Catcott Complex Nature Reserves
What to see in summer
In summer the focus changes from waders and wildfowl to a wide range of species. Rare dragonfl ies and great-crested newts can be seen, together with breeding populations of common frogs and toads. Nightingale and many other woodland birds have been recorded here, while roe deer are frequently observed as are bats.
Regular summer visitors include hobby, peregrine and marsh harrier, garganey, little egret, barn owl and grasshopper warbler with occasional visitors including cattle egret , green sandpiper, wood sandpiper , little stint, black tern, woodcock , merlin and goshawk.
Plants of interest
Purple moor grass, devil’s-bit scabious, marsh and meadow thistles are common, while a dense stand of bog myrtle has been maintained under which tall herbs are able to survive, including the nationally notable milk-parsley. A number of rare or threatened plants are cultivated on site including Great Fen sedge.
At the Catcott Complex visitors can visit the Lows, Great Fen and Heath. At Catcott Lows you can enjoy stunning views across the marshes to Somerset’s iconic Glastonbury Tor. One of the lowest parts of the Brue Valley, Catcott Lows is a Mecca for birds that come to breed in spring and take refuge from freezing temperatures in winter.
A short walk (800 metres) along the drove takes you to the Great Fen and the tower hide, and then on again to Catcott Heath which is alive with dragonflies in the summer and toads, newts and frogs make their homes in the wet fen meadows. Purple moor grass, devil’s-bit scabious, marsh and meadow thistles are common here, and a number of rare or threatened plants are cultivated on site, including saw sedge.
Lying on the western edge of the Avalon Marshes, Catcott sits within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area. Access is zoned to prevent disturbance, damage and to protect the safety of visitors. The lows, north, south and great fen can be viewed from droves or the hides.
Go to the car park and Glastonbury Tor provides a fantastic backdrop to the Lows from the viewing screen and hide. In the winter and spring this is framed by flooded grassland teaming with wildfowl and waders. Former carrot fields have been converted to grazing marsh which gradually dries supporting breeding and passage waders.
The water level on site is carefully controlled. During the winter, the reserve floods naturally; through spring and early summer the water is lowered; then, in summer, the fields are kept dry so that cattle can graze the fields before the cycle begins again.
Grazing and topping are vital to maintain conditions for wintering and breeding birds. The Catcott Reserve is made up from a number of former reserves, with the Lows, North, Heath, South and Fen now managed together.
The Catcott Complex is part of our Brue Valley Living Landscape Project to restore, recreate and reconnect important wildlife habitat in the valley. The beautiful wetlands of the Brue Valley are rich with wildlife but if we don’t link up these islands of habitat and create highways our wildlife can move around we risk losing some of our most valuable species.
You can find out more about how our Brue Valley Living Landscape project is working across the landscape to protect wildlife on the Somerset Levels by clicking here.
You can download our Catcott leaflet here.
Otter © Brian Phipps
Peregrine Falcon © Neil Aldridge
Lapwing © DarinSmith