Wapley Common and the adjoining Picnic Area are managed with a priority on recreation, rather than conservation. The grass is cut shorter and more frequently than the Meadows, but there are still many wildlife features to be seen.
For example, there is a good deal of bird life. Small songbirds can be heard in the hedges, especially near the Besom Lane gate. Larger birds such as buzzards visit the Common, but at nesting time the rooks in the Ancient Woodland are fiercely defensive of their territory.
The buzzards nest in the farm down the road, but if they stray across the Common the rooks go on the attack. First one rook will take off and challenge, but if that doen’t work a whole squadron will launch.
Rooks are very manouverable, and can turn inside the wingspan of a buzzard. On one occasion we have seen a rook fasten its beak on the edge of a buzzard’s wing at a height of about 60 metres, then fold its own wings so that they fell out of the sky together. The rook let go within 10 metres of the ground. The buzzard nearly crash-landed, and then fled looking back over its shoulder to make sure that it wasn’t being followed.
The seasonal stream that drains the woodland dives below ground just before the edge of the Common and continues underground across a layer of impervious rock, to join the drainage ditches along Besom Lane. The underground stream is visible as a depression across the Common.
The eastern corner of the Common is very sheltered. Known as Rabbit Corner, this is where rabbits can often be seen on sunny days. If you approach along the wooded track on the southern edge of the Common, the rabbits don’t realise that you’re there.
On the other side of the wooded track is the picnic and activity area, which can be reserved for exclusive use by organised groups or families by contacting Dodington Parish Council, but which is otherwise open for public access.
The tarmac roadway across the Common is a popular cycling route which connects to Westerleigh via Besom Lane. Bikes need to pass through a width inhibitor that keeps motorbikes out of the Nature Reserve and the Common. Tandems can pass through but adult tricycles and cargo bikes can’t.
There is disabled access (RADAR key) at the Besom Lane gate. The kissing gate opens wide to allow wheelchairs through, bypassing the width inhibitor. Even without the special key, double buggies can get through the kissing gate.
There is a similar arrangement on the bridge over the railway at the other (north) end of the Common, but the steepness of the bridge ramps makes this approach difficult for people with walking disabilities.
There is a drinking water tap near the Besom Lane Gate, on the Common side. Next to the small car parking area is a pleasant hexagonal seat surrounding the Millennium Oak, which forms a nice entry feature to the Common.