Measuring some 40 acres (16 hectares) near Painswick, the reserve consists of ancient beech woodland and meadows.
Part of the Cotswolds Commons and Beechwoods Site of Special Scientific Interest, the beechwood is also recognised at a European level and the whole of Kites Hill falls within the stunning Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The reserve management plan includes gapping up hedgerows, coppicing the hazel woodland and clearing invasive sycamore. In 2009, a pond was created on the reserve – which has proved a magnet for invertebrates such as Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) and moisture loving plants such as Ragged Robin.
Local farmer Michael Drake grazes Aberdeen Angus cattle on the permanent pasture. This keeps the dominant grasses under control and allows Pyramid Orchids, Yellow Rattle and other wild flowers to flourish.
Charlotte Beckham is WLT’s Project Officer for Kites Hill. She explains the importance of the reserve to the Trust: “Kites Hill is World Land Trust’s only UK reserve and it offers the perfect opportunity for the Trust to contribute to nature conservation in Britain. The reserve is ideal for conservation as it has several different, typically English habitats all together in a relatively small location.”
Education and community
Both WLT and TCV value the educational and community aspects of the reserve. In September 2014, for example, TCV volunteers installed new interpretation panels provided by WLT. The panels illustrate three different habitats at the reserve: woodland, meadows and pond.
“I am very pleased that the panels are now in place at the reserve. We designed them not only to encourage walkers and other visitors to spot tracks and signs of wildlife but also to provide information about some of the management practices, such as coppicing, which vistors will see at the reserve,” explained Charlotte.
Holly Paton first came to Kites Hill as a volunteer. Today she is TCV’s Project Officer and coordinates a group of local volunteers who carry out regular conservation work on the reserve.
She loves the reserve: “It’s amazing. One of the reasons is it’s so close to the city centre: 10 minutes from the city centre and you can be here – in the middle of nowhere. You could be a million miles away, and you can’t hear anything except buzzards and the wind in the trees.”
The beech trees at Kites Hill are particularly beautiful in the autumn when the leaves are turning colour. Visitors are particularly welcome at this time of year. Entrance to the reserve is free.
WLT is very grateful to all the donors who supported developments at Kites Hill including Sykes Cottages, the businesses that contributed to the Cotswold Visitor Giving scheme and all those who donated images for the interpretation panels.
The ownership of Kites Hill passed to WLT in 1999 at the request of Miss Jane Pointer who gifted it to the Trust during her lifetime as a living legacy. Miss Pointer died in January 2014 and it has since been confirmed that she has made WLT the primary beneficiary to her will.