Location: From the B3108 between Winsley and Limpley Stoke, turn into the lane signposted Murhill. The reserve is a short distance on the left.
Habitat: The highlight is an unimproved limestone meadow of about 1 acre, but there is also about half an acre of woodland at each end, a copse in the middle and a hedgerow along the south side.
NATURE RESERVE PROFILE
The land was purchased by the Parish Council in late 1987. It is a very steep site with its north boundary lying along a public footpath. The grassland is home to many wild flowers, some of them uncommon, and also to butterflies, other insects and other animals.
Unlike most British meadows, it had never been ploughed or sprayed, perhaps because it slopes so steeply, and it was these factors which have led to its richness of wildlife. There has been widespread destruction of such unimproved meadows by agriculture, so they are becoming rare. Ploughing and spraying with herbicides destroys most of the wild flowers which would otherwise thrive and drives away the animals which rely on them for food and shelter.
Murhill Bank is being managed in more traditional ways to encourage, rather than destroy, its natural life. Invading trees and scrub (particularly bramble) have been reduced and the meadow has been fenced. Grazing by sheep outside the flowering and seeding periods to clear the way for each season’s new growth of flowers is undertaken whenever possible. However, the woodland, some of the scrub and selected individual trees and shrubs have been retained, since they provide homes for animals and plants different from those that thrive in grassland. The woodland trees have been thinned to improve the habitat for plants and butterflies.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Plants regularly in the meadow or seen there recently include Pyramidal Orchid, Horseshoe Vetch, Sainfoin, Wild Mignonette, Yellow Rattle, Field Scabious, Salad Burnet, Wild Basil, Marjoram, Common Rockrose, Common Milkwort, Burnet Saxifrage, Hairy Violet, Hemp Agrimony, Agrimony, Rough Hawkbit, Ox-eye Daisy, Common Toadflax, Red Bartsia, Wild Parsnip, Common Restharrow, Yellow-wort, Common Gromwell, Bladder Campion, Common
Valerian, Greater and Lesser Knapweeds, Dwarf Thistle, Bee Orchid, Common Twayblade, Ploughman’s Spikenard and Hawkweed Ox-tongue.
Woodland herbs, climbers, trees and shrubs in the woodland, copse, hedgerow and individually in the meadow include Wild Cherry, Cherry Plum, Hazel, Ash, Hawthorn, Oak, Holly, Wayfaring Tree, Traveller’s Joy, Black Bryony, Dog-rose, Blackthorn, Field Maple, Spindle, Yew, Wych Elm, Elder, Sycamore, Dog-wood, Wild Privet, Spurge Laurel, Stinking Iris, Sweet and Early Dog-violets, Wood Sanicle, Nettle-leaved Bellflower, and Wood Avens.
Fungi, mainly on dead tree stumps or branches, include King Alfred’s Cakes, Yellow Brain Fungus, Jew’s Ear, Coral Spot, Winter Fungus, Wrinkled Peach, Honey Fungus, and Oyster Mushroom.
Butterflies recorded other than those seen everywhere are Brimstone, Comma, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Dingy Skipper, Ringlet, Marbled White, Large Skipper, Large White, Green-veined White, Meadow Brown,
Gatekeeper, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Small Copper and Silver-washed Fritillary.
Moths include Five-spot Burnet and Silver Y.
Dragonflies. The Brown Hawker has been seen.
Birds. Resident birds include Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrushes, Goldcrest, Long-tailed, Coal, Blue, and Great Tits, Nuthatch, Tree Creeper, Jay, Magpie, Rook and Starling. House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Yellowhammer. Winter visitors include Fieldfare and Redwing. Summer visitors include Swallow, House Martin, Spotted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and Willow Warbler.
Other animals seen in the reserve include deer, badgers who have their setts in the woodland area and pass through the meadow regularly, and lizards. Rabbits are numerous, which means that there will also be foxes. An adder has been seennearby.
Parking is allowed by courtesy of the owners of Murhill House in a layby about 400m to the East along Murhill Lane. Alternatively, there is parking room in the old Winsley village, about 800m away, from which the reserve can be approached by the turning beside Dorothy House, by a public footpath in a gap in the wall opposite the Village Hall, or by another public footpath off the next turning on the left after that at Dorothy House.
There are no restrictions on access, but visitors are asked not to pick flowers or otherwise interfere with the wildlife, to leave no litter and to keep dogs on lead and ensure that no fouling occurs. Control of dogs is particularly important when sheep are present.
- John Treble 01225 866094 firstname.lastname@example.org