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A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk has been opened on Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve which lies at the heart of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset. The ‘Discovery Trail’ winds its way through the reedbeds and woodland of providing new opportunities for close-up views of its secretive wildlife. Completion of the trail was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund with the help of specialist contractors and many local volunteers.

Simon Clarke, Senior Reserves Manager for Natural England commented: “To finally complete the Discovery Trail is a great achievement and it provides fantastic new access for visitors with disabilities or limited mobility, and families with young children. The new circular route opens up some very special habitats and wildlife for all visitors to the reserve to see. Thanks must go to all the staff involved and the dedicated team of volunteers who put their hearts and souls into supporting us at Shapwick. Over 500 hours of volunteer time was spent creating this boardwalk and the project would not have been possible without them”.

The trail was opened by Amy Lawson of local catering business Eco-Friendly Bites and representing Mendip Mobility Forum, a huge supporter of the work of Natural England and other partners in the Avalon Marshes.

wheelchair friendly boardwalk wheelchair friendly boardwalk                                           Elephant hawk moth discovery trail Moth trap discovery trail children experience


Photos from katebackdrop

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With the help of a small and growing band of volunteers and the co-operation of Somerset Crafts the Avalon Marshes Centre now hosts a dedicated Avalon Marshes information area. Contained within the Somerset Crafts building the information service is being manned by volunteers and staff. The area is equipped with a TV screen showing wildlife images captured in the Avalon Marshes and has leaflets and maps about the area, its history and the wonderful nature reserves. You can also pick up copies of the Avalon Marshes Heritage walk and cycle ride leaflets; a great way to explore and learn more.

Volunteers are vital to the success of this new venture. If you enjoy talking to people why not get in touch and find out more? Training and full support is provided and it is a great way to learn more about the wildlife and heritage of the area and be part of a great team. Contact: the Avalon Marshes’ Volunteer Development Officer, Kevin Anderson – email or phone 01458 860556.

The information area is open from 10am to 5pm every day. It is not yet manned full time but with your help and growing interest we hope that it soon will be.

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Over the past two years Avalon Marshes staff and volunteers have been out in the landscape surveying potential walks and cycle rides.  Their objective was to identify routes that give a flavour of this amazing place, taking in any interesting heritage sites. Many of the routes also link key locations such as local villages and nature reserves.

Once a suitable route had been identified more work followed to report any footpath faults to Somerset County Council; draw up maps and directions; research local history; and draft all of this into easy-to-use leaflets.
The first eight walk routes were published last year and have proved to be very popular. Increased use has improved the condition of paths, and volunteer wardens have adopted routes to keep back summer vegetation.  This spurred us on to follow up with four more walk routes and four cycle routes which were published today.
So now it’s over to you: dust off those walking boots, pump up the tyres on your bike, download one of our routes and get out there and explore the Avalon Marshes!

For walk rotes go to our walking page

For cycle routes go to our cycling page