Aylesbeare & Harpford Commons
This quiet area of Devon heathland is important for Dartford warblers, nightjars and
stonechats. It's sheltered wooded fringes, streams and ponds abound with insects -
37 species of butterfly and 24 species of dragon and damselfly (including the
internationally endangered southern damselfly)
have been recorded.
The reserve is 213ha of southern heathland, which
itself is only a part of the heathland area known as the East Devon
Pebblebeds. This area is one of the largest outside the New Forest and it's
geology makes the heathland unique in Britain The reserve is leased to the RSPB from Clinton Devon
Estates, the owners of the majority of the pebblebed heathland. There is a
visitor's trail on the reserve marked by green topped posts. Aylesbeare Common has
the EU status of Special Protection Area (SPA).
This is a man made landscape going back to Neolithic times and was
once used for low intensive agriculture. With changes in agricultural practices,
this type of habitat now requires constant management in order to preserve it's unique
character. It is also under threat from development and mineral exploitation, with
large areas already lost to modern agriculture, housing and the quarrying of aggregates.
The reserve is nationally important for its populations
of Dartford warblers (resident species - 62 breeding pairs
in 1998, 32-35 pairs in 1999), and nightjars
(a summer migrant - 17 breeding pairs in 1998, 23 pairs in 1999). There are also
about 10 pairs of breeding stonechats. A wide range of both heathland and woodland
species of other birds can can also be found.
Left: Dartford Warbler on gorse.
Image courtesy of RSPB.
Sketch of Dartford Warbler
More on Dartford Warblers
This reserve has the highest recorded number of
butterfly species of any RSPB reserve, with 38 species
recorded since 1997, and 30 species recorded annually. These include the brimstone,
silver washed fritillary, the grayling and the silver - studded blue.
The reserve also has a large and diverse population of
dragonflies and damselflies with 23 species recorded; 18 of these are known to breed.
There are more than 450 species of plants on the
reserve, dominated by the three heathers, ling heather, bell heather and cross leaved
heath. These grow alongside two species of gorse - the common and the western gorse.
Other species include the sundew, bog asphodel, dodder, heath milkwort and the
heath dog violet.
Open at all times. There are no admission
charges. One of the tracks which crosses the heath is suitable for wheelchairs and
Snipe can be found in damp areas on many heathlands. Photo
Five miles east of junction 30 of the M5 at Exeter, 1/2
mile past the Halfway Inn on the A3052, turn right, signposted Hawkerland. Grid
reference of carpark SY 058897 on map 192 in the Landranger
View East from Harpford Common.
are actively working to maintain and restore 3500 acres of heathland and provide a
management team which removes trees from heathland. They also use cattle grazing to
prevent the regrowth of trees. The RSPB work with 11 different organisations
managing heathland in East Devon.
For further information, contact :
Toby Taylor, RSPB Warden, Hawkerland Brake Barn,
Exmouth Road, Aylesbeare, EX5 2JS. Tel. 01395 233655