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Our work on the coast at Brownstone and Coleton Camp

View of the coastline from the viewpoint at Coleton Fishacre, Devon
The coastline from the viewpoint at Coleton Fishacre | © National Trust Images/Mel Peters

The coastal land surrounding Brownstone and Coleton Camp is cared for by our team of English Riviera countryside rangers. From battling bracken to restoring the Man Sands marshland habitat, a lot more work goes into preserving this stretch of coastline than people think. Find out more about our ongoing efforts, and if you're out on the coast paths feel free to say hello to a ranger or give them a wave.

Caring for the coast land

This whole coastal section, from Newfoundland Cove to the west of Brownstone Battery, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its grassland habitat.

Creating a balance

For this kind of land, creating the right balance of scrubland and grassland is one of the ways the rangers have been caring for it, to encourage a wider range of plants and wildlife.

Birds such as the cirl bunting, yellowhammer and stonechat thrive in this habitat, while the violets in Kelly’s Cove are a vital food plant for the larvae of the dark green fritillary butterfly.

All the tools of the trade are used to create this balanced habitat, from elbow grease when cutting back bracken and clearing scrub, to roping in some four-legged friends for help.

Coastal grazing with ponies

Two herds of hardy upland Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies belonging to the tenant farmer help with the control of the scrub by grazing on the regeneration, which helps with the effort of encouraging a wider diversity of flora and fauna to thrive.

Volunteer rangers repairing steps near Froward Point, Devon
Volunteer rangers repairing steps near Froward Point | © National Trust/Jon Lock

Battling bracken

When bracken grows in the kind of soil it loves, it becomes a highly invasive species. To stop it thriving at the expense of other flora, it is necessary to control its growth.

Making the bracken weaker

This can be done in a number of different ways, from chemical treatment to mechanical cutting. Doing so weakens the bracken’s underground energy store (known as its ‘rhizome’) meaning that the following year’s growth is weaker and smaller, allowing more space for the more delicate wildflower populations.

Cutting and raking

Every summer, sections of bracken are cut away here and then raked off to prevent it dominating the landscape.

A walk along the South West Coast Path at Scabbacombe beach and Kelly’s Cove takes you along areas that have been cared for in this way since the mid-1990s.

Man Sands marshland project

This long-term project aims to return what was once farmland to its original marshland state, to encourage birds to use this habitat.

Creating a wetland area

It began in 2005 with the removal of crumbling sea defences from the beach, and field drainage immediately behind it. This created a large wetland area, which has evolved into a series of pools of standing water and marshland.

It’s the perfect habitat for a variety of birds, including mallards, moorhens and herons.

Canada Geese at Man Sands wetland in Devon
Canada Geese at Man Sands wetland | © National Trust Images/John Dietz

The bird hide

The temporary bird hide that was built – a simple screen with a bench behind it – was so well used by the local birdwatching community that the team decided to erect a more weatherproof and permanent structure. This was built at the top of the marsh in 2012.

An alternative path

Further work took place to create a new alternative route for the South West Coast Path further up the valley near the bird hide.

This was because the wetland near the beach was regularly adversely affected by storms and heavy rain, causing the loss of the standing water and reed bed as well as the flooding of the coast path, making it impassable.

Space for a new area

This opportunity was used to create a brand new area of standing water and reed beds further from the beach.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Two children in the distance look out to the sea from the grounds of Coleton Fishacre, Devon

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