Collectively the Avon Gorge, Downs and Leigh Woods are a very special area for wildlife and geology. In fact the Gorge has been internationally recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and nationally designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Part of Leigh Woods is also a National Nature Reserve and the Downs are a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.
SACs are important for habitats and species, which are rare or threatened on a European scale.
The Avon Gorge Woodlands SAC is one of the best examples of Lime-Maple ravine woodland in the UK (only found on the North Somerset side of the Gorge). The Gorge is also recognised for herb-rich limestone or calcareous grasslands which support a high number of nationally rare and scarce species such as Bristol rock-cress, Bristol onion (round-headed leek) and honewort. Limestone grassland is found on both sides of the Gorge.
The Avon Gorge SSSI is one of the principal nature conservation sites in the southwest. It is recognised for its exceptional number of nationally rare plants and for its exposures of Carboniferous Limestone, which are of great geological interest.
To find out more about how these sites are being managed, about the research and monitoring that underpins conservation decisions, and about the history of this changing landscape please click on the buttons below.
Photographs: Bristol rock-cress and goat (© Denice Stout), Gatekeeper butterfly (© Kelly Thomas – Butterfly Conservation), Avon whitebeam (© Libby Houston), Bluebells in Leigh Woods (© Forestry England), Silky wave moth (© Mark Parsons – Butterfly Conservation), Merestones on the Downs (© Patrick Neave – NWBCC). All other photos © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project and Phil Jearey.