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What to See
Green Down is famous for being home to the biggest number of large blue butterflies anywhere in the world, following their remarkable reintroduction by conservationists after UK extinction in 1979.
Our careful management of the 14 acre reserve, since 1989, has seen flora flourish providing the essential mosaic of grassland and scrub needed by a wide range of invertebrates, including the rare red ant whose larvae provide vital food for the large blue.
As well as the celebrated large blue, a number of other note-worthy butterflies may be seen here, including dark green fritillary (mid-June to mid-August), brown argus (May to June) and brown hairstreak (August).
Plants and flowers
A number of pretty orchids may be enjoyed here including bee and greater butterfly orchids. Be careful where you put your feet as the delicate autumn ladies tresses are tiny and one of the last orchids to appear in late August!
Other rare plants include autumn gentian and cut leaved self-heal. The latter is common on the upper slopes of the reserve, but only found at a handful of other British sites, including Cheddar Gorge, the only other place it is found in Somerset.
Other plants to look out for include common rock-rose, salad burnet, kidney vetch, squinancywort, woolly thistle and horseshoe vetch.
Birds and mammals
Badgers forage throughout the reserve and weasels have been known to breed on the site.
Nightingales have bred in the scrub, which is also used as nesting cover by a wide range of other birds including lesser whitethroat. Green woodpeckers are common visitors to the ant hills of the reserve, kestrel and sparrow hawks regularly hunt over head, and both hobby and peregrine may be seen here.
The reserve is grazed by our neighbour’s pedigree Dorset sheep and North Devon cattle.
Situated on the side of Windmill Hill, Green Down offers far-ranging views over the River Carey valley below.
The reserve consists of Lias limestone downland and scrub and is one of the best examples of its type in Somerset due to the fact that the site has never been used for intensive agriculture.
Diversity in the wildlife found here is aided by the site’s warm, southerly aspect (facing the Somerton to Castle Cary section of the main railway line to London Paddington), relatively deep soils and the mosaic of mature trees and scrub.
The Powder House at the eastern end of the reserve forms an interesting part of Britain’s industrial heritage. It was built to store gunpowder and lamp oil during the construction of the railway at the base of the hill and Somerton Tunnel nearby from 1903 to 1905. Having fallen into disrepair, it has been restored by the Trust with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund and South Somerset District Council.
The reserve is a SSSI.
14 acres (5.7 ha.)
Location & Access
At the western end, pedestrian access can be gained via a lane from the Somerton to Charlton Mackrell road and then along a track (public right of way) immediately to the north of the railway line and across the gallop. At the eastern end, pedestrian access can be gained via the lane from the Somerton to Charlton Mackrell road and then along a track (public right of way) immediately to the south of the railway line, crossing over a bridge.
There is a public footpath through the northern part of the reserve that has kissing gates in the fence lines at either end.
Open access year-round.
How to get there
Park at ST 512 289 and walk up track to top. No access along private gallop.
A National Cycle Network route passes close to the reserve.
Grid reference: ST 518 288
Thursday 20 March
19:30 - 21:00 The Life and Times of the Brown Hare
Peter Thompson's talk will cover the history, ecology, distribution and population declines that have occurred. Reasons for the population decline will be explained and what practical steps can be taken to bring hares in areas where they have declined, including the management of existing habitats using the Game and Wildlife Trust's Stewardship Scheme.
Tuesday 1 April
19:30 Somerset Glow Worms
Peter Bright is a retired teacher living in Westbury-sub-Mendip. He would particularly like to get groups interested in recording the wildlife of their own areas. To this end glow-worms have been looked for and recorded regularly across the Parish of Westbury for each of the last 7 years. He is now interested in extending this across Somerset encouraging people to go out and look for glow-worms in their own areas. He will talk about what is known about the life cycle and their natural history illustrated with pictures taken in Westbury. July and August are the key months so that your records for the Summer of 2013 would be especially welcome.
Tuesday 15 April
19:30 - 21:30 The Somerset Coast
Nigel Phillips will talk about the wildlife and ecology of the Somerset Coast.
Wednesday 23 April
19:30 - 21:00 The Magic of Herb
A wander through the history and folklore of herbs, and how they relate to today’s usage. With herb samples, slides and practical hand-outs
Friday 25 April
19:30 - 21:00 Conservation of the Somerset Levels and Moors
Talk by Somerset Wildlife enthusiast, Steve Parker of Natural England. A short Annual Meeting will be held after the interval.
Tuesday 6 May
19:30 - 21:00 Foraging on the Mendips
Adrian Boots is a Landscape Ecologist with a degree in Environmental Management. Previously a University lecturer, he has also worked for Natural England and County Stewardship schemes. He writes regular columns for the Mendip Times. Nowadays, Adrian specialises in wild food and natural history and runs seasonal wild food forays on the Mendips.
Click the following link for a full list of Somerset wildlife events