Winsley has two Parish nature reserves – the John Presland Nature Reserve at Murhill Bank and Little Ashley Ponds.

Murhill Bank is owned by Winsley Parish Council and is a very steep site consisting of unimproved limestone meadow of about 1 acre and about half an acre of woodland at each end, with a copse in the middle and a hedgerow along the south side. The main feature is the excellent limestone flora and butterflies, but there is an interesting collection of woodland plants as well. The scenery is inspiring, with wonderful views over the Limpley Stoke Valley and the reserve is much appreciated by walkers, for whom paths, stiles, steps with railings and seats are provided. Joined up with the Avon Park site, it provides off-road paths along much of Murhill Lane and facilitates walking from Winsley village into and through Murhill.

Little Ashley Ponds consists of two roadside ponds at little Ashley, one something like 50 yards long. This last is interesting historically, since it is thought to be a 19th century construction for washing the wheels of farm carts. From a nature conservation point of view, it has a variety of plants typical of ponds, including some that are uncommon, and is a home to a variety of animals, including the protected Great Crested Newt, and some water birds.

Nature reserves are an important contribution to biodiversity, a term now much used to refer to the variety of wildlife which we ought to be maintaining and enhancing. It refers to the existence of a large number of species, and variations within species, of living things (eg Pyramidal Orchid, the Marbled White butterfly), of the different communities of which they form a part (eg species-rich limestone grassland), and of the environments which these species and communities require (eg limestone grassland which has not been agriculturally improved by fertilisers, herbicides, etc). It is perhaps a fuller definition of “nature”, but with value judgements implied. The word is perhaps wider than “nature conservation”, in that, in addition to conserving what we have, it implies that we improve habitats for wildlife purposes, create new ones and try to join the resulting sites into interconnecting networks. Local authorities have a duty to promote it. Wiltshire County Council has a Biodiversity Action Plan, and Winsley Parish Council has discussed proposals to have its own plan.


Both nature reserves are managed by volunteers with an annual report to the Parish Council. It organises a work programme carried out by a small number of volunteers on a regular basis from autumn to spring and monthly during the summer. Specialised tools are provided. The organiser is

John Treble 20 Tyning Road Winsley BA15 2JJ.
01225 866094

The Reserve was created under the leadership of John Presland and was renamed the John Presland Nature Reserve in 2023 as a tribute to his work at the site. 

Volunteers to help with conservation work would be welcomed enthusiastically.

More information can be found by clicking on the links below: