Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

July Site Focus – Explore Bentley Wood SSSI

Woodland bluebells, Steve Day/ WWT

Bentley Wood, together with the adjacent Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Reserve Blackmoor Copse, forms one of the largest contiguous areas of woodland in Wiltshire. The area is particularly noted for woodland butterflies, and is now one of the top sites in the country for this species group. Bentley Wood is large mixed woodland and its importance as a key butterfly site is nationally recognised, and reinforced through its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Bentley Wood is also extremely important for moths, with over three hundred species once recorded. Notable species include the Rosy Footman, Phoenix, Leopard, Scallop Shell, Lunar Spotted Pinion, White Satin, Festoon, Scarce Burnished Brass, Olive, Maple Mocha, Beautiful Carpet and several species of hawkmoth.

Dragonflies such as Emperor Dragonflies, Southern Hawkers and Broad-Bodied Chasers can also be spotted in the warmer months. The pools where Large Red and Azure damselflies are found in small numbers are also home to Frogs and Toads, and masses of frogspawn in spring.

Download our ID guide for summer woodland butterflies to help you identify what you see. Don't forget to tell us what you see via Living Record, or download our recording sheet to print out and return to us with your sightings.

Best time to visit: July for Purple Emperors; spring and summer for butterflies.
Grid ref: SU250295
Area: 655 hectares  

Species to spot

Purple Emperor, WSBRC/ John Notman

Purple Emperor - Apatura iris July in Bentley Wood belongs to the Purple Emperor. This spectacular butterfly is rarely seen due to their liking for the lofty canopy of deciduous woodland. However Bentley Wood in July is a particularly good spot to see them as they feed upon tree sap and sometimes come down to feed in muddy puddles, carrion and dung. One of Britain’s largest butterflies with the wingspan reaching up to 85mm, only the males have the iridescent purple sheen, the result of light refracted from structures of wing scales, which can only be seen when they are held at certain angles to the sun.

Don’t forget to send us any records of your sightings.


Bentley Wood is situated on the eastern edge of Wiltshire but its south eastern corner is just within Hampshire. There are a number of entrance ways to Bentley Wood that can be accessed, depending on where you are travelling from; the car park mentioned above, where purple emperors are often seen, is reached from the Tytherley road (SU263292), follow the track in for 1/4 mile until you reach the small car park on the right. Here there is a notice board including a notebook during peak butterfly periods.

Map of Bentley Wood.

View Site Focus - Where to visit this month in a larger map