Where the moor meets the woods meets the water
A place of river and rocks, mossy slopes and moorland, rising up to Blackadon Tor
A reserve of two parts, Town Wood and Blackadon Down, featuring two of Dartmoor’s iconic habitats – steep wooded river valley and grazed bracken moor
Of oaks and otters
29 hectares of classic Dartmoor wooded valley forms the greater part of the reserve, enclosing the fast flowing River Webbern. A tributary of the Dart, the rushing waters are studded by stream-smoothed boulders on which passing otters may leave their spraint, and where bobbing grey wagtails can often be seen.
Grey wagtail photo: Neil Bygrave
From the Blackadon Bridge entrance, pick your own path along the steep valley sides, cloaked beneath sessile oak woodland, to find spring woodland flowers such as sanicle, woodruff and primrose among the fern and moss-clad rocky outcrops. Rarities include bastard balm, Tunbridge filmy fern and Graphina pauciloculata lichen. The woods support important moss and lichen communities which are unique in Western Europe. Look out overhead for pied flycatcher, wood warbler and redstarts flitting through the tree canopy, and in winter for woodcock, which may erupt into flight from the ground before your feet.
Moor to be seen
On reaching the upper slopes, the woodland thins out through hazel and birch coppice to the 8 hectare moorland of Blackadon Down. Stands of bracken are interspersed with scattered low growing gorse, hawthorn and blackthorn scrub, on which linnets and yellowhammers may perch, and open glades of wild strawberry, tormentil and bugle.
Pathways through the bracken, kept open by grazing livestock, link back to the Leusdon entrance to the reserve. The mix of bracken cover and clearings, which sustains early flowering violets, is of crucial value to some particular rare species.
Several fritillary butterflies depend on this type of bracken moorland habitat, including pearl-bordered, small pearl-bordered and dark green fritillaries, each of which can be seen here, alongside the critically endangered high brown fritillary. This area of Dartmoor is a stronghold for this strong flying species; some individuals make use of the reserve in most years.
For the highest point, and a butterfly's eye view, of the site, Blackadon Tor rises above the moorland plateau of Blackadon Down. From the bench here one can see far across the treetops marking the winding course of the River Webburn, and over to Buckland church on the other side of the valley.