Birds of the East Devon pebblebed heathland — Birdwatching by bike in Devon
Bike Touring Highlight
Bike Touring Highlight (Segment)
Katherine Moore planned a gravel ride.
October 12, 2020
The pebblebed heaths of East Devon are a number of neighbouring commons, including Dalditch, Withycombe, Lympstone, East Budleigh, Bicton, Woodbury, Colaton Raleigh, Hawkerland, Venn Ottery, Aylesbeare and Harpford. They characterise much of the rural landscape to the east of Exeter.These areas were formed some 245 million years ago, formerly a wide, dry riverbed, which explains the rounded pebbles that you can find miles from the coastline.Managed in tandem by the Clinton Devon Estates, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust and government grants, the heathland was opened up for public access in 1930, and has since been enjoyed by both locals and visitors on foot, bike and horseback.These pebblebed heaths provide a wonderful, varied habitat for wildlife, with over 140 species of birds, including some rare and threatened species.This Tour, which is best ridden on a gravel, mountain or sturdy hybrid bike to access the rocky trails across the commons, takes in the RSPB Aylesbeare Common, the Devon Wildlife Trust’s Venn Ottery, as well as Harpford and Woodbury Commons. The loop from Honiton, which can be accessed by rail as well as car, also passes through some gorgeous woodland, especially as you ride along the top of the East Hill ridge at the end of the Tour back to Honiton.The first reserve you’ll ride to is Venn Ottery, which can get pretty boggy underfoot or tyre! You’ll then take tracks to cross the main Sidmouth road from the Harpford and Aylesbeare commons over to Woodbury Common.Keep your eyes peeled for yellowhammers, dartford warblers, tree pipits, and stonechats as they dart between the low vegetation and gorze bushes. If you visit on a still summer’s evening, you might even see or hear a nightjar. I used the ‘Bill Oddie’ technique a few years ago, waving a white hanky about at dusk to attract them, and it worked!If you’re riding during the day in the summer, look out for adders and small lizards sunning themselves on the trails. You should also make sure you check yourself thoroughly for ticks when you get home.
October 16, 2020