Know before you go
Parking informationThere is no car parking provision at this reserve. It is suggested you look for roadside parking in Holcombe or Ham Hill.
Grazing animalsSome cattle grazing throughout the year.
Contact the Trust for access information.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitApril to July
About the reserve
You can see more than 90 different flowering plants at Edford Meadow nature reserve, renowned for its great variety of orchids including Green Winged, Common Spotted, Heath Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids.
The sympathetic management of these hay meadows, over many years, has allowed a vast array of beautiful plants and flowers to survive and flourish here. Yarrow, Black Knapweed, Pignut, Corky-fruited Water Dropwort, Ox-eye Daisy, Cowslip, Common Milkwort and Saw Wort are just a few to look out for. The hay cut is scheduled to take place on July 15th or soon after, but as this is weather dependant, it could take place in August or September in a wet year, so please be sure to visit before then and do stick to paths to avoid damaging the hay.
The fields support good populations of the more common grassland butterflies, Meadow Brown, Common Blue and Ringlet as well as Small Copper, Large Skipper, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak. Look out for anthills on the drier grazed fields. The damper grassland areas within the reserve attract Snipe while Woodcock have been recorded in the damp woodland and ditches. The hedges provide an important habitat for nesting and foraging farmland birds. During summer Skylarks can be heard singing overhead and Swallows seen feeding over the hay meadows.
These fields support numerous species of grassland fungi including some rare unimproved grassland indicator species suchas the wax caps Hygrocybe Intermedus and H. Quieta, H. Calyptriformis and H. Pratensis and H. Chlorophana.
Dormice are present in the species-rich hedges and woodland. Pipistrelle Bats are often seen over the meadows and river hunting for insects, while Greater Horseshoe bats are known to use the Mells River corridor to feed and to pass between Harridge Wood and good feeding and roosting places. There have been rare sightings of Otters along the river and Kingfishers also occur.
Reserve conservation Management - This extraordinary diversity is recognised by the reserve being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is due to the way the fields have been managed for many years, with an annual hay cut in July on most fields followed by grazing. This allows the flowers and grasses to grow tall over the summer, and set seed before they are cut, with the vegetation kept low to assist germination in autumn and spring. Without this programme of grazing and hay cutting, the meadows would be taken over by scrub and eventually develop into woodland.
History and Archaeology - Edford Meadows is home to a section of the former Somerset Coal Canal, which can be seen from one of the footpaths which runs alongside it. There is also some evidence of small-scale coal extraction.
Somerset Wildlife Trust takes care of Edford Meadows by continuing the long-standing, low-impact farming methods – letting the hay flourish, and the after the hay cut grazing the fields with cattle. Somerset Wildlife Trust initially purchased four fields as part of its Mells Valley Project, using a Heritage Lottery Grant in 1997.
The reserve forms part of the Edford Woods and Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which lies on a south-facing slope, leading down towards the former Dorset & Somerset Canal which was a project to link the Bristol Channel and Poole Harbour. This was abandoned, unfinished, just over 200 years ago but remains of the old waterway can still be seen.