Stolford and Hinkley Point
Habitat: Rocky and muddy shore, shingle, grazing marshes, sea, warm-water outfall
Grid ref/postcode for car park/access point ST234459, TA5 1TW
A consistently good coastal site for migrants in spring and autumn and wildfowl and Black Redstarts in winter. The western end of Bridgwater Bay NNR, including the shore in front of the nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point which dominate the south side of the bay, attracts fewer birds than Steart to the east, but its rockier nature ensures a different and interesting species mix.
This is the best area in the county for seaduck – groups of Common Scoter and Scaup are regular offshore in winter, and Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Velvet Scoter have all been recorded in recent years. High tide and a scope are highly recommended, and are essential to see wintering Purple Sandpipers roosting on the power station water intake structure. The warm water of the outfall attracts passing gulls and terns, including the occasional Little Gull or something rarer. Autumn storms can produce seabirds, occasionally a Leach’s Petrel. A flock of Brent Geese (usually a mixture of dark- and light-bellied birds) and good numbers of Shelduck, Wigeon and Pintail are regular.
The sea defences and the grassy areas behind them are good areas to find passerine migrants in both spring and autumn, including Wheatears, Whinchats, pipits and wagtails. Mornings are best, as birds can move on quickly. Recent autumn rarities include Red-backed Shrike, Richard’s Pipit and Snow and Lapland Buntings. It’s also a great area for Black Redstart – up to three usually winter.
Catsford Common, east of the car park, is also worth a look.
From the A39 west of Bridgwater go north through Cannington towards Hinkley Point. After 3.8 miles turn right towards Stolford, then right again at a T-junction after 1.2 miles. Bear left, and park by the seawall at the end of the road. Caution: minor roads are narrow with sharp bends.
The coastal path is wide, mostly flat and either gravel or concrete, so easy if you need to take it steadily. Unfortunately, gates that are usually locked and a narrow pedestrian gate make it mostly inaccessible for wheelchair users.
No facilities on site: shops and pubs in Cannington, but nearest public toilets are in Bridgwater.
About the Site
The shore is part of Bridgwater Bay NNR, managed by Natural England.
In these security-conscious days, if planning a group visit it’s worth contacting the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (01278 658042) to let them know in advance.