Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Green Down Nature Reserve

Green Down is home to one of conservation’s great success stories with the biggest number of large blue butterflies, anywhere in the world, after they were amazingly brought back from UK extinction.

Spring highlight

Lesser Whitethroat. This secretive warbler skulks in the scrub at Green Down and is often only noticed by its ‘rattling’ song, or 'tacking' call. The males burst into song, on arrival back in the UK in April/May and may be heard up until August/September when they leave. Its dark cheek feathers contrast with its white throat giving it a 'masked' look, and when its flits from cover try to spot its white outer tail feathers.

See some of the conservation work that has been going on at Green Down here

Nearby Reserves

New Hill and Tannager
Aller and Beer Woods


What to See






Green Woodpecker




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


Pedestrian 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

By road:

Park at  ST 512 289 and walk up track to top. No access along private gallop.

By bicycle:

A National Cycle Network route passes close to the reserve.

Grid reference: ST 518 288


Events Nearby

Saturday 11 October

Bring your camera and learn how to take great photos when you are out and about. 

Saturday 6 December

Use nature as your inspiration and create wonderful decorations for the festive season.

Click the following link for a full list of Somerset wildlife events

Location Map