Braunton Burrows

The Burrows


Braunton Burrows is owned and managed by Christie Devon Estates. The Burrows is at the core of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve and is the second largest sand dune system in the UK. It is home to an abundance of flowers, plants and wildlife. A PDF version of the Braunton Burrows Guide and Map  is avaialable for download.

It is a place where a variety of interests coexist, from land management through livestock grazing to use for MOD training exercises. It is also a popular destination for recreational users such as hikers, dog walkers and nature lovers (a dog walkers’ guide to Braunton Burrows can be found here).

While part of the working estate, the Burrows has always been open to the public who have unrestricted access to the 1800 acre space. However, the Estate does have some guidelines for use – such as having dogs on leads in livestock zones – and asks the public to respect these. Please note vehicle accesss is not permitted without permission and metal detecting on the Burrows is strictly prohibited without a licence from the estate office.

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The Burrows landscape is separated between dunes and slacks (dips) – from the imposing peaks of the Great Dune and Grand Canyon to the quiet tranquility of Bee Slack and Partridge Slack – and contains ponds and plains that bristle with coarse grass.

There are more than 470 species of flowering plants, comprising 11 species of orchids alone within the Burrows, while the prolific insect population includes crickets, dragonflies and 33 species of butterfly. The best time to visit is between May and July when the Burrows are carpeted in wild flowers. Visitors are advised to drop in on the Braunton Countryside Centre to learn more about the Burrows.

Braunton Burrows needs to careful management to allow its abundant flora and fauna to flourish and the estate works in conjunction with Natural England to achieve this. This includes a range of techniques including grazing by traditional cattle breeds and mechanised scrub clearance.

As well as its wealth of natural history, the Burrows also has an interesting military history. It was used as a training camp by over 10,000 American GIs preparing for the Normandy Landings. This aspect of the Burrows past is preserved by the Friends of the Assault Training Center historical group.

Relics from that period can still be seen, including the remnants of a bazooka firing range and concrete landing craft used to practice for the invasion. Since the Second World War the Burrows have been used by the Ministry of Defence for training purposes.

Conservation


Braunton Burrows holds a Special Area of Conservation status and the special importance of this site has been recognised at national and international level with UNESCO, SSSI and AONB designations. Here is a short summary of what these designations mean:

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Braunton Burrows is at the heart of the Unesco Biosphere Reserve which has been designated by

Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). As a World Biosphere Reserve, the Burrows is recognised as having one of the best quality dune systems – in terms of its flourishing flora and fauna – in the northern hemisphere.

The Biosphere Reserve classification covers the northern part of the county of Devon. It recognizes areas of the world where the local community shows willingness to develop a harmonious relationship with a high quality environment.

Christie Devon Estates takes this responsibility very seriously in its management of the Burrows. The estate joins community representatives such as Devon County Council, Torridge District Council and North Devon District Council in supporting the Biosphere.

SSSI

Reflecting its importance as a nature conservation area, Braunton Burrows is a protected area under the designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The classification is a reflection of the importance of the Burrows as a place of natural heritage, a place where plant and wildlife can flourish.

AONB

Braunton Burrows exists within the North Devon coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The exceptional beauty of this part of southwest England was designated AONB status in 1959 and the North Devon Coast AONB covers 66 square miles that extends from Exmoor to Cornwall. More details about North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be found here.

Natural England

This is a government advisory body, set up look after the country’s natural environment and protect natural landscapes. Natural England advises Christie Devon Estate on maintaining the Burrows environment, promoting land management techniques, such as cattle grazing to keep scrub levels down and promote new flower and plant growth.  More information about what Natural England does can be found here.

Education


Sitting at the heart of the North Devon Biosphere, and a conservation site of worldwide importance, Braunton Burrows offers many opportunities for educational groups from Key Stage 2 and 3 to A-level and degree students.

The Burrows has a designated Education Officer who can accompany field study groups visiting the Burrows. On guided walks, groups can find out how the Christie Estate works with conservation partners to manage the Burrows and support the diverse range of flora and fauna that flourishes in this unique environment. These partners include including Natural England, Plantlife, North Devon Coast AONB, and North Devon Biosphere.

During the summer the Braunton Countryside Centre hosts free weekly educational walks for the general public with guides John and Mary Breeds, renowned naturalists who have been studying the Burrows for many years. These take place every Friday evening during June, July and August, 6.30pm meet at Sandy Lane car park.

As well as natural history educational visits, the Burrows’ there are also guided historical walks that focus on the Burrows’ use by American troops to train for the Normandy landings.

If you would like to find out more about educational visits to the Burrows, please contact Rupert Hawley via brauntonburrows@gmail.com

Video


Aerial footage of Braunton Burrows. This footage was taken in January 2017 and highlights the scale and current condition of Braunton Burrows. This footage will provide a reference platform for future management of the Burrows.

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A September snapshot from the Burrows. At first sight this picture (taken in Adder Slack, Zone 1) appears to capture a Meadow Brown butterfly landing on a flower. Look closely however and you will see there is a whole different capture taking place... Misumena Vatia (AKA Crab Spider) in action! ...

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2 weeks ago

Braunton Burrows Public Information

Burrows Scrub Clearance - Autumn works.

From September various scrub management works will be taking place on the Burrows starting in Zone 1. This involves clearing sections where invasive species including Sea Buckthorn and Japanese Rose are taking over and having a detrimental effect on the native plant life of the sand dune system for which the Burrows is internationally renowned.

Sea Buckthorn is a thorny shrub that produces orange berries. It was introduced on the Burrows in the 1950s in order to stabilise the sand dunes. However, its prolific growth creates dense thickets that block pathways, change the nutrient content of the soil and shade out other plants and flowers.

Japanese Rose, a native of southeast Asia, may produce pretty flowers but it also has a dramatic effect on the ecosystem of a habitat such as the Burrows when left unchecked. Its seeds are spread by birds and animals and once it takes root it will also develop into dense thickets.

Now the bird nesting season is over, clearance work will also target native scrub species including brambles, privet, willow and birch. Once cleared, subsequent livestock grazing helps to keep scrub levels down and under control.

While clearance works are ugly in the short term - often giving the impression of unbridled destruction - they are well planned and comprehensively managed in the interests of the health of the Burrows habitat. Left unchecked, such scrub growth would be very destructive in the long term, rendering large swathes of the Burrows impassable (as the photo of Sea Buckthorn growing over the path indicates).

To get an idea of how this might look, there are two areas in Zone 1 which were fenced off a few years ago as an experiment to compare ungrazed/managed areas. These allow Burrows visitors to get an impression of what unrestricted scrub growth looks like.
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Cattle are currently grazing in ZONE 3. Please keep dogs on a lead around livestock in this zone.

If you want to avoid the cows then please head for ZONE 1 (accessed via Saunton beach car park) or ZONE 2 (accessed via Sandy Lane car park).
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14/08/2018: Livestock update.

From today cattle will be on the move. Ultimately they will be arriving to Zone 3, but for the next 1 - 2 weeks there is likely to be cattle in ALL ZONES.

** Please note that signage on the Burrows will be changed once the move has been completed.
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You help us pick it up and we will load it up and shift it off the beach for good!

Saunton Beach Clean. 6 - 8pm. Thursday August 2nd. Free parking and refreshments for participants. Register at the bottom of the slipway. Working with Saunton Beach, Devon, Plastic Free North Devon and North Devon Coast AONB
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Map

Information

The latest information regarding cattle grazing can be found on ‘Braunton Burrows Public Information’ Facebook page. For general enquiries or more information about educational opportunities, please email brauntonburrows@gmail.com