Hidden Nature

PUBLISHED: 11:14 25 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:07 20 February 2013

Ancient trees in Horner Wood

Ancient trees in Horner Wood

May and June are perhaps the most exciting months of the year for wildlife enthusiasts. Our broad-leaved woodlands are still fresh and green, with bluebells and wild garlic in profusion. The meadows are a riot of colour and buzzing with insects, w...

Few counties in Britain are as diverse in their habitats as Somerset, ranging from the heights of Dunkery Beacon on the Holnicote Estate to the Levels, the Mendips and the Avon Gorge. This variety means we are lucky to have an incredible range of wildlife.

A few of our highlights include the large blue butterfly, which became extinct in Britain but which has been reintroduced to Somerset and can be seen at Collard Hill in June. Careful management and grazing has created just the right ecosystem to support this vulnerable insect.

The woodlands at Holnicote are home to 16 out of the 17 British species of bat, many living in ancient pollarded trees. Horner Wood, in particular, is one of the most beautiful ancient oak woods in the country. Insects and birds abound, such as the silver-washed fritillary butterfly in July and the pied flycatcher, wood warbler and redstart from May to August. You may see dippers along the river all year. Horner Wood is also of European importance for its lichen flora, with more than 330 species.

Few counties in Britain are as diverse in their habitats as Somerset. This variety means we are lucky to have an incredible range of wildlife

Cheddar Gorge is home to its own flower, the Cheddar pink, which you can see in early summer. The south-east-facing cliffs and scree slopes are home to a whole community of specialist plants, which are adapted to the dry conditions. On the lower slopes you may see basil, thyme and other herbs. From May to September peregrines and ravens are often seen in breeding display flights over the gorge.

Rare arable plants are found at Lytes Cary www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-lytescarymanor/, where the National Trust is working with its tenant to manage the land in a sensitive manner. The steep slopes of the 'Bath Skyline' www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-global/w-localtoyou/w-wessex/w-wessex-countryside/w-bathskyline.htm landscape are full of anthills, which have a particular lime-loving flora, but also attract a high number of green woodpeckers.

Tyntesfield's www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-tyntesfield/BY SIMON FORD. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL TRUST

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