Chard Reservoir local nature reserve is situated on the north east fringe of Chard, near to the village of Chaffcombe. The nature reserve comprises a mixture of habitats from the open water of the reservoir itself with a woodland edge opening into wildflower meadows.
The views that are offered across the water are breath-taking in any weather and season. The reserve is just a 15-minute walk from Chard Town centre and yet offers the seclusion and peacefulness of a more rural setting.
A network of paths leading from the main car park at Oaklands Avenue, take you across the wildflower meadows towards the woodland play zone and bird hide or towards the shoreline and the woodland edge walk.
A brief history
Chard Reservoir was constructed in 1842 to provide water to the Chard canal, which linked through to Ilminster. Following the arrival of the railway to Chard, the reservoir and canal became redundant in 1868. However, the Reservoir was never entirely disused; it became part of the sporting estate of the Earl Poulet and this sporting use continued on its sale to Colonel Gifford in 1913 and on subsequent sale to the Blackburn estate in 1973.
During war time the reservoir, was used as a ‘holiday at home’ centre and was known as the “Chard Lido”. The idea of such centres was to take away the pressure of holiday makers from the railways needed during wartime mobilisation. Organised swimming and boating events took place with great enthusiasm (Chard and Ilminster News).
The reservoir was conveyed to South Somerset District Council in 1990, as a result of an agreement involving the development of Chard Business Park.
There are two car parks at Chard Reservoir.
The main one (Oaklands car park) is at Oaklands Avenue (TA20 1HU) and the secondary one (Anglers car park), with priority parking for anglers is on Chaffcombe Road (TA20 1RR).
Dogs are welcome on the reserve but there is a strict ‘dogs on short leads’ zone in the woodland and dogs are not allowed in the woodland near the bird hide.
We ask all dog owners to pick up this dog’s mess throughout the reserve to keep it safe and clean for the many children and families that visit. There are ample dog bins throughout the reserve. Please keep your dogs under control throughout the site and stick to the paths to prevent trampling of wildflowers and disturbance to wildlife.
Dogs are strictly NOT allowed on the shoreline.
There are no refreshment facilities on site but Chard town centre is a 15 minute walk from the reserve or less than 5 minutes by car or bicycle.
Chard Reservoir Volunteer Group
The Chard Reservoir Volunteer Group are a constituted group that help to raise funds and initiate projects at the Reservoir. Previous projects have included the woodland play area, wildflower plots, tree planting as part of the Woodland Trusts campaign.
The group are currently developing a children’s trail leaflet after securing funding from South Somerset District Council’s Area West community grant.
If you would like to get involved with the Volunteer Group please contact us below
Enquiry about Chard Reservoir Volunteer Group
There is one eco-toilet for use located next to the Anglers car park. The toilet is self-composting and therefore reduces the impact on the environment. There is no running water in the toilet but hand sanitiser is available for use.
Fishing is permitted at the reservoir through the Chard Angling Club. For more information about membership and purchasing of day tickets visit their website below
Chard Angling Club
Cycling is not permitted across the reserve, the paths are too narrow and busy.
However you can cycle along the Sustrans off-road cycle path to Ilminster and link to the wider cycling network on route 33.
Find out more about the ‘Stop Line Way’ on the Sustrans website below.
There is a mixture of surfaced paths throughout the reserve, ranging from tarmac to grass to compacted gravel. There are no steep gradients at the reserve and so all of the paths are easily accessible with a pushchair. However, the surfacing on the paths in the woodland may make it difficult for some wheelchair users. Mobility vehicles can be used throughout the reserve.
There is always something to piquet the interest of any birder or wildlife lover at Chard Reservoir.
At this time of year (summer) you can enjoy the hundreds of orchids that emerge in the wildflower meadows, including pyramidal, early purple and common spotted orchids. The Knapweed meadow becomes awash with purples and yellows as the knapweed and birdsfoot trefoil come into flower. Along with the wildflowers arrive the insects including meadow brown, marbled white and common blue butterflies.
In the Rushy meadow, near the stream dragonflies congregate to feed and defend territories. Common blue damselfly, beautiful and banded demoiselles and broad bodied chasers are common here.
In the woodland, birds are plentiful and you will easily spot or hear the woodland specialists such as nuthatch, treecreeper and great spotted woodpeckers. There are many bird boxes throughout the woodland, erected by volunteers and you will spot mostly blue and great tits using these.
Also look out for speckled wood butterflies along the paths in the woodland. As their name suggests, they like the dappled sunlight of woodland edges.
On the water mallard duck, tufted duck, coot, mute swan and great crested grebe are resident throughout the year. In the summer the water attracts many species of gulls including black headed and herring gull. If you are lucky you may be able to spot a Mediterranean gull in amongst them all. The distinguishing feature of the Mediterranean gull is its very black head (the black-headed’ look brown in comparison) and bright red beak and legs. Many species of hirundine, including swallow, house martin, sand martin and swift can be seen feeding over the water, particularly in poor weather when they fly much lower to catch the insects.
Along the fringes of the water you will hear reed warbler and in the scrub blackcap can be heard. Chiffchaffs sing their repetitive call from the surrounding willows and alders and occasionally a willow warbler can be heard too. Kingfishers can be seen darting across then water, particularly near the bird hide, using the purpose-built perches to look for food.
Mammals are harder to spot at the reservoir, but look in the surrounding fields and water’s edge for roe deer and red fox. Otters also inhabit the waterways but they are seldom seen.
In the water, carp are the anglers’ target species, best viewed from the bird hide. Pike, bream, tench and roach are also present in the reservoir.
For daily bird sightings visit www.chardres.totalserve.co.uk.
Can I use a kayak or paddle board on the reservoir?
Unfortunately not. The reservoir is managed as a nature reserve and there is angling on site too. This means there are areas that are not open for public access. There simply isn't the space for more activities without detriment to the wildlife on the water and shoreline.
Can I use a remote control boat on the reservoir?
Unfortunately not, for the same reasons stated above.
Can I use a drone at the nature reserve?
Drone use is strictly regulated across all of our sites to prevent disturbance to the wildlife and so that the privacy of our visitors is respected. If you have a good reason for wanting to fly a drone across any of our countryside sites, you will need to email the Countryside Manager to request permission, along with a copy of your public liability insurance and certification to fly a drone.
Email Countryside Manager for permission to fly a drone
Can I have a BBQ or small campfire on site?
Due to the high fire risk and detriment to the wildlife, barbeques and campfires are strictly prohibited at Chard Reservoir.