Silver-washed Fritillary male
Pamber Forest and Silchester Common
Grayling and Bell Heather
Pamber Forest (185.4 ha) is managed as a Local Nature Reserve. Silchester Common is registered and Tadley Common was designated a Countryside Heritage Site by Hampshire County Council in 1987. The site includes land which has been proposed for designation as a Special Protection area under the EC Directive 79/409 on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Description and Reasons for Notification: The site consists of an extensive ancient oak wood, Pamber Forest; two heathland Commons and a series of unimproved wet meadows.
This association of ancient woodland, heath and grassland supports a diverse range of plants and animals, including many nationally rare species of bird listed in Annex 1 of the EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Pamber Forest is dominated by sessile oak Quercus patrea with an under-storey characterised by hazel Corylus avellana and has been traditionally managed as coppice with standards. The ground flora is dominated by bracken Pteridium aquilinum with bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus and heather Calluna vulgaris locally frequent on the poor, acidic soils.
There is a good mix of invertebrates in the wood which include the magnificent Purple Emperor Butterfly, however this is only normally ever seen on transect every year. The Purple Hairstreak can be quite common in some years and the White Admiral. The Silver-Washed Fritillary butterfly can be found feasting on the good areas of Bramble at the rideside edges, and on the Common the Grayling and the Silver-Studded Blue can be found in good numbers.
The richer soils of the valleys in the south of the Forest support many plant species normally associated with ancient woodland. These include orpine Sedum telephium, wood horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum, lilyof-the-valley Convallaria majalis, wild daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus, and the rare mountain fern Oreopteris limbosperma.
In the north of the site, woodland grades into the heathland of Silchester Common, which together with Tadley Common, represents the largest remnants of the once extensive north Hampshire heathland to the west of the River Loddon. These two Commons provide the best remaining example of the full transition from dry to wet heathland communities in north-west Hampshire and west Berkshire. The dry heathland is dominated by heather and dwarf gorse Ulex minor and has an associated rich flora including bristle bent-grass Agrostis curtisii, close to the edge of its range in Britain, petty whin Genista anglica, bell heather Erica cinerea, and cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix. These dry communities grade into wet heath dominated by purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea and supporting characteristic species such as cross-leaved heath, bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium and bog spike-rush Eleocharis multicaulis.