How to get there
Stoke Camp is on the southern face of the Mendips around Ordnance Survey grid reference ST492511. It lies off the A371 south of Cheddar and above the village of Rodney Stoke. To complete your visit you have to walk from a road and there are two ways in – one shorter and steep, the other longer but fairly level along the contours.
The steep approach is off the minor road that runs up from the A371 at Draycott village (turn at brown Tourist Sign to Gliding Club) and park at layby on the left side of the road beside the Wildlife Trust Draycott Sleights reserve at ST486513. Parking on the roadside is quite limited and it is important to pull in as tight as you can. Go through the gate on the right-hand side of the road. From here you walk up a steep grass field and through the gate in a drystone wall to enter our reserve.
Alternatively, you can drive on through Draycott and Rodney Stoke to turn up Westfield Lane and park at the top of the hill beside Westbury Beacon where a gate gives onto Access Land though which you will come to our Westbury Beacon Reserve and then cross another piece of Access Land to arrive at Stoke Camp.
What you will find
The reserve is 10.9 ha (26 acres) in extent and slopes up to a height of 265 m, the top of the hill being surrounded by the earthwork of the Iron Age hillfort, now surviving as a rather inconspicuous low ridge running through the grass. There are superb views over the northern part of the Somerset Moors towards Glastonbury Tor or westward to Brent Knoll.
Like all limestone sites, the sward consists of a numerous species of grasses together with a wide variety of wildflowers. Both the grasses and the wildflowers contribute to the importance of the site for butterflies. The scarcest species here is the Small Blue (second image) which depends on Kidney Vetch (third image). The female Small Blues lay their eggs amongst the clustered flowers and the caterpillars feed in the seedheads initially but then go down to the ground and remain dormant until the spring when they pupate and emerge as adults around the end of May.
The supporting cast includes Grizzled Skipper and Dingy Skipper, Brown Argus, Small Copper (fourth image), Marbled White, Wall Brown, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small Heath and several others, in all totalling 27 species in 2013 and ‘14. This gives the site a long season of interest from early summer onwards.
Management of the reserve
In winter the site is grazed by cattle and after them by sheep so as to reduce the dominance of the grasses and enable key foodplants like the Kidney Vetch required by the Small Blue caterpillars to flourish.
Volunteers control Gorse, which is useful in moderation but suppresses wild flowers when it develops into thickets. There is an annual rain of Ash keys from the adjacent Rodney Stoke National Nature Reserve and this results in masses of tiny trees that need to be pulled up regularly as unfortunately neither sheep not cattle like to eat them.