The clay-capped area of landfill forms a gently south-facing plateau of approximately 40 hectares which is up to 10 metres higher than the surrounding farmland. Despite the less appealing aspects of the site - the pulsating hiss of methane gas being released from the numerous gas wells and the pervasive, mild odour of decay; it is easy to overlook these and enjoy the sunny open aspect with expansive views in every direction across rural Somerset. The Blackdown Hills, Glastonbury Tor, the Mendips and the chalk escarpment of Cadbury Castle all clearly visible.
Carymoor Environmental Trust is contracted by Viridor to manage the capped landfill to help wildlife and maximise biodiversity. There are several on-going projects in partnership with universities including Bath Spa and Brighton..
This project is being undertaken by Andrew George and the West Country branch of Butterfly Conservation. The project is sited on the southern flank of the landfill with the objective of augmenting an already valuable area close by known as the translocated grasslands. These were created from an area of floristically rich grassland which was threatened with destruction by the creation of the landfill site. It was saved by physically digging it up and relocating it to its present position on the southern edge of the landfill, in three sections.
In 2000, a long linear mound was created nearby, using waste clay and soil. It was constructed with the generous help of Wyvern Waste (who owned the site at that time) providing the machinery and manpower – as they had previously done when relocating the grasslands. The mound was shaped in the form of a stylised sea serpent or ‘great orm' complete with 'eggs.' The serpent comprises of a head, body, flipper and tail and exceeds 150 metres in length. The motive behind the ‘serpent’ shape was to create a series of south-facing bays - or scallops, providing sunny, sheltered microclimates attractive to butterflies. The top of the serpent and the sun-facing slopes were covered with a combination of concrete and chalk rubble and oolitic limestone. These materials were all derived from waste or recycled sources. They are rich in calcium carbonate and nutrient-poor. The chalk and oolite are both relatively porous and can retain rain water for some time. All of these characteristics are necessary for the creation of grasslands in which many species of butterflies can thrive. The serpent was sown and planted with many species of lime tolerant plants to simulate a piece of calcareous grassland – the richest of all semi-natural habitats in terms of biodiversity in Britain. Finally, the northern slopes of the serpent were planted with trees and shrubs to enhance the shelter effect of the mound.
The mound became known as Andrew’s Dragon, after Andrew George – its creator.
Notable butterfly species that can be seen on the Dragon and translocated banks include Small Blue, Small Heath, Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, all of which are listed as UK (BAP) Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. Also present are Large and Small Skippers; Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Copper and many others.