Cothelstone Hill is rich in wildlife. It is owned by the South West Heritage Trust and managed by the Quantock Hills AONB Service to conserve its heritage and enhance its wildlife. The hill is rich in a wide variety of wildlife, from the bluebells in the ancient woodland, rare fungi such as waxcap, uncommon species of bats, butterflies, dormice and birds, to larger mammals such as red deer and raptors such as buzzards, kestrals, sparrow hawks and owls who all make their home here.
For the last twenty-five years the Quantock Hills AONB Service has run the herd of Exmoor Ponies on Cothelstone Hil. They are an endangered native breed that has changed little since the Stone Age 12,000 years ago.The ponies are ‘conservation grazers’ meaning that they eat rough vegetation such as bramble and scrub, allowing more valuable grasses to come through.Their thick weatherproof coats and the ‘snow shute’ on their tails mean that they are very well adapted to inclement weather.
The ponies are checked daily by Quantock AONB Rangers, however we really appreciate calls from the public and are thankful that people are looking out for them. If you spot something not quite right please do call us at the office on 01823 451884 or contact us via Facebook (Quantock Hills) or Twitter (@quantockhills)
Dormice, bats, butterflies and birds
Wildlife monitoring takes place every year, run by the Quantock Hills AONB Service with the invaluable help of volunteers. Thanks to this monitoring we know that dormice populations here are increasing, and is likely to be due to the mantle of hazel coppice managed for this purpose. We know that there is a wide variety of bat species including, common and soprano pipistrelle, brandts, barbastelle and lesser horseshoe.
Cothelstone Hill is in a higher level stewardship scheme because of the importance of its farmland bird assemblages, with species such as yellow hammer, linnets, meadow pipits and redstart.
Cothelstone Hill is lucky enough to have some truly wonderful bluebell woods, which burst into a carpet of bright blue in May. Bluebells are a good indicator for ancient woodland, the protection of which is an important objective for the AONB Service. The English bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. However the gummy sap from its bulb has been used throughout history as an important starch substitute. From the bronze age it was used to set tail feathers to arrows, in Elizabethan times it provided starch for the ruffs of collars and sleeves, and also has a long history of being used as the glue for bookbinding, its toxicity was thought to be useful for stopping certain insects from attacking the binding.
Cothelstone Hill Wildlife
Larger mammals and birds
Cothelstone Hill is also a good place to spot red deer, particularly at dawn and dusk when it is very quiet. In October during the rutting season you may be able to hear the stags bellowing. Other types of deer include fallow and roe. Buzzards soaring on the thermals are a common sight, as is the sound of ravens cronking overhead. Other raptors to be found up include tawny owls, little owls, sparrow hawks and kestrels. It is likely to be the generous food source provided by the farmland birds mentioned above that attracts these larger birds of prey to the area.