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How to get there
Our Mount Fancy Reserve is in the Blackdown Hills south of Taunton at OS reference ST251163. There is no parking at the reserve so access is only from the Forestry Commission car park at Staple Hill. The Honorary wardens are Tony & Anna Spiess who took over the role in November 2020.
Take the B3170 from Taunton and turn left to Castle Neroche, and the car park is signposed on your left after about 2 km at OS reference ST 246159. Then walk down the track for 600 m until you reach a junction. If you turn right you will pass through a gate into the eastern part of the Reserve, which we lease from Wessex Water. Turn left and then enter the gate on your left to access the main part of the reserve.
The Wessex Water land has a good firm path through it but some of the ground on either side is wet all year because of springs rising from the slope The western part of the site is in two sections separated by a ride. This part of the site has no surfaced paths so as much of the ground is wet and boots are a good idea.
What you may find
Green–veined White and Orange-tip are amongst the early species, plus Brimstone and Peacock. As the summer develops Speckled Woods are followed by Meadow Browns, Ringlet, Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Small Skippers and, later still, Silver-washed Fritillary and Small Coppers amongst others. In a typical year over 25 butterfly species will be observed. There is also an extensive moth list.
The site used to hold Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the presence of Marsh Violet, the butterfly foodplant, makes it suitable for recolonization.
The management of the reserve
The location of the reserve, on the lower slopes of the Blackdowns, means that it countains numerous small springs that produce a year-round flow of water, creating patches of wet rushy ground. These tend to be colonised by willow scrub which quickly forms dense thickets if not controlled. There is also drier ground and that develops bracken and bramble cover before also turning to scrub.
To keep the reserve in the condition most suitable to butterflies, a strenuous programme of scrub clearance has been undertaken by volunteers over several years in order to increase the potential for grassland and wetland species.
The reserve is grazed by Exmoor ponies and at times by Longhorn cattle so it is important to ensure that the gates are kept closed. Despite their forbidding appearance and size the Longhorns are placid animals, though you should not get between cows and their calves and it is a good idea not to walk too close behind Exmoors as they may kick if startled.