A visit to the the West Country.

02nd June 2018
Ham Wall RSPB – A superb nature reserve.
Earlier this week Susan and I went to visit relatives in Exeter and on the way down we called into Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset. We have been visiting the ‘Somerset Levels’ for over thirty years and the area has always been good for marsh birds. However, it has really taken off over the last few years and it can now rival any marshes in the UK. It is superbly managed and it is no surprise when you see the scale of what has been achieved there, to find how many hitherto difficult and in some cases rare birds that are now being seen regularly. Ham Wall reserve is without doubt one of the best places in the UK to see the Common Bittern, a bird that until fairly recently was extremely difficult to find anywhere. These reclusive Heron’s successful colonization is well documented, however, they remain very secretive by nature, but at Ham Wall, if you are willing to sit in one of the hides, particularly the Avalon Hide, you would be unlucky if you didn’t see one of these birds in flight. In addition to Common Bittern there are regular sightings of Great and Little Egrets, Water Rails, Hobbies, Marsh Harriers and in addition to these, possible Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, and Little Bittern. Cettis Warblers are singing everywhere and many warblers like Blackcap and Garden Warbler are numerous. The variety of Odonata is huge and in addition there are many Butterflies to see throughout the reserve.
We spent an hour in the aforementioned Avalon Hide and were indeed rewarded by great views of Common Bittern, our target bird. After we left for Exeter we decided even then to pay another visit to the reserve on the return journey. After an enjoyable day with family, (in particular our four year old nephew who was really excited to see us and soon to be joined by a new little niece, due in a month), we left for our overnight accommodation in a local village. We did this to ease the pressure on the parents to be because they have enough to do at the moment! We stayed in the aptly named Silverton Arms in the village of Silverton a quintessential English village situated a few miles from Exeter. This is a nice pub that we have stayed in previously, it has very comfortable rooms, good food and most importantly great beer.
After a most pleasant evening supplemented by a well cooked meal and washed down with a few pints of ‘Exmoor ale’ we retired to bed and slept well. On the return journey there was extremely heavy traffic on the M5 north motorway and we were glad to get off at Glastonbury and make our way to Ham Wall for another try at the Bitterns. We spent a few hours casually walking around the reserve and finishing off at the ‘Avalon Hide’. We were pleased again as we were treated to good views of the Bitterns flying across the reed beds. We left to continue our journey and to our dismay the traffic hadn’t eased at all, in fact it had got much worse! We had to endure a really tedious drive home with traffic at one point gridlocked from the M49 roundabout off the M5 north all the way to the Severn bridge tolls. It was a truly horrendous experience and the traffic didn’t ease for us until we turned off at the Celtic Manor junction for Raglan after which we enjoyed empty roads all the way home. When I arrived home and got out of the car I was walking like Groucho Marx, if you’re old enough you’ll know what I mean!! LOL

A few images from Ham Wall.

(On the way down).

(On the way back).