Hembury Hillfort

Hembury Hillfort, near Payhembury is the finest prehistoric hillfort in Devon, with massive defensive ramparts. Excavations have revealed Iron Age and Roman occupation. Access via public footpath off A373. Hembury Hillfort is an excellent site to introduce children to life in the Iron Age.

Hembury Hillfort, near Payhembury is the finest prehistoric hillfort in Devon, with massive defensive ramparts. Excavations have revealed Iron Age and Roman occupation. Access via public footpath off A373.

Hembury Hillfort is an excellent site to introduce children to life in the Iron Age.

Blackdown Hills AONB, in conjunction with Devon’s Historic Environment Team, has produced some resources for Key Stage 1 and 2 primary school children to help teachers, mums, dads and adults with a field trip to Hembury Fort, Payhembury.

Hear about Hembury Fort on BBC Radio 4’s Open Country

Location:

Grid reference: ST111031

Nearest postcode: EX14 3LA

 

Parking/access:

Car park nearby

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Adcombe Wood

Adcombe Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, is a species-rich, ancient woodland with vast small-leaved lime trees, veteran oaks, rare wild service trees, and an understory of once coppiced hazel.

Adcombe Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, is a species-rich, ancient woodland with vast small-leaved lime trees, veteran oaks, rare wild service trees, and an understory of once coppiced hazel.

There are plenty of wildflowers, orchids and butterflies too. Particularly impressive are the displays of ancient woodland plants including bluebell, wood anemone and lesser celandine. Limestone grassland clearings provide stunning views across the Blackdown Hills and the Vale of Taunton.

Small-leaved lime trees are very strongly associated with ancient woodland sites due to the fact they rarely set seed in modern climatic conditions.

There is an extensive network of often steep paths and rides throughout the Wood.

Type of habitat:
Ancient broadleaved woodland.

Look out for:
Plants typically found in ancient woodland, bluebells, wild garlic, early purple orchids, sanicle, wood spurge, moschatel, yellow archangel, and wood melic.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Woodland Trust nature reserve

Managed/owned by:
Woodland Trust

Best time to visit:
April and May

Location:
Grid reference: ST222177
Nearest postcode: TA3 7SJ

Parking/access:
Adcombe Wood can be accessed from the small road on Adcombe Hill north of Feltham but be aware parking nearby is difficult. Many of the paths and rides are very steep and may be wet and uneven underfoot.

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Ashculm Turbary

Ashculm Turbary, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve, is a springline mire which is a very typical habitat found in the Blackdown Hills AONB. Where bands of permeable greensand meet impermeable clay sub-soils, we get very wet mires with continually flowing springs and deep, quaking bogs! These permanently wet soils provide excellent habitat for wet […]

Ashculm Turbary, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve, is a springline mire which is a very typical habitat found in the Blackdown Hills AONB. Where bands of permeable greensand meet impermeable clay sub-soils, we get very wet mires with continually flowing springs and deep, quaking bogs!

These permanently wet soils provide excellent habitat for wet heath and peat bog plants, now rare or declining in Devon.

Ashculm Turbary is home to a variety of interesting invertebrate species, including the keeled skimmer dragonfly, which is scarce in Britain. Over 50 species of birds visit or breed on the reserve.

Type of habitat:
Springline mire

Look out for:
Common lizard, cross-leaved heath, western gorse, round-leaved sundew, and a wide range of sphagnum mosses.

Designation:
Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Devon Wildlife Trust / Hemyock Parish Council

Best time to visit:
April to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST146157
Nearest postcode: EX15 3XA

Parking/access:
The terrain is wet and challenging in places, visitors are advised to wear good boots. Park elsewhere and access the site via public footpaths.

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Bishopswood Meadows

Bishopswood Meadows is a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the site of a 19th-century lime quarry. Lime-rich grassland, marshy meadows and the River Yarty mean that this site attracts an interesting range of species.

Bishopswood Meadows is a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the site of a 19th-century lime quarry. Lime-rich grassland, marshy meadows and the River Yarty mean that this site attracts an interesting range of species.

Calcareous (lime rich) species such as cowslip, quaking grass and dwarf thistle thrive in the reserve’s former quarry and spoil heaps. The early purple orchid is also common in some areas. One field consists of unimproved rush pasture with species such as common spotted orchid, marsh marigold and ragged robin.

All of the fields in the reserve have thick hedgerows including hazel, hawthorn, field maple, ash, and holly. Dormice can be spotted amongst these hedgerows, as well a variety of butterflies. The River Yarty is also an important habitat, used by otter, kingfisher, dipper and golden-ringed dragonfly.

The lime kiln, keyhole-shaped quarry and spoil heaps can still be seen at Bishopswood Meadows to this day – evidence of the extensive lime-burning industry that grew up in the Bishopswood area in the mid 19th century. There was a huge demand for lime at the time. Farmers used lime to reduce the acidity of the Blackdown Hills’ soil. Lime was also an essential resource for the local building industry, used to make mortar, putty, and whitewash. The spoil from the lime kilns has certainly left its mark on today’s landscape.

Type of habitat:
Unimproved lime-rich grassland on clay

Look out for:
Butterflies: marbled-white, small and large skipper, gatekeeper, silver-washed fritillary. Good site for green woodpeckers.
Plants: common-spotted and early-purple orchid, wild carrot, black knapweed, yellow rattle, common milkwort, common centaury, agrimony, cowslip, quaking grass.

Designation:

Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve.
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST252131
Nearest postcode: TA20 3HA

Parking/access:
Park in Bishopswood village and walk down past village hall. Lane off road at ST 252 129, 400 metres from Bishopswood village.

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Blackdown and Sampford Commons

Blackdown and Sampford Commons cover a large area (155 hectares) in the north west of the Blackdown Hills AONB. They contain a range of habitats including a large area of dry heath, carr woodland, springline mire and marshy grassland. The area is particularly stunning in the late summer when the heather is in bloom. The […]

Blackdown and Sampford Commons cover a large area (155 hectares) in the north west of the Blackdown Hills AONB. They contain a range of habitats including a large area of dry heath, carr woodland, springline mire and marshy grassland. The area is particularly stunning in the late summer when the heather is in bloom.

The heath supports a wide variety of butterfly species and spiders and is regionally important for birds which favour heathland habitats.

The site also contains Butterfly Conservation’s Little Breach reserve – two small meadows between the heathland common and adjoining forestry, noted for butterflies and moths.

There are spectacular views from the heath, a feature which no doubt influenced the siting of Culmstock Beacon, high on the southwest point of Blackdown Common. Culmstock Beacon is one of a chain of Elizabethan beacons used for lighting fires to warn of advancing enemies.

Type of habitat:
Lowland heath and springline mire.

Look out for:
Heather in bloom, including bell heather, ling heather, cross-leaved heath; western gorse, heath spotted-orchid, heath milkwort, round-leaved sundew, bilberry, devil’s-bit scabious, cotton-grass.
There is also a large population of common lizards in Blackdown and Sampford Commons.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Includes a Butterfly Conservation reserve
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Part parish, majority private ownership.

Best time to visit:
Late summer when the heather is in bloom.

Location:
Grid reference: ST115162
Nearest postcode: TA21 9QX

Parking/access:
Open access. The two commons cover a large area. There are some large gravel tracks but other paths can be steep, uneven and muddy. No parking at the site itself. On-road parking north of the commons at ST126166 or south of the commons at ST108153.

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Brimley Hill Mire

Brimley Hill Mire is a small but exceptionally rich springline mire and a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve. The site represents an excellent example of springline mire, a habitat special to the Blackdown Hills. A springline mire is where permeable greensand and impermeable clay sub-soils meet, creating springs and quaking bogs – the perfect habitat […]

Brimley Hill Mire is a small but exceptionally rich springline mire and a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

The site represents an excellent example of springline mire, a habitat special to the Blackdown Hills. A springline mire is where permeable greensand and impermeable clay sub-soils meet, creating springs and quaking bogs – the perfect habitat for bog-loving plants and animals.

A variety of species can be found at Brimley Hill Mire, some of which are nationally rare.

Round-leaved sundew, oblong-leaved sundew and pale butterwort, can be found here. These are insectivorous, that is they eat insects, worms, and other invertebrates. You can also see the striking, frilly, pink spikes of marsh spotted orchids. There is a rich community of sphagnum mosses too, particularly suited to the water-logged terrain. We’ve also spotted a very rare little sedge, known as the white beak-sedge, only found at one other site in Somerset, and the rare marsh St John’s-wort, present at only a few sites in Somerset.

Bare in mind it is very wet indeed underfoot!

Type of habitat:
Springline mire

Look out for:
Common lizards, heathers, ragged robin, lousewort, lesser spearwort, marsh violet, cotton-grass.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST175140
Nearest postcode: TA3 7QH

Parking/access:
Open access. Parking for one or two cars in the layby. The terrain is very wet.

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Clayhidon Turbary

Clayhidon Turbary is a small wildlife haven – 13 hectares of heathland, scrub and young woodland. It can be very boggy in parts, but for those willing to make the effort, it’s a place rich in natural and local history. The site derives its name from ‘Turbary’ the ancient right to cut turf, or peat, […]

Clayhidon Turbary is a small wildlife haven – 13 hectares of heathland, scrub and young woodland. It can be very boggy in parts, but for those willing to make the effort, it’s a place rich in natural and local history.

The site derives its name from ‘Turbary’ the ancient right to cut turf, or peat, for fuel on a particular area of bog. Local people once came to Clayhidon Turbary to cut peat to heat their homes and to graze their cattle.

In recent years these uses declined and the heathland had begun to lose its special character.

Nowadays stock-proof fencing around the site allows native cattle and ponies to be grazed on the site. The grazing of these animals plays a critical role in opening up the reserve, allowing wildflowers and insects to flourish once more.

Type of habitat:
Lowland heath, springline mire, wet woodland.

Look out for:
Heathers, western gorse, common lizards, sphagnum mosses.

Designation:
Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Devon Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to October

Location:
Grid reference: ST153152
Nearest postcode: EX15 3SX

Parking/access:
Open access. Parking for one or two cars in the layby near the site. Several footpaths lead through the reserve. Parts of these can be wet and muddy. Dogs on leads are permitted.

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Hense Moor

Hense Moor is an extremely diverse site with a great variety of habitats within its 92.5 hectares. These range from acidic dry lowland heath on the steeper valley sides, through wet heath and bog, to alkaline fen. The diversity of habitats support a considerable variety of plants and invertebrates. It is one of the major […]

Hense Moor is an extremely diverse site with a great variety of habitats within its 92.5 hectares. These range from acidic dry lowland heath on the steeper valley sides, through wet heath and bog, to alkaline fen. The diversity of habitats support a considerable variety of plants and invertebrates.

It is one of the major headwaters of the River Otter, which flows out of the site to the south.

Type of habitat:
Springline mire, unimproved acid grassland, ancient wet woodland.

Look out for:
Heathers, western gorse, bogbean, cotton grass, wide range of sedges, heath spotted orchids.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Grazed common land
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Private ownership

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST175080
Nearest postcode: EX14 4SA

Parking/access:
Open access. Park in Luppit and walk in on the footpaths.

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Jan Hobbs

Jan Hobbs is a remarkably varied wildlife reserve It is a site of semi-improved neutral grassland and copse, alongside a headwater of the River Yarty. It is a fascinating site and well worth a visit. A range of interesting species can be found here: from a the tiny creeping willow, which rarely grows more than […]

Jan Hobbs is a remarkably varied wildlife reserve It is a site of semi-improved neutral grassland and copse, alongside a headwater of the River Yarty. It is a fascinating site and well worth a visit.

A range of interesting species can be found here: from a the tiny creeping willow, which rarely grows more than six inches tall, to the huge greater tussock sedges, in places almost chest high. These species do very well in the heavy, wet soils of the Blackdown Hills.

Jan Hobbs is also home to a plant with a rather macabre reputation – the ghostly toothwort. Toothwort completely lacks chlorophyll and is unable to create any energy for itself. Instead it parasitises the hazel, growing underground almost all year, sapping energy from the roots of its host. The bizarre, pinkish-white flowers, the only part of the plant seen above ground, emerge just briefly in the spring. In folklore, toothwort is know as the corpse flower. It was said that it would only grow above the place a body had been buried. Numerous shoots of this rare plant can be found at Jan Hobbs, in the deeply-shaded hazel thickets by the stream – but we doubt any bodies are buried there!

Type of habitat:
Semi-improved grassland and ancient woodland with coppice along the stream.

Look out for:
Wild garlic, bluebells, sancile, wood anemone, black knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious, bird’s-foot trefoils, mouse-ear hawkweed.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
April to October

Location:
Grid reference: ST263136
Nearest postcode: TA20 3QB

Parking/access:
Open access. Parking near entrance for two or three cars.

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Gotleigh and Southey Moors

Gotleigh and Southey Moors are probably the best examples of valley mire in the Blackdown Hills AONB. A rich mosaic of valley mire, acid-marsh grassland and alder-birch carr spans Gotleigh Moor and neighbouring Southey Moor. This large and complex site, straddling the Devon/Somerset border, comprises several wet valleys with mires, grassland and woodland. Here you’ll […]

Gotleigh and Southey Moors are probably the best examples of valley mire in the Blackdown Hills AONB.

A rich mosaic of valley mire, acid-marsh grassland and alder-birch carr spans Gotleigh Moor and neighbouring Southey Moor.

This large and complex site, straddling the Devon/Somerset border, comprises several wet valleys with mires, grassland and woodland.

Here you’ll find the headwaters of the River Culm, and the Bolham River. Small areas of standing water provide excellent habitat for amphibians and invertebrates.

Type of habitat:
Springline mire, unimproved acid grassland, wet woodland.

Look out for:
Heathers, western gorse, devil’s bit scabious, cotton grass, heath spotted-orchid, large species-rich stands of woodland.

Designation:
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Private ownership

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST190110
Nearest postcode: EX15 3QF

Parking/access:
Open access. Park in Smeatharpe and walk in on the footpaths west of village.

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Quants

Quants nature reserve is a 34-acre site on the Blackdown Hills’ northern escarpment, well known for its butterflies and bats. Roe deer, badgers and adders are also found here. In addition to the interesting mixture of habitats the site has an interesting second world war history, with excavations and tunnels built for a planned reservoir. […]

Quants nature reserve is a 34-acre site on the Blackdown Hills’ northern escarpment, well known for its butterflies and bats. Roe deer, badgers and adders are also found here. In addition to the interesting mixture of habitats the site has an interesting second world war history, with excavations and tunnels built for a planned reservoir.

Type of habitat:
Ancient woodland, fragments of lowland heath, lime rich unimproved grassland.

Look out for:
Black knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious, cowslips, common spotted orchids, common centaury, speedwells, and a good range of grassland butterflies. In the wood: sanicle, early purple orchids, moschatel, sweet woodruff.

Designation:
Special Area of Conservation
Butterfly Conservation reserve (southern half)
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve (northern half)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
The northern section is owned and managed by Forestry Commission.
The southern end is owned by Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) and managed by both SWT and Butterfly Conservation.

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST186177
Nearest postcode: TA3 7SU

Parking/access:
Open Access. Space for at least four cars to park at the entrance to the site. Very steep in places. Good footwear recommended.

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Ringdown

Ringdown nature reserve provides a mixture of habitats at one of the headwaters of the River Culm. Parts of the site were arable and are being restored to traditional grassland. There is also exceptionally species-rich wet heath and springline mire, both classic Blackdown Hills habitats. Type of habitat: Wet heath, springline mire, lowland meadow, wet […]

Ringdown nature reserve provides a mixture of habitats at one of the headwaters of the River Culm. Parts of the site were arable and are being restored to traditional grassland. There is also exceptionally species-rich wet heath and springline mire, both classic Blackdown Hills habitats.

Type of habitat:
Wet heath, springline mire, lowland meadow, wet woodland.

Look out for:
Black knapweed, betony, devil’s-bit scabious, lousewort, round-leaved sundew, heath spotted-orchid, ragged robin, heathers, and very rich moss communities.

Designation:

Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST179154
Nearest postcode: TA3 7QQ

Parking/access:
Open access. Space for three or four cars to park.

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Thurlbear Wood

At Thurlbear Wood you can enjoy walking the woodland paths dotted with colourful flowers, such as greater butterfly and spotted orchids, wild dog violets, bluebells and primroses. This ancient woodland takes in part of the circular Neroche Herepath, which starts at Staple Hill. The site provides habitat for a extremely wide variety of species. The coppiced […]

At Thurlbear Wood you can enjoy walking the woodland paths dotted with colourful flowers, such as greater butterfly and spotted orchids, wild dog violets, bluebells and primroses. This ancient woodland takes in part of the circular Neroche Herepath, which starts at Staple Hill.

The site provides habitat for a extremely wide variety of species. The coppiced woodland was once cut as fuel for a lime kiln to burn lime from the adjacent quarries, leading to a lime-rich soil.

The reserve is part of the Thurlbear Wood and Quarrylands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), on the limestone scarp and plateau, about four miles south-east of Taunton, Somerset.

Thurlbear Wood is a Somerset Wildlife Trust’s reserve. It adjoins Forestry Commission land.

Type of habitat:
Ancient semi-natural woodland, with hazel coppice understorey, with sunny glades for butterflies.

Look out for:
Wayfaring tree, spindle, and guelder rose in the understorey. Wood melick, wild garlic, sanicle, moschatel, sweet woodruff, red campion, bluebells, excellent for spring flowers.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
Any time (but very muddy in winter)

Location:
Grid reference: ST269209
Nearest postcode: TA3 5BW

Parking/access:
Open access. Roadside parking for four cars. Alternatively park in Thurlbear village and walk to Thurlbear Wood.

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Yarty Moor

Yarty Moor, near Otterford, extends over 26 acres. It is a diverse site of springline mire and wet grassland around the source of the River Yarty. The northern valley is amazingly diverse, with bog flora and invertebrates of particular interest. Type of habitat: Wet meadows, springline mire. Look out for: Ragged robin, star sedge, heath […]

Yarty Moor, near Otterford, extends over 26 acres. It is a diverse site of springline mire and wet grassland around the source of the River Yarty. The northern valley is amazingly diverse, with bog flora and invertebrates of particular interest.

Type of habitat:
Wet meadows, springline mire.

Look out for:
Ragged robin, star sedge, heath spotted-orchid, greater bird’s-foot trefoil, good butterfly site.

Designation:
Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Managed/owned by:
Somerset Wildlife Trust

Best time to visit:
May to September

Location:
Grid reference: ST235159
Nearest postcode: TA20 3QY

Parking/access: 
Open access. No parking locally.

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Wolford Chapel and Gardens

A little piece of Canada, right here in the Blackdown Hills! Wolford Chapel is the burial place of John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1792. It's interior displays many fine examples of Jacobean workmanship. The Chapel and its collection of antique furnishings and decorative arts were generously donated to the people of Ontario in 1966 by British publisher Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth. The Chapel and gardens and are visited by many Canadians each year. The Chapel gardens are also open to the public at various times during the year. Follow the Canadian flag signs on the Honiton to Dunkeswell road.

A little piece of Canada, right here in the Blackdown Hills!

Wolford Chapel is the burial place of John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1792. It’s interior displays many fine examples of Jacobean workmanship.

The Chapel and its collection of antique furnishings and decorative arts were generously donated to the people of Ontario in 1966 by British publisher Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth. The Chapel and gardens and are visited by many Canadians each year.

The Chapel gardens are also open to the public at various times during the year. Follow the Canadian flag signs on the Honiton to Dunkeswell road.

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Culmstock Beacon

High on the southwest point of Blackdown Common is Culmstock Beacon. It is one of a chain of Elizabethan beacons used for lighting fires to warn of advancing enemies, for example, The Spanish Armada. The beehive-shaped structure was built of flint. It was rebuilt in 1870 after the collapse of the earlier one. Culmstock Beacon is a wildlife haven with stunning views, particularly in the late summer when the bell-heather is in bloom. Access via public bridleway.

High on the southwest point of Blackdown Common is Culmstock Beacon. It is one of a chain of Elizabethan beacons used for lighting fires to warn of advancing enemies, for example, The Spanish Armada.

The beehive-shaped structure was built of flint. It was rebuilt in 1870 after the collapse of the earlier one.

Culmstock Beacon is a wildlife haven with stunning views, particularly in the late summer when the bell-heather is in bloom. Access via public bridleway.

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Otterhead Lakes

The Otterhead Local Nature Reserve is set around two lakes of the former landscaped gardens of Otterhead House (1845-1952). The estate was developed in Victorian times and by 1890 included over 1700 acres of land. A range of semi-natural habitats make up the reserve including wet woodland, dry deciduous woodland, grassland, and freshwater streams and ditches.

The Otterhead Local Nature Reserve is set around two lakes of the former landscaped gardens of Otterhead House (1845-1952). The estate was developed in Victorian times and by 1890 included over 1700 acres of land.

A range of semi-natural habitats make up the reserve including wet woodland, dry deciduous woodland, grassland, and freshwater streams and ditches.

Dormice, badgers and bat species occur in the woodland. The lakes support bird species including kingfisher, dipper and wagtail

Nesting birds are present, so please keep your dog on a lead at all times.

The entrance to the carpark is just around the corner from Otterhead Church.

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Wellington Monument

This striking monument on the edge of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty, stands as a tribute to the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the Battle of Waterloo. At 175 feet, Wellington Monument is the tallest three sided obelisk in the world. The foundation stone was laid in 1817 and it was finally finished in 1853 after more than three decades of building work. In contrast to other memorials to the Duke, the Wellington Monument has a more informal countryside setting. It can be approached along a path lined with beech hedgerows and is surrounded by a wildlife rich meadow. It's an ideal place for a picnic or to fly a kite.

This striking monument on the edge of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty, stands as a tribute to the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

At 175 feet, Wellington Monument is the tallest three-sided obelisk in the world. The foundation stone was laid in 1817 and it was finally finished in 1853 after more than three decades of building work.

In contrast to other memorials to the Duke, the Wellington Monument has a more informal countryside setting. It can be approached along a path lined with beech hedgerows and is surrounded by a wildlife rich meadow. It’s an ideal place for a picnic or to fly a kite.

The walk from the carpark to the monument is along a level gravel pathway 1.5 miles there and back.

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Dunkeswell Airfield Heritage Centre

Discover the history of RAF Dunkeswell during the second world war at Dunkeswell Airfield Heritage Centre. Step back in time and see artefacts and memorabilia, mission narratives and replica uniforms, along with more than 400 photographs and archive film documenting the history of this historic airfield.

Discover the history of RAF Dunkeswell during the second world war at Dunkeswell Airfield Heritage Centre.

Step back in time and see artefacts and memorabilia, mission narratives and replica uniforms, along with more than 400 photographs and archive film documenting the history of this historic airfield.

While you’re there why not stop for refreshments at The Aviator Coffee Bar & Restaurant and watch the aircraft and parachutists who still use the airfield to this day.

Dunkeswell Airfield was built by George Wimpey & Co and, following its completion in 1943, it was occupied by the USAAF 479th Anti Submarine Squadron and later the US Navy. From March 1944 Dunkeswell was the only US Navy base in Europe.

Visit the Dunkeswell War Stories website to explore our video memory bank and download teaching resources.

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Castle Neroche

These days you won't find a castle at Castle Neroche; instead a majestic forest and the earthen ramparts where an Iron-Age hillfort and a Norman Castle once stood. There are spectacular views over the vale of Taunton towards the Quantock Hills and Exmoor and, on a clear day, you can see as far as the Mendip Hills and Glastonbury Tor. The name Neroche is thought to be derived from the Old English nierra and rechich or rachich, meaning the ‘camp where hunting dogs were kept’.

These days you won’t find a castle at Castle Neroche; instead a majestic forest and the earthen ramparts where an Iron-Age hillfort and a Norman Castle once stood.

2,600 years ago Castle Neroche was the site of an impressive Iron Age hillfort, used as a refuge for the surrounding farming communities during attacks from neighbouring tribes.

In the 11th century, William the Conqueror’s half brother Robert, Count of Mortain, built a Motte and Bailey Castle here on this strategically useful hill-top location.

The name Neroche is thought to be derived from the Old English nierra and rechich or rachich, meaning the ‘camp where hunting dogs were kept’.

There are spectacular views over the vale of Taunton towards the Quantock Hills and Exmoor and, on a clear day, you can see as far as the Mendip Hills and Glastonbury Tor.

The terrain in this woodland is very steep in parts and it can be wet, muddy, stony and uneven underfoot. If you’re not very sure-footed, we’d advise staying close to the parking area. You can still enjoy an atmospheric corridor of trees and spectacular views without having to walk very far at all.

There are display boards in the car park, giving information about the history and the wildlife at Castle Neroche and showing viewpoints and walking routes through the woodland.

Note that the car park has a height restrictor in place, so is not suitable for vans or minibuses.

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Coldharbour Mill

Coldharbour Mill is one of the oldest woollen mills in the UK having been in continuous production since 1797. Today its rich heritage lives on as one of the finest working wool museums where visitors are not just able to relive the sights and sounds of the industrial revolution but also see crafts men and women making traditional textiles, beautiful knitting yarn and hand woven rugs.

Coldharbour Mill is one of the oldest woollen mills in the UK having been in continuous production since 1797. Today its rich heritage lives on as one of the finest working wool museums where visitors are not just able to relive the sights and sounds of the industrial revolution but also see crafts men and women making traditional textiles, beautiful knitting yarn and hand woven rugs.

The Mill was originally owned by world-renowned textile producers Fox Brothers who transformed fleece into yarn, cloth and textiles. It was located in an area which had plenty of resources, with an ample supply of sheep, and therefore fleeces, and easy access to the River Culm for a continuous supply of water.

Originally the mill was powered by waterwheel, with a new one installed in 1821. Then, in 1865, steam engines were installed to power the factory’s machines and keep up with production demands. The steam-powered equipment is still in working order and is fired up several times a year at the Mill’s special ‘steam up’ days.

The Mill is open to the public from Easter through to the autumn half term.

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Staple Hill Easy Access Trail

Staple Hill Easy Access Trail allows everyone, including those with limited mobility, to enjoy the beautiful countryside the Blackdown Hills AONB has to offer. The Easy Access Trail is a loop walk of 800m, starting from the car parking area and taking in two viewpoints. The trail has been designed and built to national ‘all ability’ access standards and is suitable for disabled access, so it is easy for everyone to use.

Staple Hill Easy Access Trail allows everyone, including those with limited mobility, to enjoy the beautiful countryside the Blackdown Hills AONB has to offer.

This is the highest point in the Blackdown Hills and from here you can see spectacular views across the Vale of Taunton. On a clear day you can see all the way to Wales!

Staple Hill is part of the Forestry Commission woodlands and one of the points on the Staple Fitzpaine Herepath.

The Easy Access Trail is a loop walk of 800m, starting from the car parking area and taking in two viewpoints. The trail has been designed and built to national ‘all ability’ access standards and is suitable for disabled access, so it is easy for everyone to use.

The viewpoints have picnic benches and seating and the kissing gates are big enough for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are also no steep gradients and the wide compacted path surface makes pushing wheelchairs and pushchairs easy.

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Hemyock Castle

Hemyock Castle is a privately-owned residential site, usually opened to the public on Bank Holiday Mondays between Easter and September. It comprises the remains of a rare, moated, late 14th-century castle and a much older manor house. During the civil war in England, Hemyock Castle was garrisoned by the Parliamentarians. It was used as a prison and a base for the collection of taxes to fund the Parliamentary forces. The Royalists attacked twice, eventually besieging and capturing the Castle. After Charles II was restored to the throne, Hemyock Castle was destroyed. Subsequently the site evolved to become a farm and, later, a private home.

Hemyock Castle is a privately-owned residential site, usually opened to the public on Bank Holiday Mondays between Easter and September.

It comprises the remains of a rare, moated, late 14th-century castle and a much older manor house. During the civil war in England, Hemyock Castle was garrisoned by the Parliamentarians. It was used as a prison and a base for the collection of taxes to fund the Parliamentary forces. The Royalists attacked twice, eventually besieging and capturing the Castle. After Charles II was restored to the throne, Hemyock Castle was destroyed. Subsequently the site evolved to become a farm and, later, a private home.

Although situated in the heart of Hemyock village, the Castle is screened by trees and walls, so surprisingly little can be seen from the road. However, on open days visitors can view the substantial remains of Hemyock Castle’s towers, walls, moat, grounds, and see displays of archeology and history.

Most of the site is fairly level, so is accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are toilets on site and accessible toilets nearby in Hemyock village.

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Loughwood Meeting House

Now owned by the National Trust, Loughwood is one of the earliest surviving Baptist churches in the UK. Founded in secret during a time of great persecution towards non-conformists, it has remained virtually unchanged since the 18th century.

Now owned by the National Trust, Loughwood is one of the earliest surviving Baptist churches in the UK. Founded in secret during a time of great persecution towards non-conformists, it has remained virtually unchanged since the 18th century.

The history of Loughwood is a story of secrecy and persecution. The first known record of the chapel is in 1653 when a local Baptist parish sought an isolated place to worship. Deliberately nestled into the hillside and surrounded by woodland, it was hoped that, at Loughwood, parishioners would be able to meet in safety. Today, this location makes Loughwood, a wonderful place from which to enjoy the Blackdown Hills AONB.

The building is constructed from colourful stone rubble with large buttresses and a thatched roof. Inside there are simple pine pews and pulpit. A baptismal pool is positioned below the floor. Loughwood is unusual in holding the body of one of its pastors inside the chapel. You can see the wall tablet memorial (an indoor gravestone) to the much-loved Reverend Isaac Hann on the church wall.

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Upottery Airfield Heritage Centre

RAF Upottery (also known as Smeatharpe) is a former second world war airfield. Active between 1944 and 1948, and was used by the Royal Air Force, the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy. The Upottery Heritage Centre documents the major role this historic airfield played during the D-day operations of June 1944 and the bravery of the men who flew from Upottery.

RAF Upottery (also known as Smeatharpe) is a former second world war airfield. Active between 1944 and 1948, and was used by the Royal Air Force, the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy.

The Upottery Heritage Centre documents the major role this historic airfield played during the D-day operations of June 1944 and the bravery of the men who flew from Upottery.

During the war RAF Upottery was used primarily as a transport airfield and for antisubmarine patrols. It later returned to use as agricultural land, but in 2001 it made an appearance in the first episode of the television mini-series Band of Brothers, an American war drama.

The exhibition is housed within the officers’ complex and original Nissen hut. Exhibits include film of the D-day landings, local second world war memorabilia, weapons, and even uniforms for children to dress up in.

A unique photographic archive shows pilots being trained and briefed, and there area pictures of the troops literally minutes before they flew to Normandy.

Refreshments are available at the Heritage Centre or the Sidmouth Arms in the nearby village of Upottery.

The Heritage Centre access is all on ground level, with the exception of one room.

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Landscape that inspired the Camden Town Artists

It is easy to see how the countryside around Clayhidon and Ringdown inspired the Camden Town Artists. Their work in this area celebrates an apparently idyllic rural scene just before the first world war changed English society forever. Taking inspiration from artists such as Paul Gaugin and Vincent van Gogh, the paintings of the Camden Town Group are made up of blocks of colour and pay great homage to the area’s landscape, much of which is unchanged to this day.

It is easy to see how the countryside around Clayhidon and Ringdown inspired the Camden Town Artists. Their work in this area celebrates an apparently idyllic rural scene just before the first world war changed English society forever.

Taking inspiration from artists such as Paul Gaugin and Vincent van Gogh, the paintings of the Camden Town Group are made up of blocks of colour and pay great homage to the area’s landscape, much of which is unchanged to this day.

As you explore this beautiful setting, be sure to keep to the country lanes and public footpaths. Many of the scenes painted by the artists include people’s homes, so please do respect the privacy of the residents.

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Dumpdon Hillfort

Impressive Iron Age earthworks, Dumpdon sits on one of the largest and most striking hills in the beautiful Otter Valley. The climb up to the fort is well worth the effort . There are fantastic views of the surrounding area. Dumpton and the nearby beech woodland has long maintained an aura of mystery. Legend has it that there is a tunnel from Marwood House to the Dumpdon Hillfort's summit!

Impressive Iron Age earthworks, Dumpdon sits on one of the largest and most striking hills in the beautiful Otter Valley. The climb up to the fort is well worth the effort . There are fantastic views of the surrounding area.

Dumpton and the nearby beech woodland has long maintained an aura of mystery. Legend has it that there is a tunnel from Marwood House to the Dumpdon Hillfort’s summit!

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Staple Hill – views

Staple Hill is the highest point in the Blackdown Hills and part of the Forestry Commission woodlands. From here you can see spectacular views across the Vale of Taunton. On a clear day you can see all the way to Wales! You can access it via Staple Hill Easy Access Trail – a circular 800m walk, starting from the car parking area and taking in two viewpoints. The viewpoints have picnic benches and seating.

Staple Hill is the highest point in the Blackdown Hills and part of the Forestry Commission woodlands. From here you can see spectacular views across the Vale of Taunton. On a clear day you can see all the way to Wales!

You can access these views via Staple Hill Easy Access Trail – a circular 800m walk, starting from the car parking area and taking in two viewpoints. The viewpoints have picnic benches and seating.

Staple Hill Easy Access Trail is suitable for disabled access. It has been designed and built to national ‘all ability’ access standards. The kissing gates are big enough for wheelchairs and pushchairs to get through.

 

 

 

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Castle Neroche – views

From Castle Neroche there spectacular views over the vale of Taunton towards the Quantock Hills and Exmoor. On a clear day, you can see as far as Glastonbury Tor and the Mendip Hills.

From Castle Neroche there spectacular views over the vale of Taunton towards the Quantock Hills and Exmoor.

On a clear day, you can see as far as Glastonbury Tor and the Mendip Hills.

At Castle Neroche you’ll see the earthen ramparts where an Iron-Age hillfort and a Norman Castle once stood. In the 11th century, William the Conqueror’s half built a Motte and Bailey Castle high on the hill.

 

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Wellington Monument approach

If you're looking for somewhere to walk which isn't too strenuous, a safe bet is the approach to Wellington Monument. The tree-lined walk from the carpark to Wellington Monument is along a level gravel pathway, with no steps, styles or steep gradients. The complete walk is approximately three-quarters of a mile each way and you're rewarded with a view of this impressive monument to the Duke of Wellington.  Wellington Monument is the world's tallest three-sided obelisk, standing at 175 feet.

If you’re looking for somewhere to walk which isn’t too strenuous, a safe bet is the approach to Wellington Monument. There is plenty of parking (around 30 spaces) close to the start of the walk.

The tree-lined walk from the carpark to Wellington Monument is along a level gravel pathway. There the occasional bump or dip in the path but no steps, styles or steep gradients.

The complete walk is approximately three-quarters of a mile each way, approximately 15 minutes each way. At the end, you’re rewarded with a view of this impressive monument to the Duke of Wellington.  Wellington Monument is the world’s tallest three-sided obelisk, standing at 175 feet.

The information boards are easy to read and include details of the Monument’s history and a map showing nearby walks.

On fine days there is ample space around the monument to enjoy a picnic or fly a kite. The walk is particularly beautiful in the autumn, when the leaves turn all shades of brown, red and gold. Very windy days are best avoided as it can get quite blustery up by the Monument. In the winter, be aware that the path can get rather muddy.

 

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Culmstock Beacon – views

The site of the Culmstock Beacon was no doubt chosen for its views. It was used in Elizabethan times for lighting fires to warn of advancing enemies, for example, The Spanish Armada. From the 250m (820ft) summit there are magnificent views across the Devon and Somerset countryside. The scene is particularly beautiful in the late summer when the bell heather is in bloom. Culmstock Beacon is located on Black Down Common which is a great place to go walking. Look out for birds, horses and more great views.

The site of the Culmstock Beacon was no doubt chosen for its views. It was used in Elizabethan times for lighting fires to warn of advancing enemies, for example, The Spanish Armada.

From the 250m (820ft) summit there are magnificent views across the Devon and Somerset countryside. The scene is particularly beautiful in the late summer when the bell heather is in bloom.

Culmstock Beacon is located on Black Down Common which is a great place to go walking. Look out for birds, horses and more great views.

 

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Dunkeswell Airfield

Not everywhere in the Blackdown Hills AONB is hilly! Dunkeswell Airfield is on very flat terrain with plenty of even, tarmacked surfaces. There are plenty of parking spaces (60 or more). This makes it a very accessible option for wheelchair users and those who have limited mobility.

Not everywhere in the Blackdown Hills AONB is hilly! Dunkeswell Airfield is on very flat terrain with plenty of even, tarmacked surfaces. There are plenty of parking spaces (60 or more). This makes it a very accessible option for wheelchair users and those who have limited mobility.

Here you can pay a visit to the Dunkeswell Airfield Heritage Centre to discover the history of this second world war RAF base and watch the aeroplanes and parachutists using the airfield. If you’re in need of refreshments the Aviator Coffee Bar & Restaurant provides great views of the airfield.

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