Ham Wall National Nature Reserve

Ham Wall National Nature Reserve

Bittern on reed
Bittern on reeds – John Crispin

Ham Wall National Nature Reserve (NNR) is a nature reserve of rustling reed-beds and glinting open water. This provides a vital habitat for a wonderful range of birds and other wildlife. Reed-beds were once common in our landscape, they’re now scarce. At Ham Wall abandoned peat workings have been transformed into a nationally important wetland teeming with life.

Changing times

6,000 years ago most of what is now Somerset’s Levels and Moors was open water and reed-bed, covering what had once been a shallow sea. Over time the reed-bed was replaced by wet woodland and then by a raised bog. This formed layers of peat. Step forward to the late 20th century; the demand for horticultural peat was high and the Peat Industry expanded rapidly, huge quantities of peat were removed, leaving behind a scarred landscape.

Volunteer army

RSPB LogoHam Wall was born in the mid 1990s when the land was passed to the RSPB. The objective was to re-create vital reedbeds and help the struggling bittern population in the UK. The land was sculpted by machines, RSPB volunteers and staff grew reed from seed. Then came the hardest part, planting thousands of young reeds by hand.

The reserve today

Ham Wall is now a National Nature Reserve which teems with wildlife. In the spring you will hear the secretive booming bittern, all year round you are likely to see hunting marsh harrier, on winter evenings the sky will be filled with clouds of starlings, often performing their spectacular displays.  The backdrop to all of this, Glastonbury Tor. Access is extremely good with a network of tracks, trails and viewing areas. The principal features are:

  • A large tower hide
  • Other viewing platforms and screens located in key locations – see map
  • Cycle way / footpath running through the heart of the reserve (the old railway track) this links to Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and Glastonbury
  • Blue Badge parking in the centre of the reserve – full information on the RSPB’s website
  • Reedbed Trail – Easy access trail for families and wheelchairs
  • Three other marked trails – downloadable map
  • Large car park (note: closed at night – link to opening hours)
  • RSPB weekly update on sightings – link to reports

Ham Wall – Parking, entrances and hides

  • You get a better view full screen – click on the top right icon – the “square”
  • Now use the menu, click on name see where the feature is and find out more
  • Or, click on the flags to find out what the feature is.
  • Want Map View? Go to the bottom of the menu, click the box.
  • Use the + and – to zoom in and out