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A great deal has been going on at the Avalon Marshes Centre this year with the refurbishment of the Craft Centre, expansion of the workshops and start of physical construction of the new offices.  Early 2018 is going to bring more improvements but sadly also the loss of Eco Friendly Bites as caterers on site.

Eco Friendly Bites

Eco Friendly Bites have operated the café at the centre for almost 8 years have decided to cease trading at the centre. Their final opening day will be 17th December.  Natural England would like to thank Amy and all at Eco Friendly Bites for providing a great and valuable facility in recent years. However, Amy is not leaving the Eco business and her on-line Eco Friendly Shop business is continuing – why not take a look at the Eco Friendly website.   We would like to wish Amy all the best in the future.

Refreshments are important!

Natural England realise how important a café is for visitors to the area. To this end natural England will shortly be advertising for someone to set up and run a new café at the centre. With a refurbished Craft Centre, growing visitor numbers, an expanded car park and the future opening of the replica buildings there is great potential. If you are interested please get in touch with Simon Clarke via

Somerset Craft improvements

The Craft Centre building, which dates from the centre’s days as a garden centre, desperately needed significant refurbishment.  Funding from Defra has enabled this to happen with 2017 bringing upgraded services, double glazed windows, and attractive insulated timber cladding to the outside.  The final step in early 2018 is to “over clad” the roof so it is water tight and fully insulated. The downside of this final step is that the Craft Centre must to be closed from 2 January for four weeks to enable this essential work to be carried out. The work is being carried out by Kier Services.

Hidden improvements

Un-seen by visitors the centre has a muddle of ancient underground services. Once again Defra funding is allowing Kier’s on behalf of Natural England, to completely overall and upgrade the services at the centre. The end result will be a water supply which does not freeze during cold weather, Wi-Fi coverage across the centre, a modern drainage system ready for expanded toilets, fibre broadband rather than snail pace copper wire and many other hidden improvements.  To minimise disruption much of this work will be carried out in January when Somerset Crafts and the café are closed.

The ‘good old’ offices demolished!

Natural England, RSPB, Somerset Wildlife Trust and Hawk and Owl trust staff and volunteers operate from a life expired building and portacabin at the Centre – the first thing visitors see as they come through the gates! Freezing cold in the winter, roasting hot in the summer, flaking paint; their life is at an end. Once again thanks to Defra funding, Natural England are constructing a replacement. The Kier’s team are working hard to have this completed by early March allowing the old offices to be demolished thus opening up to public view the fantastic replica buildings being built by South West Heritage Trust’s “Hands on Heritage” team.

Further information

For further information please contact Simon Clarke of Natural England via

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Looking for a Christmas present with a difference, perhaps one which reminds you of the Avalon Marshes? Somerset Crafts, based at the Avalon Marshes’ Craft Centre, is the place to visit!  Now fully decorated for the festive season, is the perfect place to visit to find unique and beautiful hand crafted gifts for  your friends and family. From incredible wildlife photography to handmade jewelry, artwork, handmade beauty products and more the crafts reflect our wonderful area. (note – a percentage of their income goes into the Avalon Marshes and helps conserve our wonderful area)

Why not take a look at their website?

They are open 7 days a week from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm right through to New Year’s day (other than Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Parking at the centre is free and a short walk will take you onto the magical Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve.

Somerset Crafts

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This October at Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve saw the opening of the brand new, Defra funded, Noah’s and 70 acres Hides. The old Noah’s Hide, originally built by Melvyn Yandle over 15 years ago was very popular, however due to its small size and open aspect it could be a bit chilly and on busy days, there could be a queue outside the door.

Worth the wait, the new Noah’s hide is much larger and glazed, with enough space  for 30 people, and built in cavities for nesting bats and birds. With not a queue in sight, the two new hides will continue to provide visitors to Shapwick with an excellent place to view the amazing wildlife here. Sightings from the hide so far include Bitterns, Kingfishers and Marsh Harrier.

Find out more about Shapwick Heath here

New 70 acres hide / The old Noah’s being demolished / The new Noah’s

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South West Heritage Trust’s community excavation at Burtle Priory revealed the grave of an adult male, which had been partially cut through by a refuse pit at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Radiocarbon dating has shown that he died sometime between 1049 and 1274 AD. He could therefore be Brother Walter the hermit, who was granted the land at Burtle in 1191 AD, or even his unnamed predecessor.

As a routine part of the dating process the bones are also examined to determine the marine content in the diet. This showed that Walt’s diet had a 29% (+/-10%) marine content. The Priory is known to have owned fish traps on the nearby River Brue so they may have been catching migratory fish such as salmon or eels. Fish traps of that date are also known from Bridgwater Bay a few miles to the west. Although only about a quarter of Walt’s body survived the damage during the Dissolution it can be shown that he lived to middle age (36-50 years old), was a bit taller than average (c.5 foot 9 inches or 1.76m) didn’t seem to have suffered from hard work (mainly praying perhaps?), didn’t have an overly rich diet (as you’d hope with a hermit) but had suffered from Osgood-Schlatter’s disease as a young boy, which would have given him painful knees in his youth. Perhaps he spent too long kneeling in prayer.

To find out more about South West Heritage Trust’s work within the Avalon Marshes visit the Avalon Archaeology website.