A su­perb Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve cre­ated from old peat ex­ca­va­tions

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - SI­MONE STANBROOK-BYRNE

The Westhay Moor Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve is an his­toric land­scape. Part of the Avalon Marshes in the Som­er­set Lev­els, the re­gion has changed hugely over time as sea lev­els have var­ied. Westhay Moor has, over the course of aeons, been cov­ered by shal­low sea and seen life as, var­i­ously, salt marsh, swamp, fen, wood­land and the raised bog of ac­cu­mu­lated peat. Ne­olithic farm­ers eked out a liv­ing in the Lev­els and, lat­terly, with bet­ter drainage, more of the area was suc­cess­fully farmed and peat ex­tracted. But what was once an in­dus­trial site of peat dig­ging has now been trans­formed by the Som­er­set Wildlife Trust into a su­perbly rich wildlife habi­tat: a mo­saic of lakes, reedbeds, is­land and stands of na­tive trees. The walk ex­plores some of the old droves and farm­land be­fore round­ing off in the re­serve – in which the en­tire day could be spent if you pre­fer not to walk too far. The re­serve is well-catered for, with view­ing plat­forms and hides, in­clud­ing a large fam­ily-friendly one funded by Viri­dor. Hob­bies are here in quan­tity in spring. In 2017, a pair of Night Heron suc­cess­fully bred here – a UK first. In win­ter the area is spec­tac­u­lar with Star­ling mur­mu­ra­tions.

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