Wildlife sites in Somerset

The Old county of Somerset holds some of the most diverse habitats in the south of England. The Moors and Levels form a great wetland inlet running from the Bristol Channel as far as Langport. These days, the waters are kept from flooding by an elaborate system of drains, rhynes and ditches connected to sluices at the seaward end. This area has its own special wildlife and flora. North and east of the Levels, Mendip, although only 1000' high, rises straight up from near sea-level in a huge limestone lump - it also has a sandstone cap, giving some acid conditions.

local reserves

We are fortunate that Somerset is greatly varied in its habitats, from the near-neutral Levels to the acidic Quantock hills and largely alkaline Mendip. Within close reach of the moors are numbers of wildlife reserves. Here are some of my favourites.

Catcott Lows, ST400 413. The car-park is right by the main hide, which overlooks a great area of shallowly-flooded rough pasture in winter. It holds large numbers of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail, while Spoonbills, Whooper swans, Garganey, Glossy ibis and Marsh harriers are also found.

Great Breach Wood, ST508 325. Public entry is through private woodlands. Light woodland leads to flowery slopes on the edge of the scarp; notable for its butterflies, ants and wild flowers.

Greylake, ST400 347: Entry to the hide is along a boardwalk through reed-beds. There are large numbers of ducks throughout the winter, with attendant predators – harriers, peregrines, merlins and buzzards.

Ham Wall NNR, ST45 39. A large reserve based around open water and large reed-beds, with Otters, wildfowl, Hobbys and many others. Bitterns and Great white egrets breed there, as well as Marsh harriers and other rarities.

Shapwick Heath NNR,  ST44 39. Many pairs of Bitterns breed here and sightings are frequent. Anything might turn, up from Bearded tits to Pied-billed grebes and Otters.

Westhay Moor NNR, ST457 437. It holds large numbers of wildfowl, otters, egrets and predators such as harriers and Hobbys, as well as dragonflies.

Waldegrave pool & Stockhill, ST548 515. The pool is famous for its dragonflies, sometimes in huge numbers; Stockhill has fine walks through mature conifer woods, with many wild flower species, fungi and a wide span of insects, as well as unusual birds, such as Long-eared owls, Crossbills and Nightjars.


Reserve locations


Attribution: Contains Ordnance Survey data      © Crown copyright and database right

Original Map taken online from 'Wikipedia', with thanks

+marks entrances

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