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Shapwick Heath NNR:
Despite summer temperatures soaring and the beach calling, we’ve been busy as ever out on the reserves across the
county. Our practical volunteers have been keeping things ticking over on the reserve habitat management wise,
focusing their time more on footpath management as visitors were out in force over the summer holidays. While the
practical vols are waiting for their work to get busier when winter hits, survey volunteers have been gathering data across many sites over these months when invert life explodes and plants are flowering.  Our reserve managers have been busy preparing contracts for winter works, including a peat restoration project kicking off this winter which will see techniques trialed to restore hydrological function to the soils that have not been seen anywhere else in Somerset before. Rest assured, these practices are tried and tested in other parts of the country!

Find out more …

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Safety is our top priority and we are closely monitoring Coronavirus (Covid-19) updates and following government advice.

Update 22 Aug 21:

In line with Government guidance Shapwick Heath NNR and its associated hides, trails and car parks are open to visitors.

The Marshes Hub Tea Stop cafe at the Avalon Marshes Centre is open 9.30am – 5pm, seven days/week with outdoor and indoor seating.  Toilets are open during cafe opening hours. The Gallery is also open seven days/week 10am – 5pm.  A visitor information desk, staffed whenever possible, is located within the Gallery.

At RSPB Ham Wall, the car park and toilets are open, including takeaway refreshments from the visitor cabin at weekends. Hides and trails are also open again.

Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Westhay Moor and Catcott reserves and hides are open.  No SWT reserves have toilets or serve refreshments.
Shapwick Moor (Hawk & Owl Trust) is also fully open.  Nearest facilities are at the Avalon Marshes Centre.
Please see the individual partner organisations’ social media and websites for further details.  Thank you

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The Bittern Trail is a new family friendly cycle trail which links the town of Glastonbury with the Avalon Marshes Centre. It is a four mile long, tranquil, mainly traffic free,  route running through the heart of Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath nature reserves. The route is flat and fully surfaced and is ideal for families. As you travel along it you can immerse yourself in a landscape teeming with wildlife and steeped in both history and mythology. When you arrive at the Avalon marshes Centre you can refresh yourself at the cafe, find information about the area and purchase local arts and crafts. To find out more and download a map go to the  Cycling page on this website

The route has been funded and created by Glastonbury Town Council in collaboration with The Avalon Marshes Partnership, Somerset Crafts and the Marshes Hub Tea Stop.

Useful information on the trail:

Please Note:



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The Hide & Seek Project seeks to uncover stories which exist in our wetlands and believes that by sharing and creating narratives we can better understand our relationship with the natural world. Using bird hides as creative and reflective spaces, since they are ideally designed and situated for the contemplation of wildlife and the environment, we are collaborating with Natural England to invite wetland visitors to consider the interconnection of nature and narrative.


We are bringing together a collection of featured writers, all of whom write around the themes that wetlands inspire. Visit one of our Hide & Seek hides in the Avalon Marshes on the Somerset Levels to pick up your poem from one of our featured writers, award-winning poet Suzannah Evans.


Our first featured writer, Suzannah Evans talks to us about the magic of bird hides and themes within her poetry.


What are you experiences of bird hides? Do you frequent them?  

My Dad is very into birdwatching and so I have sat in many bird hides over the years. Some of those experiences have involved waiting for creatures that never materialised  – I remember waiting in one in Scotland for what felt like hours, before we all got grumpy and gave up. However, some of the most exciting things I have seen have been from bird hides – marsh harriers and avocets in Norfolk, and a bittern at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. Last year at Leighton Moss I saw an otter from a bird hide, with my partner and his mum, and that really was something special. It chomped a great big eel right in front of us.


Do you find bird hides welcoming or intimidating spaces?

I like the quiet of a bird hide but I am not a big fan of crowds so busy, cramped ones aren’t great. It’s also great to enter a bird hide and be really surprised by the beautiful view you might get out of the other side – it’s a bit like going into the tardis or some other sort of magic.I think there is something very creative about the atmosphere of alertness you get in a hide where everybody is on the lookout for something. I think that is a mood that writers are in more often than most people.


Have you ever used a bird hide in a creative capacity, to write, draw, think or create? If not, would you like to?

I would definitely like to but I never have. The anticipatory quiet would be good to write in I think. I’d really like to write about that otter but I don’t know what I’d say – apart from my respect for it as a fish-killing machine, despite its cutesyfied identity.


Are there any other manmade structures within nature that you are drawn to or which feature in your writing? (bothies, cabins, caravans, sheds, huts, pillboxes etc)

I am drawn to bomb shelters and bunkers (unsurprisingly perhaps given that Near Future contains a lot of apocalyptic poems) I have visited two – Drakelow tunnels in Worcestershire and Hack Green in Cheshire which has been renovated and is more like a museum. I’d really like to go in search of some abandoned ROC outposts though, some of which are exactly as they were left when the cold war ended.


How would you describe your relationship with nature? Does the natural world inspire your work?

I see myself (and all humans) as a part of nature rather than something separate from it, and this is something that is becoming very important in my writing. I don’t think the idea that we have to ‘conquer’ nature, or that nature somehow exists for humans to enjoy, has been particularly good for the planet thus far. We take long haul flights to see the best views, we litter the sides of mountains with empty oxygen canisters. I think we should see ourselves as working together with nature to ensure that we have a future together. I like the challenge of trying to write from a non-human viewpoint, too, although using words means this is a bit flawed. Climate change, and animals and landscapes, are all in my writing a lot.


Finally, your poem Swallows features as part of the Hide & Seek Project, could you describe the inspiration behind the poem and your process in writing it? 

Swallows is quite a few years old now (I last edited the Google Doc in 2011, so eight years). I wrote it after reading a section of an illustrated children’s book, which I found in Westgate End bookshop in Wakefield (and didn’t buy, so I read all this in the shop) about how it was once thought that swallows didn’t migrate and spent all winter keeping themselves to themselves in the beds of rivers and lakes. I thought this was a striking image, and idea, and so that’s really where the poem comes from. It also, looking at it now, feels like it could be a comment on those antiquated ideas and what they reveal about people’s attitudes to foreignness, and migration, which depressingly in these times don’t even seem to have changed that much.


Suzannah Evans is a poet, creative writing teacher and tutor based in Sheffield, and director of Sheaf Poetry Festival. Her Pamphlet Confusion Species was a winner in the 2011 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, and her poetry collection Near Future was published by Nine Arches Press in November 2018. For more details on her work please visit:

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Shapwick Heath NNR Newsletter – April to June 2019

As April arrived survey season began in earnest and as our second landscape-wide booming bittern count racked up 42 booming males across the Avalon Marshes, with 13 of them on Shapwick Heath alone and 47 Somerset-wide, we could feel it was going to be a good year. Marsh harriers were displaying well, there was plenty of great white egret activity, the passerines flooded in, cuckoos began to call and a nightingale was regularly heard singing its heart out along the Discovery Trail. Butterfly, bumblebee and dragonfly transects began and the RoAM Thursday surveying group got going on its mission to explore Natural England’s lesser-known sites across the Somerset Levels. . . . . . . . . . . .

To read the full April to June newsletter open this link to the PDF 


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Natural England have just completed their 5-year review of the Shapwick Heath NNR Management Plan. The document is now open for a period of public consultation and is available to download here for your perusal. The plan covers everything from the management of our array of wetland habitats and specialist species, to improving our conservation and interpretation of the reserves heritage features, how we wish to work with our local community, partner organisations and volunteer groups, provide educational opportunities, improve our visitor provision and much more.

If you would like to submit comments or queries please contact Somerset Senior Reserves Manager Simon Clarke at or call the Natural England office on 01458 860120. There will also be the opportunity to meet Simon to discuss the plan in person on Sunday 17th February at 10am – 3pm at the Visitor Information Point at the Avalon Marshes Centre, including a walk on the reserve between 1.30-3pm.

We hope the plan does justice to our wonderful National Nature Reserve and we welcome all your constructive feedback on our proposals.

Shapwick Heath NNR Management Plan Executive Summary

Shapwick Heath NNR 2018-2023 Consultation Draft

Appendix 1: Map 1 – Avalon Marshes location

Appendix 2: Map 2 – Land Holdings

Appendix 3: Map 3 – Designations

Appendix 4: Map 4 – SSSI units

Appendix 5: Map 5 – Management units

Appendix 6: Shapwick Heath NNR Climate Vulnerability Assessment

Appendix 7: Aerial Photo of Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve 2014

Appendix 8: Map 6 – Archaeology

Appendix 9: Map 7- Access

Appendix 10: Map 8 – Cotton Grass Field Ditch Restoration

Appendix 11: Map 9 – Tree Safety Zones



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Natural England has now secured funding from Defra to continue with the improvements within the Avalon Marshes. These are at the Avalon Marshes Centre and are part of what is known as the Phase 3 works. They will be carried out between Monday 28th January and approximately mid-March. During this period Somerset Crafts, The Marshes Tea Hub and the information point will continue to fully operate. However, part of the car park will be closed and the vehicle and pedestrian entrance will be moved to the northern end of the centre (the Westhay end).

The work being carried out includes:-

The work previously carried out in phase 2 included:-

What next? Natural England and its partners at the Avalon Marshes Centre are keen to push on with the improvements at the centre and build on what has been achieved with the recent Defra funding. The funding climate is very difficult but hard work is going on behind the scenes to secure further funding.

If you have any questions please contact Natural England on 01458 860120 or e-mail

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Road now reopened – 2/11/18

Road Closure – Shapwick Road from Monday 1st October for approximately 5 weeks

As part of the continuing development and improvement of the Avalon Marshes Centre Kier Utilities have been engaged by Natural England to lay a new sewer to The Avalon Marshes Centre from Westhay. This new sewer is an important upgrade to the existing on-site system. It will allow Natural England to improve the community facilities available at the Centre.

The new sewer will be laid in Shapwick Road itself and because of this it will be necessary to close part of the road to traffic from Monday 1 October 2018 for approximately 5 weeks. The Avalon Marshes Centre, Hub Tea Stop and Somerset Crafts will still be open as normal and accessible throughout the closure period by following the signed diversion routes (access will be from the Shapwick village direction).

Where possible, Kier would like to ensure any disruption and inconvenience to residents and businesses is kept to a minimum and with this in mind we would welcome any questions or comments you may have.

Please contact Paul Horrell on 07896 279134 or by email at

The Avalon Marshes Centre, Hub Tea Stop and Somerset Crafts will still be open as normal and accessible throughout the closure period by following diversion routes.

Part of the continuing:

Avalon Marshes Centre

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From 9th to 13th of April there will be no access to Ham Wall reserve via the village of Ashcott due to Water Main repairs on Station Road.
During this period access to the reserve is via the village of Meare only.

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Our usual number 01458 860494 is temporarily unavailable.  If you wish to contact us please ring 01458 862040.  We apologise for inconvenience.