Braunton Burrows IPA

Location: North Devon, lying behind Saunton Sands, off the A361, five miles to the west of Barnstaple.

Grid Reference: SS 461 347

Braunton Burrows IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:
• One of the UK’s most important populations of Fen Orchid.
• The species richness of vascular plants on coastal dunes and sands
• One of the best UK examples of threatened dune habitats

This area, part of North Devon’s UNESCO biosphere reserve, is the largest sand dune system in the United Kingdom, stretching 5km along a north-south axis and about 1 ½ km at its widest point.

The name is derived from the large number of rabbit burrows, which greatly influence the vegetation of this reserve. A sandy foreshore frames high sand dunes which blend into intermittently flooded slacks, scrub and grassland.

Braunton Burrows supports a large number of different lichen and plant species; indeed, 400 different flowering plants, have been recorded here and the area is especially impressive in July, when the majority of the turf plants are flowering.

Along the seashore rock sea-lavender may be found, whilst further away from the sea, on the ‘yellow dunes’ amongst the abundant marram grass, so important for stabilizing the sand, grows sea stock, sea stork’s-bill, sea clover, Portland and sea spurges as well as white horehound.

Further inland on the ‘grey dunes’ the marram grass gives ways to other grasses, such as dune fescue. The slacks (valleys between the dunes) which are wet and marshy in winter, support a number of other notable plants such as the round-headed club rush, the sharp rush, round-leaved wintergreen, as well as the scarce early gentian.

This is also a good area for orchids of various species. The grassland, yet still further inland, supports a variety of grasses, sedges and herbs such as the rough poppy and and toothed medick.

Image: Braunton Burrows © Matt Lavin under CC BY-SA 2.0