|Kingstone Coombes, Ashbury, Oxfordshire|
Local Wildlife Site
|Managed by:||Privately owned, advice from Natural England|
|OS grid reference:||SU 270 850|
|Nearest postcode:||SN6 8NJ|
|Usual work:||Scrub clearance|
Kingstone Coombes Local Wildlife Site (LWS) is an extensive area of calcareous grassland and calcareous beech woodland on a north-facing slope of a dry valley of the chalk. The grassland is species-rich with horseshoe vetch, squinancywort, yellow-wort, carline thistle, autumn gentian, clustered bellflower and the rare bastard toadflax. Butterflies seen at the site include the chalkhill blue, the larva of which primarily feeds on the horseshoe vetch, while the adults feed from the flowers of a wider variety of flora including bird's-foot trefoil, thyme and a variety of thistles that grow on chalk grassland. The beech woodland has a poor ground flora, which includes dog's mercury and sweet violet.
Grass cutting is needed to avoid the wild flowers being choked or shaded-out by vegetation. The cuttings must be raked off for disposal so that the land is not enriched. The reason for this is that the native flora thrives on poor soils whereas many invasive species that could smorher them require richer soils. Removal of grass and any invasive flora should focus on the steepest areas particularly around the barer soil, but avoiding removing turf since this would assist erosion of the soil thus preventing the flora from growing and damaging the site. Good tools may includes sickles, slashers or scythes. The grass is soft and shortish so actually powered strimmers would be the perfect tool if anyone had one.
Be wary of SatNavs with this postcode, as the Task programmer was sent on a wild goose chase with his. The best directions are as follows: Take the A420 West out of Oxford, and continue past Faringdon, come off at the roundabout for and go through Watchfield and Shrivenham, picking up the B4000 southbound towards Ashbury. Continue through Ashbury and up the hill. As the ground begins to level out, pull into a track on the left, across some arable fields, before a few trees on the left. If you get to the intersection with the ridgeway you have come slightly too far and there is a car park in which to turn round. If the going is good, it should be possible to take the van along the track through a gate and into some pasture. Don't go much further since the site is very close and the ground soon gets steep and uneven.