Wildflower highlights in the South West

The landscape of Britain is bursting with life during spring and summer, with a remarkable array of wildflowers.

Here in the South West, we look after 16,000 hectares of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as seven National Nature Reserves, many of which are incredibly rich for wildflowers.

Read on to find out where the best places to see wildflowers are.

    Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Dorset

    Wild flowers at Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Dorset

    The rolling chalk downlands of Fontmell and Melbury provide a rich habitat for a variety of wildflowers. Take a look for an array of ochids such as common spotted, fragrant, bee and pyramidal. In the short turf and on the antihills, chalk milkwort, wild thyme and the wonderfully named squinancywort grow.

    The chalk downlands of Salcombe on the south Devon coast, and at Stonehenge Landscape are other great places to see downland wildflowers.

    Golden Cap hay meadows, Dorset

    Wildflower meadow in the Bower at Sheringham Park.Norfolk

    Since the introduction of modern farming methods and the increased use of fertilisers, we've seen a dramatic loss of flower-rich meadows. However, all is not lost as there are some fantastic hay meadows out there for you to discover.

    The hay meadows of Golden Cap come alive in summer with Green-winged Orchid, knapweeds and Adder's-tongue Fern.

    The meadows of Hartland Moor and Middlebere on the Corfe Castle estate is also worth a visit.

    Leigh Woods, Somerset

    A close up of a Bristol Rock-cress flower

    On the plateau above Avon Gorge, the broadleaf woodland of Leigh Woods is home to many native trees and flowering plants. Some. such as Wilmott's Whitebeam and Bristol Rock-cress. only occur in the Avon Gorge.

    Springtime brings an abundance of bluebells and wood anemones, while the summer months offer relaxing, shady walks. The red and golden hues of autumn, combined with an interesting array of fungi, are particularly beautiful.

    Other woods to visit for their wild flowers include Woodchester Park in Gloucestershire, Castle Drogo in Devon and Holt Heath, within the Kingston Lacy estate, in Dorset.

    Holnicote heath, Somerset

    Heather and Gorse

    The lower slopes of Dunkery Hill support lowland heath – a mix of Western gorse, bristle bent grass and bell heather. On the higher slopes around Dunkery Beacon you'll see upland heather moorland, where heather and bilberry (or whortleberry) dominate.

    The heaths in the Quantock Hills in Somerset and Carn Galver/West Penwith in Cornwall also produce beautiful displays of wild flowers, such as Dodder, Bog Asphodel, sundews and a variety of heathers.

    Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire

    A bee

    The limestone grasslands of Rodborough Commons allow wild flowers to thrive here. The waves of Early Purple, Spotted, Fragrant and Pyramidal orchids, along with the profusion of colourful flowers such as Rockrose, Bird's-foot Trefoil and vetches are a sight to behold.

    Sand Point and Middle Hope in Somerset is also home to lots of lime-loving flowers.

    Studland sand dunes, Dorset

    Sunset over the dunes

    The sand dunes behind Studland's Knoll beach lead into large tracts of heathland which support swathes of wild flowers and has the most per acre in Britain. Look out for Yellow Horned-poppy, Sea-Holly and Marsh Helleborine.

    Other must-see sand dunes include Holywell Bay in North Cornwall and Woolacombe Beach in North Devon.

    The Lizard, Cornwall

    The pink and white flowers of thrift form a carpet in a sunny spot on the entrance route at Glendurgan

    The Lizard coastline on a sunny day in May is hard to beat, with the blue, white and pink of spring squill, sea campion and thrift carpeting the slopes. The scarce and unusual plants are particularly interesting, such as the dwarf rush and land quillwort.

    Also worth a visit is Heddon Valley, on the north Devon coast, and Fowey Estuary to Pencarrow Head in Cornwall.

Take a look at our other wildlife guides: