Brush Hill Nature Reserve The Chiltern Society

A sonic hedge hogger

The blackcap, a type of warbler, enjoys the secrecy provided by larger scrub while hunting for insects at Prestwood Local Nature Reserve. Often favouring dense bramble, the melodic summer song of the male (pictured) has earned it the nickname ‘northern nightingale’.

The female is distinguishable from the male by having a reddish-brown cap. Listen too for their sharp ‘tack’ alarm call. Primarily a summer visitor from Africa, more blackcaps than ever are choosing to overwinter in southern parts of the UK.

What’s in a name?

Amongst the scrub, the spindle tree is inconspicuous for most of the year, but in the autumn its dark red leaves and pink, four-lobed fruits make it much more noticeable. Its dense wood was once used to make the spindles for hand-spinning wool (left), which is how it got its name.


The wide variety of habitats at Prestwood Local Nature reserve is designed to support the maximum possible biodiversity at the site.

Chalk grassland, scrub and deciduous woodland all combine to provide not only a glorious space for people to enjoy, but a perfect place for a wide variety of animal and plant species to prosper.

The complete list

A list (PDF) of species, which may be seen at the Reserve, can be accessed here. Left click to view it in your browser. Right click to download it.

Outstanding displays

From April to the end of August you will be greeted by a stunning array of wild flowers including cowslips (below), field scabious, clustered bellflower and the county plant, Chiltern gentian. Three types of orchid can also be seen.

Wayfairing tree

Wayfaring tree (above), guelder rose and dogwood also thrive on the thin chalk soils at Prestwood Local Nature reserve and are an important part of the habitat, providing nesting sites for birds and cover for other animals. The leaves and flowers are an important food source for many invertebrates including moths, butterflies and bees.

When scrub is cleared, piles of deadwood are stacked along the margins as a habitat for those animals and plants which rely on dead and rotting wood for all or part of their lifecycle –  such as beetles, flies and fungi.