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East Devon Pebblebed Heaths
a Special Area of Protection, Special Conservation Area, National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest
A photograph of some people walking on the heaths

Over 60 km of trails cross the Pebblebed Heaths offering varied terrain and a variety of landscapes to explore. Don’t know where to start? We can help! 

map of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

 

 

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths welcome over one million guests each year to share in the spectacular landscape, the amazing wildlife and a rich archaeological history.  With so many trails to explore, the varied terrain can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start. Some paths can be very wet or steep and some habitats are particularly sensitive and should be avoided.

To prevent disturbance to ground nesting birds and other heathland wildlife (like our shy and stunning adders) please do stick to the main paths. We’ve created this useful map in conjunction with the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust to help you explore.

Need advice when planning your route? Our wildlife wardens roam the site and are friendly and approachable, so feel free to stop them and ask questions about routes and alternatives. Also why not consider becoming a member of Devon Loves Dogs, who run regular Waggy Walks? These free walks are a lovely way for you and your dog to experience the heathland and learn more about the landscape in a social group. Membership is free!

Rarer than rainforest, heathland habitat is legally protected. Please help us conserve this special place by parking in one of the designated car parks. With more than 400 parking spaces available across the heaths, if a car park seems a bit busy, simply hop along to the next one. Please do avoid parking on verges, this damages habitat and can be dangerous to you and other road users.

There is a current project in progress to improve visitor access on the Pebblebed Heaths, including car park regeneration, further details can be found on our Facebook page


Aylesbeare Common

This popular nature reserve - managed by the RSPB - is a mosaic of dry and wet heath, bordered by woodland and a fantastic habitat for star species Dartford Warbler and Nightjar. The network of ponds team with dragonflies and damselflies in the summer months. Yellowhammer and stonechat can frequently be heard here.

There is ample parking at Joney’s Cross Car Park, but be aware that it is necessary to cross the busy A3052. Please do not drive onto the nature reserve – heathland is a protected habitat.

Harpford Common

Parking at Joney’s Cross Car Park, the perimeter paths of Aylesbeare and bordering Harpford Common combine as a loop walk of several hours that takes in some the best and most diverse habitat the Heaths have to offer. The broad paths that meander across the section of dry, elevated heath provide excellent access - although access is more challenging via the steep decent to the charming woodland stream that winds through the common’s centre.

Venn Ottery Common

With bordering sections managed by the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust, this common has challenging access, limited roadside parking, and can be extremely wet and boggy. It’s the common where you are most likely to lose a welly - however - its mires provide excellent habitat for rare invertebrates, including Southern Damselfly, so it’s well worth exploring.

Hawkerland Common

Hawkerland is managed by The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust where you can find excellent map and access information.

Supporting building populations of Dartford warbler, Nightjar and Silver-studded blue butterfly, grazing was reintroduced to Hawkerland in the summer of 2018 with the cattle able to range over the entire 78 hectares thanks to a new perimeter fence and cattle grids.

Coleton Raleigh Common

Coleton Raleigh is managed by The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust .

Scatted wind swept pines are an emotive feature of the Colaton Raleigh savannah. This area is highly significant for wildlife because the mire supports a population of Southern Damselfly and birds such as Dartford Warbler, Stone Chat, Skylark and Nightjar are frequently seen and heard.

Woodbury Common

Woodbury Common is managed by The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust.

Crowned by Woodbury Castle - an Iron Age hill fort - this 102 hectare common is popular with lots of visitors. The view from the fort’s elevated position is now interrupted by woodland, but a short stroll to Estuary View picnic area reveals the strategic advantage of the site, as the entire river Exe from coast to moor is dramatically revealed. There is a car park here, but spaces are limited, so plan this as a picnic stop rather than the beginning or end of an adventure.

Bicton Common

Bicton Common is managed by The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust.

A wet heath habitat with scattered scrubby woodland. Three, small, east-flowing streams join in the centre of this Common and form Budleigh Brook. Keep out of the mire to avoid losing a welly and disturbing wetland wildlife. During the summer season cattle and Dartmoor ponies graze here, helping to halt heathland’s determination to become woodland. This area is highly significant for wildlife and supports populations of Dartford warbler, Nightjar, Silver-studded blue butterfly and Small red damselfly.

The route of the East Devon Way connecting Bicton and East Budleigh Commons passes Blackhill Quarry, where extensive heathland restoration is taking place. Little Ringed Plover have chosen this as their nesting site for the last couple of years, but are struggling to breed successfully, possibly due to dog disturbance. Blackhill Quarry is not open access land and is still privately owned. Whilst it is tempting to let your dog dip in the quarry pond, please refrain and keep out of this area. Only 1,200 pairs of Little Ringed Plover breed in the UK, please give them the space they need to thrive.

East Budleigh Common

East Budleigh Common is managed by The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust.

Park in Wheathill Car Park to explore the eastern part of this common. A military camp during WW2, East Budleigh Common has numerous foundations and old structures, some of which are now managed as hibernacula for bats. These shelters, where bats can roost during hibernation in the winter, are occupied by both Lesser Horseshoe bats and the rarer Greater Horseshoe bat. The mosaic of dry heath and mixed woodland creates excellent habitat for Silver-studded Blue butterfly and Nightjar.

Bystock Pools Nature Reserve

The nature reserve is managed by Devon Wildlife Trust.

One of the most popular locations across the Pebblebed Heaths, it’s best to park at Squabmore or Wheathill car parks and drop down onto this nature reserve. With a lake full of lily-pads and the air aflutter with dragons and damsels during the warmer months, this is a lovely spot to take a moment to reset. There are boardwalks to guide you around much of this reserve, but in some places root-systems are so prominent, access is impacted. Don’t be so mesmerised by stunning damselflies that you miss your step!


The Pebbledbed Heaths is a protected landscape. Please do not pick heathland plants or wildflowers, or inhibit any wildlife from its natural behaviour. Do remember to take all your rubbish away with you and if visiting with a dog, please pick-up. There are dog bins in every car park to facilitate you.

We hope that all visitors enjoy their time exploring the rich and varied habitat of East Devon Pebblebed Heaths.