|Habitat||Reedbed, open water, wader scrape, damp broadleaf woodland, wet meadows, scrub|
|Grid ref/postcode for main car park||Ashcott Corner: ST449395, BA6 9SX Avalon Marshes Centre: ST425415, BA6 9TT|
|Toilets||Toilets at Centre and Ham Wall car park.|
|Directions||Access is from the A39 Bridgwater–Glastonbury road or the B3151. For Ashcott Corner turn north off the A39 through Ashcott village (a bit fiddly – follow signs for Meare) or south off the B3151 at Meare. Follow brown signs for Shapwick Heath NNR from either road for the Avalon Marshes Centre, between Shapwick and Westhay villages.|
|Accessibility||Open access all year. Ashcott Corner car park is open at all times; Avalon Marshes Centre 10am-5pm. Main track is wide, flat gravel, but paths to some hides (e.g. Decoy and Noah’s Hides) are on peat, so uneven and muddy in places.
Natural England has introduced parking fees. Parking charges apply: £1.50 for the first two hours, £3.00 for the day, holders of a Natural England parking permit and blue badge holders for free. They also propose to introduce an annual pass for the Ashcott Corner car park for regular users. The annual pass will be £30.00 for a full year. Parking will be free for blue badge holders. Visitors to the western end of the reserve will still be able to park for free at the Avalon Marshes Centre. For further details including annual passes please contact: The Senior Reserve Manager on 01458 860120
The flagship reserve of the Avalon Marshes complex, Shapwick Heath has a remarkable mosaic of wetland habitats to its name, providing excellent year-round birdwatching.
Walking west from Ashcott Corner past the extensive reedbeds, key areas are the Meare Heath lagoons (one is drained in spring and autumn as a wader scrape) and Noah’s Lake, visible from the main track past the crossroads and from the hide down the peaty drove to the left.
At the western end are hides overlooking Decoy Lake and Canada Farm lake, the latter accessed through the distinctly different damp woodlands and wet meadows of the area west of the Shapwick–Westhay road.
Bittern, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Cetti’s Warbler and Bearded Tit are all present year-round. Summer sees Hobbies (including large gatherings in May) and Garganey, and Common and Black Terns and Little Gulls visit every year, though often briefly. The scrape attracts a wide variety of waders: as well as commoner species, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint are all annual.
The list of rarities is long and varied, including Hudsonian Godwit, Lesser Yellowlegs, Red-necked Phalarope, Temminck’s Stint, Long-tailed Duck, Smew, and Whiskered, White-winged Black and Gull-billed Terns. Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron and Glossy Ibis have been seen annually in recent years.
Good selections of wildfowl and the huge Starling roost in winter, warblers in summer, woodland birds year-round, and a wealth of other wildlife (including Otters) means that each visit is different, but usually varied and rewarding.
Follow this link for a guide: Natural England – Shapwick Heath (includes a map)
You can park at Ham Wall which is literally across the road – and has a toilet and small visitor centre.
Level walk. The first hide has around 12 steps with rails either side. Open water to the front and reedbeds to the rear. Further on to the left is a second hide that can be muddy to get to, has around 12 steps up into it, hand rails either side. Just a little further along (within sight) is a third smaller hide.
This is another site when there are starling murmurations – the starlings tend to vary their roosting choices between Ham Wall (see Ham Wall details for more information on the murmurations) and Shapwick and on some evenings are not easily visible from either reserve.
The site is managed by Natural England