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The Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership Scheme, grant aided by Heritage Lottery for the last 4 years to the tune of £1.7m, finally came to an end in November.  More than 60 projects have been delivered to conserve the unique landscape, heritage and wildlife of the Avalon Marshes and to engage people in its conservation, understanding and enjoyment.

Conservation projects have included those to restore important wetland habitats, such as the mires at Westhay Moor and Shapwick Heath, and those to protect important archaeological sites, including Glastonbury Lake Village and the Sweet Track.  Practical projects have included new hides and trails, including improved links to Shapwick Moor; a new car park and visitor facilities at Ham Wall; and two new historic reconstructions at the Avalon Marshes Centre.

Community engagement has been critical to the success of the overall scheme including:  500 volunteers, contributing more than 16,450 hours; 50 schools and colleges, providing nearly 5,000 educational experiences; 180 events, attracting more than 10,000 participants; and 49 courses, training 370 staff and volunteers.  Work has also gone on to promote the wider area to visitors, 160,000 of whom already visit the main reserves, with a new website, leaflets and interpretation panels.

Although the scheme has now finished, and the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership team disbanded, the Avalon Marshes Partnership will continue.  Many activities will carry on through joint working on conservation, education, volunteering and visitor management under the Avalon Marshes umbrella.  Of the AMLP team, Kevin will be staying on until the spring to focus on visitor management and Mike to focus on the phase 1 works at the Avalon Marshes Centre.

Finally, a thank you to all who have been involved to make the scheme such a success, including Heritage Lottery and the other funders, the partner organisations, and the thousands of volunteers, school children, teachers, parents, local people and visitors who have participated.

Tor and reeds image – Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

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Thanks to funding by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Natural England is about to start some of the planned improvements at the Avalon Marshes Centre, significant refurbishment to hides at Shapwick Heath and construction of a biofuel storage barn. These works will replace and repair life-expired buildings and infrastructure, reduce running costs and carry out upgrades to meet modern standards.  Kier Services are the managing contractors and have already appointed local architects and engineers. Natural England will be working with them to ensure that as far as possible other local contractors and suppliers are used.

Avalon Marshes Centre

The principal work is the construction of a new office building on the end of the existing workshops to replace the “temporary” offices which house staff from the partner organisations. All three existing offices are life-expired with leaking roofs, rotting woodwork and other significant issues.

Linked with the new office construction a modern self-contained sewerage system will be built. The current one is an old cesspit which requires pumping out on a regular and costly basis. The new system will use electricity for a small pump and natural treatment with reedbeds as the final part of the process. It is being designed to accommodate the future development of a permanent café and education building (both currently temporary buildings).

The third element is the external refurbishment of the craft gallery, replacing the existing wooden windows and cladding. Once again rot is a significant problem and the thermal efficiency is poor to say the least!

The centre will remain open throughout the period the work is being carried out.  The aim will be to minimise disruption, although some will be inevitable.

Hides and other works

The other works to be carried out are nearly all on Shapwick Heath NNR including:

The last project is the refurbishment and improvement of the (very tall!) tower hide at Bridgwater Bay NNR (at Steart point).

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The Anglo-Saxon Hall at the Avalon Marshes Centre is really taking shape. Built by South West Heritage Trust and their hard working Hands on Heritage volunteers and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. We love the finishing touches! More photos here . . . . . . .



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The latest Friends of Shapwick Newsletter contains lots of news about what has been going on at Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve: Osprey and Ibis, news on car parks and a new office, a big volunteer thank you, and details for our next Wild Day Out on Sunday November 6th.

To download your free PDF copy of the newsletter please click here.


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A few months ago one of our  volunteers approached me with an idea they had, to try and help raise funds to support the work we do here on Shapwick Heath NNR.  They suggested that we should produce a calendar of the reserve.  But this would be different.  Why not launch a competition amongst volunteers to see if they’d like to donate photographs to help produce this, taken throughout the year to show a year in the life of Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve.  We thought it was a great idea.  So this year we would like to try and produce a 2017 calendar which we will sell locally.  All funds raised will be used to help support our work on Shapwick Heath.

Would you be interested in entering a digital photo into this competition with a chance of it being featured in the calendar?

Each photo would acknowledge the photographer and provide a snapshot of that month on the reserve.  We are looking for all sorts of images of Shapwick throughout the season, wildlife, landscape, volunteers at work, anything that shows Shapwick Heath for the special place it is.

To enter please send an A4 print of your chosen digital image to myself at the Avalon Marshes Centre (address below) by Wednesday 12th October.

All successful  images chosen for the calendar must be available in a high resolution digital format for calendar production.  We unfortunately cannot accept any images previously used in publications or media productions.

We are very sorry that we won’t be able to return all the photos sent in but we’d very much like to run an exhibition of shots received later in 2017.  Please add your contact details to the back of the photo and  sign on the photo if you would be happy to have your image shown in this exhibition and in the calendar.  The successful images will be chosen the week of the 17th October and all successful entrants will be informed.

We very much value the continued support of our many volunteers and supporters and look forward to hearing from you.

If you have any queries please don’t hesitate in contacting me at Shapwick Heath.

With best wishes


Simon Clarke
Senior Reserve Manager
Somerset National Nature Reserves
Natural England
The Avalon Marshes Centre
Shapwick Road

Email  Tel: 01458 860120

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Catch up with all the hard work from the Natural England’s Somerset National Nature Reserves team with their latest newsletter covering April to June.

This issue includes news about species surveys, brush cutting and white admirals alongside wildlife highlights from Ospreys to Otters. There is a special article which covers Habitat Management for the Argent and Sable Moth, and events updates with details of up and coming activities.

Don’t forget you can now own your very own Shapwick Heath NNR FSC guide which is packed with information about the reserve and full colour pictures for some iconic species of flora and fauna to look out for. Details of how to purchase a copy are at the end of the newsletter.

To download your free PDF copy of the newsletter please click here.

 Shapwick Heath NNR Field Studies GuideShapwick Heath NNR Field Studies Guide


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A new ebook, launched to showcase the county of Somerset, is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Compiled by renowned photographer Ian Brodie on behalf of Visit Somerset, ‘Visit Somerset: History and Heritage’ exhibits Somerset as a wonderful destination to visit, displaying in stunning imagery all that the area has to offer: fascinating attractions, captivating vistas, amazing coastal views and much more.  The Avalon Marshes features in the section on The Levels with a focus on the nature reserves at Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor as well heritage sites such as the Abbot’s Fish House, Glastonbury Abbey and the Sweet Track.

With over 750 images, in-depth touring information, handy hints and maps the ebook is free to download to your PC, or as an app to your chosen device.

Page 169 of the Visit Somerset E-Book; image shows view looking down the South Drain on Shapwick Heath National Nature ReservePhotographer and author Ian Brodie was behind the lens for the Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook and Cameras in Narnia, and unveiled the ebook at the tourism association’s spring conference on Friday May 6 before its official launch at the Houses of Parliament on Somerset Day May 11th 2016.

Ian has said

“The seven months I spent in Somerset were pure adventure. Every day out photographing was a treasure.”


“I fell in love with The Levels. It is an area of unexpected beauty. Walking along a path with the rustling of reeds on one side and distant views of the magic of Avalon peeping through trees on the other is quite spectacular. We arrived at a bird hide and expected to spend a moment there. An hour later we were still there, the only humans in sight, watching the sun and clouds play over the water of The Levels.”


“The people of Somerset are so proud of their county. This was evident every time I went out to photograph. They would ask what I was doing and why – when I told them about their wonderful county you could see how proud they were, that it was about to be shared world-wide.”


The ebook is available to download for free by clicking here

Alternatively you can read it online here


Visit Somerset logo

Image credits and copyright: Visit Somerset and Ian J Brodie

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The South West Heritage Trust’s historic replica buildings have seen lots of action since our last update, including their first public open days and group visits. The scaffolding from the outside of the Romano-British dining room has been removed and the box flue tiles put in place completing the hypocaust. The Anglo Saxon longhall shingle roofing continues and another stained glass window has been added; there is proof that coloured glass was made at Glastonbury Abbey during the Saxon period. The design for this glass is based on one from Jarrow, and the decorative lead strip on evidence from Jarrow’s twin foundation – Monkwearmouth.

Reproduction Romano British box flues, Anglo Saxon Glass, Anglo Saxon Roof Shingles.

The Avalon Marshes Young Wardens joined the Hands on Heritage volunteers on Wednesday June 1st.  They began by laying some of the course aggregate that makes the  floor-base for the Anglo Saxon longhall. The group also washed finds from the recent archaeological excavation at Beckery Chapel and then continued works on the fireplace.

Young Wardens working on the reproduction buildings at the Avalon Marshes.

On Sunday June 5th, at the Avalon Marshes open day, the buildings were bought to life.  There were re-enactors from a Viking living history (acting as Saxons), guided tours and Hands on Heritage volunteers demonstrating traditional woodworking skills.  This proved a huge hit with the 300 or so visitors we had that day and shows the potential of the buildings as a key element of the Avalon Marshes Centre in years to come.

Demonstrations and living history at the Avalon Marshes day.

The following Saturday on the 11th June our buildings were invaded by MAYA (Mick Astons Young Archaeologists Somerset), who spent the morning making pots and casting pewter. In the afternoon they split into factions and fought small battles as Celts and Romans.  You can see one of the epic battles on our YouTube page – Avalon Marshes YouTube

Mick Aston’s Young Archaeologists getting their Hands on Heritage.

Tuesday 15th June was a ground breaking day too. Not only did our first official school group visit but the hypocaust was lit for the first time. The images show that the box flues are drawing well and by the end of the day the floor of the Romano British dining room had reached a toasty warm 40°C.

The replica buildings have been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership.

The Romano British building hypocaust when lit with smoke drawing through the box flue tiles.

The Romano British building hypocaust when lit with smoke drawing through the box flue tiles.


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We are delighted to report that Natural England has launched its new Field Studies Centre guide to Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve (NNR) at the Avalon Marshes Open Day on Sunday 5th June.

Image of the front side of the guide.

Designed by the Somerset NNR team the new guide is dedicated to the diverse flora, fauna and history of the Shapwick Heath NNNR. Its features include a reserve map, historical timeline, habitats and seasonal highlights. The full colour guide is packed with images for species identification as well as information about the formation of the landscape and the impact of man on the Avalon Marshes.

Image of the back of the guide.

Simon Clarke, Senior Reserve Manager for Natural England Somerset, told us:

‘This project has been a long time in the pipeline and we are really pleased with the finished product which showcases some of the most iconic species of our reserve’.


The guides are now on sale and can be purchased for £3.80 each directly from the Natural England Shapwick Heath Office by contacting:

Julie Merrett: or call 01458 860120 during office hours.


They are also on sale at the Eco Friendly Bites Café on site at the Avalon Marshes Centre.

The Natural England logo alongside the Feild Studies Council logo

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The Avalon Marshes was recently described by Stephen Moss on Radio 4’s Today programme as one of the best new places to see wildlife in the whole of the country. Well, the weekend of 4 / 5 June proved a brilliant opportunity to celebrate what makes the area so special. Not just in terms of its wildlife, but also its landscape, heritage and the people who live, work and visit here. We may not have the official status and funding of the country’s designated areas but we have benefitted over the last 4 years from Heritage Lottery funding through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership scheme.

On Saturday 4 June more than 180 people enjoyed a day of talks, presentations and films at Strode Theatre in Street telling the story of the Avalon Marshes. Chaired by Stephen Moss it included talks on water level management by Phil Brewin, pre-historic archaeology by Richard Brunning, the monastic landscape by John Allan, the history of the peat industry by Mike Woodhead, the creation of the nature reserves by Simon Clarke, and people and wildlife by Chris Sperring. It also included part of John Betjeman’s nostalgic film from the 1960s on his trip through the area along the former Somerset and Dorset railway.

On Sunday 5 June the sun shone setting the scene for the Avalon Marshes open day organised by Natural England. After a day inside it was a chance for people to get out to enjoy the area and see what has been achieved with Heritage Lottery funding. More than 300 people, including many families, enjoyed activities at the Avalon Marshes Centre with tractor rides on to Shapwick Heath, bird box making, pond dipping and, perhaps best of all, tours of the newly constructed Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon buildings, which were brought vividly to life. There were also guided walks at Catcott and Westhay, and activities at Ham Wall.

Feedback from both days was extremely positive; from people new to the Avalon Marshes and those who knew it well but who had discovered something new. The Avalon Marshes is a unique landscape with huge potential for the future. As one person commented from the Saturday event it is developing into a very special place for people, wildlife and heritage, but one that is quite distinct from areas like “The Norfolk Broads”.

Combined image: Image 1 shows people at the 'Hills to the Levels' project stand and participating in the Avalon Marshes Open day 2016 . Image 2 shows an Anglo Saxon king re-enactor sat with a raven in the reproduction Anglo Saxon Long Hall at the Avalon Marshes Open Day.