Wildlife & Nature
If you are interested in wildlife, Wedmore is a wonderful centre, with widely differing countryside within easy reach and surrounded by the wide expanse of the wetland moors.
Somerset varies greatly in its countryside, from the Mendip and Quantock hills to the flat, water-bound Levels and Moors. It is a great place to walk, but much is also offered by its wildlife reserves. Within close reach of our part of the moors are numbers of interesting reserves, some run by the Somerset Wildlife Trust, others by English Nature and various other organizations. All are quite free to visit, though all would appreciate any records being sent to SERC or BRERC, the local wildlife record centres. The most likely places to be of interest are listed below, though many more exist and are always worth seeking out. Within half an hour or less, it is possible to see Bitterns and Great white egrets in summer; and peregrines, harriers and large numbers of waterfowl in the winter.
Moors and Levels:
Catcott Lows; Map Ref: ST400 413. Free entry. Car-park right by the main hide, which overlooks a huge area flooded in the winter. Very large numbers of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail, while Spoonbills, Whooper swans, Garganey and Glossy ibis are frequently seen in the Spring.
Greylake; ST39 35. Free entry by boardwalk overlooking water and rough moorland. Large numbers of ducks in winter, with attendant predators – harriers, peregrines and buzzards.
Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve (NNR); ST456 437. Free parking and entry. Large numbers of wildfowl, otters, egrets and many predators such as harriers and Hobbys, as well as large numbers of dragonflies.
Ham Wall NNR; ST45 39. Free entry by car-park in common with Shapwick Heath; turn east for Ham Wall or west for Shapwick. Otters, harriers, Hobbys and wildfowl are found, while Bitterns and Great white egrets breed.
Shapwick Heath NNR; ST44 39. Free entry. Many pairs of Bitterns breed here and summer sightings are frequent. Anything might turn, up from Bearded tits to Pied-billed grebes.
Mendip and nearby:
Blagdon Lake; ST51 60. Entrance by daily or annual permit obtainable on site from Bristol Water. See Nigel Milbourne’s website, ‘www.blagdon birds’ for details. The lake is artificial, looks quite natural and has been in existence for a great many years and has an amazing series of bird records. Orchids and other wild flowers complete an outstanding place to visit.
Chew Valley Lake; ST56 58. Good public viewing on main road, otherwise daily or annual permits from Bristol Water. This large artificial lake is enormously attractive to huge numbers of wildfowl and other birds. Anything might arrive but good for unusual gulls, Ospreys and many rare migrants.
Waldegrave Pool and Stockhill forest: Large free public car-park at ST549 515. The pool is famous for its dragonflies, sometimes in huge numbers; the forest has lovely walks through predominantly fir trees with lovely wild flowers, many colourful fungi as well as some unusual birds at times, such as Long-eared owls, Crossbills and Nightjars.
The Polden hills:
Collard Hill: ST487 344. Free entry. Famous in June for large numbers of the very rare Large blue butterfly on a steep, grassy hillside.
Great Breach Wood: ST50 32. Free entry through private woodlands, which also gives access to neighbouring reserves on the Polden ridge. Light woodland leads to flowery slopes on the edge of the scarp. Notable for butterflies and wild flowers.