There are many valuable habitats alongside the Tarka Trail including estuary salt marsh and mudflats, oak woodland, hazel coppice, hedges, ponds, streams, ditches, meadows and Culm grasslands.
The extensive Taw/Torridge estuary has a typical range of saltmarsh communities, with plants such as glasswort, sea aster and sea rush all present. However, the large areas of mudflats and sandbanks revealed at low tide provide the major interest. Together with the saltmarsh, these provide a rich source of food for overwintering and migratory waders. These include important numbers of curlew, golden plover and lapwing, with other species including redshank and oystercatcher also abundant. The total number of waders present at any one time can reach over 20,000.
Lying at the entrance to the Taw/Torridge Estuary, Braunton Burrows is one of the most important sand dune systems in Britain and forms the core of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
This site measures 5km from north to south and is up to 1½ km wide. It supports a wide variety of habitats including flooded dune slacks, flower-rich grassland and scrub. In turn, these are home to a huge number of plants and animals. For example, the Burrows supports over 400 flowering plants (including rarities such as sea stock and water germander), and 33 species of butterflies have been recorded. The site is also of interest for its birds, including wintering waterfowl and an assemblage of breeding birds that include wheatear, skylark and meadow pipit.
Halsdon nature reserve is looked after by the Devon Wildlife Trust and consists of a mixture of ancient woodland, floodplain meadows and a magnificent length of the River Torridge immortalised by the tale of Tarka the Otter. The woodland is predominantly of oak, but other species are present including the uncommon Devon whitebeam and wild service tree. The woodland has a rich ground flora including primroses, wild garlic and broad-leaved helleborine. Marshy fields alongside the river support such plants as devil’s bit scabious and march cinquefoil. Kingfishers and dippers can be seen, and all three species of woodpecker breed in the reserve. Halsdon is a favoured haunt for otters and the river is famous for its run of salmon.
We want you to enjoy the beautiful natural environment of the Tarka Trail, so we ask that you respect our natural assets and help us to protect them for years to come. See the Code of Conduct and Groups sections for ideas on how you can help