Habitat: Coniferous plantation, heath
Grid ref/postcode: ST247160, TA20 3RA OS Landranger map: 193
A Forestry Commission site within the Blackdown Hills AONB, Staple Hill is a good site for Nightjars, Crossbills, and other coniferous woodland species.
Stands of Scots pine and lodgepole pine predominate, with a mixture of other conifers, and also birches and other broad-leaved trees along the plantation edges. Crossbills are present most years, though sometimes elusive, and the usual passerines of coniferous woodland are resident, including Siskins, Coal Tits and Goldcrests. There are recent records of singing Wood Warblers. Buzzards are frequent overhead, and Ravens are regular.
Nightjars are the speciality bird for the site: in some recent years they have even been present around the car park. A Schedule 1 species, they should not be disturbed under any circumstances (including playing recordings of calls). Warm still evenings (c.9pm onwards) in mid May to July are best. Tawny Owls are also regularly heard here.
The Loop Walk is under a mile (including a viewpoint which gives great views over Taunton Deane and is also another good spot for hearing Nightjars), and there is also a way-marked 5-mile circular trail. Staple Hill is one of a number of interesting wildlife and historical sites linked by the 13½-mile Staple Fitzpaine Herepath Trail (‘herepath’ is Anglo-Saxon, signifying trade and communication routes).
A little further down the hill is Mount Fancy Farm (a Butterfly Conservation reserve), where Wood Warbler, Redstart and Tree Pipit may all be found, though all are at low densities in the Blackdowns and may be looked for more successfully elsewhere.
From the A303 4 miles west of Ilminster turn north at the Eagle Tavern and follow this road for c.3 miles to free car park (signposted) on the right. From Taunton, follow the B3170 past the racecourse to a crossroads c.3 miles uphill from Corfe, turn left, and car park is on your left after c.1 mile.
Open access all year. The Loop Walk is on wide gravel paths, and is billed as an ‘all-ability’ trail, suitable for wheelchair users and families with pushchairs. The longer trails involve steep gradients and are not suitable. No facilities on site.
About the Site