Wildlife in Leigh Woods

Wilmotts whitebeam in Leigh Woods

The city of Bristol can still be seen from the edge of Leigh Woods, but despite its proximity to this urban hub, wildlife thrives here.

Leigh woods is of very high nature conservation value, being designated as a National Nature Reserve and forming a significant part of the Avon Gorge Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Avon Gorge Woodlands Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

An exceptional number of Nationally Rare and Nationally Scarce plant and insect species are found here. You can help us to protect them by keeping to the paths, not lighting fires and taking litter home with you. 


The caves and veteran trees provide valuable winter roosts for seven of the seventeen UK bat species, including the rare greater and lesser horseshoe bats and Daubenton’s bat. Look out for them at dusk.


Leigh Woods is a very rich site for insects, including pauper pug and silky wave moths and white letter hairstreak butterfly.  Many Nationally Rare and Nationally Scarce beetles, thrive here on the deadwood habitats provided by the veteran trees and woodland floor, these insects rely on rotting deadwood to complete their life cycle.  The false darkling beetle is one of these, which is of Near Threatened status in the UK.

Animals and reptiles

Animals such as roe deer, fox and many species of mice and vowls live here.  Grass snakes are sometimes spotted, we are currently carrying out a survey, to better understand the size of the population and where they hunt.  If you are lucky enough to see one on your visit please let us know..


The woods are home to a good variety of birds including the Red List (threatened) bullfinch, marsh tit and song thrush. Peregrine falcon and ravens breed in the Avon Gorge, listen out for their calls.


Leigh Woods is known for its exceptionally rich limestone rock flora which includes nationally rare plants such as Bristol rock-cress and western spiked speedwell. Honewort, fingered sedge, dwarf sedge, dwarf mouse-ear, and rock stone crop are also rarities that can be found in the area.

Little–robin and lesser meadow-rue, both of restricted national distribution, have been recorded at the gorge, fly orchid and bee orchid have also been recorded here. Angular Solomon’s seal occurs in the woodland.

The whitebeams of Leigh Woods

The Avon Gorge is probably the richest site for whitebeams in the world, there are several species which only grow here. The National Nature Reserve is a very important site for these whitebeams, for example it has a large percentage of the population of three endemic species: Bristol whitebeam, Leigh Woods whitebeam and Wilmott’s whitebeam.


The Whitebeams of Cheddar Gorge & Leigh Woods

Brian Muelaner explores Cheddar Gorge & Leigh Woods and learns of the discovery of new Whitebeam species.