Exploring the hidden haven of Chard Reservoir
PUBLISHED: 15:52 19 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:52 19 November 2018
A favourite spot for locals, Emma Dredge explains why people love Chard Reservoir, its scenery and its wildlife
From Porlock with its glorious sea-views to Cheddar and its famous cheese; from the mysteries of Glastonbury to the outstanding landscape of the Blackdown Hills, I’d say that Somerset has it all. But sometimes, exploring the road less travelled means discovering hidden places. And in these places, amazing secrets can be found.
Set in the glorious countryside of South Somerset is Chard Reservoir. Built in 1842, it originally provided the water for Chard Canal until the arrival of the railway. At that time it became popular for trout fishing and duck shooting. It was given to the council in 1990, where it was established as a nature reserve.
It was recently given the Green Flag Award for excellence in environmental standards and its beautiful, well-maintained pathways and native woodlands makes it a worthy winner of this international accolade.
The reservoir, teeming with enormous carp, is home to many species of wildlife. During the spring, the water level is purposefully kept high to encourage the nesting of the great crested grebes. It’s then dropped in later summer months to reduce flooding risks.
Kevin Harris has been an avid bird watcher and frequent visitor to the reservoir since the 1990s.
“The reserve has a great mix of meadows, mature woodland and open water to attract a wide range of birds from woodpeckers and nuthatches, to herons, egrets, ducks and grebes,” he says.
“There is great excitement when a rare bird turns up, such as the first great white egret in 2009.”
Kevin’s passion for sharing sightings of wildlife led him to establish his own Chard Reservoir website, which has been active for 18 years. Water birds, including kingfishers can be viewed from the seclusion of the bird hide, but Kevin warns winter visitors to beware of the northerly winds!
Wildlife thrives at the reservoir and in the warmer months it’s alive with butterflies, grasshoppers and ladybirds. Damselflies and dragonflies can also be spotted zooming over the water in the summer. The colder months bring large numbers of wildfowl and little egrets are particularly common during these times.
The leafy woodlands that edge the reservoir provide the perfect chance to discover an array of native trees such as oak, ash, beech and holly as well as laurel and rhododendron. Some of the oldest trees date back 250 years, giving it a fairytale atmosphere. My children are convinced that fairies and pixies live within the branches and roots. Many exotic species of trees also flourish and you will find glorious monkey puzzle trees and grand firs intertwined with more indigenous varieties.
Meander through the outer meadows and enjoy strolling among the wild flowers and natural grasslands. In summer, the buttercup meadow is awash with marsh orchids, ox eye daisies and yarrow. The meadows are ideal for relaxing, having picnics or simply losing yourself in nature. The burst of colours and scents from the flowers make it easy to see why this area is popular for inspiring local artists and writers.
My children love exploring the hidden pathways and secret trails. We always enjoy looking out for the friendly squirrels – they like to say hello! There is ample opportunity to feed the ducks and moorhens who also enjoy greeting visitors. And when little legs get tired from walking, there’s also a play area with safe, sturdy, wooden play equipment which is fantastic for climbing, balancing and jumping.
The tranquillity of Chard Reservoir is enchanting to all ages, so come and see for yourself why this beautiful place is so much more than just a walk.
Chard Reservoir is free, easy to find and there is plenty of parking in the designated car park.
The excellent visitor facilities and well-kept paths are ideal for pushchairs or mobility scooters, making this a great spot for everyone to enjoy.
Dogs are welcome, but are restricted to certain areas in order to protect the wildlife. They are allowed off their leads, but must be kept under control.
Chard Reservoir also runs free family events over the summer where children and adults can experience clay modelling, bug hunting, fire lighting, pond dipping and bushcraft activities.
For Kevin Harris’ reservoir website go to chardres.totalserve.co.uk.