Corporate report

Devon's National Nature Reserves

Updated 15 February 2024

Applies to England

Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs

Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs NNR is one of the largest and most important active coastal landslip systems in Western Europe. It stretches 7 miles in length, between Axmouth in the west and Lyme Regis in the east.

Main habitats: woodland, lowland grassland, rocky shore, cliffs.

Features of interest

Lying at the heart of the ‘Jurassic Coast’ World Heritage Site it has been described as one of the finest wilderness areas in Great Britain. The reserve has excellent geological exposures from the Triassic, Cretaceous and Jurassic eras and is internationally famous for fossils.

The best time of year to see the woodland habitat is in spring when many woodland flowers including wild daffodil and bluebell can be seen.

In winter dramatic inland cliffs and geological features are more visible when the trees have lost their foliage. This can be a good time to walk the coast path, although the path can get very muddy and slippery after rain.

Monmouth Beach, famous for fossils, is always popular with tourists although the cliffs on the beach here are very unstable and visitors should heed all warning signs - stay well away from the base of cliffs because of the risk of falling rocks and/or cliff fall.

See the site visitor leaflet for more information.


The nearest train station is in Axminster.

Bus services from Axminster to Lyme Regis, and from Lyme Regis to Seaton are provided by First Group.

The A3052 coast road is well served by the X53 bus. This allows the option of a one way walk through the NNR and a return journey by bus.

Car parking is available in Lyme Regis at Holmbush car park or at the Cobb. An informal lay-by at Axmouth below the golf club access road provides a small number of car parking spaces and additional car parking is available in Seaton.

The NNR can be accessed on foot via the South West Coast Path National Trail from either Axmouth or Lyme Regis.

If you walk between Axmouth and Lyme Regis through the reserve be aware the route is long and demanding and takes at least 3.5 hours to complete.


To stay safe, you should:

  • keep to the way-marked coast path at all times
  • wear sturdy footwear
  • take care on the many steps in the reserve, which along with the path can be very muddy and slippery after rain
  • beware of unstable cliff edges, cracks and deep fissures hidden by vegetation, hidden sheer drops, mudflows and falling rocks
  • beware of incoming tides, if walking on the beach at Lyme or Axmouth
  • keep well clear of any cliffs or rocky outcrops, which may be unstable
  • keep clear of any old buildings or ruins, which can be unstable and dangerous
  • avoid visiting the reserve in stormy weather due to the risk of falling trees and branches


Volunteers carry out a range of activities on the NNR, including practical conservation management work (scrub clearance, non-native species removal, grassland management, pond clearance), ecological survey work and other general wardening duties.

The local Axe Vale and District Conservation Society plays an important part in supporting and working closely with Natural England to manage the NNR.


For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities contact or telephone 0300 060 3900.

Berry Head

The reserve is on the south side of Torbay and comprises two separate areas: the Berry Head promontory (as far south as Durl Head), and Sharkham Point, 11 kilometres south of Durl Head. The two areas are separated by St Mary’s Bay.

Main habitats: coastal, lowland grassland

Management: Berry Head is owned and managed by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust.

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit can be found on the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust website.


Noel Hughes, Berry Head Ranger

Telephone: 01803 882619 or email

Black-a-Tor Copse

Black-a-Tor Copse is an area of woodland, granite clitter (rocks) and moorland 380 metres above sea level. The reserve is one of Britain’s best examples of high altitude oak woodland and is nationally important for the variety of lichens and mosses that clothe the trees and rocks.

Main habitats: woodland

Features of interest

Black-a-Tor Copse is one of three high altitude woodlands on Dartmoor, offering views across the West Okement River Valley. English oak trees have grown through large granite boulders or ‘clitter’ to create a woodland which is nationally important for rare lichens and mosses.

The clean air and damp humid conditions of Dartmoor provide the perfect place for the lichens to thrive. As well as rare lichens such as Bryoria smithii, more common species including the beard lichen can also be spotted.

Twenty species of breeding birds have been recorded in the woodland and surrounding habitat, including ring ouzel and redstart.

The woodland isn’t actively managed, but light grazing by the cattle, sheep and ponies that reside on the open moorland help sustain the open character and abundant lichens and mosses. The moorland is also periodically burnt in an ancient practice known as ‘swaling’. This provides patches of more palatable grass for livestock in spring and reduces the spread of gorse and young trees.


Sourton is on Route 27 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

Three local trails converge in the area: the Two Castle Trail, the West Devon Way and the Dartmoor Way. See the Devon County Council website for details.

The nearest train station is in Okehampton, with a regular train service to Plymouth and Gunnislake.

Bus services run from Plymouth to Okehampton via Sourton, and Gunnislake to Okehampton via Sourton. See the Traveline SW website for more details.

There are ‘Sunday Rover’ bus services from Gunnislake and Plymouth to Okehampton via Sourton. For details go to the Devon County Council website.

The reserve is two miles south east of Sourton (on the A386) and two miles south of Meldon (on the B3260). The nearest car park is at Meldon Reservoir.


To find out more about the site, or to volunteer to assist with practical management and research on the the reserve, contact or telephone 0300 060 3900.

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren NNR includes the full range of coastal habitats, from mudflats to sand dunes. The reserve provides shelter and food for up to 12,000 wading birds and also helps to protect the Exe Estuary from wave action, which is particularly important during storm events.

Main habitats: coastal

Management: Dawlish Warren is jointly owned and managed by Teignbridge District Council and the Devon Wildlife Trust.

Features of interest

The NNR is divided into 2 parts, the Inner Warren and the Outer Warren.

For more information on Dawlish Inner Warren, its wildlife and how to visit, go to the Devon Wildlife Trust website.

For more information on Dawlish Outer Warren, its wildlife and how to visit, go to the Teignbridge District Council’s page.


Phil Chambers (Senior Ranger),
Teignbridge District Council,
Forde House,
Brunel Road,
TQ12 4XX

Telephone: 01626 215884

Dendles Wood

Dendles Wood NNR is an area of upland oak-beech woodland located in a narrow gorge of the River Yealm. The woodland is rich in ferns, mosses and lichens.

Main habitats: woodland

This is a hazardous site and for health and safety reasons public access is limited to permit holders. For details contact the site manager using the contact details below.

Features of interest

The woodland is of particular scientific interest because it is a mixed oak-beech wood pasture which predates a large scale planting of beech in Devon in the sixteenth century. The beech is therefore assumed to be native at the edge of its natural range.

The typical damp conditions of upland Atlantic oak woods encourages a rich community of lichens and mosses. Breeding birds include redstart, wood warbler and pied flycatcher.

Seven species of bat have been found here including the nationally rare barbastelle bat which breeds here. There is a good population of the blue ground beetle which is a red data book species.

The best times to visit are from mid-April to mid-June for woodland birds and bluebells.


The nearest train station is in Ivybridge.

A bus service from Plymouth to Cornwood. For details see the Traveline SW.

Cornwood is accessed via minor roads from the A38 and the nearest car parking is in the village.


For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities contact or telephone 0300 060 3900.

Dunsdon Farm

The NNR contains an important example of a type of pasture known as Culm grassland. This is a marshy, heathy vegetation that occurs over the slates and shales of the Culm Measures across north western Devon.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

Area: 57 hectares

Management: Dunsdon is owned and managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust.

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit can be found on the Devon Wildlife Trust website.


Devon Wildlife Trust


East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths

East Dartmoor consists of 3 joined but distinct areas: Yarner Wood, Trendlebere Down and the Bovey Valley Woodlands. Together they provide an excellent example of internationally important western oakwood with its associated bird and lower plant communities.

Main habitats: woodland, open heathland, bogs, former meadows and streams.

Features of interest

Look out for pied flycatchers, woodpeckers and wood warblers in the woods, Dartford warblers, ponies and fritillary butterflies around the moorland, and dippers along the River Bovey.

See the site visitor leaflet for detailed information on the history of the area, its wildlife, flora and landscape and a map.

See the map to find out where you can ride a horse or cycle on the reserve.


The nearest station is Newton Abbot.

Use Carmel Coaches, service 671, Okehampton to Newton Abbot (via Manaton), Wednesdays only.

Newton Abbot is served by a number of bus, coach and rail links. More information can be found on the DevonLink website.

By car, from Bovey Tracey take the B3387 to Manaton (taking care not to take left fork to Haytor). After about 1.5 miles, you will see the Yarner Wood car park signs on the left. Follow the driveway for 300m to the car park and the NNR office. Voluntary car parking charges can be paid in advance or on the day using the RingGo app.

There is public car park at Yarner Wood, another on Trendlebere Down, adjacent to the road to Manaton village, and a third at Pullabrook Wood.

Yarner Wood is on the Templar Way.

School and community groups

East Dartmoor NNR has learning opportunities for school groups at both primary and secondary level. For more information visit East Dartmoor’s school and community groups page in the National Archives.


For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities contact the reserve team at:

Natural England Office
Yarner Wood
Bovey Tracey
TQ13 9LJ

Telephone: 01626 832330

Pebblebed Heaths

Pebblebed Heaths is the largest block of lowland heath in Devon. It’s an internationally important representative of the inland Atlantic-climate, lowland heathlands of Britain and north-west Europe.

The NNR is managed by Clinton Devon Estates, the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust.

A significant feature of the site is the diversity of heathland-associated plant and animal communities that reflect the varied topography, geology, hydrology and water chemistry of the area. The majority of this NNR is also designated as site of special scientific interest (SSSI), special area of conservation (SAC), special protection area (SPA), and forms part of the landscape of the East Devon area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

The NNR has been extended to include a large area of intertidal habitat creation in the Otter Estuary adjacent to the Otter Estuary SSSI and Otter Estuary marine conservation zone (MCZ).

The Otter Estuary supports one of the most extensive saltmarsh networks in Devon with a wide range of saltmarsh communities, areas of tall herb and scrub.  This combination of coastal and freshwater habitats in turn support high numbers of breeding and overwintering bird species. The estuary is an important additional feeding station for birds from the nearby Exe Estuary, especially during severe weather and also serves as a migratory route for European eel, Atlantic salmon and sea trout.  The estuary is also a nationally important fossil site.

The NNR extension highlights how NNRs can drive nature restoration across a wider landscape with the primary link being through 4 tributaries of the River Otter whose source lie on the Pebblebed Heaths.

Features of interest

The site overlies Triassic Bunter Pebblebeds, with some New Red Sandstone and Permian Marls. The lowland heaths are made up of heathers, gorse, grasses and bracken with a scattering of trees.

A series of shallow valleys gives rise to distinct changes of vegetation. The dry heath gives way to wet heath with flushes on the valley sides, and to valley mire with patches of willow scrub mainly on the valley floors.

The diversity of the site results an excellent habitat for over 70 breeding bird species including nightjar and Dartford warbler along with 21 breeding dragonfly species. In total, over 3000 species have been recorded across the site, of which 375 are of particular conservation interest due to their status.

Further information can be found on the Pebblebed Heaths NNR website.


By car: the site can be accessed by the A3052 and then following minor roads to your chosen area of the NNR. There are a range of car parks across the reserve.

By public transport: see for more details


For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits, volunteering and research opportunities contact the site manager for Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust by:

Telephone: +44 (0) 1395 443881

Slapton Ley

The reserve includes the largest natural freshwater lake in south-west England. Separated from the ocean by a narrow shingle bar, the lake is surrounded by reedbeds, marshes and woodland habitats.

Main habitats: open water, marshes, woodlands

Management: Slapton Ley is managed by the Field Studies Council on behalf of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit can be found on the Slapton Ley website.


Field Studies Council: telephone 01548 580466 or email:

Wistman’s Wood

Wistman’s Wood is a small upland oakwood in the valley of the West Dart River.

Main habitats: woodland.

Features of interest

Wistman’s Wood NNR is the most famous of 3 high altitude woodland copses on Dartmoor. The wood is surrounded by granite tors and moorland and the NNR is important for the mosses and lichens found on the site’s trees and granite boulders.

The oldest trees are about 400 years old, with the woodland area doubling in size in the last 100 years.

The reserve was the site of one of the largest Bronze Age settlements in Dartmoor. The remains of almost 100 ancient buildings can be spotted.

Woodland birds such as redstart and spotted flycatcher can be seen in the wood in spring and summer, along with wheatear, stonechat and whinchat in open areas. Winter brings merlins, meadow pipits and skylarks. Short-eared owls and hen harrier can be seen on the darkest winter days.


The nearest station is Newton Abbot (15 miles to the east).

There are regular services to Two Bridges, near Princetown. See the Traveline South West website for details.

Travel to Two Bridges, near Princetown on either the B3212 or B3357. Park at the old quarry, opposite the Two Bridges Hotel.

From the car park opposite Two Bridges Hotel, follow the public footpath north to Wistman’s Wood for 1.25 miles. Although fairly level, the track is rugged and therefore only suitable for all-terrain mobility scooters (not standard wheelchairs).


For more information about the reserve, to discuss school visits or volunteering opportunities contact or telephone 0300 060 3900.