Butterfly Conservation Area, Cleeve HillParks & Walks
- All the family
- Under 5s
- School age
The Prestbury Hill Butterfly Reserve adjoins Cleeve Common - which covers most of Cleeve Hill, the highest point of the Cotswolds. This is one of the most extensive areas of limestone grassland in the Cotswolds, encompassing surrounding areas of private farmland as well.
Some 30 species of butterfly are resident on the reserve and migrants also frequently occur.
There are also lots of visiting bird species. Open farmland species like Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush and Cuckoo can be seen and heard in summer. Scrub like gorse
is ideal for nesting Yellowhammers and Stonechats. Kestrel and Buzzard are common sights hunting over the slopes, and Red Kites are increasingly making an appearance.
Typical migrating and wintering birds include Wheatear and Redstart, Fieldfare and Redwing.
Insect life is plentiful and evident in all parts but still much un-recorded. The larvae of glow worms are a springtime spectacle and the sward in summer is alive with
grasshoppers and crickets.
The strong rabbit population plays an important role by keeping scrub in check and areas of grass short all year round. However, they are vulnerable to myxomatosis and
Hares are always few in number but a delight to see. Foxes, Badgers, Stoats and Weasels are at home here and Roe deer common throughout the area.
The stony ground and scrub cover provide ideal conditions for Adders. They can often be seen in the spring having discarded their skins after hibernation. Slow-worms,
Common Lizards and Grass Snakes are also present.
The Reserve is on the Cotswold escarpment north-east of Cheltenham, along the narrow lane from Aggs Hill and Whittington leading to the Radio Masts and southern entrance
to Cleeve Common. This access lane is single-track and a dead-end with restricted turning area.
The parking and entrances for the Bill Smyllie reserve are at postcode GL54 4EU.
Details above from Butterfly Conservation charity. Find out more in this PDF
A family walk from Cate Hamilton
Pushchair friendly? Off road pushchairs
Parking: park in one of the laybys along the road leading up to Cleeve Common car park, and then walk along to the sign for Upper Hill Farm. The footpath starts opposite the entrance to the farm. Word of warning: there will probably be a few cars passing you on the road, and there is no footpath until you leave the main road at the footpath.
This is a lovely little walk that includes a great view of Cheltenham, chance to spot some of the many butterflies, a wooded area, and opportunities for a longer walk if everyone is in the right mood. It's not so much about the distance, as about the chance to play and see the view, so it could be a short visit or a longer one, depending on the kind of day you are having. There is a rope swing in the wood that is suitable for older children, but our smaller ones enjoyed running up and down the slope next to it. We saw lots of lovely wildflowers too.
I haven't tried the route with a pushchair, but it could work if you have an off-road pushchair as there is a track down to the wood, and the wood itself is easy to navigate.