The jewel in the crown of the Earth Trust
Sitting within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the 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 and a Special Area of Conservation, 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 Little Wittenham Wood.
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.
Managing woodland habitats
Earth Trust manages Little Wittenham Wood to revert it back to being predominantly a broad leaved woodland with some conifers throughout. Timber extracted is used to heat the Earth Trust Centre. We also carry out 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 to 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. 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