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Walk: An abundance of birds at Chard Reservoir

PUBLISHED: 15:40 09 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:19 10 July 2018

Looking along the reservoir from the viewing platform; the birds are so confiding it can be hard not to trip over them

Looking along the reservoir from the viewing platform; the birds are so confiding it can be hard not to trip over them

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Take an easy, idyllic and accessible walk at bird-rich Chard Reservoir with Simone Stanbrook-Byrne

There are some places that make you want to keep going back and Chard Reservoir, one of Somerset’s local Nature Reserves, is such a place. Built in 1842 to provide water for Chard Canal, it lost its purpose when the railway superseded the canal and freight was moved about by train, rather than on the waterways. The council took over the care of the reservoir in 1990 and made the area what it is today.

This idyllic gem of a walk is in an area well managed for wildlife; the birds so confiding it is hard not to trip over them. The bird hide, situated out in the water, gives glorious views along the lake.

The reserve paths meander through wildflower meadows, beneath trees and beside the water, with the return trip through farmland. For those using pushchairs/robust wheelchairs, the first half of the walk is on surfaced paths so is reasonably accessible, although you would need to retrace your steps when you reached the end of the reservoir. But a journey in the opposite direction is a different journey – and it’s just as appealing.

Pick a still, clear sunny day to make the most of the reflective lake, pack a picnic and enjoy this short and lovely route.

Chard Reservoir - the map Chard Reservoir - the map

1. From the notice board in the car park at the end of Oaklands Avenue follow the surfaced path through a grassy area to reach a lane in about 100m. Cross over and go through the gate opposite where a sign bids you ‘Welcome to Chard Reservoir’. Beyond the gate go left on the surfaced path, which soon bends right as it passes another information board. Keep ahead on this main path, passing a woodland play area on the right and soon arriving at a small bridge into the conservation area.

2. The reservoir comes into view. Keep right at a fork, reaching a viewing platform from which the vista along the lake is superb. Don’t stand on the moorhens and ducks that may be all round your feet; they are used to being treated with respect by birdwatchers, hence the absence of excitable dogs in this area. Beyond here the path continues round to reach the hide entrance by an immensely tall tree. Even if birds are not your thing, it’s worth going inside the hide just to sit out in the lake and enjoy the tranquil views across the water. Look out for the divertingly big fish that inhabit it including carp, pike and mirror carp. Anyone fishing in the lake is required to return them unharmed. For those who relish birds, they are abundant and enormously varied: we saw many swans, great crested grebes and delightful moorhen chicks to name but a few. Species vary throughout the year and can also include little egrets, cormorants, tufted ducks and wigeon. Around the extensive reedy margins look for reed buntings and marsh and willow tits.

Looking along the reservoir from the viewing platform; the birds are so confiding it can be hard not to trip over them. The council has cared for the site since 1990 Looking along the reservoir from the viewing platform; the birds are so confiding it can be hard not to trip over them. The council has cared for the site since 1990

There was once a pair of breeding mute swans but the female died after which the male reared the cygnets before they all departed. There is now a non-breeding flock of about 14.

From the hide, return to the huge tree near its entrance and turn right, continuing on the surfaced path (away from the reservoir for the moment) which brings you back round to the fork you met earlier. Turn right and return across the bridge out of the conservation area, then retrace your steps past the play area. Within 100m another surfaced path goes left. Take this left path and follow it as it immediately swings left and approaches a wooden-fenced bridge.

Beyond the bridge keep ahead on the path, a wooden and wire fence to the left. After another bridge turn left, the reservoir is now glimpsed again through the trees ahead.

Follow this clear and delightfully sylvan path as it meanders in and out from the water’s edge, enjoying occasional views across the reservoir.

The glorious view from the far (north-east) end of the reservoir, back down towards the hide The glorious view from the far (north-east) end of the reservoir, back down towards the hide

3. The path nears the end of the reservoir, passing a small ‘constructed’ inlet on the left. Stay on the main path as it passes round the end of the reservoir; the views down its length towards the bird hide and to the hillsides beyond are beautiful.

Pass a right-hand path leading to the eco-loo (I wasn’t brave enough to test this out, but I’m sure it’s OK if you need it!) and you soon arrive in the anglers’ car park. Walk out to the lane and turn right, following the lane for 250m.

Beyond the reservoir is a public footpath leading through farmland on the return leg of the journey Beyond the reservoir is a public footpath leading through farmland on the return leg of the journey

4. As the lane bends left keep ahead on the signed footpath which goes along the track to Greenways Farm and Walscombe Farm. The buildings of Greenways Farm are soon passed. Go through a gateway and continue on the concrete farm track. The drive drops down and crosses a stream in 100m. About 50m beyond this look for the telegraph pole over to the right where a fingerpost and arrows all slightly disagree with one another.

Follow the direction of the wooden fingerpost, heading across the field towards the hedge. When you reach the hedge turn left along it (hedge to your right) and in a short distance you find an unusual and attractive footpath gate.

Negotiate this into the next field and turn immediately left, following the line of the left-hand hedge. This leads to a stile.

The entrance to the bird hide is marked by a tall and majestic tree The entrance to the bird hide is marked by a tall and majestic tree

5. Cross this, it was rather overgrown when we were there last, then go over the plank bridge. The path beyond here can be very lush but it doesn’t go on for long. Stay with it as it bends about and in just over 100m the track emerges between gate posts and becomes clearer. Keep ahead; the buildings of Paintmoor come into view.

6. Just past a yellow-painted cottage, as the track bends left, take the footpath going right off the track, crossing a stile. An adjacent, ivy-clad post indicates that you’re heading for Touches Lane in 1/3 mile. Join the narrow path between woodland on the left and a field on the right. As the field on the right ends the path leads across a plank bridge into trees. Keep ahead to cross a stile in 20m then walk across the next field, bearing very slightly left to a stile that is visible in the far boundary 100m away.

Cross this and a small bridge, then keep going in the same direction, aiming just to the right of a telegraph pole. This line brings you to a stile leading out to the lane.

Turn right along the lane and follow it for 160m to the point at which you crossed this lane near the start of the walk. Now turn left, retracing your steps along the surfaced path back to the car park.

Good to know:

• Map: The route straddles OS Explorer 128 Taunton & Blackdown Hills 1:25 000 and OS Explorer 116 Lyme Regis & Bridport 1:25 000

• NB. An information leaflet on the reservoir and its paths can be downloaded from: southsomersetcountryside.com/chard-reservoir/about-chard-reservoir. The bird hide is open from 8am-3.30pm.

• Directions to start: Chard Reservoir is on the north-east outskirts of the town, which lies on the A30 in South Somerset

• Start point & parking: Designated parking area at the south west end of the reservoir, accessed at the end of Oaklands Avenue, so you are driving through a residential area to reach this; grid ref: ST337093; nearby postcode TA20 1HN

• Public transport: Chard town centre is well served

• Distance: 2.5 miles / 4km

• Exertion: Easy

• Terrain: Surfaced paths, field paths and tracks. Very short sections of lane

• Dog friendly: Not entirely. Certain sections around the reservoir are well managed for wildlife and dogs are not permitted, so it’s easier to do the walk without them

• Refreshments: None en route but many options in Chard. Just outside town is the Barleymow Farm Shop and Restaurant, a really good place for a quick snack or full meal. TA20 3PS, 01460 62130

• Toilets: Compost toilet at far end of reservoir

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