Yarty Moor mire restoration

 In Farming & land management, Nature & wildlife

Yarty Moor is a 10.8 hectare springline mire nature reserve located just south of Staple Hill at the top of the northern scarp of the Blackdown Hills. Lying at over 300 metres high it is the source of the River Yarty and is owned by the Somerset Wildlife Trust. The entire reserve is dotted with springs and seepages and so the ground is extremely wet all year round.

It is part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest with the forbidding name of Deadman’s Marsh. Although looking bleak and windswept in the winter it is in fact home to many rare and threatened species of wildlife and in the summer is dotted with flowering plants including bogbean, bog asphodel, lesser butterfly and three species of marsh orchid as well as the insectivorous pale butterwort and two species of sundew. It also has a diverse invertebrate fauna with green hairstreak, and small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies, and in the summer months it is alive with insects, including good numbers of the male powder blue bog specialist keeled skimmer dragonfly flying low over the ground looking for the drabber-coloured females. It is an important wintering ground for snipe and woodcock which fly up from the ground just a few feet in front of you.

To ensure the survival of these rare and threatened species, the reserve is grazed with a mix of Devon Red cattle and Shetland ponies to keep the coarse grasses and scrub under control. The grazing, although vital, has to be topped up by occasional manual scrub clearance. One area of the reserve, which is on the opposite side of the River Yarty to the bulk of the site, is particularly wet and difficult for the grazing stock to access and as a result has more of a scrub encroachment problem.

This winter, thanks to a £1,000 grant from the Blackdown Hills AONB Sustainable Development Fund, the Somerset Wildlife Trust have been able to employ contractors to spend five days clearing 0.75 hectares of willow and birch scrub, whilst Somerset Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers have spent a further nine days clearing a corridor through an area of dense scrub to improve access to the reserve for both the grazing stock and visitors.

New fences have been constructed either side of the newly scrub-cleared linking corridor, linking in to the existing boundary fences.

It is hoped that this work will enable one of the most inaccessible areas of the reserve to be better grazed and therefore provide a home for more of the rare and fascinating plants and animals at Yarty Moor.

Learn more about springline mires in the Blackdown Hills AONB

Read more about Yarty Moor and the species found there – one to add to your list of places to explore when restrictions are lifted!

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