Wildlife of the Cam Valley Wildlife Group Area
wildlife of any area is determined by the underlying geology,
the available habitats and the influence of man. The
Cam Valley area is dominated by limestone and hence soils
are generally alkaline. However there are small outcrops of
sandstone, giving distinct areas of acidic soils, which add
to the biodiversity of the area.
The area is divided by two small fast-flowing
rivers, the Cam and Wellow Brook and the many streams which
feed them. As well as being important wildlife habitats in
their own right these are flanked in many places by other
good habitats which link together to form corridors, enabling
animals to move between sites, and in and out of the area.
Otherwise, aquatic habitat is represented only by ponds and
a few small lakes which are mostly private and managed for
fishing. As a result mainly of the river valleys, the area
is quite hilly and this prevents winter flooding.
Most of the area is farmland, predominantly
pasture and to a lesser extent crop. Within this there are
however a number of areas of unimproved grassland. Being predominantly
pasture land the area is still blessed with relatively small
fields bordered by quite extensive hedgerow. Happily many
of the farmers run wildlife friendly farms and more are moving
towards Countryside Stewardship.
There is relatively little woodland, though
much of what is here is ancient woodland. This has been continuously
wooded for many hundreds of years, and so acts as important
refuge for many plant and animal species which are unable
to survive changes in habitat conditions. There are several
small and a few large private woods, mostly managed for pheasants.
One of the larger woods, Greyfield Wood, is owned by the Woodland
Trust and thus has open access.
a former mining area, there are a number of post industrial
sites and features such as disused rail land, canals and coal
spoil tips which add greatly to the biodiversity of the area..
In the years following their abandonment for industrial use,
many of these have developed into very important wildlife
sites, with locally and even nationally rare species. Disused
railway lines in particular provide a mixture of habitats,
with open trackbed and steep embankments. The thin alkaline
soils on these sites combine with warm and sheltered sparsely
vegetated areas, scrub, herb-rich stressed trackbed areas
and embankments and a range of other resources to create are
therefore ideal sites for reptiles and invertebrates such
as butterflies, flies and our native bees and wasps.
As you would expect from the local habitat you will find a
good range of farmland, hedgerow and woodland birds such as
Yellowhammer; Linnet, Skylark, Meadow pipit, Spotted flycatcher,
Nuthatch and Tree-creeper; common members of the Tit, Warbler,
Finch, Thrush and Crow families; Lesser black-backed and Common
gull; Within some of the farmland, game birds are bred for
shooting and as a result Pheasants are very common and Red-legged
Partridge are quite frequent.
Kingfishers and Grey herons hunt the lakes
and rivers where Grey wagtails also breed. In winter Siskin
can often be seen feeding from the overhanging Alders sometimes
with the odd Redpoll amongst them.
As for raptors you will find Buzzards galore
and plenty of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Hobby visit and breed
regularly and the occasional Merlin is seen. The Tawny owl
population is very healthy and Little owls generally hold
up well benefiting from the many hedgerows. Due largely to
a successful nest box scheme we also have quite a few breeding
Barn owls. Long-eared owls have been recorded but not breeding
so far although they do in neighbouring areas.
birds in the area include Dippers which breed on the fast
flowing rivers; Several pairs of breeding Ravens; A few flocks
of Tree sparrow; The occasional Lesser-spotted woodpecker;.
A small number of breeding Peregrines; Small numbers of Firecrest
are seen in the woodland areas and scrub; Quail can sometimes
be heard calling from the cropped fields in summer; over recent
years there have been increasing sightings of Red Kite. The
proximity of Chew Valley Lake (an excellent birding spot)
increases the likelihood of uncommon species turning up and
in the past we have been visited by White stork and by Bee-Eaters.
and Badger of course; A good population of Roe Deer and frequent
sightings of Muntjac. Hares are relatively common benefiting
from the mix of rough grassland pasture and crops.
Over the past few years there are increasing
signs that Otters are returning to the rivers. As with many
areas however we do however suffer from an absence of water
voles. Common small mammals such as Field voles, Bank voles,
Shrews, Wood mice are reasonably plentiful and can enjoy refuge
in the many hedgerows around fields after cropping has taken
place. Yellow-necked mice and Weasels can also be found along
with the occasional Stoat.
mix of old and new buildings, in an old mining area, with
some woodland and rivers, results in a healthy bat population.
Of the 15 UK species 11 have been recorded over recent years
including both Greater and Lesser horseshoe bats as well as
Information to follow
Over a thousand species of plants have been recorded in the
Cam Valley area.
Woods are few, but the area is host to many
uncommon Ancient Woodland Indicator species, including Herb
Paris, Fly Orchid, Wood Vetch, Solomon’s-seal, Meadow
Saffron and Bird’s-nest Orchid.
Small areas of less improved grassland can
be found, supporting a wonderful diversity of limestone flowers.
Such areas have survived on steep inaccessible parts of fields,
on verges and on the embankments of former railways. Species
include Field Scabious, Rock-rose, Pyramidal Orchid, Yellow-wort,
Common Centaury, Fairy Flax, Milkwort and Dwarf Thistle. Damp
meadows are rare, but small areas support species such as
Lady’s-mantle, Saw-wort, Heath Spotted-orchid, Flea
Sedge, Bitter-vetch, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Meadow Thistle
and Dyer’s Greenweed.
A local speciality is Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem,
or Bath Asparagus, thought to have been introduced by the
Romans and once sold in the markets of Bath as food. This
species can be found along roadsides and in woodlands and
hedgerows in the east of the region. It is Nationally Scarce,
but can be seen in great numbers in some places. The towering
flower spikes can be up to a metre tall.
Coal spoil tips are often harsh, exposed
acidic environments. Some have been planted with trees for
stabilisation, but others provide a refuge for species of
acid grassland, which are rare in this area. These include
Heath Speedwell, Sheep’s Sorrel and Sea Mouse-ear. Disused
railways and sidings also add to diversity greatly, providing
habitats ranging from open trackbed to steep embankments.
At Radstock Railway Sidings there is a population of the Endangered
and Nationally Scarce species, Fine-leaved Sandwort, now threatened
by development at its only site in the whole of former Avon.
The influence of Man means that native species
now grow alongside an increasing array of aliens, many of
which have become a feature of the local environment. Walls
are adorned with Red Valerian, Ivy-leaved Toadflax and two
species of Bellflower. Closer inspection reveals the less
showy native ferns, Rue-leaved Saxifrage and Biting Stonecrop;
riverbanks are, in places, swathed by stands of Himalayan
Balsam; waste ground is quickly colonised by Butterfly-bush
and some roads are edged with the invasive Cockspur grass.