Ham Wall National Nature Reserve (NNR) is an amazing site full of rustling reed-beds and glinting open water. This provides a vital habitat for a wide 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.
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.
Ham 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 Bittern Trail) 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