Mount Fancy Reserve

Blackdown Hills

Mount Fancy Reserve

Our Mount Fancy Reserve is in the Blackdown Hills south of Taunton at OS reference ST251163.   It is divided into 3 areas; Wessex Water Board Land, Mount Fancy East  (Mount Fancy Farm end) and Mount Fancy West (Shutes Farm end)


Our Mount Fancy Reserve is 27 hectare of wet grassland, scrub and woodland plus ancient oaks on the lower slopes of the Blackdown Hills, facing north but open to the sun.

The site has many small springs, creating rivulets and patches of wet rushy ground that are colonised by willow thickets. 

Drier ground develops bracken and bramble cover before also turning to scrub and there is some coppiced woodland.

The reserve is also grazed by Exmoor ponies and at times by Longhorn cattle.

Butterflies & Moths

In a typical year over 20 butterfly species will be observed in the reserve. 

Orange-tips will be seen in spring followed by lots of the grass butterflies later in the summer. Silver-washed Fritillaries can be seen in July and August.

Unfortunately, the Wood White and Marsh Fritillary that were found in the reserve have not been reported for a number of years.  

Howeve, the good news is that the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary was seen in 2021 after an absence of six years - so never give up looking and please record your sightings.

The 'bowl' is a particulary good place to see Chimney Sweeper moths.

Reserve History

The Reserve forms part of the far wider SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) known as ‘Ruttersleigh’. It was set up because of this rich mosaic of habitats that are now so very rare in England. 

The Reserve is particularly rich in plant species along with other open grassland. Butterfly Conservation took on a lease to manage and improve the management of these habitats about twenty years ago.

The idea was to reintroduce grazing, and then through grazing and other management of the vegetation, to investigate and demonstrate how to manage the site to benefit the key butterfly and moth species of the area along with other priority nature conservation features.


To keep the reserve in the condition most suitable to butterflies, a strenuous programme of scrub clearance has been undertaken by volunteers over several years in order to increase the potential for grassland and wetland species.

The reserve is also grazed by Exmoor ponies and at times by Longhorn cattle.


Tony & Anna Spiess are the Honorary Wardens for Mount Fancy Reserve who along with many volunteers keep an eye of the reserve and coordinate the management of it.

If you would like to get involved and help with the many tasks, please contact Tony & Anna.


The site used to hold Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the presence of Marsh Violet, the butterfly foodplant, makes it suitable for recolonisation.

If you think you have seen a SPBF (or any other non common species), please take a photo and let the wardens know the location

Mount Fancy Reserve

A map showing the three different areas of Mount Fancy Butterfly Reserve and the Staple Hill carpark.

These are referred to as Shutes, Mount Fancy and Wessex.



Take the B3170 from Taunton and turn left at the cross roads junction towards Chard (and Castle Neroche). and the Staple Hill Forestry car park is signposed on your left after about 2 km at OS reference ST 246159. 

Walk down the track for 600m until you reach a junction. 

If you turn right you will pass through a gate into the eastern part of the Reserve, which we lease from Wessex Water. 

Turn left and then enter the gate on your left to access the main part of the reserve..

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