Natural History has always been part of the conservation society’s interest, and the communities of Darshill, Ham and Bowlish have been encouraged to contribute their own sightings as part of the annual national surveys of birds and butterflies. Since 2012, the results from these, together with members’ photographs, have been recorded and this resource of local information has provided the foundation on which the exciting biodiversity component of the heritage project has been built.
The hamlets of Darshill, Ham and Bowlish are rich in flora and fauna. The environments of each hamlet are quite different:
- Darshill has wetlands fed by natural springs; Orledge Spring is the main one, grown over with associated plants and trees on a site known as the ‘Mill Pond’, flanked by a row of cottages. Adjacent to this is ‘The Spring’ site, covered by native bushes and trees. These areas are owned by the Conservation Society and are managed by volunteer members. Biodiversity surveys conducted in these areas have established just how rich in wildlife Darshill is, including some gardens which have also been surveyed.
- Ham by contrast is predominantly built on gentle slopes leading down to, and along the River Sheppey. Many of the properties are detached, have large south facing gardens, with very diverse layouts, ranging from formal shrubs, lawns, flower borders, wild parts, paddocks, and copses.
- Bowlish comprises large individual houses, terraced cottages and individual cottages which are parallel to the River Sheppey. Some houses are separated by the A371, the Shepton Mallet to Wells main road. The Bowlish Meadows, to the East of Bowlish have been poorly managed in recent times, overgrazed at times and mechanically cut back, resulting in ecological damage. The result is a loss of flowers, insects and invertebrates.
The hamlets are linked by lanes, many with grassed verges which support some interesting species of flora and insects.
The biodiversity component has been based on a number of surveys, and residents have embraced them with enthusiasm, contributing to the six-month winter garden bird survey, summer garden invertebrate observations, camcorder filming (trail camera) in six different gardens, ‘river dipping’ in the River Sheppey/freshwater springs, paw print recording at five locations, and local ‘nature watching’. Both experts and amateurs have been welcomed to carry out surveys in their gardens and outbuildings.
Professionals have led the well-supported bat and botany walks and carried out some of the surveys which have led to some amazing discoveries, such as:
- The identification of an unexpected and notable Greater Horseshoe Bat roost in a ventilation tunnel in Darshill where they also hibernate.
- The discovery by County Recorders for Somerset of a spider never recorded in Somerset before, a member of the Theridiidae family (Comb-footed spiders), Cryptacea Blattea.
SERC (Somerset Environmental Record Centre) now has the Arachnid and Botany Survey results for 2019.
Between September 2018 and October 2019, ten areas of biodiversity were thoroughly surveyed. Collectively, the surveys will form the basis of a future Biodiversity Plan for the locality.
Biodiversity Survey Calendar
Biodiversity Survey Volunteers