Newton Abbot's secret wetland
Take a walk on the wild and wet side around a woodland and unique fen on the edge of town
Wet and wild in miniature
A brief walk from Newton Abbot town centre takes you to Wolborough Fen, a special urban oasis for wildlife nestled among the parkland and informal green space of Decoy Country Park.
A circular path leads around a wet woodland of willow, birch, oak and ash, edged with thicker cover or bramble and bracken. Amongst the trees and scrub, look out for over 30 species of bird, foraging for insects and seeds.
The centrepiece however is a unique wet fen area, sustained by an unusual raised dome of peat, gradually built up over 2600 years, and a range of ditches, pools, springs and streams. Together these support a rare grouping of several different wetland habitats and plants over a small area. For these reasons the site was designated a SSSI in 1990.
The peat cap is nearly 3m thick in depth, storing and conveying fresh groundwater flow as it wells up and seeps from springs, giving rise to the mix of wetland conditions. This water source is crucial to the fen.
Fen is sensitive to trampling, so there is no open access to the middle of the reserve, but from the path can be seen water mint and the pinky sprays of hemp agrimony; some 176 plant species have been recorded here. Common reed and greater tussock sedge, and stands of rare saw sedge, at its only site in Devon, sway above a rich variety of ferns, sedges, liverworts and patchworks of acid bog Sphagnum mosses. On the freer draining higher slopes can be found a further rare plant community of tussocky purple moor-grass with aromatic bog myrtle.
Damp and diverse, rich and rotten
Another important habitat at the site is wet decaying wood, providing for rare fungi, hoverflies and craneflies. Frogs, toads and newts thrive in these conditions, where they can overwinter, while a visit between May-September might give glimpses of red-eyed damselfly flitting over the open water. The reserve is home to 25 butterfly species and over 80 species of moth.
Return visits through the seasons will reveal more of the reserve's secretive inhabitants. Wolborough Fen offers something wildly different, tucked away only a short distance from town.