Habitat: Open freshwater
ST438543, BS26 2DL (Axbridge entrance) ST446535, BS27 3DR (Cheddar entrance)
A concrete bowl, first opened in 1937, the reservoir doesn’t look much, but is one of the best sites in the county for waterbirds, and regularly attracts scarce and rare birds. In winter it hosts up to 3,000 Coots, 50+ Great Crested Grebes, and large flocks of Tufted Ducks and Pochards, which attract other diving duck (Scaup and Red-crested Pochard are annual, Ferruginous and Ring-necked Ducks have occurred several times). Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe appear in most winters, sometimes staying for long periods; other divers and scarcer grebes appear occasionally, and usually relatively briefly.
Late winter into spring is the best time for gulls: the roost occasionally attracts an Iceland or Glaucous Gull (Mediterranean Gulls are more regular) and Bonaparte’s and Franklin’s Gull have both been recorded. Little Gulls are regular, though often brief, passage visitors, and it is one of the better sites in the county for passing terns (Common, Arctic, and Black are all pretty much annual).
Low water levels in autumn can attract passage waders, which have included Pectoral Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, and Grey Phalarope. The latter is one of the more regular of the storm-driven seabirds which have been occasionally recorded, so the reservoir is always worth a quick check during/after westerly gales.
The sheep fields and the reservoir banks attract migrant wagtails and pipits, even once a wintering Snow Bunting. Little Owls are among the resident species which may be seen, usually around the sewage works.
For the Axbridge car park, turn south off the A371 on the east side of the village and turn left after 200 yards.
For the Cheddar car park, take Sharpham Road near the A371/B3151 junction and keep straight on through the gates at the end.
Flat gravel or tarmac path around the reservoir (full circuit is c.2.5 miles); short but steep tarmac ramps up from car parks; no wheelchair access.
About the Site
Site owned by Bristol Water
Other points of interest
Cheddar Reservoir is easily combined with nearby Mendip sites, such as Wavering Down, Crook Peak and Shute Shelve (not to mention the famous gorge) all of which have interesting Natural History, as well as great beauty.