For its size, Ham Hill has a huge variety of wildlife, due to the mosaic of grassland, scrub, semi-natural woodlands and tufa streams.
Over two thousand species of plants and animals have been recorded in the Country Park, and the list is being added to all the time.
There is some wonderful woodland to explore within the Country Park, made up of mostly native species such as ash, oak and hazel. The ranger team practice traditional management techniques such as coppicing and thinning, ensuring that the trees are healthy and that woodland flowers flourish beneath the canopy. The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells in April, alongside lesser celandines, primroses and violets.
Ham Hill is home to some of Britain’s favourite mammals. There is a small herd of roe deer that roams the Country Park, and foxes and badgers are regularly seen. These are joined by stoats, weasels and hedgehogs, as well as several bat species. There have even been one or two sightings of dormice, which we are encouraging onto the site by putting up special nest boxes.
The nutrient poor soils found across the majority of the country park supports a rare type of grassland (calcareous). The grassland of the Northern Spur, the Plateau Fields and Witcombe Valley are nationally important for their many flowering plants. Species such as birdsfoot-trefoil and wild thyme live very close together in a tightly knit mat, all competing for a few limited nutrients. The grassland continues around the hilly mounds left by Victorian quarrying and changes colour throughout the summer as the yellows, purples and whites of the wildflowers bloom and fade.
There have been thirty species of butterfly recorded in the country park – that is over half the number of species that live in Britain! Common species such as red admiral, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood are joined by rarer butterflies like dingy skipper and brown hairstreak. Ham Hill is also an excellent place to look for dragonflies and damselflies.
In the summer the traditionally managed hay meadows are awash with wildlife. Buttercups, vetches, cranesbill and many other flowers create a wonderful scene, while skylarks sing from high in the air. There are five different species of orchid in the meadows – Stroud’s West is the best place to see them in June. Early purple, common spotted, southern marsh, pyramidal and bee orchid can all be found if you look closely.
Ham Hill is great for birdlife – we have recorded about a hundred species on the site. Keep a lookout for green and great-spotted woodpeckers, kestrels, jays and even barn owls. Ravens and buzzards are often seen drifting overhead, and in spring and summer the woods and thickets ring out with birdsong.
The tall grasses and flowers of this habitat provide ideal areas for ground nesting birds like the skylark. Because of the fragile nature of some of the species within the meadows we do ask that you do not pick the flowers as they will quickly die, and if left alone more people will be able to enjoy them in their natural setting. Also please keep to the mown paths and keep dogs on a lead in meadows so as to minimise disturbance to ground nesting birds, their chicks and other wildlife.
Did you know that over 1000 different species of insect have been recorded at Ham Hill Country Park
Thanks to volunteers from the Yeovil & District Wildlife Recording Group, the new updated species lists for both country parks is now available to view online. The species lists are a useful tool in planning future management works at the country parks and help the rangers to look after the rare and specialist species that may need protecting through careful and sensitive management. The wealth of knowledge that this group of volunteers have about the natural world is incredible. If you have a passion for wildlife recording and would like to help with species surveys at Ham Hill, Yeovil Country Park or Chard Reservoir please get in contact with the countryside team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.