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Reserves - Volehouse Moor

Key Information

Grid reference/Postcode
SS 344 164 and SS 339 177

Torridge District, approximately


Culm grassland, scrub, secondary woodland, willow carr, semi improved and improved grassland.


This site is part of the Working Wetlands Project area, which is supported by a number of funders. For further information visit the Working Wetlands webpage.

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Volehouse Moor

Volehouse Moor was bought by DWT in 1997 and is one of our finest Culm grassland reserves. With a tremendous mixture of grassland, woods and a stretch of the river Torridge, this is a very diverse site. On the south side of the river, purple moor grass predominates, though some fields are mostly covered by rushes. This shows that the land was improved for agriculture in the past but is now gradually reverting to Culm grassland. The whole area is managed by a mix of cattle grazing, burning and scrub control.

The dominant vegetation type at Volehouse Moor is Culm grassland.  This rough pastureland supports a wide variety of habitat types, mostly very wet in character and ranging from rush-dominated fields to areas dominated by very large purple moor-grass tussocks.  These wet grasslands support a great diversity of plant species which includes impressive displays of heath-spotted orchid, meadow thistle, ragged robin and valerian. In the very wet areas bogbean can be found whereas the relatively drier areas are home to heathers and louseworts. 

Other parts of the nature reserve have been subject to various degrees of agricultural improvement leading to well-drained fields with a more uniform flora containing fewer plants.  Some of these areas are gradually reverting to more species-rich grassland (although this is a process that takes many years) and in areas black knapweed and yellow rattle are becoming common. 

Elsewhere on the nature reserve there are areas of dense willow and oak scrub and on the south bank of the river stands a small woodland dominated by oak and ash with much willow and many fine hazels.

In common with most Culm grassland sites, Volehouse Moor supports important populations of many insects.  The nature reserve is probably the best site Devon for the marsh fritillary butterfly at the moment, a European rarity whose main stronghold is in south-west England.  Along the river in midsummer large numbers of beautiful demoiselles (Britain's most spectacular damselfly) can be seen.  The nature reserve supports many species of bird including buzzards, tree pipits, blackcaps, garden warblers and woodland species such as great spotted woodpecker.  Kingfisher and otter frequent the river.  Dormice inhabit the hedgerows and some of the dryer scrub.

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