Extraordinarily special

Grazing cattle are great for encouraging wildflowers

Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons are home to some of the country's very best wildlife. They're of international importance for their limestone grassland and the rare and diverse species that can be found. They're two of over 4,000 places in England designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is a designation for an area which is of special interest because of its fauna, flora or geology. These areas are very sensitive and are extremely important for conservation.

Why are the Commons so important?

The Commons also lie within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Rodborough Common has a particularly rich flora and fauna and has been given additional European protection as a Special Area of Conservation.

More than a hundred species of grasses and wildflowers have been recorded, including rare orchids and over 30 species of butterfly, including one of the largest populations of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly in the country.

Dotted bee flies love heavily grazed areas
Dotted bee flies love heavily grazed areas
Dotted bee flies love heavily grazed areas

Wildlife on the Commons

The distinctive habitat on the Commons makes it perfect for butterflies, birds, adders and wildflowers.

Many different types of butterfly can be found on the Commons - from the striking green hairstreak to the marbled white. Some, like the small blue and brown argus butterflies prefer the heavily grazed areas where the grass is shorter while others prefer longer grass on lightly grazed areas. This is the ideal habitat for the ringlet and marbled white butterflies.

There's an abundance of wildflowers too. The very rare pasqueflower can be found flowering in spring. It's so rare it can now only be found in just a few chalk and limestone grasslands. Later in the year, you can see bee orchids flowering between June and July.

Bee orchids flower during the summer
Bee orchids flower during the summer
Bee orchids flower during the summer

Just a few decades ago, the sky above the Commons was filled with the sound of skylarks singing. Sadly, although they can still be heard, numbers of skylarks have fallen. They build their nests on the ground making them susceptible to disturbance.

Caring for a SSSI

The unique and varied habitats on SSSIs, and the important wildlife they support, need very careful management. Cattle graze the grasslands at particular times of the year, helping to create swards of different lengths.

Although an important habitat, if left unmanaged scrub can be invasive. We remove areas where it's encroaching onto the fragile grasslands.

Everyone's responsibility

We all have a part to play in helping to protect the Commons and other Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It's an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy these areas and to recklessly disturb the wildlife.

You can help us to keep the Commons special by not doing anything that may damage them.