Hodder’s and Holford Combes
Habitat: Ancient broadleaf woodland
The best time to visit is from mid April through to the end of June.
From the car park at Holford Green follow the track south-west and after a short while you reach the first part of the wooded combe where there is sometimes a Dipper feeding on the stream by The Round House; Grey Wagtails are also found in this section. In some years a Wood Warbler can be found in the small quarry opposite here.
However, it is not until you reach the first ford that the first of the most sought-after birds are regularly found. From this point on Pied Flycatchers are regular from mid April using the nest boxes that have been provided in this and the adjoining combes. Likewise Wood Warblers and Redstarts are found throughout the combes, although the majority of the latter tend to use the top edges of the woodland. All three species of woodpecker are found but the most likely to be encountered is the Great Spotted. Early spring gives the best chance of hearing Lesser Spotted, although they can be difficult to see high up on the sides of the wooded combe. The higher you climb in the combes the greater the chances of encountering Willow Warblers, Tree Pipits, and eventually Yellowhammers; each are easier to see in other places on the Quantocks.
Commoner species that are resident include Bullfinch and most of the commoner tit species, although Marsh are scarce here. Buzzards overhead are frequent.
From the car park retrace your steps along the road, turn right and then right again into Combe Lane. Follow the tarmac road past the Combe House Hotel and carry on until you reach a gate, at which point the track through the woodlands starts.
Although not as popular as Hodder’s Combe it does contain the same species. Carry on south along the track and very soon the track narrows and crosses the stream; from this point on follow the path either side of the stream. In spring you will soon encounter Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers. All three species of woodpeckers are present, although Lesser Spotted is far from easy and early spring is best. All the usual woodland species are present as well. Explore the combe, which splits at ST155390. From here Frog Combe continues south and to the south-east is Lady Combe where it is worth spending a few minutes – other species here include Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers.
From the point where the combes split it is possible to take paths that run either to the north-west or north-east. The one to the north-west takes you up over the side of the combe onto Hare Knaps; the main track to the north takes you back down into Holford. This area is good for Redstart, Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer. Stonechats are common and you may be lucky enough to encounter a Dartford Warbler.
From the A39 at Holford, near the Plough Inn, take Church Road and follow it until you see the signs for the car park, which is off Alfoxton Park Lane.
Hodder's Combe has open access along the track from the car park. The first section is wide and a gentle incline, but there are difficult narrow sections near the stream. Crossing a ford is involved – although generally it is shallow, suitable footwear is necessary.
Holford Combe also has open access. After leaving the tarmac road the first section is along a track which can be muddy after rain. The track then crosses a stream and the paths become narrow in places; suitable footwear is required.
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