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Caring for the Salcombe coastline

Four highland cows, with one looking directly ahead, in a field next to some scrub.
Highland cows at East Soar in Devon | © National Trust Images/ Chris Lacey

The National Trust look after the stunning stretch of coastline between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail including Bolberry Down, Southdown Farm and East Soar. Over the past few years, we've been working with our tenant farmers to make lots of improvements for nature with the aim of creating more connectivity between the important habitats that already exist along the coast.

What’s happening along the Salcombe coastline?

Grazing animals

Their trampling and munching help create a rich mix of plants, grasses and wildflowers along the coastline.

Reduce and manage coastal scrub

These small, bushy areas create important pockets of shelter for insects like butterflies and bees as well as a wide variety of birds.

Rediscover wetlands

Wetland areas hum with life when properly managed and provide important stopping points for migratory birds.

Continue to farm but in a nature-friendly way

These are mixed farms where crops are still grown and livestock graze the fields, but margins are left around arable fields and livestock numbers are kept low in spring to allow plants to flower.

Restoring wildflower meadows

These areas now supports thousands of insects.

Maintaining low input arable fields

Some fields are left fallow over the winter for farmland birds to feed in – skylarks stay in huge flocks over the winter.

Field margins are ploughed but are left fallow to make space for arable plants to grow

Arable plants need disturbed ground to grow, Southdown and East Soar Farms are home to many rare arable plants which also provide food for insects and birds overwinter.

Planting more hedgerows

Field boundaries connect habitats and provide important shelter for birds and small invertebrates.

Sowing crops that farmland birds feed on

We sow plots on the farm with seed to provide food for farmland birds such as cirl bunting, linnet and yellowhammer.

Protecting and interpreting the historic landscape

We are working with partners to protect and interpret the important historic features between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail.

Upgrading access around the farm

In addition to improving existing paths and creating new circular routes, we are opening up access through the farms with permissive bridleways.

Two scrapes in the earth holding water surrounded by fields
The scrapes at Southdown Farm which hold water long into the summer for wildlife | © National Trust Images/ Phil Hemsley

Working together

In addition to the work of our tenant farmers, we’ve been very lucky to have the support of over 50 volunteers involved in everything from topping up the cirl bunting feeders to helping us look for archaeological remains.

We've also been working closely with other organisations such as the RSPB, the South Devon AONB and the South West Coast Path to make improvements for nature and access.

National Trust staff walking along the clifftop and view of Salcombe in the distance, seen from East Soar, South Devon
National Trust staff and volunteers walk along the coastpath near East Soar | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

What the surveys show so far


Arable plants

In 2019, Plantife surveyed Southdown Farm and it was deemed to be of European importance. In 2021 and 2022, a rapid assessment survey completed by volunteers showed good populations of small-flowered catchfly and a good range of arable plant species in margins. Unfortunately, the draught in 2022  meant a lot died off early and didn’t set to seed.

Our partners

South Devon AONB

South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of a family of protected landscapes in the UK. With the guidance of a Partnership Committee, the AONB Team work to enhance South Devon’s outstanding beauty.

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South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path look after the UK’s longest and best-loved National Trail.

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The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is a charitable organisation registered in England and Wales and in Scotland.

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Birds Of Europe - Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) by John Gould, London 1837, from the Library at Blickling Hall

Our work: saving the cirl bunting 

Find out about the measures we have taken in partnership with local farmers and RSPB to help reverse the decline of the cirl bunting, which has recovered from the brink of extinction.

View of a kissing gate into the fields around Soar Mill Cove, near East Soar and Bolberry Down, Devon

Bolberry Down and Soar Mill Cove walk 

Discover a circular walk that takes in some of the most scenic coastline of South Devon. Find out more about the history of the area and enjoy far-reaching views out to sea and along the coast.

DistanceMiles: 4 (km: 6.4) to miles: 4.5 (km: 7.2)

The nature-friendly future project at Wembury 

Discover our nature-friendly approach to managing the land at Wembury, from creating new habitats for wildlife to improving accessibility for visitors.


Download the Salcombe coastline handout 

An overview of our work along the Salcombe coastline