New Year Somerset Levels' Winter Birds
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Meadows & hills
Join us for a winter birding treat as we head to the reed beds and pools to look for starling murmarations and winter wildfowl on masse, perhaps peppered with the odd peregrine, merlin and short-eared owl.
- Walk up to 3 miles each day seeking out a variety of species
- Flexible itineraries to take advantage of prevailing weather conditions and current sightings
- Experienced and knowledgeable leader
Great reasons to join us:
- Great value: all prices include Full Board en-suite accommodation, guidance from an expert leader, transport and entrance fees to bird sites
- Sociability: we pride ourselves on the sociable atmosphere of our holidays; eat together, relax together and enjoy days out together
- Expert leaders: our leaders are experts in their field and will ensure that you get the most from your holiday
- Accommodation: enjoy high quality accommodation and excellent food at Holnicote House
As a historic National Trust property, Holnicote House is full of charm and character. Located on the extensive Holnicote Estate, at the foot of Exmoor, it is well suited to a relaxing holiday.
Holnicote House has 32 newly refurbished bedrooms. Some are located in the main house, with others in the thatched cottages, called Butlers and Guns, in the grounds.
Choose your room
• Check-in from 2:30pm
• Comfortable accommodation
• En-suite bathroom with bath or shower
• Tea and coffee-making facilities
• Single room are available at no extra charge
• Check-in from 1:30pm
• Enjoy extra space or exceptional views
• Toweling robe, complimentary slippers
• Same facilities as our classic rooms
• Available from an extra £10 per person per night
• Check-in from 2:30pm
• 3 or 4 beds
• Same facilities as our classic rooms
• Full sized twin or double beds for adults and bunk or occasional beds for children
|• Excellent boot and drying rooms
• Two lounges
• Dining rooms
|• Free WiFi available in some public rooms
• Range of board games and books
• Heated outdoor swimming pool (open May to September
|• Croquet lawn|
|All holidays at our Country Houses are full board accommodation including evening meal on arrival to breakfast on the day of your departure. All of our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
√ Start your day with our extensive breakfast.
All of our bars are stocked with locally sourced drinks so you can really soak up your surroundings.
- Fire procedure is displayed in each room and explained to guests on arrival. Guests requiring assistance at an evacuation are identified at this time and door hanger cards are issued
- Mobile phone reception is generally good from the main building
- Assistance dogs accompanying visually or hearing impaired guests are welcome; dogs must be kept on a lead or harness at all times
- Information can be provided in large print
- Staff have received disability awareness training
- Special diets can be catered for. Specialist food can be obtained with prior notice
- Fridge for medication can be supplied
Saturday: Arrival day
You can check in to your room from 2.30pm onwards. Please join us for afternoon tea at 4pm. All guests are invited – we’ll introduce your leader and welcome you to your holiday.
Sunday: Hall Wall & Shapwick Heath
We spend the day at the rich habitats of Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserves on the Somerset Levels. Here, amongst the more common birds, can be seen scarcer species such as Great White Egret, Bittern, and Marsh Harrier. The site is also famous for the huge flocks of starlings which roost here during the winter, and can produce some fantastic murmurations.
In the evening join our fellow guests for a celebration dinner to welcome in the new year – you are invited to ‘dress to impress’.
Monday: Lynmouth & Dunster Beach
This morning we have a lovely walk along the East Lyn River from Watersmeet down to Lynmouth. We’ll look out for birds such as Dippers and Grey Wagtails as well as a variety of woodland birds.
Dunster Beach Nature Reserve has a variety of wintering wildfowl and waders, and sea-watching from Minehead quay can be productive at this time of the year.
Tuesday: West Sedgemoor Reserve
West Sedgemoor RSPB Reserve’s wet meadows attract birds in their thousands during the winter − ducks such as wigeon, teal, shoveller, pintail, and waders such as golden plover, snipe, and lapwing. Peregrine falcon and merlin are also frequent visitors at this time of the year. There are also cranes in this area, and so we’ll also explore some possible sites for these birds.
Wednesday: Depart after a leisurely breakfast
Sometimes things happen beyond our control – the weather, traffic jams or changes at the places we visit. If we need to adjust your holiday programme, for whatever reason, your leader will help smooth the way.
What to bring
- Outdoor clothing appropriate to the season, including waterproofs
- Strong, comfortable footwear with a good tread is essential
- A telescope (if you have one) and binoculars
- Thermos flask (optional)
- Recommended field guide (optional) - The New Mitchell Beazley Birdwatcher’s Pocket Guide
During your stay at Holnicote House you may enjoy visiting the following places of interest, either in your free time, or on your journey to and from Selworthy:
Less than a mile from Holnicote House is Selworthy village. At first glance the thatched cottages seem typical of many ancient settlements in this area. However, Selworthy is not as old as it looks, having been rebuilt in 1828 by Sir Thomas Acland. Sir Thomas was a philanthropist and designed the 'model' village himself to provide housing for the aged and infirm of the estate. He used traditional designs and materials to create a deliberately old-fashioned village.
West Somerset Railway
Travel on Britain’s longest steam railway from Minehead to Bishops Lydyard. Now lovingly restored by volunteers, the line recreates a classic Great Western Railway branch line with steam trains operating daily from April to October. Minehead station is 10 minutes' drive from Selworthy, or can be reached on the number 300 bus. www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk
An historic castle transformed into a comfortable stately home for the Luttrell family. Some highlights include the 'modern' 1950s kitchen and the snooker room. Dunster Castle sits in extensive gardens, complete with its working watermill. The adjacent town of Dunster is full of character and also well worth a visit. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunster-castle
Lynton & Lynmouth
The quaint Victorian town of Lynton sits high on a hill, overlooking the coast and Lynmouth harbour. The two settlements are connected by the historic cliff railway. The short walk from Lynton to the Valley of Rocks is highly recommended.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and his wife Sara lived in the village of Nether Stowey, about 45 minutes' drive from Selworthy, from 1796 to 1799. In 1909 it was acquired by the National Trust, and later restored and opened to the public. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleridge-cottage
Hestercombe Gardens, around an hour's drive away near Taunton, were constructed in three periods - a landscape garden from the 1750s, a Victorian terrace and shrubbery from the 1870s, and Edwardian gardens of 1904-1908 designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. www.hestercombe.com
Arlington Court, about an hour's drive away near Barnstaple is a fine Regency house set in an extensive estate. The grounds include a formal Victorian garden whilst the stables house the National Trust’s carriage collection of over fifty horse-drawn vehicles. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/arlington-court
Travel to Selworthy
Our address is: Holnicote House, Selworthy, Minehead, Somerset TA24 8TJ
The nearest railway station is at Taunton. For train times and general rail enquiries visit www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 03457 484950 (from outside the UK call +44 20 7278 5240).
The 29 mile journey from Taunton railway station takes approximately 50 minutes. Pre-booked taxis cost approx £57 per taxi. Details of our current recommended taxi company and rates will be sent to you with your booking. taxi company will arrange shared taxis wherever possible. The return taxi journey can be arranged on your behalf by the Holnicote House Manager.
The number 28 bus operates between Taunton station and Minehead. At Minehead change for the number 10 bus that will take you to the Selworthy turn (which is at the end of Holnicote House drive). A 2 minute walk along the drive will bring you to the house. Alternatively pre-book a taxi from Minehead; the 4½ mile journey will cost you approx £10 from our recommended taxi provider. For bus times see www.traveline.info
From Bridgewater take the A39 though the southern outskirts of Minehead towards Porlock. Holnicote House is on the left about 4½ miles out of Minehead, and about ¾ mile after the signpost to Luccombe (do not follow the signs to Selworthy). After the Selworthy Village sign look out for our sign 500 yards further on, on the left. Free car parking is available in the grounds.
Travelling from Overseas
For most guests, travelling to London Heathrow airport is the most convenient option.
From Heathrow first take the train to London Paddington station. From here there are direct trains to Taunton. Its a relatively straightforward journey - allow 2½ hours. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for train times.
From Taunton you can travel on to Selworthy by bus or taxi (see above).
John Parkinson has had a life-long interest in the Natural World and spent a lot of time during his formative years in a rural environment, spending as much time as was possible outside with nature, camping amongst it, photographing it or observing it as closely as possible. He is an active member of his local Wildlife Trust and can be found in his spare time wandering around local nature reserves, binoculars around his neck and camera in hand. He welcomes this opportunity to pass on his enthusiasm for birdlife and hopes you will join him on the holiday.
Dates & Prices
We're sorry, there are no dates available for this holiday at the moment. Please check out our other tours and breaks or call our team on 0345 470 8558 to be notified of new dates as soon as they become available.
Prices are per person
- Premium single room: £15 per night
- Premium twin/double room: £10 per person per night
- Non-member associate fee: £10 per person