Ramble along the River Dart

There is no better way to see the British countryside than on two legs, so James Fair put on his walking boots with the intention of following the entire length of the River Dart.

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Adventure along the River Dart article spread

 

  • Cornworthy
    The countryside around the villages of Cornworthy and Dittisham offers lovely views over the Dart. Down by the river, look out for herons, little egrets and even seals or otters. The estuary is an important nursery area for sea bass. 
  • Totnes 
    For a different view of the Dart, take the ferry service between Dartmouth and Totnes.
     
  • Froward Point 
    Froward Point is popular for its coastal walk. It has spectacular views of the Mewstone (seen in the distance) which seals use as a haul-out.

 

DEVON’S TOP 10 WILDLIFE SPOTS

Devon is blessed with rich and varied natural habitats - here’s BBC Wildlife’s pick of the best of the bunch.
 

  1. Abbeyford woods 
    The crystal-clear River Okement passes through these woods, which are a good place to see roe and red deer and badgers. Buzzards, ravens, adders and otters are also present.
     
  2. Braunton Burrows
    So-called because of the rabbit warrens, Braunton Burrows is the UK’s largest sand dune system and rich in wildflowers such as pyramidal orchids and viper’s bugloss. Butterflies include marbled whites and skippers. 
     
  3. East Dartmoor woods and heaths NNR
    These oak woodlands are home to diverse fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns, the pearl-bordered fritillary and birds such as nightjars, linnets and stonechats. The River Bovey also provides important habitat for otters.
     
  4. Exe estuary
    Two different sites on opposite sides of the estuary – Exminster Marshes and Bowling Green Marsh. In spring, look for breeding lapwings and redshanks. At the mouth of the Exe, Dawlish Warren NNR is worth a visit for its birds, plants and insects. 
     
  5. Lyme Bay
    Boasting over 300 species of plants and animals, Lyme Bay is one of the UK’s top coral reefs. The extremely rare sunset coral and pink seafan as well as seven other species of coral can be found here. See Devon Wildlife Trust for more. 
     
  6. Lynton & Lynmouth
    The moorland above Lynton and Lynmouth is rich in gorse and heather and home to buzzards and red deer.
     
  7. Slapton Ley NNR
    A wetland of national importance with the largest freshwater lake in south-west England and home to 110 species of birds, including Cetti’s warblers and great crested grebes. Otter spraints are seen regularly, otters less often.  
     
  8. Teign estuary
    The Teign Estuary contains mudflats, sandbanks and saltmarshes where birds feed on shellfish, worms and other invertebrates. It is also host to the golden-ringed dragonfly, water beetles and heathland plant species.
     
  9. The Tarka trail
    A walking and cycling route mainly following the River Torridge (in the latter stages the Taw), the trail passes through countryside made famous by Henry Williamson’s novel Tarka the Otter on its way from Meeth to Braunton. Passes the RSPB’s Isley Marsh Reserve. Managed by Devon County Council.  
     
  10. Wembury Point
    Wembury is known for its rockpools and species such as bloody-eyed velvet swimming crabs, blennies and bladderwrack. Owned by the National Trust and managed with Devon Wildlife Trust

 

ESSENTIAL TRAVEL INFORMATION 

  • Catch a train to Exeter where buses run from the city to Two Bridges. During the summer (April to September), there are direct buses throughout the week, but in the off-season they run on Saturdays and Sundays only. The trip takes approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. 
     
  • The South Devon Railway runs between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. The service runs from mid-March to the end of October, with some extra dates around Christmas and New Year. There are normally between two and four trains a day.
     
  • River Link Boat Cruises runs ferries between Dartmouth and Totnes. The trip takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. 01803 834488; 
     
  • To walk the entire length of the Dart, you will need two Ordnance Survey maps (1:50,000 scale, which for these purposes is fine) – Okehampton & North Dartmoor (191) and Torbay & South Dartmoor (202).
     
  • Dartmoor National Park Authority is a good source of information for walks and wildlife in the upper reaches of the Dart and runs guided walks.
     
  • For wildlife information, try Devon Wildlife Trust.
     
  • You may find the Otter Sanctuary in Buckfastleigh worth a visit.

 

James is BBC Wildlife's news and travel editor. Meet him and the rest of the team here

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