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 which we know as; Wessex, Mount Fancy and Shutes.


Our Mount Fancy Reserve is 27 hectare of species rich meadows, wet grassland, scrub and semi-ancient woodland plus ancient oaks all located 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. 

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

The 'bowl', a part of Shutes is the jewel in the reserve with its succession of primrose and cowslips, followed by the orchids and culminating in devils bit scabious.

Butterflies & Moths

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. 

The Common Blue and the day flying Chimney Sweeper moths can be seen in the 'bowl' (Shutes). 

The Brown Hairstreak eggs have been found annually, but in declining numbers.

After an absence of six years, the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary was seen in the 'bowl' in Shutes reserve in 2021 - so never give up looking and please record any sightings.

Reserve History

Mount Fancy 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. 

Butterfly Conservation took on a lease to manage and improve these habitats about twenty years ago.

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


To keep the reserve in the condition most suitable to butterflies, a strenuous programme of scrub clearance has been undertaken.

This has been carried out over several years in order to increase the potential for grassland and wetland species.

This work is carried out by contractors, supported by volunteers in the difficult access areas.


Tony & Anna Spiess have been the Honorary Wardens for Mount Fancy Reserve since 2021. They keep an eye of the reserve and coordinate the management of it. 

They are looking to recruit volunteers to assist them in the many practical tasks and to support the recently formed transect walkers.

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


Without careful sensitve management the drier ground reverts to bracken and bramble cover before also turning to scrub. 

When taking on the lease, Butterfly Conservation hoped 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.

The grazing by the Exmoor ponies, and occassional Longhorn cattle play a key part in the management, but there is still a large amount of manual work carried out by contractors and volunteers.

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.



There is no car parking next to the reserves access point.

Take the B3170 from Taunton and turn left at the cross roads junction towards Chard (and Castle Neroche). and the Staple Hill car park is signposted on your left after about 2 km at OS reference ST 246159. (Three Words:  pretty.accordion.washing)

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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