Flora and Fauna
The largely open landscape of the Downs is a result of centuries of grazing by commoners livestock. Management of the Downs today includes hay cutting and grazing; these activities are important as they prevent the open areas turning to woodland.
The Downs is unusual in Herefordshire for having a mix of grasslands with heather and gorse. There are ten ‘red data book’ plant species which are vulnerable and near threatened. These include heather, harebell and devil’s bit scabious.
During the summer the wildflower meadows are awash with yellow rattle and common spotted and marsh orchids and buzzing with bees and butterflies.
On summer evenings after dusk, keep an eye out for the fluorescent green glow of glow worms. The glow is a type of bioluminescence – They can be found in the long grass beside the tracks.
The wildflowers of the Downs provide a haven for many species of bees amongst the surrounding farmland. Look out for the bee and bug hotels on the common which were built by local children.
The Downs are home to many species of butterfly. On sunny summer days look out for orange tips, marbled white, dark-green fritillary and small blues.
The mix of heath, scrub, bracken and open areas on the Downs provides the ideal home for reptiles. The (not so) common lizard, slow worm and grass snake have all been recorded. All reptiles are cold-blooded. In winter they hibernate in burrows and in summer they bask on south facing banks.
Secretive and protected, dormice live in the scrub and woodland on the Downs. Dormice are nocturnal and spend their days sleeping in nests beautifully woven from honeysuckle, grass, moss and leaves. They are active at night when they search for berries, flowers and insects to eat.
The Downs itself is a wildlife hotspot but is also part of an important connected landscape linking National Trust Brockhampton Estate, Bringsty Common, Suckley Hills and on to the Malvern Hills.