Plants & Trees

Leckhampton Hill & Charlton Kings Common is of considerable biological importance in a local, regional and national context, principally due to the extent of the ‘unimproved limestone grassland’* and for the presence of nationally scarce species.  As a result much of the site has been designated as a Site Of Special Scientific Interest.

* The Cotswolds AONB organisation defines ‘unimproved limestone grassland’ as: wildflower rich grassland that has not been affected by modern farming methods. The grassland has not been ‘improved’ with fertilizer or herbicides or reseeded to produce more grass for agriculture. It is found on shallow, free draining and alkaline soils.

As well as the unimproved limestone grassland, the other principal habitats on the Hill and Common are scrub and woodland, with scree and rock faces being subsidiary habitats.

An article on the biodiversity on the site can be found on page 6 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 09 September 2002.

In their 1957 history of the village, the Leckhampton Women’s Institute included an article on the local flora and fauna which has been repeated on page 5 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 58 Winter 2018 along with some commentary on changes that have occurred over the 61 years since then.  Further commentary on this will be included in the Spring 2019 newsletter.

The following provides a snapshot of the plants and trees on the site.


Unimproved limestone grassland is the most important and extensive feature on the site and is an important wildlife habitat because it sustains a wide range of plants and invertebrates such as butterflies and rare snails.   The main area of grassland is to be found on the open area of Charlton Kings Common which is grazed by the Dexter cattle.

Charlton-Kings-Common-2006-1a Dexter-Cattle-3a

Cheltenham Borough Council’s document ‘Leckhampton Hill and Charlton Kings Common Management Plan’, Issue 2, April 2003 (which can be found at CBC 2003 Management Plan) identified that this grassland consists mainly of  tor-grass and upright brome with meadow oatgrass, sweet vernal grass and quaking grass.

Tor-grassUpright-bromeMeadow-oat-grass Sweet-vernal-grass Quaking-grass

It also identified that there were herb species present including salad burnet, common rock rose and common bird’s foot trefoil, and,…

Salad-burnet Common-Rock-RoseCommon-birds-foot-trefoil

…in addition, some plants that are scarce at local, county or national level, such as fly orchid, purple milk vetch and the nationally scarce musk orchid were also present.

Fly-Orchid-DSC_0569 Purple-milk-vetch Musk-Orchid

Articles on grasses and wild flowers found in grassland can be found on: page 6 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 20 Summer 2005 (grasses); page 5 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 46 Autumn 2014 (Hemp Agrimony); page 5 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 35 Autumn 2010 (wild flowers); page 5 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 11 March 2003 (orchids).


There is extensive scrub development over parts of the site.  These are found on both the Leckhampton Hill and the Charlton Kings Common areas.

The density of scrub across the site is variable with some areas being relatively lightly scrubbed whilst others have a high density and are potentially developing into woodland.  Some of the scrub areas support a limestone grassland herb layer.  In other areas the grassland has been shaded out and hence a management regime of cutting is required to stop it dominating the more important grassland too much.

Two principal types of scrub can be distinguished: mixed broadleaf scrub dominated by hawthorn with blackthorn, bramble and wild rose; and gorse scrub consisting of gorse with occasional pockets of ash regeneration.  The scrub provides a food source for nesting birds, such as meadow pipit and grasshopper warbler, and also shelter for invertebrates and small mammals.

IMG_2592-Mixed-Scrub IMG_2599-Gorse

Although limestone grassland is the main nature conservation value of the site, scrub is also an important habitat that deserves to be conserved.  Various species of plants, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and fungi are associated with scrub, or use it at some stage of their life cycle.  Insects dominate this list, with different species using scrub for purposes such as: a source of plant food, ranging from pollen to dead wood; shelter from inclement conditions; a nesting or egg-laying site; an over-wintering site or a site to warm up in the sun after cold periods.  Many species will only be found in certain types of scrub, of a particular age and condition and in an appropriate location.

Thus it would be inappropriate to remove all shrubby vegetation just as it would be disastrous to allow scrub to occupy too much of the site.  However, scrub cannot be left to its own device as ageing scrub may lack some features essential to some of the key species and can develop into woodland.  The answer is that scrub should be managed to maintain a dynamic, changing system.

Articles on scrub can be found on: pages 4-5 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 36 Spring 2011 (general); page 4 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 22 Winter 2005 (bramble); page 8 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 21 Autumn 2005 (gorse).


An element of broadleaved and coniferous woodland occurs on the site with the Leckhampton Hill side of the site being the principal woodland area.  The woodland includes stands of mature beech, secondary ash woodland, Hazel coppice and conifer plantations.

IMG_2580-Beech-Woodland IMG_2585-Ash-Trees IMG_2601-Hazel-Coppice

Ash is a particularly predominant woodland species that is a prolific spreader of seeds which result in many ash saplings growing which can impact on the grassland.  Again, it is necessary to manage this impact by regularly removing seeded ash saplings.

Ash_sapling_growth Ash_Sapling_Clearance

Articles on trees can be found on: page 4 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 35 Autumn 2010 (general); page 6 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 19 Spring 2005 (ash); page 3 of FOLK Newsletter Issue 18 Winter 2004 (general).

Further Detail

For further details see Cheltenham Borough Council’s document ‘Leckhampton Hill and Charlton Kings Common Management Plan’, Issue 2, April 2003 which can be found at CBC 2003 Management Plan

In addition, two detailed lists of plants and trees identified in botanical surveys undertaken in 2002 and 2014 are provided below.

2002 Survey 

The following list provides a full account of those species found on the whole site (including Leckhampton Hill, Charlton Kings Common, Daisybank Field and Cowslip Meadow) during a botanical survey undertaken in June/July 2002 as input to Cheltenham Borough Council’s 2003 Management Plan for Leckhampton Hill and Charlton Kings Common.

Scientific Name Common Name
Acer campestre Field maple
Acer pseudoplatanus Sycamore
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Acinos arvensis Basil thyme
Agrimonia eupatoria Hemp agrimony
Agrostis stolonifera Creeping bent
Ajuga reptans Bugle
Allium ursinum Ramsons
Alopercurus pratensis Meadow foxtail
Anacamptis pyramidalis Pyramidal orchid
Anthoxathum odoratum Sweet vernal grass
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow parsley
Arctium minus Lesser burdock
Arenaria serpyllifolia Thyme-leaved sandwort
Arrhenatherum elatius False oat grass
Arum maculatum Lords and ladies
Bellis perennis Daisy
Betula pendula Silver birch
Blackstonia perfoliata Yellow wort
Brachypodium pinnatum Tor grass
Brachypodium sylvaticum False brome
Briza media Quaking grass
Bromus erectus Upright brome
Bromus mollis Soft brome
Calystegia sepium Hedge bindweed
Carex caryophyllea Spring sedge
Carex flacca Glaucous sedge
Centaurea nigra Black knapweed
Centaurea scabiosa Greater knapweed
Centranthus ruber Red valerian
Cephalanthera damasonium White helleborine orchid
Cerastium fontanum Common mouse ear
Chamaenerion angustifolium Rosebay willowherb
Cirsium acaule Stemless thistle
Cirsium arvense Creeping thistle
Cirsium eriophorum Woolly thistle
Cirsium vulgare Spear thistle
Clematis vitalba Traveller’s joy
Corylus aveellana Hazel
Cotoneaster sp. Cotoneaster
Crataegus monogyna Common hawthorn
Cynosurus cristata Crested dog’s tail
Dactylis glomerata Cocksfoot
Dactylorhiza fuchsii Common spotted orchid
Dryopteris felix-mas Male fern
Echium vulgare Viper’s bugloss
Epipactis helleborine Broad-leaved helleborine orchid
Euphrasia sp. Eyebright sp.
Fagus sylvatica Beech
Festuca ovina Sheep’s fescue
Festuca rubra Red fescue
Filipendula vulgaris Dropwort
Fragaria vesca Wild strawberry
Fraxinus excelsior Ash
Galium aparine Cleavers
Galium cruciata Crosswort
Galium mollugo Hedge bedstraw
Galium verum Lady’s bedstraw
Geranium robertianum Herb Robert
Geum urbanum Herb Bennett
Hedera helix Ivy
Helianthemum nummularium Common rock rose
Helictotrichon pratense Meadow oat grass
Herachleum sphondylium Hogweed
Herminium monorchis Musk orchid
Hieracium pilosella Mouse-ear hawkweed
Hieracium sp. Hawkweed sp.
Hippocrepis comosa Horseshoe vetch
Holcus lanatus Yorkshire fog
Hypericum perforatum Perforate St John’s wort
Hypocaeris radicata Common cat’s ear
Koeleria macrantha Crested hair-grass
Leontodon sp. Hawkbit species
Leucanthemum vulgare Ox-eye daisy
Ligustrum vulgare Wild privet
Linum cartharticum Fairy flax
Listera ovata Common twayblade orchid
Lolium perenne Perennial rye grass
Lotus corniculatus Bird’s foot trefoil
Malus sylvestris Wild apple
Mercurialis perennis Dog’s mercury
Mentha aquatica Water mint
Odontites verna Red bartsia
Ophrys apifera Bee orchid
Ophrys insectifera Fly orchid
Phleum pratense Timothy grass
Pimpinella saxifraga Burnet saxifrage
Plantago lanceolata Ribwort plantain
Plantago major Greater plantain
Plantago media Hoary plantain
Poa pratensis Smooth meadow grass
Poa trivialis Rough meadow grass
Polygala vulgaris Common milkwort
Potentilla anserina Silverweed
Potentilla erecta Tormentil
Primula veris Cowslip
Prunella vulgaris Selfheal
Prunus spinosa Blackthorn
Quercus robur Pedunculate oak
Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous buttercup
Ranunculus repens Creeping buttercup
Rhinanthus minor Yellow or hay rattle
Rhodedendron ponticum Rhodedendron
Rosa arvensis Field rose
Rosa canina Dog rose
Rubus fruticosus Bramble
Rumex acetosa Sorrel
Salix capraea Goat willow
Salix cinerea Grey willow
Sambucus nigra Elder
Sanguisorba minor Salad burnet
Sanicula europaea Sanicle
Senecio jacobaea Common ragwort
Silene dioica Red campion
Silene vulgaris Bladder campion
Stachys officinalis Betony
Succisa pratensis Devil’s bit scabious
Tamus communis Black bryony
Taraxacum officinale Dandelion agg.
Teucrium scorodonia Wood sage
Thymus praecox Wild thyme
Tragopogon pratensis Goatsbeard
Trifolium campestre Hop trefoil
Trifolium dubium Lesser trefoil
Trifolium pratense Red clover
Trifolium repens White clover
Trisetum flavescens Yellow meadow grass
Ulex europaeus Common gorse
Urtica dioica Nettle
Veronica chamaedrys Germander speedwell
Viburnum lanata Wayfaring tree
Vicia sepium Bush vetch
Viola hirta Hairy violet

2014 Survey

The following list records those species identified during a botanical survey undertaken by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust on Cowslip Meadow in June 2014.

Scientific Name Common Name
Acer campestre Field Maple
Anacamptis pyramidalis Pyramidal Orchid
Anthoxanthum odoratum Sweet Vernal-grass
Bellis perennis Daisy
Brachypodium pinnatum Heath False-brome
Briza media Quaking-grass
Bromopsis erecta Upright Brome
Carex flacca Glaucous Sedge
Centaurea scabiosa Greater Knapweed
Cerastium fontanum Common Mouse-ear
Cirsium acaule Dwarf Thistle
Cirsium arvense Creeping Thistle
Cirsium eriophorum Woolly Thistle
Clematis vitalba Traveller’s-joy
Clinopodium vulgare Wild Basil
Convolvulus arvensis Field Bindweed
Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn
Cruciata laevipes Crosswort
Dactylis glomerata Cock’s-foot
Dactylorhiza fuchsii Common Spotted-orchid
Festuca pratensis Meadow Fescue
Fraxinus excelsior Ash
Geranium pratense Meadow Crane’s-bill
Heracleum sphondylium Hogweed
Holcus lanatus Yorkshire-fog
Hypericum hirsutum Hairy St John’s-wort
Hypericum maculatum Imperforate St John’s-wort
Hypericum perforatum Perforate St John’s-wort
Knautia arvensis Field Scabious
Lathyrus pratensis Meadow Vetchling
Leontodon hispidus Rough Hawkbit
Leucanthemum vulgare Oxeye Daisy
Neottia ovata Common Twayblade
Lotus corniculatus Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil
Medicago lupulina Black Medick
Origanum vulgare Wild Marjoram
Plantago lanceolata Ribwort Plantain
Plantago major Greater Plantain
Plantago media Hoary Plantain
Poa pratensis Smooth Meadow-grass
Potentilla anserina Silverweed
Potentilla erecta Tormentil
Primula veris Cowslip
Ranunculus acris Meadow Buttercup
Ranunculus repens Creeping Buttercup
Rhinanthus minor Yellow-rattle
Rosa Rose
Rubus fruticosus agg. Bramble
Sanguisorba minor Salad Burnet
Senecio jacobaea Common Ragwort
Silene dioica Red Campion
Succisa pratensis Devil’s-bit Scabious
Taraxacum Dandelion Agg.
Tragopogon pratensis Goat’s-beard
Trifolium pratense Red Clover
Trifolium repens White Clover
Trisetum flavescens Yellow Oat-grass
Vicia cracca Tufted Vetch
Vicia sativa Common Vetch
Viola hirta Hairy Violet

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