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Enjoying the Countryside in Devon with the Wildlife Trust

Devon is the perfect holiday destination for those wanting to enjoy a holiday surrounded by nature and wildlife. The warm, damp climate encourages many less hardy plants and animals to thrive here, offering a great diversity of birds and wildlife from coast to moorland.
Most of Devon’s nature reserves are cared for by the Devon Wildlife Trust which was founded in 1952. Scattered across the county, the Trust is responsible for 42 reserves, including many around Dartmoor. The north and south coasts offer different marine habitats along with rocky seashores, sand dunes, towering cliffs and muddy estuaries – all a haven for birds and wildlife.

Braunton Burrows in North Devon is the largest sand dune system in Britain, while on the south coast the cliffs with their fossils are part of the World Heritage Site of the Jurassic coast. Exmoor and Dartmoor are special areas of preservation and they are a valuable area for both wildlife and recreation.

The Dart Valley is a beautiful area for hiking, cycling and nature spotting. Otters and salmon may be seen in the clear waters that pour off the moors. The bracken-covered slopes of Aish and Luckey Tors are home to many varieties of fritillary butterflies while the old oak forests house many colonies of greater and lesser horseshoe bats, particularly near Buckfastleigh. The moss and ferns also provide a desirable habitat for the dormouse while pied flycatchers and wood warblers make their nests in the woods surrounding the River Dart.

Cricklepit Mill is the HQ of the Devon Wildlife Trust. Visitors can see a working historic watermill in action, walk around the wildlife garden and see the interactive exhibits in the Visitor Centre. Look out for kingfishers, otters, sparrow hawks and birds from the hide, and enjoy the wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies.

Lickham Common near Henyock covers just 4 hectares and is an area of boggy wet heath favoured by frogs, toads, woodcocks, snipe, grass snakes and slow worms. It is covered in bracken and downy birch trees along with the white-starry flowers of Marsh Bedstraw and the Bog Myrtle.

Lady’s Wood Reserve near Ivybridge makes an idyllic picture in spring when bluebells cover the sloping woodland banks. Beneath the woodland canopy, the Glaze Brook trickles along to join the River Avon. Birdwatchers may spot marsh tits, nuthatches, song thrushes, tree creepers, blackcaps and chiff chaffs in the woodland. The Trust provides nesting boxes to encourage the dormouse to breed, and a bat survey revealed several species including barbastelle, greater and lesser horseshoe bats as well as brown long-eared and pipistrelle bats in the area.

Bystock Pools is four miles north of Exmouth and is a wetland valley adjoining the reservoir with slopes covered in heather and golden-flowering gorse. The pools attract dragonflies and damselflies, crickets, butterflies and many rare bird species such as willow warblers, blackcaps, yellowhammers and stonechats.

More information about Devon’s nature reserves is available from the Devon Wildlife Trust website.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

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