Walborough is a great site to visit through the changing seasons. This varied coastal landscape offers something for both the keen-eyed naturalist and the visiting family out for a stroll. The Brean Down Way, which is also part of the National Cycle Network, passes through the middle of the site and gives an option to visit by bike – and means you don’t have to remember your wellies, even in the winter months.
Bordered by the mouth of the River Axe, the beautiful open landscape of Walborough and Uphill are a mosaic of limestone grassland, grazing marsh, saltmarsh and scrub. This mixture of habitats provides the perfect home for wildlife such as butterflies, rare plants and wading birds. This site is managed with grazing cattle to ensure nationally-rare plant species that define the character of the landscape are maintained. Livestock are grazed in low numbers from the spring through to autumn across the site, allowing flowering plants to bloom and flourish, creating havens for insects. You can enjoy stunning panoramic views of the estuary from the top of the main hill. The grassland at this spot contains many plant species commonly found in limestone grasslands, including cowslips, common rock-rose, black knapweed, small scabious, kidney vetch, green-winged orchids and autumn lady’s tresses.
During the spring and early summer, the flowering plants create a blanket of colour and provide important habitat for a number of butterfly species, including the chalkhill blue, grizzled skipper, small heath and dingy skipper. In the warmer summer months, skylarks provide a continuous soundtrack from above as they breed on the saltmarsh. The mixed scrub that wraps around the base of the hill offers nesting sites for visitors like white throats and black caps. Overhead, buzzards can be seen circling and the familiar ‘croaking’ call of the raven can be heard. You can distinguish these large birds from the crow family by their size and diamond shaped tail in flight.
As we move into the autumn and winter months there is still a lot to see. The estuary and saltmarsh are home to large numbers of birds in winter, including wading birds such as dunlin, redshank, little egret and the unmistakably colourful shelduck. Snipe can also be seen in the pools and lagoons in the saltmarsh fields. During the winter months birds from northern Europe join our resident population and, although numbers have declined nationally in recent years, Walborough has managed to sustain a good over-wintering population.
Another welcome winter visitor is the short-eared owl. This medium-sized owl can be seen hunting for voles and other small mammals during the day over the rough saltmarsh. They will often quarter an area of ground, gliding, hovering, looking and listening intently for unsuspecting prey. These stealthy birds of prey are regular visitors to the site and well worth looking for while you’re on a winter walk. Smaller birds can also be seen in good numbers, as pipits, finches and skylarks flock on the saltmarsh, feeding on the seeds of plants such as sea lavender and sea aster.
As the beauty of autumn is in full flow, why not plan your next great day out Walborough or visit one of our other nature reserves.