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Wildlife at Leigh Woods

Yearling Roe deer buck at Castle Drogo, Devon
Look out for roe deer in the wood during your visit | © National Trust Images / Mick Jones

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. An exceptional number of Nationally Rare and Nationally Scarce plant and insect species are found here, and it’s one of the richest sites for the whitebeam tree in the entire world.

A protected place

Leigh Woods is of very high nature conservation value, being designated 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).

Animals at Leigh Woods


The caves and veteran trees provide valuable winter roosts for seven of the UK’s 17 bat species, including the rare greater and lesser horseshoe bats and Daubenton’s bat. Look out for the bats darting around at dusk.

Insect life

Leigh Woods is rich in insect life, including pauper pug and silky wave moths, and white letter hairstreak butterfly.

Many nationally rare and nationally scarce beetles thrive on the deadwood habitats provided by the veteran trees and woodland floor, relying on rotting deadwood to complete their life cycle. The false darkling beetle, which is of near threatened status in the UK, is one of these.

Read more about how the National Trust looks after the veteran trees at Leigh Woods.

Deer, foxes and snakes

Animals such as roe deer, fox and many species of mice and vole live here. Grass snakes are sometimes spotted, and a survey is currently under way to better understand the size of the population and where they hunt. Please do let us know if you are lucky enough to see one on your visit.


The woods are home to a variety of birds including threatened bullfinches, marsh tits and song thrushes. Peregrine falcon and ravens breed in the Avon Gorge, so listen out for their calls.

Song Thrush singing, perching at the top of a Hawthorn tree in spring
Song Thrush singing, perching at the top of a Hawthorn tree in spring | © National Trust Images / John Malley

Flora at Leigh Woods

Leigh Woods is known for its exceptionally rich limestone rock flora which include 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, and fly orchid and bee orchid have also been recorded here. In the woodland, you find Angular Solomon’s seal.

The whitebeams of Leigh Woods

The Avon Gorge is one of the richest sites for whitebeams in the entire world and there are several species of this elusive tree which only grow here.

Leigh Woods is a very important site for these whitebeams, it has a large percentage of the population of three species: Bristol whitebeam, Leigh Woods whitebeam and the especially rare Wilmott’s whitebeam.

You can distinguish between these by the shape of their leaves and the fact that the rarer the whitebeam, the less veins will appear on back of the leaf.

How can I help protect Leigh Woods?

You can help us to protect them by keeping to the paths, not lighting fires, and taking litter home with you.

A bench in Leigh Woods, Bristol

Discover Leigh Woods

Find out how to get to Leigh Woods, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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Things for families to do at Leigh Woods 

From bug-hunting to puddle jumping, and even a wild adventure trail, there’s lots for families to see and do at this National Nature Reserve within a stone’s throw of Bristol.

Victoria Stanfield (Area Ranger), Carole Burnett (Lead Ranger) and Hilary McGrady (Director General) walking at Leigh Woods, near Bristol.

Our vital work at Leigh Woods 

From looking after veteran trees, through cattle grazing programmes, to combatting ash dieback, learn how Leigh Woods is being cared for by the National Trust.

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Outdoor activities at Leigh Woods 

Explore the outdoors at this wildlife-rich woodland playground which boasts running, walking and mountain biking trails, and its own orienteering course.