Footpaths & Walks
Glastonbury is blessed with a wealth of well maintained and marked public footpaths allowing most of these sites to be reached on foot. Glastonbury Tor is surrounded by a network of ancient lanes including Stonedown Lane, one of the oldest in Glastonbury, all of which are open to walkers. There are magnificent views across to Wells, the Mendips and the Blackdown Hills. Glastonbury Abbey has forty acres of beautifully tended grounds, with two duck ponds, an orchard and a lovely circular walk and Chalice Well welcomes vistors to its peaceful gardens. See the Walking in Somerset website for more information on local walks.
For a county with a history as rich and diverse as its countryside, Somerset boasts an amazing number of museums and heritage attractions. Somerset Routes is a unique map and guide which highlights over 100 of the counties best heritage sites to visit. Taking the form of a ‘tube map’, the county has been broken down into seven different lines to travel on, spread across the country and taking in the best sights and things to do. Each line takes you to the museums, historic railways, castles, gardens, stately homes and archaeological sites that make Somerset’s heritage unique.
Walking in the Avalon Marshes
The Avalon Marshes were a vital resource for local communities, including grazing, turf cutting, and reeds for thatching. As a result many footpaths, droves and lanes link these communities to the marshes. These are ideal for walking, and we have developed a series of Circular Heritage Walking Routes which help you fully explore the area. These walks will take you to wonderful views, fascinating heritage, attractive villages and much more.
The Avalon Marshes is a spectacular and beautiful wetland area with lush vegetation and a high level of wildlife. The floodplain is covered by peat deposits up to 8m deep, sitting on top of earlier silts and clay. The acid peat soils of much of the valley support a rare grassland flora and fauna. Glastonbury is the highest of a series of ‘islands’ within the marshes. The area has been constantly exploited, altered and managed by humans over the last 10,000 years leaving behind a uniquely rich archaeological heritage miraculously preserved in the waterlogged peat and on the islands. On a map the marshes are a wash of blue as a result of the myriad of ditches, rhynes and waterways that have re-claimed the land through drainage.
The fields here used to be arable farmland, but now they are being looked after so that they are ideal for wetland birds and other wildlife. We have put in structures to keep the water levels high and have created miles of new ditches and shallow water-filled gutters, and dug out numerous shallow pools or 'scrapes'. Now you can see lapwings, snipe, curlews and redshanks nesting here in summer, as well as yellow wagtails, skylarks and meadow pipits. In winter, the land floods and flocks of lapwings, golden plovers and other wading birds arrive. You can also see wigeons, teals, shovelers and Bewick's swans at this time of year. There is lots of other wildlife to see here too including dragonflies, water voles, otters and roe deer. There is a boardwalk which meanders from the car park to the hide and provides excellent disabled access. Open at all times.
Here you can enjoy a newly created wetland, which provides a safe home for many rare species including water voles and otters. In spring the reedbeds are alive with birdsong and in autumn you can see kingfishers flashing up and down the ditches. Bitterns are seen regularly all year round. There is disabled access to this reserve by RADAR key, and special tactile signs explaining what is there. Events are held throughout the year for families and for those who want to learn more about wildlife. Please note that the car park has a 6'6" height restriction. Open at all times.
A guide to the countryside and villages in the Mendips.
|Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve|
Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve is a superb place to watch wildlife. This magnificent wetland reserve is managed by Natural England and covers over 500 ha at the heart of the Somerset Levels and Moors. It’s an area that’s steeped in history, and an atmospheric landscape of great skies and endless horizons.
Habitats include lush green wildflower meadows; still, dark ditches; damp, secretive fens, shady, wet fern woods; and open water, fringed with rustling reedbeds.
Marvel at the huge flocks of starlings coming into to roost in winter and the spring migration of hobbies arriving from tropical Africa. Shapwick Heath is also the location of the Neolithic Sweet Track, the oldest man-made routeway in Britain.
|Shapwick Moor Nature Reserve|
Hawk & Owl Trust
Situated on the Somerset Levels, it was previously farmed for a variety of arable crops. The Hawk and Owl Trust is restoring it to permanent wet grassland. Some land is being restored to fen. Rough grass margins will encourage owls and other birds of prey and the small mammals they feed on. The reserve is open at all times but access is restricted to public and permissive paths along the edge and across the middle of the land. Shapwick Moor forms part of the Avalon Marshes network of reserves.
The ancient oaks of Swell Wood are part of a continuous strip of woodland extending some 10 miles (15 km) along the ridge from Langport to the Blackdown Hills. It has the largest colony of breeding grey herons in south-west England - more than 100 pairs and a small number of little egrets nest here. Between March and June is the best time to come and see the spectacle.
If you're lucky, you might see a dormouse among the hazel trees, while wildflowers such as bluebells cover the woodland in spring. Look out for primroses and orchids, too. We manage the woodland to benefit the dormice, woodland birds, butterflies and plants. You can explore our two nature trails and hide, which are open at all times. Open all year from dawn to dusk.
West Sedgemoor is part of England's largest remaining wet meadow system. Set among the Somerset Levels and Moors, it has the largest lowland population of breeding wading birds such as lapwings, snipe, curlew and redshanks in southern England. In winter, the controlled flooding on the wet meadows attracts birds in their thousands - ducks such as wigeons, teals, shovelers, pintails and mallards, and wading birds such as golden plovers, snipe and lapwings. The reserve has restricted access to protect ground-nesting birds and over-wintering flocks. Come on one of our guided walks to get special access to our winter viewing station. West Sedgemoor is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. To keep the hay meadows and pastures special for wildlife, we control water levels and the grazing cattle create ideal habitats for ground-nesting birds. Our hedgerows are managed using traditional methods benefiting birds, small mammals and butterflies, and water voles and otters breed here too. You can use public footpaths that run around the edge of the reserve during the quieter summer months when we do not run any events, but for special access, join us on one of our guided walks in the winter and early spring months.
|Westhay Moor Nature Reserve|
Somerset Wildlife Trust
Westhay Moor is a beautiful nature reserve to explore with its shimmering lakes and reed beds, birds singing and signs of life all around. The Levels and Moors biggest attractions for birdwatchers - millions of starlings arriving to roost amongst the wetland reeds beds - start to arrive in November and stay through to January/February. Mild or sunny weather is the best time for spotting the starlings, as they tend to go straight to roost on wet, windy or overcast days. During starling season the local area can get very busy so please be considerate of local residents when parking and avoid blocking gateways and access points.