Pewsey Downs National Nature Reserve
ALTON BARNES, WILTSHIRE
Pewsey Downs NNR is one of the finest remaining areas of Wiltshire’s iconic chalk downland. Comprising Milk, Walkers and Knap Hills on the southern edge of the Marlborough Downs, the reserve is probably most famous for its engraving of the Alton Barnes White Horse, created in 1937 to mark the coronation of George VI. In botanical terms, the site is best known for its orchid-rich grassland, and it is one of the few remaining sites where the internationally important early gentian grows. In spring and summer plants include orchids like the burnt tip, lesser butterfly and frog orchid, which help support the butterflies for which the reserve is very well known. The 28 resident breeding species include the internationally rare marsh fritillary, dark green fritillary, Duke of Burgundy, Adonis blue and large populations of the chalk hill blue. The rare and specially protected warty newt breeds in some of the few remaining dew ponds on the downs.
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About The area
A land shrouded in mystery, myth and legend, Wiltshire evokes images of ancient stone circles, white chalk horses carved into hillsides, crop circles and the forbidden, empty landscape of Salisbury Plain. To many M4 and A303 drivers heading out of London through the clutter of the Thames Valley, Wiltshire is where the landscape opens out and rural England begins.
Wiltshire’s charm lies in the beauty of its countryside. The expansive chalk landscapes of the Marlborough and Pewsey downs and Cranborne Chase inspire a sense of space and freedom, offering miles of uninterrupted views deep into Dorset, Somerset and the Cotswolds. Wiltshire’s thriving market towns and picturesque villages provide worthwhile visits and welcome diversions. Stroll through quaint timbered and thatched villages in the southern Woodford and Avon valleys and explore the historic streets of the stone villages of Lacock, Castle Combe and Sherston. Walk around Salisbury and discover architectural styles from the 13th century to the present and take time to visit the city’s elegant cathedral and fascinating museums. And if all of that isn’t enough, the county is also richly endowed with manor houses, mansions and beautiful gardens.
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