Bin Combe walk, extreme butterflying

Walking trail

Welcome to the world of extreme butterflying near Dunkery Beacon in the north of the Exmoor National Park.

The heath fritillary is best seen on warm, sunny days

This one is tough, very tough. The habitat is tall, dense bracken on steep slopes where there are no paths, but this is by far the best place to go in pursuit of the rare heath fritillary butterfly.

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Map

Map route for Bin Combe extreme butterflying walk

Start:

Dunkery Beacon car park, grid ref: SS905410

1

From the car park, head left along Dunkery Hill lane. Go past the vehicle barrier, near a twisted moorland hawthorn bush, and cross rough heather on your left to reach the little valley of Bin Combe. In partnership with the Butterfly Conservation Society, we've done a massive amount of work to conserve the heath fritillary on Exmoor. The secret is in robust bracken management.

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2

Follow the east side of the stream at the top of the combe and walk downhill. Stay on this east side throughout your walk. You'll hopefully begin to see heath fritillaries about 272yd (250m) into the combe. Keep a look out for adders here.

3

There is a vague path at first but once you pass a rock outcrop, near the start of the woodland, the path vanishes. Don't worry, this is normal for Bin Combe, just stick to the lower slopes and continue downwards.

4

Heath fritillaries tend to be best sighted in the lower combe, but vary in location from year to year. They also live in gorse glades. As livestock grazing has declined, we keep bracken growth in check by burning it off in February. This encourages plants like cow-wheat (a parasitic plant on bilberry), with its yellow-lipped flowers. The heath fritillary breeds on the plant, so it's essential for the butterflys survival.

5

Turn left on to a clear but rough track towards the bottom of the combe, near a stream crossing. Follow this path north-east. You may see dark-green and small pear-bordered fritillaries here. Also, check the tops of gorse bushes for little Dartford warblers.

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6

At a crossing of paths, take the rough stone track back uphill to the twisted hawthorn and the road. Keep an eye out for Exmoor ponies and red deer grazing the open moorland.

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End:

Dunkery Beacon car park, grid ref: SS905410

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Bin Combe walk, extreme butterflying

Terrain

Challenging walking conditions not always on paths, some moderate to steep slopes, some loose scree surfaces.

Easier option: Halse Combe (½ mile (0.8km)), heath fritillary can be found on the slopes around Floras Ride, the path along the west side of Halse Combe. Its gravel surface makes it suitable for adventurous pushchairs and wheelchairs.

PLEASE NOTE: the area is heavily infested by ticks, so take precautions, like wearing long trousers tucked into socks and carefully checking yourself immediately after your visit.

Bin Combe walk, extreme butterflying

Contact us

Bin Combe walk, extreme butterflying

How to get here

Address
near West Luccombe, Somerset
By road

Turn off B3224 at the Blagdon Cross junction, take the minor road across Dunkery Hill towards Luccombe and park near the summit of the road.

By foot

2.5 mile (3.2km) uphill walk, north-west from Wheddon Cross, on hilly countryside paths.

By bus

398, Tiverton to Minehead service, alight at Wheddon Cross.

Bin Combe walk, extreme butterflying

Facilities and access

  • Easier option available suitable for adventurous pushchairs and wheelchairs