Fairmile Bottom Local Nature Reserve and site of special scientific interest contains chalk grassland and yew and beech woodland. Chalk grassland is one of our richest natural habitats, traditionally managed by grazing. Nationally about 80% has been lost in the last 60 years, so this is an important site.
It is rich in flowers, including scented wild herbs such as basil, thyme and marjoram. Ten orchid species have been found here, including Bee, Pyramidal and Fly. Other colourful finds include Small Scabious and delicate nodding harebells.
Butterflies include Silver-washed Fritillary, Grizzled Skipper and White Admiral. The grassland buzzes with grasshoppers. The anthills in the grassland and decaying branches in the surrounding trees make this a great place to see Green Woodpeckers.
As well as yew and European beech, the woodland features oaks, ash, coppiced hazel and sweet chestnut. A range of impressive fungi thrive on the woodland’s decaying matter. A rare species of flat bark beetle depends on the beech trees and is known from just a handful of sites in the UK.
We have reintroduced traditional cattle grazing to conserve this site's special downland flora and fauna, characteristic of the South Downs National Park. Cattle can be found grazing at the site from August to December.
The grassland area is Open Access land and can be walked around freely. There are no surfaced paths and the terrain is sloping. Towards the top of the slope is a well-trodden route for walking the full length of the grassland area. A public footpath leads into the south-west end of the grassland from Rewell Wood.
Dogs should be kept under close control to avoid disturbance to other visitors and wildlife.
Parking for this site is in lay-bys on the A29. There is a site information board by one of the lower gates onto the grassland, adjacent to the A29.
There are no toilets or other facilities on the site. Whiteways Countryside Site is just up the A29 at Whiteways roundabout, with car park, picnic site, Whiteways Café and toilets.
Footpaths from Fairmile Bottom continue into Rewell Wood to the south and east and Houghton Forest to the north-east.