Prospect Fields Nature Reserve, Somerset


The view southwest
Bee orchid

Three fields on steeply-sloping, calcareous ground, with several rare plant species, and good views over the southern reaches of the Somerset Levels
Prospect Fields Nature Reserve is a small site, 7.5 acres, consisting of three rectangular fields on steeply-sloping ground on the south side of a minor hill above the valley of the River Parrett, just north of Langport overlooking the southern portion of the Somerset Levels. The fields rise over 100 feet, so the upper reaches afford good, long-distance views.

The reserve was created because of the wildflowers - the soils are clayish and calcium-rich, overlying Triassic mudstone and limestone, which when combined with the southerly aspect has created a varied plant life. Species of note include slender tare, houndstongue, small-flowered buttercup, corn parsley, wall speedwell and dodder.

The field is grazed by cattle in spring and summer, and sometimes by sheep, detracting a little from the visitor experience. The interesting plants seem to be concentrated in the middle of the fields; the upper and lower edges are more weedy, with taller grasses, and it does not take too long to explore the site. The fields make up one of the three discontinuous units of the Aller Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest, the other two being a short distance west, and including several other unusual plants such as purple gromwell, wild liquorice, fiddle dock and lesser centaury.

The Reserve

The nature reserve is identified by an inconspicuous notice, just inside the rather hidden entrance, at the junction of the A472 with a minor road (White Hill). Nearby is an overgrown verge that may accommodate one vehicle, but there is no dedicated parking place. One nearby parking location is towards the top of the hill at the wide entrance to a working quarry, excavating an outcrop of blue lias that borders the reserve to the north. The entrance leads to the eastern field, which has less diverse flora than the other two, probably due to previous use of pesticides and fertilizers. The middle field is the largest and is crossed by a sparse line of trees, along the line of an ancient hedgerow.