Wildlife Conservation Group in the

Forest of Dean








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7 June 2011

Ridley Bottom Nature Reserve GWT

Grid Ref SO563985

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust treated us to a picnic after a walk through the meadows which was followed by a wild flower survey to ascertain the number of flowers on the site.

We met at the Park car park at Tidenham Chase and proceeded through Poors Allotment. This complex site overlies some of the Carboniferous rocks of the Forest of Dean. Part
supports heath vegetation over Drybrook sandstone, while the remainder consists of vegetation associated with calcareous soils over Drybrook limestone. The land was set aside under an Enclosure Award in 1814 to be managed for the benefit of the poor of the parishes of Lancaut and Tidenham and has remained as rough grazing land ever since. The high ground at Poor's Allotment forms a local viewpoint. The majority of the site consists of unimproved acidic grassland, lowland heath and dense bracken habitats while the limestone substrata in the south-east give rise to calcareous grassland and broad leaved woodland.

Characteristic plant species of the acid grassland and heath include :     Poors Allotment

common bent Agrostis tenuis
sheep's fescue Festuca ovina and creeping fescue Festuca rubra
western gorse Ulex gallii and ling Calluna vulgaris
bell heather Erica cinerea
cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix
bilberry Vaccinium myrtilis
sheep's sorrel Rumex acetosella
heath bed-straw Galium saxatile

The calcareous limestone grassland is dominated by fescue species with a wide range of herbs including rock rose Helianthemum nummularium, thyme Thymus drucei, stemless thistle Cirsium acaulon, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor and bird's-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus. The semi-natural woodland habitat in the eastern part of the site is unusual in having oak Quercus robur and holly Ilex aquifolium co-dominant. Other species include yew Taxus baccata, field maple Acer campestre and whitebeam Sorbus aria with few shrubs and a fairly sparse ground flora comprising largely ivy Hedera helix, some dog's mercury Mercurialis perennis and bluebell Endymion non-scriptus.

A spring near the centre of Poor's Allotment gives rise to a pond and stream which is of particular interest for its invertebrates. The margins of this habitat support soft rush Juncus effusus, lesser
spearwort Ranunculus flammula and other wetland plants. Bracken Pteridium aquilinum.

Common spotted orchidHeat spotted orchid


We were particularly delighted to see many, many common spotted orchids and heath spotted orchids.

<--- Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

The flower spikes are 'dense' and the lip is prominently three-lobed. The colour of the flowers is normally dark to light pink with variable patterning on the lip but they normally have one to three purple loops either side of the lip centre line.

Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) --->

This replaces the Common Spotted in more acid, heathy regions. Its lip is broader with a less prominent tooth and the flowers are generally paler. Loops and other markings on its lip tend to be less well defined.



Wild campion

We also saw these wild campions Caryophyllaceae

We then walked on to Ridley Bottom Nature Reserve to do a wild flower survey of 20, 1 metre square areas in the reserve. It was fortunate that we had Kevin Castner and Neil Lodge from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust with us for their expertise and that some of our team had brought their wild flower books with them! Identifying the flowers was fine if they were in bloom but quite a few had to be identified by their leaves alone.

Ridley Bottom wild flower survey



Ridley Bottom reserve was given to the Trust in 1985 as a memorial to Mr K Ridley, a keen naturalist and strong supporter of the Trust. The site, on Carboniferous limestone and Red Sandstone, comprises three small fields and coppice woodland on a gentle north facing slope. It is a delightful place to visit, whether in spring for the bird song and woodland plants, or in summer when the flower-rich meadows are at their most attractive.

At the entrance to Ridley Bottom is a relic of ancient coppice woodland consisting of Small-leaved Lime, Ash, Pedunculate Oak and Silver Birch. In the shrub layer are hazel, Holly, Yew dogwood, Field Maple and Common Whitebeam. An excellent variety of spring flowers includes Herb-Paris, Bluebell, Early-purple Orchid, wood Anemone, Primrose, Snowdrop. Woodruff and Yellow Archangel.

Ancient lime hedgerows enclose the meadows. In addition to a wealth of grassland flowers, there are Wood Anemone, Sanicle and Primrose to indicate the fields wooded past. Cowslips are plentiful; Lady’s Bedstraw, Common Milkwort, Salad Burnet, field Scabious, Yellow-wort and Fragrant Orchid are amongst the typical limestone flora, although less usual plants such as Heath Spotted-orchid, Lesser Butterfly-orchid and Adder’s-tongue do occur. The acidic influence of the sandstone is indicated by the presence of Common Cow-wheat, Lousewort, Bitter-vetch and Tormentil.

The quite undisturbed nature of the reserve is ideal for birds of woodland and grassland: Blackcap, Linnet, Tree Pipit, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Turtle Dove, Great Spotted woodpecker, Jackdaw and Pied Wagtail have all been recorded. There are Holly Blue, Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Peacock and Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies. Adders are occasionally seen amongst the Bracken and there is a good population of Wood Mice.


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