Haddon Moor Reserve

 

haddon_moor_summer.jpg

 

How to get there

Our Haddon Moor reserve is located close to Wimbleball Lake at Ordnance Survey reference SS996290 (Postcode TA4 2HX).  The Honorary Reserve Warden is Dave Ayling, contactable on tel 01643 821664 or dave.ayling@somerset-butterflies.org.uk 

Access is by a gate on the north side of the B34190 where it passes through the village of Upton. The gateway is set back in the roadside hedge and easy to miss unless you drive slowly. The gate can be opened to enable you to pull your car off the road but first ensure that the inner gate is closed so that the ponies cannot get out past you. 

 

What you will find

The reserve is 5.1 ha (12 acres)  in size and slopes gently down from the road to a small but busy stream which is actually the headwater reach of the River Haddeo.

The site mainly holds acid grassland dominated by Purple Moor-grass and with patches of willow scrub, both being characteristic of ground that stays damp all year. It also has a very attractive flora with many Heath Spotted-orchids plus Southern Marsh-orchids, big patches of Bog Asphodel and other flowers including the very uncommon Pale Butterwort which is an insectivorous plant.

One of the most important plants must be the Marsh Violet (first image) because it is the larval foodplant of the most important butterfly species here, the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (second image). The picture shows the flower and the characteristic leaf shape, often nestled low down amongst the Purple Moor-grass tussocks. June is the best time to visit to see the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries on the wing, and at this time of year Large Skippers are also active. Earlier in the year, Green Hairstreaks, Orange-tips and Green-veined Whites are present while later Marbled White and Small Skipper occur along with Meadow Brown and Ringlet. 

 

Management of the reserve

During the summer months and into autumn the site is grazed by Exmoor ponies (third image) which helps to prevent the Purple Moor-grass from becoming too dominant and suppressing the smaller plants including the Marsh Violets.

Even so, the Moor-grass develops big tussocks largely composed of unpalatable dead leaves and these need to be burned off at times. This is a job that requires skill and we are grateful to be able to employ the Exmoor National Park rangers to carry out a controlled burn of a different part of the site each winter. This does not kill the plants but it does produce a springtime flush of palatable Moor-grass for the ponies to eat as well as maintaining the conditions required by the varied flora and the butterflies.

Scrub clearance, fencing repairs (fourth image) and other jobs that the ponies can’t do are undertaken by volunteer work parties.

Haddon Moor has much other interest as well as flowers and butterflies. Moths, dragonflies such as the golden-ringed dragonfly (fifth image), bees and breeding birds all add to the interest and wildlife value of the site.