Adcombe Wood

Adcombe Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, is a species-rich, ancient woodland with vast small-leaved lime trees, veteran oaks, rare wild service trees, and an understory of once coppiced hazel. There are plenty of wildflowers, orchids and butterflies too. Particularly impressive are the displays of ancient woodland plants including bluebell, wood anemone and lesser celandine. Limestone grassland clearings […]

Adcombe Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, is a species-rich, ancient woodland with vast small-leaved lime trees, veteran oaks, rare wild service trees, and an understory of once coppiced hazel.

There are plenty of wildflowers, orchids and butterflies too. Particularly impressive are the displays of ancient woodland plants including bluebell, wood anemone and lesser celandine. Limestone grassland clearings provide stunning views across the Blackdown Hills and the Vale of Taunton.

Small-leaved lime trees are very strongly associated with ancient woodland sites due to the fact they rarely set seed in modern climatic conditions.

There is an extensive network of often steep paths and rides throughout the Wood.

Type of habitat:
Ancient broadleaved woodland.

Look out for:
Plants typically found in ancient woodland, bluebells, wild garlic, early purple orchids, sanicle, wood spurge, moschatel, yellow archangel, and wood melic.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Woodland Trust nature reserve

Managed/owned by:
Woodland Trust

Best time to visit:
April and May

Location:
Grid reference: ST222177
Nearest postcode: TA3 7SJ

Parking/access:
Adcombe Wood can be accessed from the small road on Adcombe Hill north of Feltham but be aware parking nearby is difficult. Many of the paths and rides are very steep and may be wet and uneven underfoot.

Ashculm Turbary

Ashculm Turbary, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve, is a springline mire which is a very typical habitat found in the Blackdown Hills AONB. Where bands of permeable greensand meet impermeable clay sub-soils, we get very wet mires with continually flowing springs and deep, quaking bogs! These permanently wet soils provide excellent habitat for wet […]

Ashculm Turbary, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve, is a springline mire which is a very typical habitat found in the Blackdown Hills AONB. Where bands of permeable greensand meet impermeable clay sub-soils, we get very wet mires with continually flowing springs and deep, quaking bogs!

These permanently wet soils provide excellent habitat for wet heath and peat bog plants, now rare or declining in Devon.

Ashculm Turbary is home to a variety of interesting invertebrate species, including the keeled skimmer dragonfly, which is scarce in Britain. Over 50 species of birds visit or breed on the reserve.

Type of habitat:
Springline mire

Look out for:
Common lizard, cross-leaved heath, western gorse, round-leaved sundew, and a wide range of sphagnum mosses.

Designation:
Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Devon Wildlife Trust / Hemyock Parish Council

Best time to visit:
April to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST146157
Nearest postcode: EX15 3XA

Parking/access:
The terrain is wet and challenging in places, visitors are advised to wear good boots. Park elsewhere and access the site via public footpaths.

Bishopswood Meadows

Bishopswood Meadows is a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the site of a 19th-century lime quarry. Lime-rich grassland, marshy meadows and the River Yarty mean that this site attracts an interesting range of species. Calcareous (lime rich) species such as cowslip, quaking grass and dwarf thistle thrive in the reserve’s former quarry and spoil […]

Bishopswood Meadows is a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the site of a 19th-century lime quarry. Lime-rich grassland, marshy meadows and the River Yarty mean that this site attracts an interesting range of species.

Calcareous (lime rich) species such as cowslip, quaking grass and dwarf thistle thrive in the reserve’s former quarry and spoil heaps. The early purple orchid is also common in some areas. One field consists of unimproved rush pasture with species such as common spotted orchid, marsh marigold and ragged robin.

All of the fields in the reserve have thick hedgerows including hazel, hawthorn, field maple, ash, and holly. Dormice can be spotted amongst these hedgerows, as well a variety of butterflies. The River Yarty is also an important habitat, used by otter, kingfisher, dipper and golden-ringed dragonfly.

The lime kiln, keyhole-shaped quarry and spoil heaps can still be seen at Bishopswood Meadows to this day – evidence of the extensive lime-burning industry that grew up in the Bishopswood area in the mid 19th century. There was a huge demand for lime at the time. Farmers used lime to reduce the acidity of the Blackdown Hills’ soil. Lime was also an essential resource for the local building industry, used to make mortar, putty, and whitewash. The spoil from the lime kilns has certainly left its mark on today’s landscape.

Type of habitat:
Unimproved lime-rich grassland on clay

Look out for:
Butterflies: marbled-white, small and large skipper, gatekeeper, silver-washed fritillary. Good site for green woodpeckers.
Plants: common-spotted and early-purple orchid, wild carrot, black knapweed, yellow rattle, common milkwort, common centaury, agrimony, cowslip, quaking grass.

Designation:

Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve.
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST252131
Nearest postcode: TA20 3HA

Parking/access:
Park in Bishopswood village and walk down past village hall. Lane off road at ST 252 129, 400 metres from Bishopswood village.

Blackdown and Sampford Commons

Blackdown and Sampford Commons cover a large area (155 hectares) in the north west of the Blackdown Hills AONB. They contain a range of habitats including a large area of dry heath, carr woodland, springline mire and marshy grassland. The area is particularly stunning in the late summer when the heather is in bloom. The […]

Blackdown and Sampford Commons cover a large area (155 hectares) in the north west of the Blackdown Hills AONB. They contain a range of habitats including a large area of dry heath, carr woodland, springline mire and marshy grassland. The area is particularly stunning in the late summer when the heather is in bloom.

The heath supports a wide variety of butterfly species and spiders and is regionally important for birds which favour heathland habitats.

The site also contains Butterfly Conservation’s Little Breach reserve – two small meadows between the heathland common and adjoining forestry, noted for butterflies and moths.

There are spectacular views from the heath, a feature which no doubt influenced the siting of Culmstock Beacon, high on the southwest point of Blackdown Common. Culmstock Beacon is one of a chain of Elizabethan beacons used for lighting fires to warn of advancing enemies.

Type of habitat:
Lowland heath and springline mire.

Look out for:
Heather in bloom, including bell heather, ling heather, cross-leaved heath; western gorse, heath spotted-orchid, heath milkwort, round-leaved sundew, bilberry, devil’s-bit scabious, cotton-grass.
There is also a large population of common lizards in Blackdown and Sampford Commons.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Includes a Butterfly Conservation reserve
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Part parish, majority private ownership.

Best time to visit:
Late summer when the heather is in bloom.

Location:
Grid reference: ST115162
Nearest postcode: TA21 9QX

Parking/access:
Open access. The two commons cover a large area. There are some large gravel tracks but other paths can be steep, uneven and muddy. No parking at the site itself. On-road parking north of the commons at ST126166 or south of the commons at ST108153.

Brimley Hill Mire

Brimley Hill Mire is a small but exceptionally rich springline mire and a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve. The site represents an excellent example of springline mire, a habitat special to the Blackdown Hills. A springline mire is where permeable greensand and impermeable clay sub-soils meet, creating springs and quaking bogs – the perfect habitat […]

Brimley Hill Mire is a small but exceptionally rich springline mire and a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

The site represents an excellent example of springline mire, a habitat special to the Blackdown Hills. A springline mire is where permeable greensand and impermeable clay sub-soils meet, creating springs and quaking bogs – the perfect habitat for bog-loving plants and animals.

A variety of species can be found at Brimley Hill Mire, some of which are nationally rare.

Round-leaved sundew, oblong-leaved sundew and pale butterwort, can be found here. These are insectivorous, that is they eat insects, worms, and other invertebrates. You can also see the striking, frilly, pink spikes of marsh spotted orchids. There is a rich community of sphagnum mosses too, particularly suited to the water-logged terrain. We’ve also spotted a very rare little sedge, known as the white beak-sedge, only found at one other site in Somerset, and the rare marsh St John’s-wort, present at only a few sites in Somerset.

Bare in mind it is very wet indeed underfoot!

Type of habitat:
Springline mire

Look out for:
Common lizards, heathers, ragged robin, lousewort, lesser spearwort, marsh violet, cotton-grass.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST175140
Nearest postcode: TA3 7QH

Parking/access:
Open access. Parking for one or two cars in the layby. The terrain is very wet.

Clayhidon Turbary

Clayhidon Turbary is a small wildlife haven – 13 hectares of heathland, scrub and young woodland. It can be very boggy in parts, but for those willing to make the effort, it’s a place rich in natural and local history. The site derives its name from ‘Turbary’ the ancient right to cut turf, or peat, […]

Clayhidon Turbary is a small wildlife haven – 13 hectares of heathland, scrub and young woodland. It can be very boggy in parts, but for those willing to make the effort, it’s a place rich in natural and local history.

The site derives its name from ‘Turbary’ the ancient right to cut turf, or peat, for fuel on a particular area of bog. Local people once came to Clayhidon Turbary to cut peat to heat their homes and to graze their cattle.

In recent years these uses declined and the heathland had begun to lose its special character.

Nowadays stock-proof fencing around the site allows native cattle and ponies to be grazed on the site. The grazing of these animals plays a critical role in opening up the reserve, allowing wildflowers and insects to flourish once more.

Type of habitat:
Lowland heath, springline mire, wet woodland.

Look out for:
Heathers, western gorse, common lizards, sphagnum mosses.

Designation:
Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Devon Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to October

Location:
Grid reference: ST153152
Nearest postcode: EX15 3SX

Parking/access:
Open access. Parking for one or two cars in the layby near the site. Several footpaths lead through the reserve. Parts of these can be wet and muddy. Dogs on leads are permitted.

Hense Moor

Hense Moor is an extremely diverse site with a great variety of habitats within its 92.5 hectares. These range from acidic dry lowland heath on the steeper valley sides, through wet heath and bog, to alkaline fen. The diversity of habitats support a considerable variety of plants and invertebrates. It is one of the major […]

Hense Moor is an extremely diverse site with a great variety of habitats within its 92.5 hectares. These range from acidic dry lowland heath on the steeper valley sides, through wet heath and bog, to alkaline fen. The diversity of habitats support a considerable variety of plants and invertebrates.

It is one of the major headwaters of the River Otter, which flows out of the site to the south.

Type of habitat:
Springline mire, unimproved acid grassland, ancient wet woodland.

Look out for:
Heathers, western gorse, bogbean, cotton grass, wide range of sedges, heath spotted orchids.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Grazed common land
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Private ownership

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST175080
Nearest postcode: EX14 4SA

Parking/access:
Open access. Park in Luppit and walk in on the footpaths.

Jan Hobbs

Jan Hobbs is a remarkably varied wildlife reserve It is a site of semi-improved neutral grassland and copse, alongside a headwater of the River Yarty. It is a fascinating site and well worth a visit. A range of interesting species can be found here: from a the tiny creeping willow, which rarely grows more than […]

Jan Hobbs is a remarkably varied wildlife reserve It is a site of semi-improved neutral grassland and copse, alongside a headwater of the River Yarty. It is a fascinating site and well worth a visit.

A range of interesting species can be found here: from a the tiny creeping willow, which rarely grows more than six inches tall, to the huge greater tussock sedges, in places almost chest high. These species do very well in the heavy, wet soils of the Blackdown Hills.

Jan Hobbs is also home to a plant with a rather macabre reputation – the ghostly toothwort. Toothwort completely lacks chlorophyll and is unable to create any energy for itself. Instead it parasitises the hazel, growing underground almost all year, sapping energy from the roots of its host. The bizarre, pinkish-white flowers, the only part of the plant seen above ground, emerge just briefly in the spring. In folklore, toothwort is know as the corpse flower. It was said that it would only grow above the place a body had been buried. Numerous shoots of this rare plant can be found at Jan Hobbs, in the deeply-shaded hazel thickets by the stream – but we doubt any bodies are buried there!

Type of habitat:
Semi-improved grassland and ancient woodland with coppice along the stream.

Look out for:
Wild garlic, bluebells, sancile, wood anemone, black knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious, bird’s-foot trefoils, mouse-ear hawkweed.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
April to October

Location:
Grid reference: ST263136
Nearest postcode: TA20 3QB

Parking/access:
Open access. Parking near entrance for two or three cars.

Gotleigh and Southey Moors

Gotleigh and Southey Moors are probably the best examples of valley mire in the Blackdown Hills AONB. A rich mosaic of valley mire, acid-marsh grassland and alder-birch carr spans Gotleigh Moor and neighbouring Southey Moor. This large and complex site, straddling the Devon/Somerset border, comprises several wet valleys with mires, grassland and woodland. Here you’ll […]

Gotleigh and Southey Moors are probably the best examples of valley mire in the Blackdown Hills AONB.

A rich mosaic of valley mire, acid-marsh grassland and alder-birch carr spans Gotleigh Moor and neighbouring Southey Moor.

This large and complex site, straddling the Devon/Somerset border, comprises several wet valleys with mires, grassland and woodland.

Here you’ll find the headwaters of the River Culm, and the Bolham River. Small areas of standing water provide excellent habitat for amphibians and invertebrates.

Type of habitat:
Springline mire, unimproved acid grassland, wet woodland.

Look out for:
Heathers, western gorse, devil’s bit scabious, cotton grass, heath spotted-orchid, large species-rich stands of woodland.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Private ownership

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST190110
Nearest postcode: EX15 3QF

Parking/access:
Open access. Park in Smeatharpe and walk in on the footpaths west of village.

Quants

Quants nature reserve is a 34-acre site on the Blackdown Hills’ northern escarpment, well known for its butterflies and bats. Roe deer, badgers and adders are also found here. In addition to the interesting mixture of habitats the site has an interesting second world war history, with excavations and tunnels built for a planned reservoir. […]

Quants nature reserve is a 34-acre site on the Blackdown Hills’ northern escarpment, well known for its butterflies and bats. Roe deer, badgers and adders are also found here. In addition to the interesting mixture of habitats the site has an interesting second world war history, with excavations and tunnels built for a planned reservoir.

Type of habitat:
Ancient woodland, fragments of lowland heath, lime rich unimproved grassland.

Look out for:
Black knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious, cowslips, common spotted orchids, common centaury, speedwells, and a good range of grassland butterflies. In the wood: sanicle, early purple orchids, moschatel, sweet woodruff.

Designation:
Special Area of Conservation
Butterfly Conservation reserve (southern half)
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve (northern half)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
The northern section is owned and managed by Forestry Commission.
The southern end is owned by Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) and managed by both SWT and Butterfly Conservation.

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST186177
Nearest postcode: TA3 7SU

Parking/access:
Open Access. Space for at least four cars to park at the entrance to the site. Very steep in places. Good footwear recommended.

Ringdown

Ringdown nature reserve provides a mixture of habitats at one of the headwaters of the River Culm. Parts of the site were arable and are being restored to traditional grassland. There is also exceptionally species-rich wet heath and springline mire, both classic Blackdown Hills habitats. Type of habitat: Wet heath, springline mire, lowland meadow, wet […]

Ringdown nature reserve provides a mixture of habitats at one of the headwaters of the River Culm. Parts of the site were arable and are being restored to traditional grassland. There is also exceptionally species-rich wet heath and springline mire, both classic Blackdown Hills habitats.

Type of habitat:
Wet heath, springline mire, lowland meadow, wet woodland.

Look out for:
Black knapweed, betony, devil’s-bit scabious, lousewort, round-leaved sundew, heath spotted-orchid, ragged robin, heathers, and very rich moss communities.

Designation:

Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST179154
Nearest postcode: TA3 7QQ

Parking/access:
Open access. Space for three or four cars to park.

Thurlbear Wood

At Thurlbear Wood you can enjoy walking the woodland paths dotted with colourful flowers, such as greater butterfly and spotted orchids, wild dog violets, bluebells and primroses. This ancient woodland takes in part of the circular Neroche Herepath, which starts at Staple Hill. The site provides habitat for a extremely wide variety of species. The coppiced […]

At Thurlbear Wood you can enjoy walking the woodland paths dotted with colourful flowers, such as greater butterfly and spotted orchids, wild dog violets, bluebells and primroses. This ancient woodland takes in part of the circular Neroche Herepath, which starts at Staple Hill.

The site provides habitat for a extremely wide variety of species. The coppiced woodland was once cut as fuel for a lime kiln to burn lime from the adjacent quarries, leading to a lime-rich soil.

The reserve is part of the Thurlbear Wood and Quarrylands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), on the limestone scarp and plateau, about four miles south-east of Taunton, Somerset.

Thurlbear Wood is a Somerset Wildlife Trust’s reserve. It adjoins Forestry Commission land.

Type of habitat:
Ancient semi-natural woodland, with hazel coppice understorey, with sunny glades for butterflies.

Look out for:
Wayfaring tree, spindle, and guelder rose in the understorey. Wood melick, wild garlic, sanicle, moschatel, sweet woodruff, red campion, bluebells, excellent for spring flowers.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
Any time (but very muddy in winter)

Location:
Grid reference: ST269209
Nearest postcode: TA3 5BW

Parking/access:
Open access. Roadside parking for four cars. Alternatively park in Thurlbear village and walk to Thurlbear Wood.

Yarty Moor

Yarty Moor, near Otterford, extends over 26 acres. It is a diverse site of springline mire and wet grassland around the source of the River Yarty. The northern valley is amazingly diverse, with bog flora and invertebrates of particular interest. Type of habitat: Wet meadows, springline mire. Look out for: Ragged robin, star sedge, heath […]

Yarty Moor, near Otterford, extends over 26 acres. It is a diverse site of springline mire and wet grassland around the source of the River Yarty. The northern valley is amazingly diverse, with bog flora and invertebrates of particular interest.

Type of habitat:
Wet meadows, springline mire.

Look out for:
Ragged robin, star sedge, heath spotted-orchid, greater bird’s-foot trefoil, good butterfly site.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST235159
Nearest postcode: TA20 3QY

Parking/access: 
Open access. No parking locally.