Blackmoor Reserve and Ubley Warren

Ubley Warren at sunrise - late June

O.S Map Reference ST 505 556

The Blackmoor Nature Reserve is located next to the Charterhouse Centre, an award winning outdoor and environmental centre. Adjacent to Blackmoor is the Ubley Warren Nature Reserve which forms part of the Cheddar Complex SSSI.

Both sites have a long history of lead mining dating back to Roman times and are littered with mineshafts. The ground, particularly at the Ubley Warren site, consists of old spoil heaps and depressions from old mine workings, long since reclaimed by nature, which are locally known as ‘Gruffy’ an old local name for Groovy ground, It is advisable when visiting this site to avoid walking in the depressions as not all the old mineshafts have been capped. The geology is mainly carboniferous limestone.

This area contains a number of different habitats with calcareous and acidic grassland, also limestone heath, in addition to this there is a small woodland and freshwater ponds, altogether this makes Blackmoor and Ubley Warren a very diverse place which can be seen through the flora and fauna that inhabits these sites.

Both sites are well known for reptiles and contain four of the six species of reptiles native to this country. March and April are probably the best times to photograph the Adders, just after they have emerged from hibernation and just before their first slough.

In addition there are over 20+ species of butterfly that can be found, a couple to look out for are the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary in June and the Dark Green Fritillary, which can often be seen on the wing in July and August. One particular species that has eluded me so far is the Green Hairstreak. I've yet to see one but I know they are there.

For the macro photographer, Green Tiger Beetles, Bloody Nosed Beetles and Robber flies also make interesting subjects.

Draycott Sleights and Rodney Stoke, including House Grounds and Stoke Camp

Dramatic evening view from Draycott House Grounds towards the Bristol Channel - July

O.S Map Reference ST 487 513

This area consists of Draycott Sleights SSSI, Draycott House Grounds and Stoke Camp Nature Reserve as well as the Rodney Stoke National Nature Reserve. All these sites are adjacent to each other with a minor road separating Draycott Sleights and House Grounds. Again the geology is carboniferous limestone.

Draycott Sleights is situated on the southern slopes of the Mendips and consists mainly of calcareous grassland. Apart from the fantastic views over the Somerset levels, this site is good for Orchids in April to June with Early Purple and Green Winged Orchids fairly common. However due to the site facing the prevailing weather, orchids are not known to grow to very large sizes.

There are also a large number of butterfly species including Marbled White, Ringlet, Small Skipper and Small Heath with one of the less common ones being the Chalkhill Blue. In all over 30 species of butterfly have been indentified.

Stoke Camp sits just above the Rodney Stoke NNR and again this consists mainly of steep limestone grassland where the hill rises above the Rodney Stoke NNR, at the top of this is the site of an ancient hillfort. The site is managed by Butterfly Conservation. There are a large number of butterfly species including the Small Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Common Blue, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers supported by a diverse flora. This site is also a great place for other insects though often you have to look quite hard to spot them.

Rodney Stoke NNR on the other hand consists mainly of broad leaved woodland consisting of two main blocks of woodland known as ‘Big Stoke’ and ‘Little Stoke’, again this also has a rich flora with early spring being a good time for the Violets, Primroses and Wood Anemones. Carpets of Bluebells follow on not long after. Early to mid summer will see Long Horn and Wasp Beetles and the Silver Washed Fritillary, which all make excellent subjects to photograph.

Occasional Adders can also be seen sunning themselves, best time is April or May before it gets too overgrown.

One particular species, the Great Green Bush Cricket can be found in small numbers during mid to late summer at both Draycott Sleights and Rodney Stoke NNR.

GB Gruffy

Frosty September morning - GB Gruffy

O.S Map Reference ST 477 565

This is a relatively small site consisting of two fields, much better known for the caves beneath with few people visiting the site for the flora and fauna. This site partly gets its name from combined initials of Francis Goddard and Charles Barker who discovered the Cave, hence GB, the second part of the name comes from the old local term for Groovy ground, similar to the ground at Ubley Warren lead mining was taking place during the 16th to 18th centuries. The geology of this site consists of Carboniferous limestone and Old Red Sandstone.

On first appearances depending on the time of year, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal to see and it can appear quite bleak, however looking more closely, there are some interesting subjects for the macro photographer, particularly flora.

This is one location where the Heath Spotted Orchid can be found, mostly in the first field closest to the road. My first time seeing and photographing them was probably after they had passed their best on a very overcast day. Other flora can be found such as Foxglove, Eyebright and Devils Bit Scabious. Early spring flora consists of Ladies Smock and Wood Sorrell, late May sees a carpet of Bluebells.

A number of different butterflies and moths can also be found with the same species as at the other sites, such as Marbled White, Ringlet, Common Blue, Large Skipper and Small Skipper all being common. One particular species I have seen only here is the Broad Bordered Bee Hawk Moth, however photographing this one is something else, but it won’t stop me trying!

Strangely, I always thought that this site would be well represented by reptiles, being similar in history, geology and topography to Ubley Warren, but to date I have only caught a glimpse of a single Common Lizard.

Priddy Mineries and Priddy Pools

Warm summer evening - Priddy Mineries

O.S Map Reference ST 547 515

Both these sites sit adjacent to each other with no formal boundary between the two.

Priddy Pools as the name suggests consists of a number of ponds and poorly drained bogs. The main pool is known locally as ‘Waldegrave pond’

As a result there are a sizeable number of different Dragonfly and Damselfly species, most common being the Emperor Dragonfly, Four Spotted and Broad bodied Chasers as well as Common and Ruddy Darters. In addition there is a rich flora consisting of Orchids with Heath Spotted and Southern Marsh being prevalent in May and June along with a few hybrids of both species. A large number of butterfly species can also be found, some of the more interesting species include the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary and the Green Hairstreak (allegedly).

Day flying moths can also be found in abundance during the summer months with Five and Six Spotted Burnet Moths, Silver Y and Forester Moths being the most common and the occasional Wood Tiger Moth.

All the above species make good subjects for macro photography.

Priddy Mineries, similar to Blackmoor is also a site of Roman Lead workings. It is another good site for reptiles along with Priddy Pools, with reasonable numbers of Adders and Grass snakes as well as Common Lizards which appear to be everywhere. Late summer is a good time to photograph the young lizards.

For more detailed information about any of the locations mentioned above, please refer to the Links page.

For anyone thinking of visiting the Mendip Hills, here is the weather.