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Snelsmore Common Country Park

Everyone can escape the busy-ness of life by exploring the network of paths across this beautiful and varied heathland.

Bird Nesting Season - 1st March to 31st July 2018

During the nesting season, we zone off the most sensitive areas to protect the birds. You can help by:

  • Staying on paths and out of the sensitive red zones where birds such as nightjar and tree pipit like to nest.
  • Keeping dogs on paths and close to you to help avoid disturbing nests hidden in the undergrowth.
  • Using the marked green route to let your dog run off the lead.

The BBOWT Seasonal Wardens will be on site during the nesting season to talk to visitors, answer questions about the common, point out wildlife and deliver great events.

At all times of the year:

  • Bag and bin dog waste using the bins provided.
  • Avoid causing a fire: never discard ciagrettes, bring barbeques or light fires.
  • When near cattle and ponies keep your dog on a lead and do not approach the animals.

A varied landscape

NightjarSnelsmore Common contains a range of habitats including heathland, wet mires and woodland making it home to nationally rare bird species including nightjars and tree pipits.

Spring wonders

When you visit in the summer look out for adders basking in the sun on brash and log piles. You may also be lucky enough to see a grass snake, common lizard or a slow-worm. You will often hear ravens, which nest on the common, ‘pronking’ as they fly overhead. On fine days keep your eyes peeled for dragonflies and damselflies.

Heather, gorse and mires

Three types of heather can be found amongst the heath; ling, bell heather and cross leaved heath. They are in full flowers in August and September. Other heath plants such as bilberry thrive here too.

Areas of scattered gorse provide perching areas for stonechats and other scrub-loving birds. Mosses and lichens grow between the floor-covering plants.

Snelsmore is one of the richest areas in Berkshire for mosses and liverworts, from greater fork-moss to creeping fingerwort. These wetter areas, known as mires, also contain sedges and rushes, as well as common cottongrass, the insectivorous round-leaved sundew, bog asphodel and heath spotted orchids.

In summer months these are the best places to watch dragonflies whizz by, including golden-ringed (our biggest species), broad-bodied and four-spotted chasers, emperors and Southern hawkers.

The heathland supports a breeding population of the nationally rare nightjar, whilst the large number of insects also makes the heathland a good hunting ground for kestrel and the green woodpecker.

Nightjar by Amy Denness

At all times of the year:

  • Use the marked green route to walk your dog off-lead
  • Bag and bin dog waste using the bins provided. Bagged dog waste can also be disposed of in ordinary litter bins. There is a dog poo bag dispenser next to the toilet block.
  • Avoid causing a fire: never discard cigarettes or light fires.
  • When near ponies ensure your dog is on a lead and do not approach the animals.
  • Portable or disposable barbeques are permitted on the concrete slabs marked BBQ in the main picnic area ONLY.
In the heart of the woodland

The broad-leaved woodlands contain mainly oak and birch but sweet chestnut, beech, hazel and willow are common. Winter parties of long-tailed tits feed on the newly forming buds of the trees, they are often accompanied by goldcrests, great tits and blue tits. In the spring the woodland floor is covered with bluebells.

The woodland trees are home to great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, tawny owl and grey squirrel, while the shrubs and scrub provide an ideal habitat for smaller birds such as robins, wrens and warblers. 

Conservation and wildlife

Over 75% of the lowland heath like Snelsmore has been lost in the last 150 years and as a result many birds and other animals that inhabit heathland are nationally very rare. Work to restore the heathland at Snelsmore Common involves a combination of tree and bracken removal, and livestock grazing. See more about techniques for managing heathland.


Take a look at our latest News story: Wardens at Snelsmore Common help visitors learn about wildlife and protect birds. 


Things to do

  • Print our crayon rubbing trail (right) and take it with you when you visit to discover more about the special heathland wildlife here.
  • Help us manage this reserve by supporting us.
  • Join our volunteer work parties on the reserve and help us manage it for wildlife.
  • Tweet your wildlife sightings to @bbowt
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter


Nearby nature reserves

Rack Marsh
1 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Sole Common Pond
3 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Audrey's Meadow
3 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

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Reserve information

4 miles north-west of
RG14 3BQ (nearest, Mary Hare School opposite)
Map reference
SU 463 710
Great for...
a family day out
lichens and mosses
Best time to visit
Jan - Dec
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times, car park is open at 8am but subject to seasonal locking times.
Picnic facilities
Disabled toilet
96.00 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Walking information
A number of Public Rights of Way including bridleways and restricted byways criss-cross the common and provide beautiful longer distance routes for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike. The common is dissected by a number of valley mires so some paths are steep and uneven. A paved circular path ¾ mile long (the Easy Access trail) is fully accessible by pushchairs and wheelchairs (RADAR key required to fully open gate). There are two additional waymarked routes - a heathland trail (1 ¼ mile), the lizard route, orange waymarks and a mire trail (1 mile) , the dragonfly route, purple waymarks.
The site has a large car park nestled within a young woodland. The main entrance to the common is located off the B4494, Wantage Road, opposite the Mary Hare School. The car park opens at 8am every morning and closes at 8pm during the summer and 6pm during the winter (check signage on your arrival).
Dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Exmoor and New Forest ponies
Reserve manager
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
Tel: 01635 35157

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.