Fyne Court wildlife walk
Discover a wealth of wildlife on this gentle walk around Fyne Court Estate, starting near the old buildings in the courtyard, then around broadleaved woodland, grazed meadows and through the remains of a once well respected Arcadian landscape park.
Fyne Court courtyard, grid ref: ST223320
The walk starts by the information centre and Andrew Crosse display, which provides lots of information about Fyne Court and the Quantocks in general. From the information centre, walk out of the courtyard and up the stone track towards the car park. Once past all the buildings, turn right down the track.
Pioneer electrician Andrew Crosse (1784-1855) was Fyne Court's most famous inhabitant. He conducted many electrical experiments and was renowned locally for the miles of copper wire he suspended from trees to conduct lightning. It will be no surprise, that Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) was inspired by his work.
A short way down the track there is an information board on the left with coloured arrows pointing along a gravelled path. Follow this path left into the wood and then take the right-hand split in the path, and continue straight along through a laurel tunnel.
Fyne Court was built as an Arcadian landscape park, fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is now managed in a way that encourages wildlife to flourish. The main house was destroyed by fire in 1894 and all that remains are a few rooms, such as the music room, the outbuildings and stables.
Look out for a silted-up pond to the left of the path. Just past this pond there are steps leading up the hill on the right hand side, climb these and then take the right-hand path through beech woodland. Fyne Court supports many veteran trees, especially beech. They provide refuge for insects, bats, birds and fungi. Listen for the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers in the early spring and the coarse cawing of rooks in the rookery.
Snowdrops cover the woodland floor in early spring and are well worth a visit in their own right. They provide a fantastic display, making the woodland a photographer's dream. A number of other wildflowers are also found here, such as primrose, yellow archangel and bluebells.
At the next split take the path to the right and go through a gate which leads into a field. Walk down across the field and slightly to the right. Once you can see the fence line against Five Pond Wood you should be able to spot a gate; head towards this.
Once at the gate go through into Five Pond Wood and follow the path immediately to the right, through the wood. Listen for the fluting song of blackcaps and keep your eyes peeled for spotted flycatcher in the trees.
A wooden bridge takes you across the stream and then on through a gate before emerging from the wood. Cross another bridge, looking left for a fantastic wet meadow. Climb the short slope to a wide track, turn right and follow it along.
Plants like ragged robin and marsh marigold are abundant in the wet grassland along the streams and provide an excellent nectar source for invertebrates, such as beetles, and occasionally marbled white butterflies and southern hawker dragonflies. Swifts and swallows can be seen diving and darting over the tops of the grassland, hunting the insects in flight.
After a short distance you will reach another gate. Go through and follow the path to a few steps before a gate, which leads into a grazed meadow. Keep the garden wall on your right and head towards Broomfield Church, follow the garden wall around the corner where you will come to the final gate.
Highland cattle are used to graze the herb-rich grassland on the estate. They are essential in helping to keep the grassland in tip-top condition for wildlife. Look out for plants such as pignut, birds-foot trefoil and southern marsh orchid.
From the gate turn left, up to the road and then turn right. Follow the road back to the entrance to Fyne Court and then the track into the courtyard.
Fyne Court courtyard, grid ref: ST223320
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