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Ryewater Farm Nature Reserve

Location: Corscombe, Dorset
OS: ST 512 064

Habitat: Grassland, meadow, unimproved pasture, ancient woodlands

Looking up at the blue sky, through the meadow at Ryewater Farm
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The Reserve

Ryewater Farm in Dorset is a 38 acre site consisting of five fields – the three to the east are meadows, and the other two are pasture. Around the edges, a beautiful strip of woodland runs steeply down to the boundary stream. An old green lane cuts across the reserve and is now used as a public footpath. The farm is part of the wider Bracket’s Coppice and Ryewater Farm Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Walking over the meadows in summer, Red Clover Trifolium pratense and White Clover Trifolium repens are abundant, along with the yellow of Lesser Trefoil Trifolium dubium and Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus, the starry white flowers of Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum and the purple of Selfheal Prunella vulgaris. More conspicuous is the Saw-wort Serratula tinctoria, with knapweed-like flowers and saw-edged, lobed leaves it is a little more difficult to spot.

Less common meadow species include three members of the carrot family: Corky-fruited Water-dropwort Oenanthe pimpinelloides, a plant of old pastures and hay meadows, Burnet Saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga and, occasionally, Pepper Saxifrage Silaum silaus.

Habitat

A number of important habitats are present at Ryewater Farm, including unimproved pasture and species-rich hay meadows, enclosed by thick hedgerows and ancient woodland. As well as a host of plants and fungi the nature reserve is home to dormice and several protected bat species.

The site has an interesting and ancient geology with the rocks underneath dating back 170 million years, being full of fossils that once lived on the seabed. The rock is overlain with clays that are critical to the reserve.

In the past, these slumped down the slope towards the stream on the reserve’s northern edge, and this instability created bare ground and conditions for a greater diversity of species. Water trickles from springs, making the clay waterlogged in winter, but in hot summers it can bake as hard as brick. Intensive cultivation is therefore impractical, and traditional farming remains the only realistic agricultural use of the land.

Species to look out for

Visit

Wildflowers in bloom in the meadows at Ryewater Farm

Directions

The nearest train station is Crewkerne, which is 6 miles from the reserve. There are nearby bus routes, more information can be found here or by calling Traveline on 0871 200 22 33.

From Yeovil, head west on the A30, around four miles after East Chinnock, turn left onto the A3066. When you reach the A356, turn left to head through South Perrott. Two to three miles past South Perrott, turn left to drive along a narrow lane towards Corscombe. At the bottom, turn left at the T-junction then take the first left after Corscombe Farm. This is a narrow muddy track, which leads to the reserve.

Please note that there is no parking at the reserve or in the village. The only parking is in the lay-bys on the A356 about 3 miles from Ryewater Farm.

Visiting the site

In Spring you will find Wild Garlic Alium ursinum and Meadow Buttercups Ranunculus acris from. From June, Dyer’s Greenwood Genista,  tinctoria, Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor and Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare can all be found.

The hay is usually cut in the middle of July, but in the first two weeks you can see late flowering meadow species such as Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Meadow Thistle Cirsium dissectum and Corky-fruited Water-dropwort Oenanthe pimpinelloides.

The woodland areas are dominated by Ash Fraxinus, Oak Quercus, Birch Betula and Hazel Corylus with an interesting ground flora including Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis, Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa and Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina.

News

A unique opportunity has arisen to extend our Ryewater Farm nature reserve and purchase 4.45 acres of grassland and hedgerows and transform them to a vibrant, thriving ecosystem.

This would extend the current site by 12 per cent and help to restore and protect nature for the future.

But we need your urgent support to secure this land now. Work must commence before the winter months when the ground will become too wet and inaccessible.

Read more about our appeal here.