PCNR Area Contacts
Nicky Saunter first became interested in nature as a child in rural Essex. This interest expanded to sustainability while living in China and then Hong Kong, where environmental protection was in its infancy and globalisation was starting to show its potential for damage.
Since moving to a 3-acre Somerset site in 2008, Nicky has been interested in re-wilding; letting nature do what it does so well without the intervention of people. This is sometimes at odds with the conservation community, but is becoming more mainstream and accepted as part of most conservation work today.
Her working life has included writing, running restaurants, environmental training, growing plants and running a drug policy charity. Her loves are nature, art, photography, food, learning about other cultures, walking and talking. She’s still working!
Information about Nicky’s reserve is in the Spring 2017 Newsletter.
Heart of the Levels
David German, a retired electrical engineer, is one of a syndicate of 11 people who, about five years ago, together put up enough money to buy four acres of former farmland.
Their aim was to preserve the field as a wildflower meadow. Four years ago a survey was carried out by well-qualified botanist John Marshall and on the basis of his findings, SERC arranged for the land to be registered as a County Wildlife Site.
Once a year, during late August/ September, the hay is cut by a local farmer. Recently one of the syndicate planted wildflower plugs but they were unsuccessful, possibly eaten by rabbits. We have tried again this winter planting around 70 Cowslips as plugs and most of them seem to be still in the ground.
Three years ago paid for by a grant - 200 yards of native hedging was planted by the Syndicate members with seven different native species and is growing well. Ragwort and creeping thistles are pulled by hand. A wide range of wild flowers are present in the field. Yellow Rattle has been introduced and has flourished, controlling the grasses very well. Pyramidal and Bee Orchid are counted each year. Visitors are welcome
Ilminster / Chard
Valerie and John Godsmark bought 48 acres of ancient woodland in the county in 1999 but didn’t start any management until 2001.
At least three days a week (weather permitting) finds them working and enjoying their time in Park Wood, Chaffcombe near Chard.
Starting as enthusiastic amateurs, their knowledge has increased as they undertook their own management plan & grant applications. Detailed records are kept. Rhododendron ponticum/ Laurel clearance, tree planting, provision of firewood & timber for their own use all take time. The restored pond is an interesting and attractive distraction. Butterflies have been recorded on transect since 2011. Some problems with “Run-off” from neighbouring land led to some involvement with the “Hills to the Levels project and the construction of 6 leaky debris dams. Management plans are now to be revised according to Countryside Stewardship regulations and UK Forestry standards still within the “Keepers of Time” guidelines.
Every spring they host Bluebell walks, a time when visitors can either simply enjoy the beauty of Park Wood or they can benefit from the Godsmarks’ experienced advice on Woodland management primarily for conservation & habitat improvement.
They are also involved in 2 Community projects and are “Volunteer” Wardens for Bishopswood Meadows.
South East Somerset and Yeovil
Barbara and Derek Simmons own three fields of former pasture land and some woodland ( ten and a half acres) bordering the River Cale. One field contains some mature oaks.
When they bought the land in three lots in 2003, 2005, and 2010 two fields had been over-grazed by horses and suffered from barren patches and overgrown blackthorn brambles and nettles.
Hard work clearing the grassland and laying and planting hedges has led to a dramatic increase in wildlife and flowers and a wide range of fungi has been identified including wax caps and uncommon fungi such as Gyrophorus cyanescens and Choiromyces meandriformis, a species of truffle. Five years ago over twelve hundred native trees and woody shrubs were planted and now range between 4 and 18 feet. Some are flowering and fruiting well. Different types of woodpiles, wildflower banks, insect banks and five ponds have been developed.
The annual hay cut is carried out late. Some of the pasture has been grazed by sheep although this is often limited by their availability. Grass footpaths are maintained throughout for use by friends, neighbours and visiting groups.
The final para to stay as it is.
After a career in biomedical sciences, mostly spent on research in veterinary and medical laboratories, Derek was delighted to undertake this project. Barbara worked as a pharmacist in hospital and retail pharmacies. They are delighted with their environmental project which aims to increase the biodiversity on their land.
Mendip Hills, East Mendip and Wells
To be updated
In 2004 Vanessa Mason together with her husband Phillip purchased 2 adjoining fields of semi-unimproved grassland totalling 18 acres lying within the Exmoor National Park. The land is now called Wayland Oaks and the fields slope gently to the north from a height of 260 metres above sea level (asl) down to 200 metres asl. A search at the Somerset Heritage Centre, revealed that the two fields were once part of a much larger holding owned by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland and in 1840 they were recorded as arable land and named Higher Wanland and Lower Wanland.
The land is surrounded by mixed species hedgerows of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Field Maple, Wild Cherry, Dog Roses and Rowan with some tall mature trees including Ash, Beech, and Sessile Oak and a diversity of ground flora. Over the last 10 years a mosaic of short sections of the hedges have been laid. A survey carried out in 2005 by Anne Bodley of the Somerset Botany Group identified the major grasses as Yorkshire Fog, Sweet Vernal Grass, Rough Meadow Grass, Soft Brome and Squirrel-tail Fescue.
Dormouse boxes were put up in 2005 and over the years Dormice, Wood Mice, Blue Tits and Pied Flycatchers have used them. Other mammals regularly seen include Badgers, Bats, Fallow and Red Deer, Foxes, and Rabbits. Other birds seen include Buzzards, Ravens, Tawnyy Owls, Swifts, Swallows, Starlings and Gold Crests.
The land is now managed more sensitively for wildlife as an upland meadow with hay being cut mid to late July and grazed part of the time by sheep. The creation of a small copse and wildlife pond in the lower field is planned within the next year.
If you would like to get in touch with your area contact then please drop us an e-mail at