Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

March Site Focus – Explore Morgan's Hill Nature Reserve 

Morgans Hill, Steve Day/ WWT

Morgan’s Hill is one of the highest points in Wiltshire and boasts incredible views of the surrounding county. Walkers and wildlife watchers can enjoy a rewarding backdrop to their climb, spot numerous species of bird using the site or passing over it and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly which feeds on the Devil’s-bit Scabious found here during late summer. Indeed, the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its orchids, butterflies and for the general quality of its grassland.

Visit this month to see clusters of Marsh Fritillary larvae basking in the sun. Don't forget to tell us what you see submit your records via Living Record or download our recording form.

 

Best time to visit: Year round, highlights are spring for emerging Marsh Fritillary larvae, summer for Marsh Fritillary butterfly, Devil’s-bit Scabious, orchids and other butterflies.

Grid ref: SU025672
Area: 12.31 hectares 
 

Species to spot

Marsh Fritillary larvae, Gilles San Martin

Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia In early spring when the larvae re-emerge after winter, clusters of up to 150 can gather to bask in what sun there is. Keep your eyes peeled for this sight at Morgan’s Hill. One particularly memorable year the entire reserve was dotted with larval nests, with the tiny clusters of black caterpillars looking almost like bits of dark wool. As they grew the caterpillars dispersed and a few months later in early June, the reserve was alight with the beautiful yellow and orange checker-board patterned wings as the adult butterflies emerged.

Location

If driving - From Devizes head north along A361 towards Swindon. Take first turning left towards Calne on brow of hill. After a few miles turn right into Smallgrain picnic site, just past the golf course. Walk up grass slope towards the byway, turn right and walk up gently rising slope for 0.5 mile until reserve entrance comes into view. The byway leading to the reserve is deeply rutted and not suitable for wheelchair users. 

If cycling - Warning for cyclists: the road approaching the picnic site is steep, windy, narrow and fast. The nearest designated National cycle route is Regional Route 20, which runs through Heddington, Stockley and towards Calne. 


Read more about Morgan's Hill WWT Nature Reserve.