Bracketts Coppice Nature Reserve, Dorset


Many bluebells
Bend along the stream

Over 100 acres of ancient woodland, plantations, pasture and rough grassland, centred on the shallow valley of a fast-flowing stream
Halstock Leigh, 8 miles south of Yeovil; BA22 9QX
Photo Tour (18 images)
Bracketts Coppice Nature Reserve has a rather remote location in west Dorset, not near any large towns, and is centred on a small stream, flowing swiftly through a wooded valley up to 100 feet deep, the land at either side rising to a mix of grassland, pasture, scrub and other broad-leaved woods, both natural and planted. The stream is an unnamed tributary of the River Yeo, originating below the high ground of Toller Down to the south, and it helps to sustain a cool, moist environment along the valley floor. Many places across the slopes above are also rather boggy, and the range of different habitats and conditions make the plant and animal life unusually varied. The reserve is one of the largest of those managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust, covering over 100 acres, and is crossed by various tracks, paths and rides, allowing a loop walk of up to 1.5 miles.

The ancient woodland is dominated by pedunculate oak, the trees quite well separated, mixed with small amounts of birch, alder and ash, while more shrub-like species include hazel, holly and, the least common, the wild service tree. The sometimes dense canopy and the preponderance of heavy, clayish soil restricts species variety in some areas but all the usual woodland wildflowers are present, the most abundant, in spring, being bluebell and wild garlic. The drier meadows to the east have a wider selection of flowering plants, the majority blooming in the summer. Wildlife is mostly butterflies and birds, plus dormice and three species of bat.


The nature reserve has two entrances; the less used is off Ryewater Lane along the southern edge, where a gate and sign indicate the start of a path into one of the pasture fields, all of which are grazed by cattle and cut for hay in late summer. The main entrance is to the west, along an unnamed road from Halstock Leigh, at the end of a 500 foot track, which has room for a couple of vehicles at the start and one at the end, with more parking space available on verges along the main road.

The Reserve

The west entrance is at the edge of the largest area of ancient woodland, the original Bracket's Coppice, which has the best display of bluebells in the reserve, along its western margin. One path runs through this bluebell area then curves back lower down the valley sides and returns close to the stream which forms the eastern edge of the coppice. The east side of the valley has another patch of ancient woodland (Inner Bracket's Coppice), with a field to the south and a mix of scrub and rough grassland further east (Outer Bracket's Plantation) while further south is a third wooded area, originally a common, and beyond are a series of pasture meadows extending to Ryewater Lane. The reserve also includes a 20 acre rectangle of land in the southwest, originally rough grassland (Birch Common), subsequently used for a conifer plantation in the last century but recently cleared, with the intention of reverting to wooded pasture.

Woodland ride
Woodland ride