Report Jan 2005


18.1.05 to 18.4.05


Large expanses of dense scrub have been cleared in an attempt to restore the flower rich dune turf in areas comprising 28.4 ha. east of the American road known as Northern, Middle and Southern Flats. This work was funded by the MOD and involved the use of several excavators working continuously for approx. 3 weeks. Most of the excavated and cut scrub was burnt. Further scrub clearance work funded by English Nature, took place in Lamprey’s Block. On a smaller scale, scrub cutting using chain saws has continued on various sites on the inland plain west of the American Road.

The fence line alongside the American Road has been completely renewed and the separately fenced blocks known as Fox Slack and Soay Plain have now been joined together by new fences.  This will assist towards the implementation of the proposed grazing regime (see para 2, report to TTEF 4.10.04 – 17.1.05) The EN contract to compile a completed report on the analysis of the grazing trials is progressing well with the recent circulation of a draft report to relevant parties for comment.

Following the media reports that clearly explained the reasons for the necessary action, vehicle access into the Christie owned part of Broadsands that lies within the SSSI was barred on 22.3.05. with the positioning of 61 large boulders across the two access routes. They were positioned to allow sufficient space for wheel chair and pushchair access. Plans have been proposed to improve the walkway between the boulders by some resurfacing and levelling work.  While most local people accepted the need to protect the dune area now cordoned off, a few of the boat owners were hostile and on 27th March attempted to shift the boulders but were ordered to stop by the police. They ignored the police warning and continued to successfully breach the barrier.  The boulders were replaced back in position the next day. The present car parking area is outside the SSSI and owned by Braunton Marsh Commissioners who are currently improving it to maximise its capacity.

Rare Species

The results of the Petalwort survey commissioned by EN and carried out in January 2005 are encouraging - the liverwort has begun to colonise areas excavated in 2000 to recreate its habitat in Broadsands and around Doughnut Pond.  The Braunton Burrows population is assessed as the second or third largest in England.  It has increased on the Burrows, mostly at the Broadsands site where the surveyor concluded that the exclusion of vehicles from the colony area by the erection of small posts was in part responsible. 

Research and Monitoring

Water table levels have remained low with a total rainfall of 91.5mm being recorded between 1.1.05 and 17.4.05. No areas of dune slack were flooded for any significant length of time this past winter. This raises concern for the continued well-being of wet slack communities. Species previously confined to the drier places such as Bird’s-foot trefoil and Restharrow are invading the slacks along with species of lower conservation value such as Yorkshire Fog grass and Creeping Thistle. Some slack species such as Marsh Marigold have declined. Rabbit counts have continued each week and they show the expected spring rise in population numbers.


 Coverage in the local press and television was useful to prepare the public for the restricted vehicle access at Broadsands to explain the new and replacement fencing and the need for grazing - which will require dogs to be kept on leads – WMN 29th Jan.  Further media coverage focussing on the vehicle exclusion measures in Broadsands was generated by those who moor boats near Crow Point and were protesting that they cannot drive their vehicles as close as they could previously. A short presentation was given to Braunton Parish Council on 14th Feb. by the MOD to explain their use and management of the Burrows. Photos have been replaced and updated on the Biosphere Interpretation boards at Braunton Countryside Centre.

Biosphere Activities/Education

 Illustrated lectures have been given to 7 different local groups.  A group of 25 children and adults from N Devon Deaf Children’s Society were taken on a pond dipping activity and guided walk - organised by NDCCS.  A beach cleaning event on 23rd March was attended by 10 volunteers who cleared two truckloads of litter from Horsey Island bank and saltmarsh, and Broadsands beach.

 A programme consisting of 16 evening talks at Braunton Countryside Centre and 16 guided walks, 13 of which are on the Burrows, is being advertised. These walks offer an ideal opportunity to illustrate the importance and benefits of the management work. Two more beach and dune litter cleaning days are being planned, the first is on 8th May at Saunton at 10.00am. The Burrows and wider Biosphere area are being used for at least 5 events in the forthcoming N. Devon Walking Festival.

 J M Breeds