Report Jul 2005


Management Issues


The benefits of the scrub clearance and excavations have been evident this summer with species such as Twayblade, Thyme-leaved sandwort and Viper’s bugloss flourishing on some of the drier cleared and excavated areas and plants reappearing such as Henbane, which had not been seen for many years. Damp loving species such as the local Knotted Pearlwort are colonising some previous excavations made to recreate wet slacks. The smaller scale chain saw scrub cutting, like mowing, is less effective - it leaves roots that enable the scrub to re-grow.  However further management is needed – a combination of mowing and grazing is required to restore the former diverse dune turf communities. 

Vehicle Access

Most local people have accepted the boulders as a necessary action to protect the dunes and many have expressed their appreciation of this now quieter area.  Some boat owners gain access along the beach from the slipway at the White House and regularly trespass with their vehicles on Christie land near Crow Point.  There has been a reduction in camping in Broadsands. The Braunton Marsh Commissioners have increased the capacity of their car parking area outside the SSSI.

Rare Species

Sea stock is being surveyed in North Devon – the Burrows population is the largest in the UK with over 8000 plants counted so far.  Water germander is being resurveyed this summer. 

Sand toadflax is thriving and has spread into new areas (see photo of Broadsands). The nationally scarce sticky stork’s-bill has been re-discovered in Broadsands and the uncommon wild clary found near the White House .

Desmond Meikle, the willow expert visited 17th June and found 3 more rare hybrid willows - a total of 9 bushes. 

The Crested newt count, in I Lane Pond only totalled 9 - compared with 81 in 2003.  The small blue butterfly has not been recorded for the second year running.

Research & Monitoring

Monthly water table and rainfall recording continue to show that water tables remain worryingly low - no areas of slack flooding occurred last winter.

 A total rainfall of 164mm was recorded between 18th April and 1st July.  A number of dry loving species such as Carline thistle, Centaury, Eyebright and Rest-harrow are increasing in former wet slacks and one that previously contained Water germander is becoming overwhelmed by Melilot.  Long Slack, a water germander site in the 1980s was excavated in 2000 and carpeted with Bog pimpernel by 2001 but is so dry now that this and other damp loving species have dramatically declined.  The opinion of expert botanists is that adjacent scrub is drawing water out of the slack.

 Regular rabbit counts continue and have produced a record high count of 320 within the grazing trial area on the 18thJune.  The Devon Moth Group held a moth trapping night 3rd June and records will be provided.


The Biosphere Reserve display at Braunton Countryside Centre has been updated, faded photos replaced and a full list of contact names of Biosphere managers displayed.  This display was on view to the public on 26th March at the Parish Plan exhibition along with other Burrows exhibition material, books and leaflets.  Lt Col Portman attended to answer any concerns and enquiries raised by parishioners.

Locals who were initially perturbed by the scale of scrub clearance during winter months have now realised the benefits of this work to the flora. “Now there are colourful carpets of wild flowers buzzing with life.  I was doubtful about the outcome of the work and am delighted to have been so wrong.” –letters page, North Devon Journal July 14th

Biosphere Activities/Education

This season has seen a high level of educational use for field studies by schools, colleges and individual students both local and as far away as Yorkshire. We have given 3 talks and led 41 different groups from primary school, college and specialists around various parts of the Burrows.  Most were impressed by the site and the scale of management carried out to maintain the exceptional diversity.  Comments received after guided walks:- Stafford College said “the Burrows was the best sand dune system they had visited for fieldwork”, feedback from members of the Western Counties Photographic Federation “verged on the ecstatic” and photos are on their website    A very interesting herbal walk took place, jointly led by Mary and medical herbalists, looking at the past and present uses of plants; the Burrows was selected for its diverse range of herbs.  The Botanical Society of the British Isles chose the Burrows for a national field meeting on July 2nd when 25 botanists recorded a diverse range of species.  They were concerned that the increasing dryness threatens the wet slack species and may be due to scrub taking water out of the system.  Visitors continue to express alarm over the numbers of dogs running loose and the amount of dog faeces left, some bagged and thrown in the bushes.

Our Biosphere walks and talks programme has been produced and distributed.  Guided walks started on June 5th with 13 to be held on the Burrows. A series of 16 weekly evening talks are being held at Braunton Countryside Centre.  They started on July 13th with the well known naturalist and broadcaster Jeffery Boswall who gave a very entertaining talk on bird song to a packed house.  A litter clearance event with 24 volunteers took place on the 8th May covering the length of the beach between Saunton and Airy Point.  North Devon District Council were again supportive and removed the collected litter.

J M Breeds