated by mature hawthorn scrub. In recent years Buckinghamshire County Council has carried out a lot of work to reverse this trend.

In 2015 the Trust took on the long-term management of the site on behalf of Buckinghamshire County Council. The Trust will continue to restore the chalk grassland across the site with rotational scrub clearance as well as coppice work around the edge of the site to keep invasive trees in check.  

Things to do

Nearby nature reserves

Weston Turville Reservoir
1 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Aston Clinton Ragpits
3 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Grangelands and The Rifle Range
3 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire 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

Location
Under 1/4 mile walk west of Wendover
Wendover
Buckinghamshire
HP22 6EL
Map reference
SP 864 074
Great for...
butterflies
historical interest
stunning views
wildflowers
Best time to visit
Mar - Nov
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Size
25.00 hectares
Status
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Walking information
Sloping, steep in places, muddy in places. Kissing gates.
Parking
Park in Wendover Town. Under 1/4mile walk west of Wendover on pavement on edge of minor road (signposted Butlers Cross/Ellesborough).
Dogs
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Yes
Reserve manager
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
Tel: 01442 826774
info@bbowt.org.uk

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.