This reserve is an interesting mixture of woodland, grassland and other open habitats on the Blackdowns ridge. It has magnificent views over South Somerset levels towards the Quantocks and Poldens.
The old meadows are full of wildflowers and insects, and surrounded by long outgrown hedges with veteran oaks. The rough pasture with marshy grassland, bog and swathes of bracken are set in the extensive woodland habitats of the Neroche Forest. Coppice, wood-pasture and marshy grassland are the broad range of habitats present, maintained by grazing with Exmoor Ponies.
The reserve is part of a large Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and is leased from the Forestry Commission (FC) and Wessex Water. The FC has been leading a major landscape project covering their forest on the Blackdowns Ridge and has created extensive new areas of open wildlife habitats linked with our reserve and other important butterfly sites. For more details see the Neroche Scheme website.
Area: 27 hectares
The reserve comprises two three sections - the eastern ‘Source Land’ that we have recently leased from Wessex Water, Mount Fancy Farm section in the middle and the western Shutes Farm section.
Entrances to each area are from the lanes that lead to these farms from Staple Fitzpaine and end as gated FC tracks. These must be kept clear for farm and forestry machinery, so it is best to park in the FC Staple Hill Car Park at grid reference ST 246 159, from where there are pleasant 5–10 minute walks with fine views down paths through the forest to the reserve entrances.
Map Reference: ST 250 164 Ordnance Survey Map: 193
Notable nearby sites
Buckland Wood (‘Quants’) FC site; Yarty Moor Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve.
Site access and safety
The reserve is open at all times and crossed by footpaths. Soft ground (and locally very muddy after rain), fallen wood, or other tripping hazards will be encountered in most parts of the reserve.
Please do not attempt to approach or feed the Exmoor ponies - they are working animals and can be upset by dogs so please keep those on leads and under control. Ticks and adders are present on site. In strong winds please keep clear of the veteran trees.
Most ticks are little more than an irritation, but a few can transmit Lyme disease, a rare and potentially serious illness which is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early. It is therefore important to be informed and take some simple precautions.
John Davis, Head of Reserves - tel 01929 400209 or Liz Marsden, Honorary Reserve Warden