Snelsmore Common Country Park
Know before you go
Parking informationThe site has a large car park 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)
Grazing animalsExmoor and New Forest ponies
A number of Public Rights of Way including bridle paths and restricted byways criss-cross the common and provide beautiful longer distance routes for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike.
There are several waymarked routes - an Easy Access Trail of 0.75 miles on a paved path, a heathland trail (1 ¼ mile), the lizard route, orange waymarks and a mire trail (1 mile) , the dragonfly route, purple waymarks.
The common is dissected by a number of valley mires so some paths are steep and uneven. A paved circular path 0.75 miles, the Easy Access Trail) is fully accessible by pushchairs and wheelchairs (RADAR key required to fully open gate).
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times, car park is open at 8am but subject to seasonal locking times.
Best time to visitAll year round
About the reserve
Bird Nesting Season – 1st March to 31st July
Please do your bit to help us protect nesting birds.
Lots of heathland and grassland bird species nest on or near the ground. All open areas of the Common need protection during the nesting season.
You can help protect ground nesting birds and other wildlife at Snelsmore Common by:
At all times of the year:
When near ponies keep your dog on a lead and do not approach the animals.
The BBOWT Seasonal Wardens will be on site during the bird nesting season to talk to visitors, answer questions about the common, point out wildlife and deliver great events.
A varied landscape
Snelsmore Common contains a range of habitats including heathland, wet mires and woodland making it home to nationally rare bird species including nightjar, woodlark and tree pipit.
When you visit in spring you may be lucky to hear woodlarks singing across the heath. On brash and log piles, look out for adders basking in the sun. You can also see grass snake, common lizard and slow-worm, and the large pond supports a breeding population of palmate newts.
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, 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. 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.
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. Whilst 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.
Things to do
Print our crayon rubbing trail and take it with you when you visit to discover more about the special heathland wildlife here.
Snelsmore Common is managed by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust on behalf of West Berkshire Council.