Shapwick Moor is the Avalon Marshes’ newest nature reserve. It adjoins Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and shows how degraded agricultural land can be changed into a haven for wildlife combined with good public access. Here you will find former arable fields gradually being restored to herb rich grassland and fen.
The draining and enclosure of the Somerset Levels and Moors was driven by the agricultural revolution and the need for more food in the 18th and 19th centuries. The latter part of 21st century brought further change, a largely unsuccessful move to arable farming on the peat moors.
In 2007 Shapwick Moor was acquired by the Hawk & Owl Trust (H&OT). This was made possible by generous grant assistance from various trusts and companies, plus donations from individual supporters and members groups. Since 2007 the H&OT has been very busy indeed!
It has not simply been a case of purchasing the land and letting nature take its course. A lot of thought, planning and hard work has gone into creating the ideal conditions for targeted species; birds of prey being only one element. Work has included:
Barn owl, kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard use the reserve, and in spring and summer you may see hobby. A wide range of other birds use the reserve including snipe, lapwing, kingfisher, heron, reed bunting and wintering stonechats. Winter also brings large finch flocks feeding on teasels and weed seeds.
Access is an important part of the work carried out by the Hawk & Owl Trust. A visitors car park has been constructed which gives good access to the improved paths and droves within the reserve. Two hides have also been built: Sett Hide has been cleverly designed to look like a traditional shepherd’s hut, and the Barbara Handley Hide sits on the “high” land of Brickyard Farm burtle, looking out over both Shapwick Moor and Shapwick Heath. Public paths give good access from the reserve to Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, Catcott Complex of Nature Reserves and the village of Shapwick.