Yarley Fields Nature Reserve, Somerset


★★★★

The view southwest
Common centaury

Minor nature reserve on the Somerset Levels; two gently sloping fields of rough grassland, where a variety of plants and animals may be seen
Location
Along Perry Lake Lane, 4 miles west of Wells; BA5 1NZ
Yarley Fields is a small (13 acre) nature reserve on the Somerset Levels, between Wells and Glastonbury, reached by a narrow country lane, and not often visited. The (two) fields contain rough, gently sloping pasture, grazed by cattle during spring and summer, and are home to a good range of neutral or limestone grassland plants, the rarest being the bee orchid, which flowers in June and July, though specimens are few in number, and not always spotted.

Other flowering plants, none particularly numerous, include common restharrow, ladies bedstraw, hedge bedstraw, salad burnet, bird's-foot trefoil, common centaury, St John's wort, pale flax and yellow wort. The immediate scenery is unremarkable, as the fields are rather dry and featureless, lined by regular hedgerows with some ash and elm trees, but the southwards views are impressive, across the levels towards Glastonbury, Exmoor and the Blackdown Hills.

The main, southern entrance to Yarley Fields Nature Reserve is along Perry Lake Lane, south of the B3139; the gate into the lower field is 1,000 feet northwest of Longstring Farm. This field contains a few wet areas near the road, and has neutral soil, while higher up, the majority of the area is drier and the soil is more clayish and calcareous. A gate along the northern perimeter provides alternative access, starting along Yarley Field Lane, a bridleway. Originally the lower field was subdivided into smaller enclosures, and evidence of old boundaries can still be seen. The upper field is dotted with many grassy anthill mounds, and supports a small population of rabbits, descendants of a larger, farmed colony established several centuries ago.