Wildlife on the Quantocks

The Quantock Hills mean different things to different people – the hills next door to home, a place of work, or a place to explore whilst on holiday.

Whichever view you have, there is no escaping the fact that the Quantocks are one of the larger and wilder natural landscapes in the South West of England. They sit alongside Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor in terms of their biodiversity importance and the wildlife they support.

The Hilltop Heath

The Quantock heathlands not only look beautiful when the heathers are in flower but this habitat supports much heathland wildlife, including breeding Meadow Pipits, Dartford Warblers and Stonechats. These heaths are also home to Common Lizards, Adders and a big range of insect life including the Green Tiger Beetle, Ashy Mining Bees and Green Hairstreak butterflies. At the other end of the scale are the Red Deer which spend much of their time out on the heathland, but are often sat down in the heather and not easy to spot. It’s hard to believe there are between 500-600 of these large animals living on the hills.

Streams and Combes

Many streams spring from the ground on the higher slopes of the Quantocks. Thirty of these springs are surrounded by “mires” – boggy ground that supports special plants including Bog Mosses, Round-leaved Sundew and Bog Asphodel, amongst which lives the semi aquatic Pirate Wolf Spider.

Most of the steep sided Quantock combes are filled with ancient Sessile Oak woodlands that hold a huge diversity of plant life including mosses and liverworts, ferns and epiphytic lichens. These woodlands support several species of breeding bat including Barbastelle and Bechstein’s bats, as well as summer visiting birds – Wood Warblers, Pied flycatchers and Redstarts.

Protection and Designation

The Friends of the Quantocks own 400 acres of heath and woodland on these nationally important hills and play an active role organising wildlife surveys and conservation management, on our own land and across the wider area. Much of the heathland and woodland, 6,194ha, is designated as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest. In addition, 100 ha of oak woodland at the northern end of the Hills has been designated a SAC (Special Area of Conservation) through the EU Habitats Directive. The Quantock heathlands are also part of the Exmoor Coast and Heaths Important Bird Area as designated by BirdLife International. These designations show just how important the Quantock Hills are for their wildlife.

Above all, their designation as the Quantock Hills National Landscape is recognition that these hills are great for wildlife and great for people.