Nature Reserves

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Dancersend, BuckinghamshireWebsiteStreet MapGoogle Map

Dancersend Nature Reserve
Managed by:BBOWT
OS grid reference:SP 900 095
Nearest postcode:HP23 6LA
Usual work:Step building

Dancersend is a BBOWT site within two sheltered vallies of the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire that contains a variety of habitats ranging from acidic woodland and scrub to flora-rich alkaline lower grassland. The rich habitats provide homes for a wide variety of species of flowers, trees, invertebrates, and fungi. Conservation management is generally undertaken by a regular BBOWT volunteer group, but OCV have had tasks such as step building at this site.

Flora and Fauna

Numerous species of rare birds and butterflies have been reported at this site, including the gizzled skipper, dingy skipper, chalkhill blue, silver-washed fritillary, marbled white, meadow brown, duke of burgundy, dark green fritillary and green hairstreak butterflies. Flora within the grassland areas include species such as pyramidal orchid, fragrant orchid, bee orchid, fly orchid, greater butterfly orchid, clustered bellflower, Chiltern gentian, kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch, and the rare meadow clary.

The woodlands were replanted in the 1950s with a mixture of native species including ash, beech, cherry and oak. Conifers, crab apple, hazel and sycamore can also be found at this site. The maturing woodland provides habitat for woodland flowers including Solomon's-seal, bluebells, primroses, cowslips, woodland vetch, and hellebore, plus birds such as the green and great spotted woodpeckers, tawny owls and marsh tits. The woods are also home to a diverse range of fungii from the collared earthstar to the scarlet elfcup.


Dancersend once belonged to the Rothschild family, and is thought to have inspired Walter Rothschild (the 2nd Lord Rothschild) and his younger brother Charles' love of nature. Around 1939 this site was made into a nature reserve in remembrance of Nathaniel Charles Rothschild (1877-1923). Dancersend was given to the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR), that he had founded, by his children. Charles Rothschild was an entomologist and pioneer of nature conservation in Britain. He is thought to be the first to argue for the need to protect whole habitats not just individual species, and founded the first national organisation focused on protecting habitats, the SPNR that went on to become The Wildlife Trusts. In 1912 he instigated surveys to identify sites that had the potential to become nature reserves to preserve the habitats. Charles daughter Miriam, a self-taught scientist and activist, is thought to have learnt about chalkland habitats at this site.

Most of the original woodlands were felled during the Second World War, but in the 1950s, two large woods were replanted with mixed woodland including ash, beech, cherry and oak. In the 1970s areas between the trees were rescued from encroaching scrub and are now grassland habitats for a variety of flora and invertebrates. Through a WREN-funded chalk-grassland project BBOWT re-seeded 6.5 hectares of land to the west of the reserve, using a bespoke seed mix based on flowers already found on the reserve in order to extend the already rich habitats.

Conservation Management

Maintenance at the site includes retaining grassland areas by ensuring the invasive scrub is kept in check. Areas have been re-seaded with species of native wild flowers found on the site and several large scrapes have been created to provide bare chalk for early colonising species such as Chiltern gentian, kidney vetch and horseshoe vetch. These in turn are hoped to provide habitat for butterflies including the rare chalkhill blue and small blue. Wood piles provide habitat for spiders, beetles, woodlice and newts.

A regular BBOWT volunteer group provide conservation management of Dancersend, but OCV have assisted in tasks such as building steps to provide good access for visitors and to encourage visitors to stay on the paths. This is important to ensure that the delicate flora and fauna aren't destroyed by visitors trying to enjoy the nature at tbis reserve.


Head from Oxford to Aylesbury, and continue East past Aylesbury on the old A41 (not the bypass) towards Aston Clinton. Take a right turn (B4009) signposted to Wendover and immediate left for Dancersend. Continue for 1 mile then turn right at T-junction. You can park in lay-by after 300m on left or continue for a further 3/4 mile to park at water works, or at Wendover Woods on the Wendover-St Leonards road.