Size: 8ha

Ownership: Ministry of Defence

Designation: SPA, SSSI

Restrictions: Open access land, please keep dogs on a lead.

Access: Along track past Deers Hut Pub

Grid ref: SU 81830 30855

Forming part of the Woolmer Forest SSSI, West Weavers Down is an important lowland heathland site supporting all six native reptile species.

The reserve

A dry heathland habitat, West Weavers Down is situated in the south east corner of Woolmer Forest SSSI. The vegetation is dominated by common heather or ling, with bell heather whilst dwarf gorse and small birch trees provide scattered scrub. This is interspersed with occasional impressive mature birch and pine trees, which contribute to the vegetative structure providing additional habitat complexity.

The site’s sun-catching southerly aspect provides excellent basking opportunities for reptiles and invertebrates. Weavers Down supports all six UK species of reptile: adder, grass snake, smooth snake, slow worm, viviparous lizard and sand lizard. It is also of exceptional entomological interest, supporting nationally rare species such as the long-fringed mining bee (Andrena congruens), the wasp Psen spooneri, and the mottled bee-fly (Thyridanthrax fenestratus).

Sand lizard reintroduction

The sand lizards at West Weavers Down are a result of a successful reintroduction project led by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Although historically present on the site, they became extinct in the latter half of the 20th century, primarily as a result of unsympathetic management. Juvenile captive-bred lizards were released on the site in the late 1970s as part of a national strategy to reintroduce sand lizards throughout their former range. ARC now manage West Weavers Down specifically for sand lizards, ensuring open areas of bare sand where the lizards can burrow and lay eggs in the summer, thereby ensuring  the persistence of this nationally rare species.  

What to see

  • Sand lizards continue to thrive at Weavers Down after their reintroduction. Look out for males in full breeding colour, with bright green flanks, during April and early May as they attempt to attract females.
  • A rich and diverse array of heathland invertebrates, including solitary wasps, bee-flies, dragonflies and damselflies.
  • Heathland specialist birds, such as woodland and stonechat. The stonechat gets its name from its call, which resembles two pebbles being struck together.