Staple Plain (Beacon Hill)
Habitat: Heathland, small conifer plantations
Parking at car park at ST117410, TA4 4EA
Although the area is commonly known as Staple Plain the name does not appear on OS maps; it is more correctly called Beacon Hill. Best in spring and summer.
From the car park take the left-hand track east along the west side of Beacon Hill; Yellowhammers can be usually found near the car park and Stonechats and Linnets in the heather and gorse as you continue up. To the north is Vinny Combe, in which Siskins and Willow Warblers are regular. At the top of the climb turn right along the track which goes south; here Skylarks and Meadow Pipits should be encountered in good numbers. Smith’s Combe, to the north-east, is an area where migrant Wheatears can be found until quite late in spring; Redstarts can be heard singing from the small plantation, and Cuckoos are regular in this area too. Continue towards Bicknoller Post before turning right onto the track which returns downhill to the car park. Kestrels are seen fairly regularly here and sometimes Hobbies too, usually later in the day. Ring Ouzels sometimes occur on passage in spring and autumn around Bicknoller Post and the top of Weacombe. The gorse and heather were home to Dartford Warblers; severe winters wiped them out a few years ago but they may well return.
The area is best known for Nightjars, which are likely to be heard and seen around the car park and in both Vinny and Smith’s Combes. There is also a chance of a Long-eared Owl hunting at dusk; they have not been seen recently, but few look for them.
Access is off the A358 west of Bicknoller (signposted for Weacombe) or the A39 just west of St Audries church. Turn south in West Quantoxhead uphill into Hill Lane, then follow the driveable track to the (free) car park.
Open access all year. The tracks for this walk are mainly stony and even in winter are rarely muddy, although rough and moderately steep in places. No facilities on site; public toilets and other facilities nearby in Williton.
About the Site
Much but not all of this area is managed by the National Trust.