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Willsbridge Valley local nature reserve

The valley is a hidden gem with accessible walks leading to Willsbridge Mill, a restored 19th century corn mill and long barn. The reserve attracts hundreds of visitors each year with both adults and children using the site for education and recreation – walking, exercising dogs and informal pond-dipping are the most popular activities.

About the reserve

The nature reserve contains a number of valuable habitats, including Siston Brook, four ponds, mature woodland – some of which formed part of the old Kingswood Forest, grassland, scrub and a wildlife garden.

The woodland is mainly of native species of tree and shrub, particularly ash and elder. Willow is found along the banks of the brook and there are sycamore and mature oak trees on the slopes of the valley. An area of hazel was planted in 1983 and coppiced, with the wood being used to create dead hedges (fences made of bushy cuttings).

The unimproved neutral, slightly acidic grassland is rich in meadow plants including Lousewort. There are anthills in the meadows.

The scrub includes bramble, a large copse of wild cherry, and self-seeded ash. The area is an important nesting site for nightingales.

The whole site is highly valuable for a whole range of birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians.

Access for all

The reserve has accessible parking at its entrance on Willsbridge Hill and a number of routes are suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, including the popular wildlife garden. Other paths leading towards the Dramway, contain steep gradients but are well surfaced. The Walking for Health team have produced a heritage walks leaflet which takes in the woodland valley.

Become an eco-volunteer

The nature reserve is managed by two organisations. Avon Wildlife Trust manages the land from St. Annes down to Willsbridge Mill. Community Refresh are working with us to refurbish the barn and mill and look after the land within the curtilage of the buildings. The group runs events and a café – providing a perfect stopping off point on your walk around the valley.

Things to look out for:

  • the colourful dragonflies darting across the ponds
  • tawny owls as they make their territories in the autumn
  • blue tits feeding from homemade seed dispensers
  • primroses in the wildlife garden in spring
  • bats flying around the grassland in search for moths

Getting there

On foot: A number of public rights of way, including the Dramway enter the reserve, with the main entrances along Beach Road and on Willsbridge Hill.

By bicycle: Willsbridge Mill is situated close to the Bristol and Bath Railway Path and Bitton Railway Station. A five minute ride from the station will get you to the reserve.

Bus: Bus services are available in the area with stops along Long Beach Road. Contact Traveline for further information on bus services on 0870 608 2608.

Car: The official car park for the reserve is situated along Long Beach Road. From there the mill is a short walk through the wooded valley. A car park for disabled visitors is situated closer to the Mill.  This is signposted off Willsbridge Hill near a layby.

Site status: Local nature reserve, designated site of nature conservation interest, Forest of Avon gateway

Site owner: South Gloucestershire Council (leased/licensed to Community Refresh and Avon Wildlife Trust)

Local planning authority: South Gloucestershire Council

Area: 3.8 hectares

Grid reference: ST 665 708

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