Habitat: Reedbed, open water, wader scrape, damp broadleaf woodland, wet meadows, scrub
Ashcott Corner: ST449395, BA6 9SX Avalon Marshes Centre: ST425415, BA6 9TT
The flagship reserve of the Avalon Marshes complex, Shapwick Heath has a remarkable mosaic of wetland habitats to its name, providing excellent year-round birdwatching.
Walking west from Ashcott Corner past the extensive reedbeds, key areas are the Meare Heath lagoons (one is drained in spring and autumn as a wader scrape) and Noah’s Lake, visible from the main track past the crossroads and from the hide down the peaty drove to the left.
At the western end are hides overlooking Decoy Lake and Canada Farm lake, the latter accessed through the distinctly different damp woodlands and wet meadows of the area west of the Shapwick–Westhay road.
Bittern, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Cetti’s Warbler and Bearded Tit are all present year-round. Summer sees Hobbies (including large gatherings in May) and Garganey, and Common and Black Terns and Little Gulls visit every year, though often briefly. The scrape attracts a wide variety of waders: as well as commoner species, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint are all annual.
The list of rarities is long and varied, including Hudsonian Godwit, Lesser Yellowlegs, Red-necked Phalarope, Temminck’s Stint, Long-tailed Duck, Smew, and Whiskered, White-winged Black and Gull-billed Terns. Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron and Glossy Ibis have been seen annually in recent years.
Good selections of wildfowl and the huge Starling roost in winter, warblers in summer, woodland birds year-round, and a wealth of other wildlife (including Otters) mean that each visit is different, but usually varied and rewarding.
Access is from the A39 Bridgwater–Glastonbury road or the B3151. For Ashcott Corner turn north off the A39 through Ashcott village (a bit fiddly – follow signs for Meare) or south off the B3151 at Meare. Follow brown signs for Shapwick Heath NNR from either road for the Avalon Marshes Centre, between Shapwick and Westhay villages.
Open access all year. Ashcott Corner car park is open at all times, Avalon Marshes Centre 10am-5pm. Main track is wide, flat gravel, but paths to some hides (e.g. Decoy and Noah’s Hides) are on peat, so uneven and muddy in places. Toilets at Centre and Ham Wall car park.
As of 14 November 2016 alongside the RSPB at Ham Wall, Natural England will introduce a parking fee. It will be £1.50 for the first two hours and £3.00 for the day. They also propose to introduce an annual pass for the Ashcott Corner car park for regular users. The annual pass will be £30.00 for a full year. Parking will be free for blue badge holders. Visitors to the western end of the reserve will still be able to park for free at the Avalon Marshes Centre. For further details including annual passes please contact: The Senior Reserve Manager on 01458 860120
About the Site