Walking with wildlife
- Credit: SUB
Explore this nature reserve where dormice find sanctuary and plant life is abundant
Langford Heathfield, just outside the village of Langford Budville, is a delight. Its status as ‘common’ land, together with its naturally damp environment, have saved it from agricultural development and it is a haven for wildlife. Purchased in stages by the Somerset Wildlife Trust during the 1980s, it is their second largest nature reserve (226 acres) and is also a SSSI. It has been home to rarities such as Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers and more recently a Nightingale has been heard. You are likely to see regular species like Great Spotted Woodpeckers and neat little Nuthatches scuttling about tree trunks in search of lunch. Secretive Dormice find sanctuary here and plant life is abundant: Early Purple Orchids are in flower from April. Historically, properties have certain ‘rights’ to the area. These include ‘turbury’ (turf cutting for fuel), ‘estover’ (cutting wood for fencing/fires) and ‘pasturage’ (grazing).
1. Walk along the road (with the unusual name of Swifts) from the church towards the school; the church is to your right. Very soon the road bends left in front of The Old Vicarage, here go right on the stony track towards Munslow House where the track bends left and descends to a signed bridleway going straight ahead. Follow this to reach a lane along which turn left, passing houses on your left. In 100m the lane bends left at Pilgrim’s Cottage, just before this take the signed footpath going right along an earthy track.
2.In just over 200m the path broadens with two footpaths diverging ahead. Take the left-hand option, over the stile and through the field following the line of the right-hand boundary. This hedge takes a few turns, keep with it and you’ll arrive at a stile leading onto a narrow, trodden path. Follow this, trees sloping steeply down to the right. The path widens and swings right to cross a stream hidden below the track about 100m from the stile. Here you enter a field, head diagonally left up it and as you crest the brow of the hill the buildings of Middle Hill Farm come into sight.
This line brings you to a boundary hedge then follows it, hedge to the left. In the corner of the field you reach a surfaced track. Go left, soon passing the entrance to Langford Lakes Christmas Tree Farm before reaching the lane.
3. Go right on the lane and in 130m take the turning left towards Poleshill and Bathealton. Follow this quiet lane through the reserve for almost 400m, at which point there’s an information board about the area on the left and access via a broad track into the reserve – take this (unless you wish to remain on the lane and shorten your walk by about ¾ mile).
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For those following the track, in just over 150m you reach a gate into an open field. About 15m before this look for the well-trodden track going right under the trees. Follow this through the periphery of the woodland, listening for the high-pitched piping of long-tailed tits. Eventually the path narrows but is still clear. It bends right, away from the woodland boundary, squeezing between the trunks of two large trees and dropping downhill, deeper into Coram’s Wood. Go down wooden-edged steps, across a wooden footbridge then climb steadily up again on the other side. The path broadens out and reaches an open, grassy area. Go right on the trodden path at the edge of this area and in about 50 paces, where the path forks, go left. In about 70 paces you arrive at the lane again. Turn left along it, rejoining the less intrepid!
4. Follow the lane and when it bends right, at a house called Carrier’s Gate, take the footpath left off the lane, as shown by the fingerpost. Walk ahead into the trees on a broad track to reach a field in about 70m. Here a yellow arrow directs you along the right-hand field boundary. In the bottom corner an arrowed gate ahead leads into another field, head across this towards the right-hand side of a barn. About 20m to the right of the barn pass through a gate (no arrow) and head diagonally left for a short distance to an arrowed gate near the corner of the barn. Beyond this gate, with the barn to your left, head diagonally right across the field to the far corner.
Here, tucked behind a tree you find a well-hidden stile beside the stream. Cross this, clambering along the narrow path beyond, across a plank bridge and up to another stile. After the stile go right along the line of the boundary, following it round and passing a metal water trough. Ignore the field gate on the right just beyond this trough and keep going for another 60m to a metal kissing gate. Go through here and down steps to another plank bridge. The path beyond is fenced from the field to your right, treed boundary to your left. Another little bridge has yellow arrows on its planks and leads into the next field, continuing as before. The track enters another field at the corner of woodland (to your right), keep ahead following the left boundary. Ahead of you is a good view of the Wellington Monument, high up in the Blackdown Hills. Built to commemorate the Iron Duke’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo, it was hampered by lack of funds and only completed after his death.
5. Towards the end of the field a post and rail fence flanks the path to the right and you reach a stony area. In the left corner take the track leading from the gate towards Stancombe Farm. The track passes outbuildings and reaches a crossing track; the farmhouse, which is undergoing restoration, is over to your left. A faded arrow on a post directs you right away from the buildings. Go through a gate and walk beside the right-hand hedge. At the end of the field continue ahead through the next in the same direction away from Stancombe, still along the line of the right-hand boundary. At the end of this field walk up the next, now with the boundary over to your left as you once more approach the trees of Langford Heathfield.
6. A yellow-arrowed gate and stile welcomes you to the reserve. Enter the trees on the well-trodden path and in about 25 paces of the gate keep your eyes peeled for a path going right off the clearer path (at the time of writing there was no guiding arrow). Take this right path through the trees. The path forks in a few metres but ignore the right-hand option and keep ahead, there are occasional glimpses of a field to the right beyond the trees and, even more occasionally, a yellow arrow. The path emerges at a broad track, with wooden gates to the right. Turn left along the track and follow it to the lane.
7. Turn left up the lane to the junction in 100m, then turn left again, still on the road. Ignore the footpath right in 70m and continue, passing a ‘back-to-back’ bench on the left which commemorates the silver jubilee of George V in 1935. This has excellent views towards Langford Budville. Just beyond the bench you find an arrowed gatepost directing you right off the lane on a footpath across an open field, heading towards the village. Follow this, passing the new village hall down to the left. In the field corner a clear stony path leads you into the next field, heading unerringly for the village. When you reach the hedge turn left on a path that leads you down to a lane with attractive, softly-coloured cottages ahead. Turn right on the lane, passing the school as you return to the church and your start point. n