Top tips for nature detectives at Coleton Fishacre

A nature detective peering out from bamboo

Coleton Fishacre garden is a haven for wildlife; its combination of flower borders, woodland, grassland and streams create a variety of habitats for many creatures. Here are some things to look out for on your visit, to encourage your kids to become nature detectives.

Unimproved grassland

Before the house and garden were built here, this valley was grassy farmland, which would have been grazed for hundreds of years. There are some areas of the garden which have never been ploughed or treated with fertilisers, and this has allowed a rich range of plants and animals to thrive. Butterflies such as the marbled white and the common blue love the areas of unimproved grassland, as do field voles, meadow grasshoppers, and plants such as oxeye daisy, birdfoot trefoil and betony. 

Nature detective top tip: head out to the West Bank in the garden, which is a sunny area of unimproved grassland will tufty anthills. This is a great place for butterfly spotting: butterflies generally perform around 10.45am-3.45pm on warm to sunny days during the months of April to September. Why not find a spot to keep very still and see how many you can see? From 20 July - 2 August you could take part in the Big Butterfly Count, and record the number of butterflies you see to help with butterfly conservation.  

Take the 50 things challenge at Coleton Fishacre
Children hunting for bugs with their mother
Take the 50 things challenge at Coleton Fishacre


Mixed flower borders

The terraces and flower borders filled with a variety of flowers are a great nectar source for insects like butterflies, moths and bees.

Nature detective top tip: the gardeners have created a pictorial meadow by the café which is perfect for insects; why not get some seed mix and create your own wildlife haven at home?

Ponds and streams

The combination of the stream running down the valley, and the sea being so close, aids the growth of many unusual trees and shrubs. It also creates a home for newts, dragonflies, toads and grass snakes.

Nature detective top tip: you might see a snake if you keep a keen eye out on a sunny day; they like to sunbathe on smooth rocks. In the ponds on the house terraces, you may be able to see newts and frogs. 



Hedgerows provide a corridor to link different wildlife habitats and act as a refuge and a home for lots of creatures like, bank voles, harvest mice and hedgehogs. These small mammals nest and feed in hedgerows, and birds such as blue tit, great tit, and yellowhammers love hedges. 

Nature detective top tip: hedgerows border the West Bank in the garden, so after your butterfly spotting why not turn your attention to them? Can you see signs of small mammals? How many different birds do you see?

Coleton Fishacre garden
A family in the garden of Coleton Fishacre, Devon
Coleton Fishacre garden



Coleton Fishacre's woodland is a mix of broadleaved trees and conifers, which provide shelter for tawny owls, great spotted woodpeckers and a whole host of other birds. Dead wood and leaf litter are vital for insects and fungi, which is why you'll see log piles in the woodland near Scout Point. 

Nature detective top tip: head to towards Scout Point and the wild play area (currently closed) in the woods; here you'll find lots of fallen leaves and wood piles. Can you find any insects?