Easter Walk on Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve

This Easter Sunday, despite the weather being a bit grey, we took the opportunity to take a walk out on Shapwick Heath along the Neolithic Sweet Track, the oldest man-made routeway in Britain. The Sweet Track is an ancient causeway in the Somerset Levels in England. It was built in either 3807 or 3806 BC. If you Google 51°9’57” N 2°49’26″W these are the coordinates from the built in GPS on our Canon 6D (such a cool feature!) from the first photograph I uploaded.

EASTER 2014-60

Wren | Canon 6D, 70-200mm f4L + Kenko MC7 x2 Teleplus @ 1/400th, f8, 12800 ISO

“Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve is not only a fantastic place to see wildlife, but a monument to the history and ingenuity of Neolithic man preserved through the amazing Sweet Track. It’s a unique window to the past and a place everyone should try to visit.”
Simon Clarke, Senior Reserve Manager

Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve (NNR) is a superb place to watch wildlife. This magnificent wetland reserve is managed by Natural England and covers over 500 ha at the heart of the Somerset Levels and Moors. It’s an area that’s steeped in history, and an atmospheric landscape of great skies and endless horizons.

Habitats on Shapwick Heath include lush green wildflower meadows; still, dark ditches; damp, secretive fens, shady, wet fern woods; and open water, fringed with rustling reedbeds. We really wanted to seeing some kingfishers, otters and bitterns but had to make do with seeing a solitary marsh harrier from a distance, a wren, which luckily landed 3 meters or so from me, a lovely pair of swans and some cormorants. We heard a bittern a couple of times – best way to describe their call would be like a like a low frequency fog horn sound I guess but we didn’t see any.

For the toggers reading this, I shot this walk solely with the Canon 6D and the 70-200 f4L with the addition of a new bit of kit attached that I had yet to run through it’s paces properly, the Kenko MC7 AF x2 Teleplus tele-convertor. I recently got this for a complete steal in CEX in Bridgwater for £30! I actually couldn’t believe they had it up for sale for that cheap. I literally snapped their hands off for it. It worked pretty well to be honest with no real difference in quality that I saw. The autofocus was quick as it was broad daylight but I’m not really sure we’d use it in too many low-light situations (i.e. weddings) due to the fact that it stops you down by 2 full stops so an f4 lens becomes f8….which is pretty rubbish for low light situations. Even shooting in daylight, in very overcast conditions out on Shapwick Heath, meant the ISO was getting a hammering, sometimes being up as high as 12800 in some of the shots from today (the shot of the Wren for example, shot at 1/400th). That being said I knew the deal with the increased stops when I got the MC7 and I’m happy with it so I can’t see us needing to spend a lot more on the Canon version on something that was only bought as a “just in case we ever need it” accessory. I might do a more detailed review sometime if there’s call for one.

You can read more about Shapwick Heath and find other places of interest in the area here.

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