The jewel in the crown of the Earth Trust
Sitting within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Little Wittenham Nature Reserve is the jewel in the crown of Earth Trust at Little Wittenham. The site has been designated as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), reflecting its international importance for wildlife. The nature reserve is particularly important for the great crested newt. This seldom seen amphibian uses the many ponds on the nature reserve to breed but it spends the majority of time in the surrounding woodland.
Little Wittenham Wood – one of Europe’s most important sites for wildlife
If you’re visiting the Wittenham Clumps, don’t forget to explore the neighbouring Little Wittenham Wood, one of Europe’s most important sites for wildlife. All dappled sunlight and wide, open rides, it’s alive with wildlife including majestic oaks and a variety of butterflies. Wander down to the bird hide where, if you’re lucky, you could spot kingfishers and otters too. During 2014 we resurfaced the bridleway through Little Wittenham Wood and it can now be accessed more easily all year round.
Managing woodland habitats
Earth Trust manages Little Wittenham Wood in a way that encourages predominantly broad leaved trees with some conifers throughout. Timber extracted is used in our boiler to heat the Earth Trust Centre. Part of the management includes coppicing, which involves cutting species such as hazel and spindle to their base in the winter time. This traditional management technique helps create a diverse structure to the woodland habitat as well as producing materials used in hedge laying and hurdle making.
Each year sections of the rides are coppiced in winter. This helps to create open sunny glades within the wood and provides perfect habitats for butterflies, other invertebrates and many woodland birds. Protected species such as the firecrest and red kite have been known to breed within the wood.
Read about our work to improve wildlife habitats
and other work at Little Wittenham.
Dragonflies and damselflies at Little Wittenham
Over 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies can be found on the nature reserve. With their bright colours and strong flight these large insects make a beautiful sight for anyone near water on a bright sunny day. Watch out for the club-tailed dragonfly and the banded demoiselle which can be found by the bank of the River Thames. Within the wood watch as the brown hawker uses its powerful wings to ‘hawk’ up and down woodland rides in search of insect prey.
A walk along the main bridleway will take you eastwards towards North Farm or, in a westerly direction, to Church Meadow. The meadow runs down towards the River Thames and offers wonderful views across to Day’s Lock and beyond to Dorchester Abbey.
In the spring the meadow is home to the rare Loddon lily, known also as 'summer snowflakes' or 'summer snowdrops'. This beautiful little plant can be recognised by the dash of green at the tips of the white petals. You can sponsor a Loddon lily as part of our green gifts scheme. Also in the spring the meadow turns yellow with carpets of buttercups. As the summer progresses this yellow is replaced by the purple of knapweed and the bright white of the oxeye daisy.
Look out for kestrel, buzzard and red kites
When walking across Church Meadow in spring and summer listen out for blackbird, song thrush, robin, wren and chaffinch. All have distinctive songs – see how many you can identify. Watch out for house martins (with their white rumps) and swallows hawking insects low over the grass. Higher up in the sky, keep an eye open for kestrel, buzzard and the red kite with its striking forked tail.
How to get to Little Wittenham Woods
Park at the Clumps car park and it is a short walk to the woods.
Earth Trust has regular wildlife walks and talk throughout the year. For our latest events please visit the What's On guide.