Steart Marshes, Bridgwater, Somerset

Steart Marshes is a huge wildfowl and wetland reserve on the Somerset coast, between the River Parrett and the Bristol Channel. Formed by a collaboration of the WWT and the Environment Agency as a response to the threat that rising sea levels pose to saltmarshes and mudflats, it differs from most wetland reserves in that it not only provides a habitat for wildlife, but it also comprises productive farmland and serves as a flood defence for the locality, protecting homes and businesses from the tides of Bridgwater Bay.

Whatever time of year you visit you’ll see some of the flora and fauna that this kind of habitat attracts. In springtime there are marsh marigolds, cowslips and cuckoo flowers; the first butterflies have emerged and the birdlife includes avocets, grey plover and lapwing. Summer brings little egret and spoonbill, and yellow wagtail and whinchat have been spotted; there are also several species of dragonflies and damselflies.

Throughout the autumn the flooded freshwater marshes are haven for teal, shoveler and pintail; birds of prey can be seen hunting and the hedgerows are brightened by the vivid red of rose hips and the rich pink of spindle berries. With winter come flocks of fieldfare and redwing – there is always something to be looking out for, something to wonder at.

Steart Marshes are open all year to anyone who wishes to come and enjoy the peace and quiet and to connect with nature. There are cycling and horse riding trails and walking paths to walk on, some wheelchair and pushchair friendly. Take your time when you visit; sit and be still in the bird hides and make sure you have your binoculars with you. There are car parks and loos, but no café, so if you’re planning on spending a few hours here, pack a picnic, find a peaceful spot to enjoy it, along with the solitude and the fresh air.

All information correct at the time of writing

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