Devon - rare mammals and summer wildlife
This short break will introduce us to this beautiful county and give us a chance of seeing some of its splendid mammal-life.
Devon in the late summer is an idyllic place to be. From our base in the village of Chudleigh, where we will stay in a beautiful 17th century cottage set in its own landscaped grounds, we will travel out to visit some of the key habitats of the country.
We will visit the heathlands and meadows of East Devon, where cocky Dartford Warblers sing their scratchy song from gorse tops, White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillaries flit along the woodland edges, and Keeled Skimmer and Small Red Damsefly buzz over the pools.
An evening excursion will take us to the River Otter, the home for England’s only wild European Beavers. We will meet up with conservationists studying this newly established population and (hopefully) enjoy sightings of the family of beavers going about their business.
At the mouth of the River Exe, we will look for rare plants including Marsh Helleborine and Yellow Bartsia, while listening out for singing Cirl Bunting, a real South Devon speciality. After dinner, another evening visit will have us watching the emergence of Greater Horseshoe Bats from their roost sites, with their amazing alien calls revealed by the bat detectors.
Next morning we visit a woodland as experts monitor the population of Hazel Dormouse that make use of special nest boxes, before visiting Dartmoor, with its famous ponies and, of course, a Devon cream tea…
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Our holiday starts in the village of Chudleigh where we will meet this evening at our hotel in time for an introduction to the holiday and our first dinner together.
Day 2 We explore some of the gems of East Devon starting with the wonderful heathland of Aylesbeare Common, where Dartford Warblers sing their scratchy songs from the top of gorse. We will watch for reptiles – Common Lizard, Adder and the rare Sand lizard are all present. In damper areas, delicate sundews flower on the edge of pools, home to dragonflies and damselflies including the powder-blue Keeled Skimmer. From here, we move on to Bystock reserve. After pausing for dinner in a country pub, we will be joined by one of Devon Wildlife Trust’s Beaver Project staff who will lead us along the River Otter as the shadows lengthen as we search for one of the recently established population of European Beaver which make this part of Devon their home.
Day 3 We head to the coast where the lazy River Exe meets the sea at Dawlish Warren. For many migratory birds July is the start of autumn and we will be studying the muddy shores for the flocks of waders already making their way south, while the hedgerows and scrub may be home to passing warblers and chats. Interesting insects could include the Clouded Yellow butterfly, as well as Brown Argus and the chunky Great Green Bush-cricket. Flowers, will hopefully include Marsh Helleborine and the showy Yellow Bartsia. We will stop at Stover Lake, before we find a pub near Chudleigh for dinner. We have an evening trip to Buckfastleigh, where we will learn about Devon Wildlife Trust’s work with local landowners to improve the lot of one of the country’s rarest mammals; the Greater Horseshoe Bat. As dusk falls, good numbers of these large bats emerge from their roost, flying low overhead with their amazing swirling echolocation calls made audible using special bat detectors.
Day 4 We join Devon Wildlife Trust volunteers at Andrews Wood as they check nest boxes to monitor the population of Hazel Dormouse. The meadows here are home to the beautiful Heath Lobelia as well as other interesting wild flowers. Our last afternoon will be spent on the edges of Dartmoor National Park.
Day 5 One final breakfast, and then it is time to bid farewell to Glen Cottage and to head home, hopefully taking some good memories of the special creatures and beautiful views of this part of Devon.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Our accommodation will be at the Lord Haldon Hotel. All rooms have private bathrooms.
We shall be buying packed lunches each day. Evening meals will be taken at local pubs. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.
Our transport for this trip will be by a small 16-seater coach/minibus.
If you would like to extend your stay in Devon, we can book extra nights accommodation at the hotel, and give advice on good places to visit.
Travel to Dunchideock
The holiday starts and finishes at our accommodation in Dunchideock.
You can reach Exeter by train. Dunchideock can be reached by bus from Exeter or we can arrange a taxi.
Dunchideock lies around 6 miles south of Exeter, just off the A30.
The English weather is of course anything but predictable. We should expect warm and sunny conditions, although who knows, the weather could be blazing sunshine one day, and cold and wet on the next! We will adapt our itinerary to the weather. It can be ‘breezy’ or even windy on the coast at times. We will not walk for long in hot or adverse weather conditions. Evenings may feel chillier, especially when we are stood waiting patiently for a sighting of a beaver or bat.
We will be keeping to the government’s rules on social distancing for this trip, with the final group size dependent on those rules at the time of the holiday.
We will ask travellers to wear face coverings while on the bus, and will ensure there is plenty of space to enable social distancing, with hand sanitiser available at all times.
We will be walking for much of the day, each day, albeit at a slow pace and never covering any great distance. In some locations ‘facilities’ are scarce! You therefore need to have a reasonably good level of fitness although none of the walks are strenuous. There are likely to be steps at the hotel.