Short-eared owl. Marlborough Downs - David White
Short-eared Owl Marlborough Downs - David White

The breadth of ecological diversity reflects the varied landscape character.

Within the area, there are seven Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), part of the internationally important network of European Natura 2000 sites. Both Pewsey Downs and Fyfield Downs are also National Nature Reserves. They have an outstanding chalk grassland flora and fauna that includes nationally important populations of rare species, including the endemic Early Gentian. The North Wessex Downs contains 66 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) covering 3,330 hectares (or 2% of the area), in addition to many more important sites maintained by wildlife groups and local communities.

We seek to ensure that the characteristic habitats and species of the North Wessex Downs are conserved and enhanced. This includes the following special qualities:

  • Wildlife sites home to rare habitats and species
  • Chalk grassland
  • Arable habitats
  • Broadleaved Woodland and Wood Pasture
  • Rare chalk streams and rivers
  • A rich mosaic of associated wetland habitats
  • Opportunities for landscape scale conservation projects.

The North Wessex Downs Partnership is contributing to a more joined up approach to protecting biodiversity through its involvement in and support for local landscape scale conservation projects and partnerships. The Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Area, Stepping Stones (based around Salisbury Plain) and Winning Ways for Wildlife (North Hampshire) are such examples. Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (known in Oxfordshire as Conservation Target Areas) have been identified and mapped at county level. They are considered to provide the best opportunities for targeted biodiversity enhancements and habitat creation at the landscape scale.

Further information on thebiodiversity of the North Wessex Downs is available in the Management Plan and to download here: