Burrows and Rabbit Holes

Right on my doorstep (well, a couple of miles down the lanes) is a UNESCO  designated Biosphere Reserve known as Braunton Burrows. It’s the largest sand dune system in the UK and is home to an estimated 500 types of flower, some of which are unique to this area, 33 different butterflies, as well as many birds, mammals and snakes. The area measures roughly 5km by 1.5km and its tallest dunes are 30metres high. It’s been one of my favourite places since I arrived here in North Devon in the late nineties, and I’ve spent many happy hours there, mainly with my good friend, Jandy, and her dogs. Late afternoon going into dusk was always our favourite time to visit, when there were plenty of bunnies grazing.

After six weeks or so of wall-to-wall rain, the sunny morning today set me itching to get out for a walk, and naturally I headed to the Burrows. Even the 5 minute drive down to the carpark was a delight. Swans and ducks on the marsh, newly shorn sheep hustling for shade, a buzzard standing sentry on a gatepost. My buoyant mood sank just a little when I saw the new sign at the carpark entrance..

I suppose they have to get the money for all their new fences from somewhere. As I had come with only my camera for company, I had to do a quick u-turn, but there’s room to park along the lane (apologies to any drivers who cursed me for parking in a passing place – I will bring cash next time).

The owners had started fencing off areas of the Burrows a few years ago, and some livestock was introduced including Highland cattle. Today I came across a lot more brand new fencing which I hadn’t been expecting, but there are stiles at intervals, and doggy gates for our four-legged friends and small children.

It really was the most delightful experience. The flower meadows were at their spectacular and fragrant best. I’m not a botanist, but some of the flowers I saw today were Evening Primrose, clover, Pyramidal Orchids, Michaelmas Daisies, Thyme, Pimpernels and even a clump of sweet peas! (not indigenous). Many, many more flowers carpet the dunes, but I don’t know their names. The scent is stunning, especially when you walk into a dip where the breeze doesn’t reach; the overriding fragrance today was the custard-sweet scent of evening primrose

After about an hour of meandering through the dunes I came to Saunton Sands, a glorious 3 mile stretch of sand with an hotel, beach shop, cafe and surf life saving club at one end and then nothing for miles. The tide was so far out I decided to just walk along the sand. I was sharing with a family of three with a dog, and one couple of sun-worshippers – 3 miles of empty beach, imagine!

I came across a few interesting driftwood “sculptures” and suspect they are the results of a clean-up operation, as the beach was looking unusually pristine considering the storms we’ve had of late.   ….click on pics to view large….

This first one was of standard pyramid shape but creatively adorned with a thermos flask, hobnailed boot and various flotsam and jetsam. A little further up the beach was an altogether more impressive structure of driftwood bound together with heavyweight fishing nets and twine. I spotted a discarded Christmas tree and the complete leg bone of what I think was a large dog amongst the driftwood.

If anyone is thinking of a bonfire on the beach anytime soon, it looks like there’s a readymade one down at Saunton; more of a beacon really.

Leaving the beach, I headed back to the car via the northern part of the Burrows with sightings of  Stonechats and a Skylark gliding into a graceful landing, all the time singing at the top of its lungs. The pond here, one of many amongst the dunes, was surprisingly short of water, even after the huge amount of rain we’ve had recently. I spent a few minutes watching an irridescent blue dragonfly darting and skimming over the surface of the water.

Braunton Burrows UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is situated west of the village of Braunton in North Devon, UK.


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