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One wild plant that nearly everyone seems to know is ragwort, and nearly everyone seems to believe that it kills horses. This view has meant that ragwort has become a persecuted plant in the UK to the detriment of the wildlife that it supports. 

Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is part of our native flora. It supports a wide variety of insects, many nationally rare or scarce, including 30 which are entirely reliant on ragwort. It is an extremely important source of nectar and pollen for many species including butterflies and bees.

The best-known specialist feeder on ragwort is the cinnabar moth, an attractive day-flying black and red moth with distinctive black-and-yellow striped caterpillars. Unfortunately, the removal of ragwort plants is leading to a decline in this moth and other ragwort specialists because people are worried about the possible harm the plant might cause. Worries that are fuelled by popular media and otherwise responsible organisations despite the facts. So, what is the truth about ragwort?

Along with many other plants, ragwort does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These substances are bitter tasting and provide protection to the plant from grazing animals such as horses and cattle. Indeed, in overgrazed pastures, ragwort plants can reach very high numbers. If the plant is eaten, the alkaloids are broken down by the intestines and liver and the breakdown products in the liver are toxic and can damage liver cells. Importantly, the breakdown products are excreted by the animal so the toxins do not accumulate in the body. Research has shown that a lethal dose of ragwort is between 5% and 25% of the body weight for horses and cattle. That is quite a lot! A 400kg horse would need to eat more than 20kg of ragwort.

So, ragwort is poisonous and could make an animal ill if large quantities are consumed, for example, by bundling the ragwort in with hay. But the likelihood of fatal poisoning is low, particularly as animals avoid eating the living plant. In wild places and areas that are not subject to grazing the plant is essentially harmless. Where low levels of ragwort are present in grassland being managed for hay, it is a sensible precaution to remove the ragwort plants so that they don’t get into the hay in large amounts.

Ragwort is spread by wind-blown seeds that colonise bare and disturbed soil. However, seed dispersal is very local to the parent plant, rarely spreading more than 40 metres, and ragwort is highly unlikely to get established in neighbouring lawns and well-managed grassland. Left to set seed, the plant will die naturally.  However, attempts to control ragwort by pulling or cutting it before it naturally sets seed are counterproductive as pieces of living plant remain that will regrow more densely than before.

To summarise, in almost all situations where it is found, common ragwort is highly unlikely to cause a health problem to people or their animals. So, while it is sensible to keep the plant away from livestock, please leave it alone elsewhere as it is an important plant for wildlife and has a valuable place in our countryside and wild places.

Common ragwort – an unfairly persecuted plant?

July 2023


The Countryside Team at South Somerset District Council are delighted to announce that grant support from the Wolfson Foundation will help bring to life Ham Hill’s rich tapestry of heritage stories, as part of the ‘Uncovering Ham Hill’s past for its future’ project.


Thanks to a £74,200 grant from the Wolfson Foundation, a permanent exhibition in the new Visitor Centre (due to open in Autumn 2024) will be created, based around key themes, with the aim of engaging and exciting visitors to Ham Hill as a focus for human settlement and activity over thousands of years.


To keep up to date with the progress of ‘Uncovering Ham Hill’s past for its future’ project please click here.

Ham Hill’s stories to come to life with support from the Wolfson Foundation

January 2023

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After reaching the finals in 2019, the team have smashed it this year winning not only one, but two categories in the Grounds Management Association Industry awards.


The grounds team have worked tirelessly around the clock to effectively manage the pitches and wider facility whilst also implementing a number of biodiversity and conservation initiatives. Winning them both 'Sports & Turf Best Environmental and Sustainability Impact Award' and 'Best Managed Artificial Surfaces of the Year Award'.

The team have trialled a range of products and approaches and adopted those that work best for the site such as tree planting, erecting wildlife boxes, creating wildflower banks, implementing no mow areas in the golf course, using electric power tools and making a move away from traditional fertilisers and herbicides to natural seaweed based products.

Yeovil Recreation Centre win two awards in the Grounds Management Association Industry Awards

November 2022


Work to introduce solar power to three Freedom Leisure sites across South Somerset is now complete and will save 21 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, the equivalent of taking 11 cars off the road!

Funded by the Government's Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, solar panels have been installed at Westlands Sport Centre (Yeovil), Wincanton Sports Centre and Goldenstones Leisure Centre, (Yeovil). This work is part of a development plan which will see over £6 million invested across the three sites to improve environmental efficiency, customer experience, accessibility, services and facilities.

Further plans to introduce Air Source Heat Pumps at all three leisure centre sites will increase the CO2 reductions to 435 tonnes, the equivalent to taking 229 cars off the road!

Solar Scheme at Freedom Leisure sites complete

July 2022

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Yeovil in Bloom was initiated, funded and managed by Yeovil Town Council since 1996.  It was developed to enhance the visual quality of the town and bring the local community together.


The Town’s annual entry into the Britain in Bloom South West competition involves contributions from local businesses, schools, residents, Yeovil Country Park and a number of It’s Your Neighbourhood (IYNs) community groups.


The annual displays are designed and maintained by South Somerset District Council’s Horticultural Service under the direction of the Yeovil in Bloom Steering Group.

Keep your eyes peeled for all the gorgeous displays coming over the next month, and head over to the official website for further information, or follow the Yeovil In Bloom Facebook page for updates!

Join us in our 26th year of entry into South West In Bloom!

June 2022


We've been creating the new 2022-2023 environment action plan and the process has given us the opportunity to reflect on what environment projects have already been achieved to date.

This video shows just some of the highlights – there were too many to showcase them all, but we hope it gives you a snapshot of some of the great work delivered so far.


Please click on the button below to view.

Reflecting on SSDC's Environment Achievements 

April 2022


The Green Register is offering 30 fully funded retrofit training places for construction professionals based in Somerset. Learners meeting the eligibility criteria will benefit from training with The Green Register’s online Futureproof Essentials training course, which provides knowledge on the key aspects of sustainable construction and retrofit.


The funded places are available through the Somerset Retrofit Accelerator project to support householders seeking energy-efficient renovation for their homes and to train construction professionals – contractors, trades, builders’ merchants, architects and others – to gain skills in retrofit.

Levelling up the Conversation: The Environment in the SW

March 2022

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A new mobile repair and reuse service will be hitting the road this summer. The customised van will be travelling the county supporting Somerset’s network of repair groups and cafes in their work to fix all things electrical. From toasters to tablets, record players to remote controls – if it has a plug or takes batteries, this project is about giving it a new lease of life. Providing practical help, useful tools and a PAT testing service, the van will encourage people to get things fixed & reused rather than throw them away or recycle. Read more.

Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP's) NEW Repair & Reuse Service

February 2022

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SCC is calling on residents to join the county’s fight against climate change by ‘cutting the carbon’ in 2022 and pledging to reduce our own carbon footprint. The County Council and the four district councils have all declared a climate emergency and set ambitious goals for Somerset to become a carbon neutral county by 2030. They have also produced a series of films showing great eco projects happening across the county here.

Somerset County Council asks residents to pledge to cut carbon

January 2022

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South Somerset, Mendip, Sedgemoor and Somerset West and Taunton district councils worked together with the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to secure funding to deliver energy efficiency improvements for park homes across Somerset.

Local Authority Delivery scheme improves energy efficiency of 28 park homes in Somerset

December 2021

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Volunteers and rangers are raising three Green Flag Awards this year at Ham Hill, Yeovil Country Park and Chard Reservoir, allowing SSDC to retain the award for the 16th consecutive year! Ham Hill has also achieved the much coveted Green Heritage Accreditation, supported by Historic England, for the management of its historic features.

SSDC country parks retain Green Flag status

October 2021


We are pleased to announce that SSDC has partnered with Lendology, an FCA regulated financial services company based in Taunton, Somerset, to offer home improvement, energy efficiency and renewable energy loans to our local residents. Click below for details.

Home Improvement and Energy Efficiency Loans

September 2021


Ahead of COP26 in November, the IPCC has released their most comprehensive climate report to date, confirming beyond any reasonable doubt that climate change from human activity is a fact. For further details click below.

IPCC Climate Report warns of 1.5 degree warming sooner

August 2021

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SSDC are implementing No Mow Trials, by letting the flowers bloom and species prosper across certain SSDC-owned spaces, ensuring the areas provide a vital source of sustenance for our pollinators and new habitat for all species.

SSDC "No Mow" Conservation Verge trials

July 2021


South Somerset District Council has awarded Ferne Animal Sanctuary a community grant of £950 as part of a £2,950 project to reintroduce water voles to the sanctuary.

SSDC grant helps reintroduce Watervoles 

July 2021

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Have you got a great home-hack for storing food? An awesome recipe for leftovers?

Share them as part of the first Somerset Food Waste Week - devoted to promoting reduction of food waste.

Cutting out food waste is one the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint and last year more than 46,000 tonnes was collected from our kerbside.

Analysis in 2018 showed that 26% of the contents (by weight) of the average Somerset refuse bin was wasted food – a third of that could have been eaten and another third was thrown away still in its packaging.

The awareness week starts on Monday, 6 March, when Somerset’s carbon ‘foodprint’ will be revealed. The week will involve sharing top tips and great advice for ways of wasting less food.

Whether its buying better, understanding food labelling or making the most of your freezer, there are loads of simple ways to make a difference.

See the dedicated page of information and guidance on the SWP website and plenty of posting on the @somersetwaste Facebook page.

check out the live Facebook Q&A on the 8th. plus joining the Community Council for Somerset Talking Café and will be there to answer all your food waste questions

Email you food waste reduction tips and leftover recipes via

Anyone sharing an idea will be in with a chance of winning beeswax wraps to help with good home storage – made by the county’s own bees (with some help from the Somerset Beekeepers Association).

Recycling is great, but reducing is even better.

Put Somerset Food Waste Week on your menu

March 2023

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In Montreal between the 7th - 19th of December 2022, 195 country representatives came together as part of Cop 15, the principle UN biodiversity conference, where they agreed a deal to protect 30 per cent of land and sea on the planet by 2030. 

This has been commended by many for progressing the previous protections set in 2010 at Biodiversity COP 10 (which unfortunately were not met), however others suggest this is akin to the historic and outdated model of human-exclusive conservation known as “fortress conservation”.

Cop15 strikes historic deal to protect 30 per cent of the Earth 

January 2023

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Somerset is to get a long-term Tree Strategy to ensure planting and woodland management is fit for the future and supports the area’s ecology, landscape and its people. The consultation will inform that piece of work.


The four District Councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, and South Somerset) and the County Council are working with consultants Evolving Forest, and stakeholders The Woodland Trust, Somerset Local Nature Partnership, the Environment Agency, The Forestry Commission, Quantock Hills AONB, Exmoor National Park and Somerset Wildlife Trust, to help develop the strategy.

A consultation has been launched for everyone in Somerset to complete, the results of which will help influence what Somerset’s future landscapes will look like.

The survey should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete. You’ll find it here: Somerset Tree Consultation

Growing, protecting and restoring Somerset’s trees and woodlands will be the focus, as these measures will help reduce carbon emissions, encourage biodiversity and nature recovery, grow our sustainable timber market, and improve people’s health and wellbeing.

The survey is live and remains open until October 21st. 

Somerset Councils seek your views on trees

October 2022


Somerset’s recycling rate is at an all-time high thanks to Recycle More and everyone’s efforts to do the right thing with their waste. At 56.2%, the rate for 2021-22 is a big step forward from 52.4% the previous year - coming after more than a decade of being stuck around the 52% level.


It’s the highest it has been since such figures started being tracked more than 20 years ago, which should put Somerset in the top 10% when national figures are shared later in the year.

The recycling rate is the proportion of the waste collected at the kerbside or taken to recycling sites that is recycled. The improvements are believed to have been driven by the introduction of the expanded Recycle More collections and the way Somerset has embraced them so enthusiastically. 

Recycling rate in Somerset hits new heights

June 2022


Two colonies of rare bee orchids that were highlighted as being at risk due to proposed verge cutting on the A356 near Stoke-sub-Hamdon have now been protected.


SSDC are required to maintain these verges for the County Council's Highways team with up to 11 cuttings a year, however we have recently adopted a policy of active conservation management for those verges that are appropriate for biodiversity improvements. This means that for many areas we will be reducing our cuttings to 4 times a year, including at this site, to allow species to flower and set seed over the summer!

If you would like to have a similar impact, and know of a site that might need help, get in touch here as we may be able to do the same in your area!

Resident’s recent enquiry leads to protection of bee orchids near Stoke-sub-Hamdon!

June 2022

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The Green Register is offering 30 fully funded retrofit training places for construction professionals based in Somerset. Learners meeting the eligibility criteria will benefit from training with The Green Register’s online Futureproof Essentials training course, which provides knowledge on the key aspects of sustainable construction and retrofit.


The funded places are available through the Somerset Retrofit Accelerator project to support householders seeking energy-efficient renovation for their homes and to train construction professionals – contractors, trades, builders’ merchants, architects and others – to gain skills in retrofit.

Somerset Retrofit Accelerator Community Renewal Fund programme

March 2022


Catch up on our exciting presentation from David Ramsden MBE of his talk: 'Climate and Ecological Crisis? What's all the fuss about?'. 


There's been quite a lot in the news recently about extreme weather, and a lot of fuss is being made about 'climate change'. There are also people talking about an 'ecological crisis' which, they say, might even become a problem for us here in Britain.


The talk provides an easy-to-follow introduction to the whole subject followed by a Q&A. Click below!

Climate and Ecological Crisis? What's all the fuss about?


Watch SSDC's recent webinar!

March 2022

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Yeovil Library has undergone a transformation to make the building greener and more energy efficient as part of Somerset County Council’s commitment to decarbonise its buildings.

The project has seen a new air source heat pump installed to heat the building in a more sustainable way, lamps changed to LEDs, new thermally efficient windows, improved ventilation with carbon dioxide monitors, and significant additional insulation. 

Yeovil Library Decarbonisation Project Completed

February 2022


Many people want to invest in their homes to make them warmer, healthier and more comfortable. If this is done in the right way, savings on energy bills can help pay for the improvements and do something great for the environment. But it’s not always easy to know where to start.


Retrofit Bruton and Cary is here to help homeowners in Bruton, Castle Cary and immediately neighbouring parishes; giving clear, impartial and free advice to help you plan & deliver exactly the right improvements for your home.

Retrofit Bruton and Cary - Advice for Homeowners

January 2022


Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) are offering their first ever Eco-School grants. As part of its commitment to encourage waste reduction, reuse and recycling, SWP is offering grants of £500 to up to 50 schools to help them participate in the Eco Schools Programme. Full details and how to apply click below.

Green School Grants Now Available

November 2021

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New plastic tax comes into force next April, as an economic incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic when producing plastic packaging.  Businesses Be ready! Sign-up now for ‘HMRC’s Get Ready for Plastic Packaging Tax Webinars’ to learn  what you need to do before the tax comes into force.

Get ready for the plastic packaging tax

October 2021


SSDC are promoting the Big Community Energy Switch for residents in South Somerset to switch to 100% renewable electricity at home. It’s hassle-free, there’s no obligation to switch, and the only thing you’ll notice is a lower energy bill. For more details and to sign up before the 11th October, visit here.

The Big Community 'Renewable Energy' Switch

March 2022


Funding for Parishes to improve their community facilities is available – this could include improving the energy efficiency and/ or heating of the buildings. Grants of between £1,500 and £5,000 are available until end of Sept 2021. For details see below. 


Parish Community Facilities Fund

August 2021


It's that time of year again! Before you head out and buy new school equipment, is there a way you can do things more sustainably? Check out these great eco-tips for going back to school.

Back to School - Top 10 Eco Tips!

July 2021


Somerset Climate Action Network is excited to announce they are recruiting a Project Manager to deliver the Somerset Retrofit project which is a 12 month self-employed position funded by MCS Charitable Foundation with support from the Somerset Councils to coordinate the development and delivery of the Project in support of Somerset CAN’s mission.

The aim of this project is to build an investible business plan with strong stakeholder support that could then attract significant funding from Somerset Councils and other sources.

The project will also include:

  • Research and analysis to recommend the most appropriate software/IT solution to support the new service.

  • Engagement with contractors and the supply chain in Somerset to enhance the delivery of retrofit across the communities, ideally to deliver multiple installations at discount, and develop the Green Directory and resources on the website.

  • Engagement with community groups via Somerset Climate Action Network to enable outreach in their communities to empower retrofit action.

  • A Retrofit Symposium in Autumn 2023 bringing together key stakeholders from across Somerset to discuss the topic and present future options for “Retrofit Somerset”

For more information please click on Read more and apply by 5pm on Friday 24th Feb. Interviews will be held virtually during the week of Feb 27th.

Somerset Retrofit Project 

Seeks PM Role

Feburary 2023

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The Countryside Team at South Somerset District Council (SSDC) are delighted to announce that they have been awarded £1.6 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund towards their project ‘Uncovering Ham Hill’s past for its future.’

Ham Hill Country Park has a rich history dating back to the Stone Age, when man first settled on the hill over 5,000 years ago. In 1975 it was established as a country park and has since grown to 173 hectares, with limited visitor facilities despite an estimated 300,000 visitors a year. This £2.4 million project will seek to conserve and protect the wealth of archaeology at this Iron Age hillfort, improve biodiversity and habitat management, provide better visitor facilities and engage visitors and local communities with the heritage, geological, cultural and wildlife importance of Ham Hill.

Ham Hill gets the go ahead thanks to Heritage Fund Grant

December 2022


The removal of litter bins at Ham Hill Country Park has been hailed a success after the amount of litter at the site fell by approximately 85% annually.

After a spate of anti-social littering at the site, we were forced to rethink how to address an ever-increasing litter problem at the site.

In June 2019, we made the decision to remove all 14 litter bins from the site, encouraging visitors to take responsibility for their own waste and asking them to take their rubbish home with them and recycle what they could.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive and to find out more click below. 

The removal of litter bins at Ham Hill is one of a number of initiatives being implemented as part of SSDC’s overarching Environment Strategy.

Why Litter Bins are not always the Answer - Ham Hill Country Park

September 2022

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Later this year, COP15 (the Convention on Biological Diversity) will be taking place in Canada. It consists of an international treaty looking specifically at the conservation of biodiversity.

Yes, the conference is happening thousands of miles away and discussing global challenges, but decisions made will affect the wildlife you love right here in the UK. By signing up to the targets, the UK Government will be making a commitment to protect nature on a national, regional and local level.

By thinking about our own actions from growing plants and shrubs at home, changing our diet or using different types of compost, together our actions can support nature’s recovery. For ten easy ways to do this click here.

COP15: What is happening with the UN’s flagship Biodiversity Summit?

June 2022

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The Nature and Wellbeing sub-group of the Somerset LNP have been granted small funds from Somerset County Council Public Health Team. The fund is open for applications until 8 July,


Funding up to £1000 is allocated by the Department for Health to Somerset to help co-ordinate, develop & promote nature-based initiatives to improve health and wellbeing.


You will need to be a voluntary, charitable, community or social enterprise organisation working in Somerset, whose beneficiaries are largely based in Somerset. Please contact Sophie using the link below, for more information.

Somerset Local Nature Partnership Summer Seed Fund is now open!

May 2022

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The South Somerset Community Biodiversity Tookit has been developed to allow communities to take the lead in defining & restoring biodiversity in their community. It's packed with information, ideas and helpful resources to enable you and your community to create an environmental plan and deliver it! 

This toolkit is designed to provide information that, when combined with your enthusiasm, skills and energy, could deliver projects that will have the greatest environmental benefits. Download the toolkit here:


  • Community Biodiversity Toolkit: Overarching Guidance

  • A1: Planning and Engagement

  • A2: Developing your plans

  • A3: Delivery and Practical Tips

Welcome to the South Somerset Community Biodiversity Toolkit

March 2022

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Looking for retrofit early adopters! Have you made energy efficiency improvements to your home and would like to share your story?

We are looking for homeowners in Somerset who have made changes to their home, to share their knowledge and experiences with others through a series of online open homes events. These events are part of the Somerset Retrofit Accelerator project, an initiative to develop the supply chain for low carbon, whole house retrofit of homes in Somerset. If you think this is something you might like to do or would like more information please fill out the form below.

Calling all retrofit pioneers!

March 2022


Residents across South Somerset can benefit from free energy efficiency improvements worth up to £10,000 thanks to a Government funded programme. To be eligible for the grants the residents of the property must have a low income (receive benefits or have the household income below £30,000 per annum) and the EPC for the property must be rated D, E, F or G.


If you think you might be eligible, you can submit an application here:


Green Homes Grants available (LAD Phase 2)

January 2022


Parishes across South Somerset can benefit from free wildflower seeds as part of SSDC’s Parish Wildflower Seed Giveaway. We are asking as many parishes and landowners as possible to get involved and identify sites that would best suit an area for wildflowers in your community. Where could your community go wild? To apply complete the application form at the link below.

Great Parish Wildflower Seed Giveaway is live!

December 2021


South Somerset District Council has joined UK100 – a coalition of the most ambitious local leaders in the UK who are committed to achieving Net Zero further and faster than national targets.

SSDC joins UK100 & Countryside Climate Network

October 2021


In an effort to understand where our business community is at with addressing the climate and ecological emergency SSDC are asking local businesses in South Somerset to take part in a short survey. For more details and to complete the survey, click below.

SSDC Launches Green Business Survey

September 2021


The Retrofit Bruton and Cary Project goes live on 4 October, with the aim of giving impartial advice to homeowners and private landlords in Bruton, Castle Cary and the surrounding parishes about carbon-efficient ways of improving their homes. Visit the website here or click below for further details.


Retrofit Bruton and Cary gets down to business

September 2021

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Funding for Parishes to improve their community facilities is available – this could include improving the energy efficiency and/ or heating of the buildings. Grants of between £1,500 and £5,000 are available until end of Sept 2021. For details see below. 

Sustainability at Yeovil Recreation Centre

July 2021


After a spate of anti-social littering at the site at Ham Hill Country Park in the summers of 2017 and 2018, we were forced to rethink how to address an ever-increasing litter problem at the heritage site.

Why litter bins are not always the answer

July 2021

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Get SuSSed is our monthly e-newsletter that keeps you up to date with all projects linked to our environment strategy, plus local eco stories, initiatives, education and advice on resources. You can visit the Get SuSSed section of our website and view the current and previous copies of the newsletter. 


If you would like to receive Get SuSSed, submit your email address here:

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