Nature Reserves

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Swyncombe Estate, South OxfordshireStreet MapGoogle MapPhotos

Swyncombe Estate
Managed by:Private owner
OS grid reference:SU 684 904
Nearest postcode:RG9 6EA
Usual work:Scrub clearance

Swyncombe Estate consists of over 600 acres of high, mature beech woodland and chalk grassland in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB). This privately-owned site is managed under the Defra Higher Level Stewardship scheme in order to protect and encourage the species-rich habitats at the site that are synonymous with the Chilterns. Swyncombe Estate is absolutely bursting with 'indicator species' like kidney vetch and pyramidal orchids in spring, and it affords stunning views over the chalk downs and the Oxfordshire Plain. OCV has assisted at Swyncombe Estate by removing succession scrub to increase and preserve this chalk grassland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). OCV helps at this site by doing scrub clearance on the chalk grassland to retain the unimproved habitat for a plethora of flora and fauna that are so special to the Chiltern Hills. Since it is privately owned, you should come along to an OCV task at the site if you wish to see it!

Flora and Fauna

Swyncombe estate contains a mixture of broad-leaved woodland, scrub, and chalk grassland. There is a variety of age and species of trees in the woodland as well as a mixture of dense and open areas, the latter being an especially good habitat for invertebrates such as butterflies. The areas of scrub also provide a wealth of habitat and food for fauna at the site, and support native and increasingly rare species such as Juniper. The chalk grasslands support a plethora of flora and fauna such as orchids, gentian, and kidney vetch.

Conservation Management

A classic OCV tea break at Swyncombe

It is important to keep a mixture of dense woodland understorey and open woodland areas. This means that some areas need to be periodically cut in order to ensure the invertebrates that rely on them have areas of sunshine for the majority of the day. A wide variety of woodland habitat can be maintained through felling, coppicing, and thinning trees, particularly the removal of non-native species such as the invasive rhododendrons or Himalayan balsam. This work should be done between August and February to avoid disturbing nesting birds, but also carried out when he ground is not too soft or the ground flora would be disturbed. Many species of flora native to our woodlands require such woodland management because it is the conditions over which they have evolved alongside generations of humans working in harmony with the natural environment. It is important to ensure that public paths are kept safe, but rotting deadwood is ideally left to provide habitat for invertebrates and fungi.

The scrub requires periodic cutting to maintain a patchwork of plants at various stages of growth. For example, hawthorn provides the best habitat for insects and birds during the early and mid stages of growth, and less so as it ages further. Cutting and careful grazing of areas of scrub and the chalk grassland is vital in order to ensure that the areas do not become woodland over time, thereby maintaining a variety of habitat and supporting the fauna that rely on them. The native Juniper scrub must be maintained and encouraged to spread due to its importance as a habitat and its increasing scarcity in England.

It is important that inorganic fertilisers and pesticides aren't used either on or near the site because of the damage these chemicals do to these sensitive habitats.


OCV generally works on the grassland area of Sliding Hill, the western most point of Swyncombe Downs, just south of the village of Watlington. Since it is private land you need to get directions from our email about the specific task, or let us transport you there on our minibus.