THE COMMONS: East Budleigh, Lympstone, Bicton, Woodbury, Colaton Raleigh, Hawkerland Valley, Harpford, Aylesbeareand Venn Ottery
The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths comprise a number of adjacent Commons, including those of Dalditch, Withycombe, Lympstone, East Budleigh, Bicton, Woodbury, Colaton Raleigh, Hawkerland, Aylesbeare and Harpford. The core area is owned by Clinton Devon Estates and managed by the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust.
The Pebblebed Heaths have been occupied by people since the Bronze Age, when turf cutting, burning and grazing helped turn the once densely wooded area into the sweeping open landscape that we love today.
Though semi-natural, heathlands have high wildlife value and support species that are rarely found elsewhere. Without continued management and protection, this threatened habitat can quickly revert to scrub and, ultimately, to woodland. Heathlands are now so rare in Europe that there is a particular need to protect those few areas that remain to ensure the survival of this distinctive landscape, as well as the specialised species that depend on this habitat.
One of the most popular sites is the historic Woodbury Castle; an ancient hill fort dating back to the early-middle iron age, during the 6th and 4th centuries BC. Woodbury Castle is one of the largest archaeological monuments in Devon, situated on the western border of the heath. The Castle was likely built over a 200-year period, at a time when the trees would have been cleared to give commanding views of approaching travellers or even enemies, rising 175 metres above the sea level. The Castle’s impressive ramparts and ditch are still recognisable today, offering a fascinating insight into the ancient world of Pebblebed Heaths. Geophysical surveys conducted have unearthed evidence that revealed the presence of houses within the structure, whilst the Castle’s chiefs are likely buried in the nearby tumuli and burial mounds. Whether you are a dog walker, a mountain biker, a horse rider, a runner or simply someone who wants to explore this vast and stunning landscape, there is always something to enjoy on the site.
See our events calendar for details about Heath Week.